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Sangadzhi Kononov, About Livestock Breeding and Kalmyk Culture

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Churyumov, Anton 
Kovaeva, Bair 


Sangadzhi says that the traditions, lifestyle and folklore of the Kalmyks are closely connected to their livestock breeding practices. Not only was livestock treated with respect but nothing of animal origin was supposed to go to waste. Intestines, skin, etc. were all used in the nomadic household. Traditionally, the Kalmyks had a good knowledge of the anatomy and behavior of each animal, including sheep, horses, camels and cattle. Horses were used mainly as a means of transport. In the past all Kalmyks could ride from an early age. Each bone of the sheep has a name. By examining cracks on cooked blade bones nomads could tell many things about the sheep, including its health and place of origin. Blade bones are also used for divination. There is a custom in Kalmykia during weddings to give a sheep’s blade bone to the man who heads and represents the groom’s relatives. When given a blade bone that person is expected to crack it with his finger. Traditionally, each part of the sheep’s meat is given to specific groups of people. For example, legs should be given to your daughter’s children. The tail is given to the youngest child in the family. Sheep’s intestines were used to make a variety of dishes, including blood sausages. In Kalmykia camels are regarded as sacred animals. In contrast with sheep, camels give birth less often. Precious young calves were usually kept inside the yurt where people lived. Camel wool was used for making felt. Since it was very expensive, in the past only the wealthy could afford camel felt. There are many beliefs and rituals related to cattle (cows and bulls). Their pelt is used to make saddles, stirrups, boots, etc. Sangadzhi says that all Kalmyk traditions have a deep meaning and in this sense are similar to Buddhist philosophy.



cattle, lifestyle, nomadism, livestock, wedding, tradition

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Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.