For 3 000 years, the people of the steppes have adopted a pastoral way of life moving in the search of best pastures and campsites. They live by and for their livestock, in the
forefront of which the horse undoubtedly was the first animal domesticated in these infinite meadows. Today, approximately half of Mongolia’s population is still roaming the vast plains living in the ger and moving their campings several times a year on the grounds with no fence. Nomadic life thrives in summer and survives in winter. Considering climatic conditions, especially during winter, such lifestyle may seem to the outside world to be a very hard way of living. However, Mongolians have developed for centuries such qualities as strength and resilience that are essential for survival in this harsh nature, which is their cherished homeland.
The number of nomads has significantly decreased over the last years. Nomads move to the capital city being compelled by the necessity to search for means of subsistence or attracted by city lights and perceived advantages of urban life. After the last terrible winters many nomadic families lost all their herds that were the source of living. Such situation requiring an emergency aid resulted in large rural-to-urban migration, especially from the west of the country, driving nomadic herders as well as stockbreeders from small rural towns towards the suburbs of the capital city.
Mongolia is the land of the horse. Any nomad can ride as well as he or she can walk or run.
Small Mongolian horses are incredibly resistant. They live all year around in semi-wild herds, gathered only for the draft and the capture. They are partially watched over by herdsmen to defend only against the wolves in winter.
Apart from being used for riding and inheritance, the horse gives the nomads their preferred drink - airag, which is fermented and slightly alcoholized mare’s milk. Mongolians of any ages drink liters of airag in summer praising its virtues for health and the digestive tract !
Airag of certain areas is more famous as compared to others. The taste depends on the grazing grounds and the skillfulness of the maker. If it is relevant to make a comparison, one can say that airag has approximately the same cultural and social importance as wine can have in France.