Nomadic herders- Mongolia

Who Are The Nomadic Herders In Mongolia in Yurts?

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When I went to Mongolia, I was very impressed with the nomadic herders I met in the Gobi Desert. I learned a lot from them and how the nomadic herders in an area all work together as a support system for their small community.

The Mongolian nomadic herders are animal herders who live in Mongolia; they live in Yurts or Gers, so they can travel with their animal herds to new herding grounds. The Yurts also allow the Mongolian herders to move as a community about four times a year. The community support that the herders get from each other is critical. The community support of these Mongolian nomadic herders has taught me some important lessons about our community support.

Table of Contents

Camels in the Gobi Desert
Camels in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia.

Who Are The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Who Live in Yurts (Gers)?

The Mongolian nomadic herders are men and women in Mongolia who usually have herds of camels, yaks, goats, horses, and sheep. Most of the herders will raise the animals to sell the fur so the fur can be made into yarn.

Many herders may also earn money off the meat of their herds. Some earn extra income by renting out their yurts or gers for tourists to stay with them at their camp and giving the tourists camel or horse rides.

The Mongolia nomadic herders that I met in Mongolia were well educated; both the husband and wife had University degrees. They chose the nomadic lifestyle as it was a life they enjoyed.

The yurts in Mongolia are actually called gers; the Mongolian nomadic herders will move their yurts or gers from location to location so that their herds can find better grazing land. Most of the herds will roam free on the land and are not fenced in.

Some Mongolian herders will use horses or dirt bikes to round up their herds.

When I spoke to many of the Mongolian herders, they said they moved together in a community; several herders will all move together with their yurts and herds so they can support each other. When you are out there in the middle of the desert or countryside, you want to have community support.

The Community of Mongolian Nomadic Herders

A Mongolian Nomadic Herder’s Story

Mongolia is a landlocked country in East Asia that is sandwiched between Russia, China, and Kazakhstan. Mongolia has 1,564,116 square kilometers (603,909 square miles); it is also the 18th largest with landmass but the most sparsely populated sovereign state globally, with about 3,000,000 people and half of the population living in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar.

The Mongolian population’s sparsity also allows the nomadic herders lots of land and wide-open spaces where their herds can roam.

Because of this, any place outside Ulaanbaatar is pretty remote, with small towns having very limited services. I did not see any electricity in the countryside, as the Mongolian nomadic herders I stayed with used solar panels to give them some electricity.

I stayed in a traditional Mongolian ger or yurt when I went to the Gobi Desert. I got up early in the morning and sat outside to take in the magnificent view of the desert and the other landscape.

The night before, we had met one of the nomadic herders’ neighbors as he came into the yurt to share the evening meal with the family we were staying with. They all seemed to be very close, and I discovered that the Mongolian nomadic herders would move with their herds about four times a year. Generally, they would move as a community with other nomadic herders and their families.

This community lived close to each other but not as close as some neighborhoods in many places in the world. The closest nomadic herder I saw was about a mile down the road.

This morning, as I was looking at the sunrise and looking out at the nature of the Gobi Desert and the two camels sitting outside, I began to see a lot of commotion taking place. Nomadic herders I had not seen before were coming by on their dirt bikes, and there was a kind of gathering of sorts going on.

The herders would come and then go off on their dirt bikes. Another would get on a camel and go riding off. When my English-speaking guide finally got up that morning, I asked him what all the commotion was about and why there was a group of nomadic herders at our camp.

We discovered that the nomadic herder family we were staying with had called their other herder friends and asked them to come to find their missing camels. He had over 50 camels out in the desert that he could not find.

Unlike some other animals, Camels do not travel in one large pack, so the nomadic herders needed the help of their neighbors to find all their camels.

Listen To Our Podcast About Who Are The Nomadic Herders In Mongolia In Yurts? Below or by clicking here.

Lessons We Can Learn From The Nomadic Herders In Mongolian and Their Yurt Community.

The Mongolian nomadic herders in this community left their herds to help our host find his camels. The next day our host needed all 50 of his camels as he had a large group coming to ride the camels.

I also discovered that this kind of community support among the nomadic herders was not unusual. These Mongolian nomadic herders lived in a very harsh climate where the winters could be frigid and brutal.

They depended on each other and their small nomadic communities for their very survival and the survival of their herds. They were in a nomadic community so they could help each other and support one another.

I thought about this and my life and how important it is for us to have a community or group that we can depend on. A group that helps us in our time of need or someone that we can help when they need help.

For this kind of mutual support to work, it must have reciprocity in that every group member must be willing to do their part and help each other.

I feel there are things that we can all learn from these Mongolian nomadic herders and their willingness to search for camels that were not even their camels and to help their neighboring nomadic herder in his time of need.

Here are some of the lessons we can all learn about community support:

Lesson 1 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Work Together As A Group

The Mongolian nomadic herders teach us that we can accomplish more if we work together as a group. I am not sure how my nomadic herding family would have been able to find all his camels if he did not have a group of other experienced nomadic herders he could call upon to help; with their help he was able to find them quickly.

