EXPERIENCE C AME L COA X I N G
The weather is most bearable in summer, between June and September
But camels aren’t completely desert-proof, and females only give birth to one calf every second year (after a 13-month pregnancy) to cope with the harsh conditions. This severely limits their numbers. There is the additional risk of losing mother or baby during labour; even if both survive, the exhausted female might reject her calf, and it will die.
To save as many mother–calf pairs as possible, the community engages in a curious, centuries-old ritual called camel coaxing, which begins at dusk or dawn. Hoping for a bereaved female to foster an orphan or reconcile a calf with its mother, everyone dresses up in traditional garb and sits in a circle around the pair. Once the sun touches the horizon, a musician strums a morin khuur, or horsehead fiddle, and the herders begin chanting a khöös song, containing petitions to the spirits of Nature. Camel milk may also be proffered to the gods.
Initially, the female camel can lash out at the calf violently, spitting and biting. Observing her behaviour, the herders then change the khöös tune, weaving in poetry and song, or mimicking the sound of camels running and calling. These incantations continue for up to 12 hours, by which time the camel pair, and watching audience, are weeping with emotion. Adult and calf are henceforth bonded. Herders say that this practice embodies the importance of patience in developing relationships.
Despite the tenderness of this ritual, Mongols were once feared for their savage temperament, with no better representative than the warlord Genghis Khan, who in 1206 brought the Eurasian continent to its
WHEN WHERE To save as many mother– calf pairs as possible, the community engages in a curious, centuries-old ritual