The Tsaatan Of Mongolia, A Tribe Of Reindeer Herders

It is a nomadic tribe that lives in northern Mongolia. The last reindeer herders in the country.
The Tsaatan of Mongolia, a tribe of reindeer herders

The Tsaatan tribe of Mongolia is one of the last reindeer herding communities. Traditionally nomadic, they live in a remote region in the north of this fascinating country and strive to preserve ancient traditions. You want to know more? Pay attention, his is a more than interesting story.

The Tsaatan people and their way of life

What most attracts the attention of the Tsaatan is the relationship they have with the reindeer. They treat their animals with absolute care, almost as if they were members of the family. Not surprisingly, their livelihood depends on them.

Tsaatan with reindeer

And it is that the life of the tsaatan is very hard. They live in one of the areas of the planet with the most extreme climate. In winter they can endure temperatures of up to 50º C below zero. And in the short summer there are days that reach 40º C.

In the warmer months they store firewood and meat to withstand the endless winters. When dawn breaks, the women release the animals so that they can graze freely. Meanwhile, the men watch to prevent the herds from being attacked by wolves and bears or going hunting.

They also take the opportunity to make products with the milk of female reindeer. Thus, they make butter and yogurt, and also a strong-flavored cheese called aaruul.

In the cold months they are practically isolated. It is at this time that they migrate to the taiga forests to try to find the most optimal climatic conditions for themselves and for the animals on which they depend.

Some curiosities of the Tsaatan people of Mongolia

Woman milking a reindeer

The Tsaatan people of Mongolia have their own shamanic beliefs. For example, they consecrate reindeer to forest spirits. Animals that are considered sacred differ from the rest because they cover their fur with colored powders and adorn them with ribbons.

On the other hand, its origin is very old. Their ancestors are of Siberian origin, hence the Tsaatan have lighter skin and larger eyes than other Mongolian populations.

And centuries ago, Marco Polo himself was surprised by his way of life. He was especially struck by the fact that they domesticated reindeer (large deer, he called them) and rode them as if they were horses.

The Recent History of the Mongolian Tsaatan

Despite their isolation, the Tsataan have not been strangers to the evolution of Mongolian history. Thus, during the revolution, already in the 30s of the last century, they were collectivized. It was a severe blow to his lifestyle.

The political bosses of the time appropriated their reindeer. But not of all, many Tsaatan preferred to sacrifice their animals rather than give them up. No less than seven million animals died. This tribe did not regain its freedom and nomadic life until the fall of the former USSR.

Today his future is uncertain. The harshness of their nomadic life means that fewer and fewer Tsaatan maintain their traditions. Added to this are the health problems they suffer and may suffer from inbreeding.

Meet the Tsaatan people of Mongolia in person

Camp tsaatan

From the outset, getting to know this tribe is like traveling to another world, since it involves immersing yourself in a totally different lifestyle. Finding it is not easy either, being hidden in the middle of the boreal forest, between northern Mongolia and southern Siberia, so the ideal is to visit it with the company of a guide.

Once in place, the camp can be made up of two areas of tents (the one for the population and where tourists can stay), an enclosure for reindeer, a place to cut wood, as well as an open space for tether animals when they are not sheltered.

Likewise, during the visit you can see the generosity of the Tsaatan people of Mongolia. Simple and hospitable people, despite the tremendous harshness of their lives.

Marvel at Lake Khovsgol, northern Mongolia

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