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Mongolia: Reindeer Culture Hangs On in Far North

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Young boys catch and rope their favorite reindeer to harness up for a ride into the forest.

It’s late summer and a chill wind blows through a tiny nomad camp in northern Mongolia’s permafrost forest. Reindeer tied up outside the canvas tepees grunt and paw the ground. "It might snow. They can smell it, so they're excited," explains Byunaa before scurrying back inside to tend the stove, essential all year in these parts.

Khovsgol Province along the Siberian border is home to Mongolia’s smallest ethnic group – a community known as the Tsaatan, which translates as “reindeer herder” in Mongolian.

Originally from across the border in what is now Russia’s Tuva Republic, the Tsaatan are one of the last groups of nomadic reindeer herders in the world. But as the reindeer populations shrink, only about 40 families continue the tradition today.

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Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar.

Mongolia: Reindeer Culture Hangs On in Far North

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