Autonomy and Distance: Annual Cycles of Proximity in Southern Siberian Human-horse Relations

Alexander Christian Oehler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished conference contribution


This paper draws on ethnographic and ethnohistorical data gathered on Soiot human-horse relations in the Saian Mountains of southern Siberia, collected between 2012 and 2014. The author challenges the horse's secure position as a fully domesticated species in this mountain region and argues that the role of the horse in the domus of the Saian region can only be understood in the context of a regionally shared history of reindeer herding. Contemporary Soiots, who traditionally are known as 'hunters who herd reindeer for transportation purposes,' have referred to their now diminishing reindeer herds as 'semi domestic' animals, possessing a high degree of human-independent will power. Similarly, human-owned horses are seen to possess a strong sense of independence, spending approx. eight months out of the year fending for themselves in locations often far removed from human settlement. The paper draws on divergent local accounts of the dynamics involved in annual catch and release procedures, while examining the seasonal re-negotiation of intentions between riders and horses. At the heart of the 'semi-domestic' argument lies a suite of Soiot practices, tools, and structures purposed to harness and direct horse intentions in an annual rhythm between landscape, predators, and human users, and which attests to the relative severity of this ever recurring inter-special encounter of intentions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference on Hunting and Gathering Societies (CHaGS11)
Place of PublicationUniversity of Vienna
PublisherUniversity of Vienna
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2015
EventEleventh Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies - University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Duration: 7 Sept 201511 Sept 2015,momentum%20was%20not%20being%20lost.


ConferenceEleventh Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies
Abbreviated titleCHaGS11
Internet address


  • Domestication
  • horses
  • Soiots
  • catch and release
  • intentionality
  • southern Siberia


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