Spend time in Mongolia and you will notice that a majority of families own a dog. Very rarely are they fashionable, small, pedigree dogs as traditionally the dogs role was to alert it’s owners to the arrival of strangers arriving from the wide-open steppe, herding the livestock when families moved to new pasture and guarding against the threat of wolves.
Did you know that in Mongolia, dogs traditionally are the only animal given their own name? It is a sign of honour and part of a belief that dogs are the last stage before humans in the reincarnation process. When a dog dies, the owner whispers in the dog’s ear his wishes that the dog will return as a man in his next life. They are buried high in the hills so that people do not walk on their remains. Their tail is cut off and put beneath the head, and a piece of meat or fat is cut off and placed in the dog’s mouth to sustain its soul for its journey; before the dog is reincarnated, the dog’s soul is freed to travel the land, to run across the high open steppe for as long as it would like.
Hold The Dog!
Even if you’re not a linguist, try learning to say ‘hold the dog’ in Mongolian – ‘Nokhoi Khori!’ A rough approximation of the pronunciation will work!! It’s not necessarily because the dog will savage you (!) but visitors never knock. Your ‘Nokhoi Khori!’ is the equivalent of ‘Can I come in?’
Who Are You Calling Four Eyes?
Tradition has it that the eyebrows of Mongolian dogs are their ‘second set of eyes’ – eyes that look into the spirit world and help the dogs in its protection of its charges. This great image which showcases the ‘four eyes’ perfectly was taken by our guest Egon Filter on our Untamed Mongolia – one of our Mongolian small group adventures.
You can find out more about the traditions surrounding Mongolian dogs on the Eternal Landscapes Blog.