There is great power in all of us striving to work together as a group and help each other. By working together, we can help share the load; I love this quote by Mother Teresa:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.“

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa is trying to teach us all that great things can happen if we try to do our part in our community. One person alone cannot change the world, but we can all be that small pebble that allows a ripple effect to happen; for great things to happen, we must all work together.

Lesson 2 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Understand What It Means To Support Their Neighbors

One of the great lessons of this nomadic herder’s story is that these nomadic herders were willing to support their neighbor in their time of need. The herders came when they were asked, and I am sure they sacrificed time away from their own herds and their own lives to help their neighbor; they knew that their neighbor needed them and their help.

Coretta Scott King eloquently said:

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Coretta Scott King

A community is only as good as its members are in the community. If we stick to ourselves and refuse to help any of our neighbors, then our life will be lonely and one of disappointment and filled with loneliness. These nomadic herders were far out in the middle of nowhere, so they knew the need to support their neighbors.

Nomad's Dirt Bikes - Mongolia
The Mongolian Nomad’s dirt bike in the Gobi Desert.

Lesson 3 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Teach Us About Building A Community

The Mongolian nomadic herders were maybe not related to each other, but they all had similar goals and desires to form their community of support Mongolia has frigid winters, which are usually sub-zero temperatures; it can be even colder in the nighttime.

In these extreme winter weather conditions, a nomadic herder could freeze to death, or his herder will freeze and die. He needs his community to be there for his very survival, and his herds’ survival as most of the herds literally roam the countryside without any fences or barns.

The family we stayed with had lost over 30 horses during one very brutally cold winter. You can read our blog entitled 5 Lessons in Grit and Preserverence From Nomadic Herders in Mongolia, by clicking here.

When your community cares about the same things, they also usually care about you – there is great power in that. Margeret J Wheatley said:

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

Margaret J. Wheatley

Lesson 4 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Were Willing To Sacrifice For Eachother

The neighboring nomadic herders came out to find the camels for our host Mongolian nomadic family. But from what I saw, this kind of support, help, and sacrifice was normal for them. They told us they support each other a lot as they depend on each other. As Herman Melville has said:

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men“

 Herman Melville

Those thousands of fibers connect us all when we realize that we need other people to live in this world. And many times, we need help from other people to survive and thrive in this world.

Lesson 5 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Understand Collective Brilliance

As I looked at these Mongolian nomadic herders, the thought crossed my mind that we all need each other despite our differences. The Mongolian herders taught me there is great power in our being together.

There is great power when teams, organizations, or groups all work together to accomplish something great. I have a friend, Christine, who has co-authored a book entitled Collective Brilliance: Spark Ideas, Build Faith and See Your Ministry in a Whole New Light., you can buy the book by clicking here.

The book speaks of the power of a group collectively working together to accomplish great things. When we collectively get together as a group of individuals, we can accomplish so much more with the right team behind us.

I have considered my Mongolian nomadic herders and how they understood this principle. They knew that together, they could all work to try to find the camels. Working as a team, they could accomplish so much more than just individuals trying to do it independently.

I love this African proverb that says:

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

The Mongolian Herders Teach Us That With the Right Team, We Can Do Anything.

Together with the right team, we can do so much more than if we are just one person trying it do it on our own. The right group of people can help us to:

  • Encourages our creativity and learning. We can learn a lot from others and their points of view. They can help us to see and understand things we would have otherwise.
  • Blending together our strengths. One person in the team may have a strength where you are weak and vice versa; blending together can help to strengthen the entire group.
  • Builds trust. The more we work with an individual, the more we build trust with them.
  • Teaches us how to resolve any conflicts. Conflicts can happen with any group, team, or organization, but working in a group can teach us to quickly and easily resolve any conflicts.
  • Builds lasting relationships. A good team will help you build fruitful and lasting relationships.
Camel Riding - Mongolia
Nomad herder riding on a camel, in search of the lost camels in the Gobi Desert Mongolia.

Lesson 6 – The Mongolian Nomadic Herders Remind Us To Live To Serve Others

These Nomadic herders were not afraid of doing service with others with their hard work. In fact, I saw the herders come in from their daily work at about 8 pm after they had rounded up the last of their herd.

When I was up early in the morning, they were already up tending to their herds. I did not see them having a lot of time to rest or relax; they were not afraid to put on their work boots and work or serve each other

When we live our lives thinking of how we can serve others, great things can happen. We can forget ourselves and our problems. We can reach out to help one another.

When we have the attitude that we are not afraid of hard work, it gives our lives a new meaning and new purpose. I love this quote by George Bernard Shaw:

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”

George Bernard Shaw

We can all take this lesson from George Bernard Shaw and the Mongolian nomadic herders and find a way to live by looking for ways to serve and help others along the way.

