The Dukha People Use Reindeer For Transportation

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Tethered reindeer belonging to Mongolian nomads in northern Mongolia

Image: Shutterstock/loca4motion

The Dukha People Use Reindeer For Transportation

Not many can brave the harsh conditions of Mongolia, which makes it even harder to believe that people actually call the rough land home. Mongolia is home to “zuds,” which are winters where the majority of livestock die due to blizzards, drought, extreme cold, and freezing rain. The Dukha people are a nomadic tribe that has been residing in Mongolia for centuries. As a means of survival, they have become one with the wild animals, particularly with reindeer. To travel throughout their land, both long and short distances, the Dukha people have come to rely on reindeer to get them across the rugged terrain.

Reindeer and the Dukha people become one at an early age. The children of this nomadic tribe learn to train the reindeer when they are young. In this environment, you could even see a young boy holding the reins to three reindeer at once. Once accustomed to their human companions, the reindeer are rather gentle and friendly. This relationship has similar characteristics to that of a pet dog and its owner. Young Dukha children will bathe their reindeer calfs and take good care of them.


Image: Shutterstock/anandny

The Dukha people are often called “Tsaatan,” which means “reindeer herder.” There are only about 44 Dukha families left, which is about 200-400 people total. This tribe has found tourism as a way of making money. Tourists come to see performances, crafts, and take reindeer rides.

If you aren’t impressed yet, then perhaps you’ll be surprised to learn that the Dukha people also train wolves, and they use the wolves to hunt rabbits. This work also brings them a small income. Rabbit pellets are worth about two U.S. dollars. On top of that, they additionally use golden eagles (that they’ve trained) to help them hunt.

The Dukha believe they have a spiritual connection with animals and perhaps they are right. They have the ability to feel right at home in the wild, whereas most people would find this environment life-threatening.

Kate Wilke bio

Kate Wilke is the content manager at 301brands, and she's the editor of, and the lifestyle editor at When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @kateewilke

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