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 camping 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 familieslost 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. Traditionally, Mongolian nomads raise 5 species of livestock known as the: horses, cows or yaks, sheep, goats and camels. Reindeers are raised by the Tsaatan people who live in the northwest areas around the lake Khovsgol bordering the Russian Siberia. Nomadic families often gathered in groups move generally in the radius of 50 to 100 kilometers, at least twice a year, in spring (May) and at the beginning of winter (October). However, more significant displacements are sometimes necessary in the search of better pastures. Uvuljuu or winter camps are located in areas that are naturally sheltered from wind and are equipped with barns for the animals to stay for the night. Nomads devote all of the day to caring after their animals – watching over, milking, shearing, or combing – to produce felt and felt clothes, cheese and other dairy products. Horses are raised and looked after by men but are milked by women. Nomads use a pole-lasso or uurga to gather the herds and to capture the horses.
The ger (yurt) is part of the Mongolian national identity. The Secret History of the Mongols mentions Genghis Khan as the leader of all people who live in felt tents, called gers, and even today a large share of Mongolia’s population lives in ger, even in Ulaanbaatar. Ger also means home, and other words are derived from its word stem. For example, gerlekh means to marry.