Imagine how this world would be if every single person on the earth decided to spend just 30 minutes a day, every day, to serve and help just one person. Imagine then what a wonderful world we would be living in with all this service taking place.

How about if you have an elderly neighbor, and you go over to their yard and help them mow their grass or shovel the snow off their walk? Or do you help someone carry their groceries to their car? Or you help someone who needs help to cross the street?

Imagine how this world would be if we all decided to spend just a few minutes a day serving and helping others.

The Mongolian nomadic herders and their willingness to help their neighbors in need to find their lost camels set an example for me in my life. It taught me some valuable lessons about our desire to help and serve others, but also, more than that, the power to have a group in our lives that we can always count on to help us when we need help and that we, in turn, can also serve them when they need help.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I buy the book Collective Brilliance: Spark IThere are about 3 million people in Mongolia. It is estimated that between 25% to 40% are nomadic herders. So this would be 600,000 to 1,200,000 people. That is quite a significant number of people who still live the nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia.
With my nomadic herding family, I stayed, many of the herders will bring in extra income by having ger’s or yurts that can be rented to tourists or offer camel or horse rides. This helps supplement and, in many ways, preserve the nomadic lifestyle.deas, Build Faith, and See Your Ministry in a Whole New Light?

You can buy the book directly from the publisher at From the Rooftops Publishing by clicking here. The book is now also available in Spanish.

On their website, you can see when this group of amazing women will be speaking or holding a workshop. If you are in the area where they will be speaking, it will be worth your time to go to hear them speak.

Why Do Nomads Migrate?

Nomads will migrate or move from place to place to find adequate food and water for their herds and animals. They need to move to new locations to find the best food, water, and climate for their animals.

The Mongolian nomadic herders we stayed with told us they moved about four times a year. So they had a winter, spring, summer, and fall camp.

What percent of the Mongolian population is still nomadic herders?

There are about 3 million people in Mongolia. It is estimated that between 25% to 40% are nomadic herders. So this would be 600,000 to 1,200,000 people. That is quite a significant number of people who still live the nomadic lifestyle in Mongolia.

With my nomadic herding family, I stayed, many of the herders will bring in extra income by having ger’s or yurts that can be rented to tourists or offer camel or horse rides. This helps supplement and, in many ways, preserve the nomadic lifestyle.

What is the best way to explore Mongolia?

Visiting Mongolia is truly worth the visit. If you are interested in visiting there, please contact Adiyabold at New MIlestone Tours. He can help you with anything you need and help to answer any questions. Tell Adiyabold that Anita sent you. You can contact New Milestone Tours by clicking here.

What is the lifestyle of Mongolian nomadic herders?

Mongolian nomadic herders lead a traditional lifestyle that revolves around moving with their herds of animals, such as goats, sheep, horses, camels, and yaks. They migrate seasonally to find the best grazing grounds, living in portable tents known as gers or yurts.

What animals do Mongolian nomads herd?

Mongolian nomads typically herd a variety of animals including goats, sheep, horses, Bactrian camels, and yaks. Each type of animal serves specific purposes, from providing meat and milk to wool and transportation.

How do Mongolian herders construct their homes?

Their homes, known as gers (or yurts in Russian), are round, portable tents made from a wooden frame covered with layers of fabric and sheep’s wool felt for insulation. These structures are easy to dismantle, transport, and reassemble, making them ideal for the nomadic lifestyle.

What is the significance of the ger in Mongolian culture?

The ger is not just a home but a symbol of Mongolian cultural identity and nomadic heritage. It represents adaptability and resilience, reflecting the nomads’ close connection to nature and their environment.

How do Mongolian nomadic herders sustain themselves?

They sustain themselves primarily through livestock herding, which provides them with meat, milk, and dairy products. They also produce cashmere from goats and wool from sheep, which can be sold or traded.

What role do horses play in Mongolian nomadic culture?

Horses are central to Mongolian nomadic culture, historically used for transportation, herding, and even in warfare. They are also a source of pride and play a key role in Mongolian festivals and sports, like horse racing.

Mongolia Vs. Inner Mongolia: What Is The Difference?

Mongolia is an independent country that gained full independence when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1990. Inner Mongolia, also known as the Autonomous Region of Mongolia, is part of China. The people who live in Inner Mongolia are considered Chinese citizens. In contrast, the people who live in Mongolia are considered Mongolian citizens. Even if they may speak the same language and have a similar culture, they are two different countries.

You can learn more by reading Mongolia Vs Inner Mongolia: What Is The Difference? by clicking here.

How Long Has Mongolia Been A Country?

In 1911 Mongolia broke from Chinese rule; in 1921, the socialist People’s Republic of Mongolia was formed. The People’s Republic of Mongolia was a satellite state of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union broke apart in 1989, Mongolia’s fate again changed. In 1990, Mongolia, an independent and democratic country, was formed; its official name is Mongol Uls.

You can discover more by reading How Long Has Mongolia Been A Country? by clicking here.

Anita L Hummel
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