Home Institution

Carnegie Mellon University

Publication Date

Spring 2011

Program Name

Mongolia: Nomadic Culture & Globalization


I am halfway through my ISP when I discard the sheet of questions written for me in Mongolian, and begin to ask what really matters.

“I would like to learn not just about the practices of Mongolian horsemanship, but about the culture.”

“Chinggis Khan took the entire world on horseback; America was unknown then, and he nearly conquered Europe. Because of this, the horse is sacred.

We do our working riding horses. We eat the horse’s meat. Our herding is done from horseback. Because of this, the horse is sacred”.

These are the words of Rentsendavaa, spoken to me as I conducted an interview with his friend, L. Davaa. None can deny the importance of the horse in Mongolian culture; it is omnipresent in song, in stories, and in art. And the historical significance of the Mongolian horse is also clear, for were it not for their skill as horsemen, so little a nation of warriors never would have taken the world as they did. The horse is also very significant in the present day lives of many Mongolians. Horses are used not only for transportation, but entertainment (in the form of racing,) and also for the myriad goods they yield (meat, airag, and horsehair ties for the ger, among others.) Yet despite this, and despite the fame of both the Mongolian horse and his horseman, all too little has been written about this famous duo. In particular, about the daily practices of the Mongolian horseman, and the cultural beliefs that influence his work.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Place and Environment | Rural Sociology