EX­PE­RI­ENCE C AME L COA X I N G

The weather is most bear­able in sum­mer, be­tween June and Septem­ber

Asian Geographic - - Front Page -

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

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