I Documented Mongolia’s Mystical Tsaatan Reindeer People

Tsaatans, known as Reindeer Herders, live in Khuvsgul Province in Northern Mongolia near the Russian border.  Their lives are divided into two parts of the Taiga, East and West.   It is said that there are approximately 500 Tsaatans living in Tsagaannur soum.


There are only about 40 families and 1500 reindeers left in the East and West Taiga

reindeer herders winter photos

During their winter hibernation period, we visited East Taiga tribal leader, Mr. Ganbaa and his wife, Mrs. Purvee. On the first day of our arrival, we talked with Leader Ganbaa in his home, about life on the taiga. This year, he said there was a lot of snow in the taiga, but the Tsaatans come together in his home to share the latest news of Ulaanbaatar city and other news.

Tribal Leader Mr. Ganbaa prepared 20 reindeer and 3 guides for our trip

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Reindeer persist in the snow, so the Tsaatans are happy when the Taiga is full of snow. Mongolian reindeer, semi-wild animals, are not fed any additional foods.

A young girl with her glossed lips, helps the family collect wood, but winter time is school time for children

tsaatan people mongolia

Reindeer during the full moon. Although freed during the day, reindeer are tied in the evening to protect them from wild game

reindeer photos mongolia

In the Taiga, the sun rises late in the morning and sets early in the evening

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Watching and enjoying the sun rise from Grandma Suren’s teepee, urts. Grandma made a fire in the stove before we woke up which quickly warmed up the teepee.

Tsaatan life is centered around their reindeer. They have no other animals, except for a few horses which they use only in the summer

reindeer herding tradition mongolia

For my first time riding a reindeer, it was completely different from riding a horse

As soon as you ride them, you feel their strong footing and they go faster than you expect.

Reindeer herder Mr. Sanchir, son of tribal Leader Mr. Ganbaa led us to a place in the mountains where the reindeer were fenced in

reindeer people photos

The reindeer smell similar to the human body, but it doesn’t protect them from their main enemy, the wolf. Even though there are less wild game animals in the area, reindeer are not able to protect themselves from wolves.

On our first day of our trip For rider safety and to keep reindeer from hurting each other, Tsaatans cut the antlers of the reindeer north, we arrived to the Tsaatan camp. After riding reindeer for almost 5 hours, we and our reindeer were tired. 

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We reached our final destination just as the sun was setting. Although we were tired from our long 40-kilometer trip, once we saw the herd of reindeer, we were energized. That was the beginning of our experience with reindeer for the next few days.

Reindeer need more salt during the winter. We brought plenty of salt to feed them

mongolia reindeer photos

Batkhuu, one of our local guides and a member of the Tsaatan minority group gives us a photogenic smile

mongolia photography tours

It is sad that modern development makes its’ way into their remote habitat. Their ancient traditions are now at risk of dying out.

Reindeer are able to find grass easily by cracking the thick snow with their front feet

mongolia winter reindeer photos

With the first snow and often covered with ice, come the white moss which provide food for the reindeer.

A city girl feeds the baby reindeer

winter tour taiga mountains

   The male reindeer are usually used for riding. A single reindeer can travel 30 kilometers or more in a single day 

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Til the Spring comes with the snow meltdown, the reindeer are left alone by the Tsaatans at the base of a huge mountainside

reindeer fighting photos

The reindeer are protected by huge mountains and thick snows. Tsaatans erase the footprints of reindeer to prevent wolf attacks.

Bulls are fighting each other. The main enemy of the reindeer is the wolf. The reindeer cannot defend itself against a wolf

winter reindeer migration mongolia

The reindeer go down the pass to the south where the Tengis River flows. It’s a large river that does not completely freeze over


Photo by http://www.facebook.com/Ch.BatzayaPhotography/


If you want to take this uncommon adventure please, follow this link to get detailed information:

Extreme Winter Experience Photo Tour in Northern Mongolia (Mixed Group) - 14 Days, 13 Nights 





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