Photo Essays | Society | East Asia

The Herding Life in Mongolia

A look at the daily life of nomads 100 km outside of Ulaanbaatar.

Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A herding camp as seen from the road to Ulaanbaatar includes a traditional “ger,” mobile pen, and hitching line for horses.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A herder answers his cellphone as his granddaughter eats a traditional “boortseg,” or biscuit.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

Mongolian “gers,” or yurts, are often elaborately painted and decorated.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A young boy looks into the camera as curd dribbles down his chin.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

“Khuushuur,” a fried meat-filled pocket, is a very popular national cuisine in the summertime.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A toddler is tied to a dresser by a horse-hair rope while her mother does housework.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

Hard, dried curds, “aaruul,” and their softer yogurt counterparts, “aarts” are served to visitors in a beaded bowl.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A boy removes a saddle as a father helps groom his horse following a pre-Naadam race in Bayanchandmani sum.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

Horses hover near their dried, burning excrement, which keeps away the flies in the hot summer sun.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

A boy holds a kid.

Credit: Peter Bittner
The Herding Life in Mongolia

Mongolian children play at a low table as a curious cow looks on in Bayanchandmani sum.

Credit: Peter Bittner
Mongolian herders have maintained a nomadic lifestyle for millennia, long predating the rise of Chinggis Khan in the 12th and 13th centuries. Today, roughly one third of Mongolia’s population lead pastoral livelihoods, though many families are moving closer to urban areas to take advantage of greater access to markets.
On July 1-3, Peter Bittner of The Diplomat traveled to Bornoor and Bayanchandmani sums, or administrative districts, roughly 100 kilometers outside of Ulaanbaatar. Below are glimpses of the daily lives of the herders he met with. (Due to the conditions of his travel, the subjects in the photos cannot be identified.)