Racing Giant Yaks in Mongolia


Uploaded by vice on 12.10.2012

Transcript:

ROYCE AKERS: Hey, this is Royce Akers.
A few months back, we heard about a crazy race in Mongolia
where nomadic cowboys raced giant long-horned yaks across
the steppe.
This sounded pretty wild.
And we don't have any yaks in Australia, so we thought that
was enough of a reason to go check it out.
We got on a plane in Melbourne and flew 14 hours to a tiny
airport near the Russian border.
We then drove half a day across dirt tracks where the
vast emptiness made us feel totally insignificant.
Finally, we found a bunch of Mongolian herders in a field
surrounded by 500 of the finest yaks in the country.

OK, we are in Khovsgol Province, which is about 1,200
kilometers from the capital, Ulan Bator.
And we're at the second annual Yak Festival, which is a big
deal if you're into yaks.
-My yak six old.
ROYCE AKERS: Six years?
-Yeah, six.
ROYCE AKERS: How old are you?
-I?
ROYCE AKERS: Yeah.
-I 22 years old.
ROYCE AKERS: 22.
Sweet.

The yak is pretty much Mongolia's national animal.
This goes back centuries to when Genghis Khan laid waste
to most of Europe and Asia in a giant yak-drawn tent,
leaving a bloody trail of hoof prints in his wake.
Yak Festival aims to celebrate that macho heritage with a
range of yak-related activities.
We were told that they would climax in an epic yak race
across the steppe, which was the reason we came.
Here we are with the owner of one of last
year's winning yaks.
He's going to tell us about some of the medals that he's
won through yak racing and yak pulling.
-[SPEAKING MONGOLIAN]

ROYCE AKERS: As you can see, yak sports are reserved for
macho guys like this one.
Horse racing is a little different.
Hey, can you tell us where we are?
TOOGII UNBANYAMBA: We are in Tuv province.
ROYCE AKERS: It's kind of amazing.
There are no trees at all.
And everywhere you look is just mountains and grass.
So tell us about this horse race.
UUGII UNBANYAMBA: The five years old horses
are going to race.
And the interesting thing about the five years old
horses is that this the age when the
horses are the fastest.
ROYCE AKERS: So who's going to be riding the horses?
UUGII UNBANYAMBA: Like kids from five to 12 years old.
ROYCE AKERS: How many horses are going to be
taking off at once?
UUGII UNBANYAMBA: Today I heard there going to be more
than 300 horses.
ROYCE AKERS: So this is the finish of the race.
We were at the start, and we were filming some of the stuff
going on, and all of a sudden it was on, and it was just a
cloud of dust.
And so we jumped in the car and drove the 25 kilometers as
fast as we could.
But we ran into some traffic and whatever, so this is all
that's left of the race--
this straggler over here.
But they don't actually call the loser "the loser." They
have some other name for it.
It would kind of suck if you were the last of 200 horses,
but they somehow make it all right for the kids.
OK, we're in Khovsgol Province with Toogii's family.
And we're going to check out some of the products we can
make with yak milk.
Could you tell us what we have in this one?
-[SPEAKING MONGOLIAN]

ROYCE AKERS: The curd tastes like dry, chewy, yogurt.
And the cheese kind of like Parmesan, but not as salty.
What's in this one?
-[SPEAKING MONGOLIAN]

ROYCE AKERS: It's sweet, it's just like cream.
It's not even sour.

After lunch, we headed back to catch the Festival's second
biggest draw card, Mongolian rodeo.
[MUSIC - PIERCED ARROWS, "ON OUR WAY"]

Between events, the crowd was treated to a few bouts of
Mongolian wrestling.
It turns out Mongolians are exceptionally good at not
being pushed over, which makes some matches about as exciting
as televised golf.
It was during one of these extended bouts that we noticed
a crowd rushing down the hill.
We turned around just in time to see the last 100 metes of
the yak race.
It was pretty unruly and a lot less epic than it sounded on
the brochure.
The riders found it tough keeping the
yaks running straight.
And to be honest, they probably
could have jogged faster.
Still, a race is a race, and the winners were celebrated
accordingly.

Their jobs done, the tired animals were let out to
pasture, where they could eat their grass and dream of
future glory at next year's Yak Festival.
[MUSIC - PIERCED ARROWS, "ON OUR WAY"]