by Mykola Rud © Ukrainian magazine "Naturalist"
From ancient times, exceptional qualities have been ascribed to the white Goshawk, as well as great productiveness in hunting. This is how the well-known author D. Yrsaliev (Ырсалиев) describes the albino form of the Siberian Goshawk, called by the Kyrghyzs tujhun or ak tujhun - literally, “white” and, in falconry context, “noble”: “The tujhun is the best in its hunting qualities, the strongest and the most agile of hawks”. A tujhun’s colouring is white, although light-grey individuals with white-speckled wing and shoulder feathers and greyish plumes are also found. According to hunters, such colouring is the transitory stage to pure white.
One can hunt with tujhun the whole day - it is very agile and therefore rarely misses its game. The word “tujhun” in Kyrghyz language is the symbol of agility and courage, and thus tujhuns are prized very highly. When it is rumoured that a sajatchi(*3) has caught a tujhun, hunters will ride hundreds of miles to buy or simply to see the wondrous bird. For one such bird they would give a good horse or three to four rams. However, tujhuns are found very rarely indeed.
Thus, it is found in written records that passionate Kazakh falconers were ready to give nine cattle and a camel for a white bird (Бабалыков, Турдыбаев, 1989; Симаков, 1998).
Folklore researchers collecting evidence for hunting with birds of prey heard the following from the Kirghiz people:
“Tujhun is the best kyraan (apt, keen bird) of white colour. It reigns above all birds of prey, in hunting takes everything its eye falls on.”
*3. Sajatchi (from Arabian sajad meaning “hunter”) - a hunter; in this context – a falconer hunting with the Goshawk.
Our thanks go to my good friend Mykola Rud for allowing us to use this article.