Home Institution

University of Oregon

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

Mongolia: Nomadism, Geopolitics, and the Environment


Traditionally, nomads in Mongolia have used horses for transportation. The horse was used to help herd livestock and also allowed them to get to the soum center quicker (Yembuu, 2015). This way of transportation is seen less and less now. With globalization comes an increase in different products from around the world. Herders now have the opportunity to buy cars and the ever popular motorcycle. Now, when out in the open Mongolian steppe, one can see motorcycles racing around to get herders from place to place. Some even use them to herd instead of a horse. And when a family decides it is time to move locations, instead of seeing a camel carrying the family’s belongings, you may see a car (Yembuu, 2015). This transition from using live animals for transportation in their daily lives to using motorized vehicles brings a new lifestyle and potentially new problems.

The purpose of this study was to examine how this new transport option has changed the way people live and how it affects their lives. This research explored the following question: How do nomads view these newer types of transportation? How do they view the use of these new vehicles? Do they see it as a loss of tradition? How do these vehicles impact to the land? What are the benefits of using motorcycle over horse? For the field research I visited Undershireet soum and conducted twelve interviews with families who own motorcycles and cars, particularly male family members since they are generally the ones who used the vehicles. There were several patterns that emerged through the interview process. Herders often thought that motorcycles were damaging to the land but that the benefits of them outweighed damages done. Interviewees commented on how time-saving motorcycles were and how they were necessary to keep up with the times. Finally, they saw their traditions changing with the use of motorcycles. This research looks at how herders view the modernization of their profession and livelihood.


Asian Studies | Family, Life Course, and Society | Growth and Development


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