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The Aspects Of Nomadic Lifestyle

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In the year 1206 Genghis Khan had banded the Mongolian tribes together for the first time forming a united front to lead them on an expedition still known as one of the greatest conquests in history, forming the Mongolia we know today. Beyond the great Genghis Khan, the Mongols were known for their pastoral way of life, known as pastoral nomadism (Thomas, 6). This way of life caused the pastoral nomads to rely heavily on a specific five types of animals for survival and moving their habitat many times throughout the course of a year in search of water and grass for their herds. The following will discuss how each of the five major types of livestock looked after by the Mongols play into their nomadic lifestyle as well as some of the hardships that come with their lifestyle of choice.

The first of their five types of animals were the sheep. The sheep was by far the most numerous and valuable of the Mongols’ principle animals, as they provided food, clothing, as well as shelter for the Mongols (Rossabi, 157). The mutton from the sheep was an important part of their diet and the wool along with the animal skin were the materials used in their clothing and tents. If wood for fuel was scarce, dried sheep feces was collected and used as an immediate source of fuel. The survival of the young sheep was vital to the lifestyle, so a responsibility given to Mongolian women was to coax the ewes to care for and nurse their young.

The second and third of the Mongols five types of animals were goats and yaks. Goats and Yaks were not as prevalent as sheep, but they served more as complimentary change. The meat and milk of the goat and Yak were a part of their diet and the poor in the society of the Mongols used the skins of goat as clothing. The Yaks were used to pull carts, transporting belongings, as the Mongols migrated from one land to another. A main reason for why goats were not as prevalent was due to the fact that they would devastate grasslands, which would result in desertification (Rossabi, 163). While the Yaks were not as prevalent as they were unable to endure deserts.

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The final two of the five types of animals important to the survival of the pastoral nomadic lifestyle lived by the Mongols were the horse and camel. Horses offered a massive mobility advantage allowing them to maintain as well as roam in search of a good pasture for their herds. The Mongols also used horses as a tactical advantage, being able to preform hit-and-run raids on Chinese villages, fleeing into steppe lands, evading a less mobile Chinese force (Rossabi, pdf). Camels were essential as they allowed the Mongols to transport heavy loads, such as household furnishings and trade goods, through inhospitable terrain (Bulliet). They were able to endure heat and required lest pasturing than other flocks of animals. Like most other animals pastured by the Mongols, the wool, meat, and milk were all essential to the Mongols for materialistic/dietary reasoning.

This nomadic pastoral lifestyle lived by the Mongols was not unbecoming of hardships, as the Mongols have served their fair share. The lifestyle was precarious, as constant migration had prevented them from transporting reserves of food and other necessities (Leicester, 6-7). Having a surplus of said necessities was rare, so starvation and vulnerability to harsh elements was common. Heavy ice and snows jeopardized herds and the spread of dieses among livestock was not uncommon impacting the survivability of the traveling Mongols.

Overall, the lifestyle lived by the Mongols in premodern times is still in practice today, with an estimated 30 million people, mostly found in central Asia, still practicing. In premodern times, we see the importance and impact the animals had to the survivability of the Mongols and what they had allowed them to accomplish with the assistance of the great Genghis Khan. This lifestyle did however, take its toll on the Mongols, as the constant migration limited supplies increasing the vulnerability of the Mongols to starvation and the elements.

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The Aspects Of Nomadic Lifestyle. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from
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