We Drank the Horse Milk

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There’s a little ol’ place in the middle of the world known as Kyrgyzstan.

An adorable little horse out on the jailoo

An adorable little horse out on the jailoo.

In Kyrgyzstan, they imbibe gritty drinks like shoro, eat old dried out yogurt balls called kurut, and they also down the horse milk.

Fermented horse milk.

You read that right.

Kyrgyz horse

Kyrgyz horse running free.

We learned on our visit to the jailoo south of Osh that horses need to be milked up to 5 times a day.

milking a horse

The daily grind.

After watching the process happen right before our very eyes, we learned that milking horses was a pretty full-on activity.

milking a horse

And the work continues for several horses, several times a day.

When a horse is milked, a few things can happen.

milking a horse in Kyrgyzstan

Another family milks their horses.

First off, the family might come out with their bowls and buckets and each down some of the warm, fresh milk straight squeezed from the horse’s teat.

drinking horse milk

The family gathered to have their afternoon horse milk.

Another popular outcome involves storing the milk in a bag… a goat skin bag…

kumis bag

The kumis bag in the yurt – made from a goat skin and churned regularly.

Over the course of hours or days, the milk is churned or agitated occasionally to promote fermentation, thus giving kumis, the outcome beverage, an alcohol level similar to a mild beer.

Beer, however, goes down a whole heck of a lot smoother!

When you visit a yurt in Kyrgyzstan, you will most likely be served with some of the delicious kumis in a giant bowl that you will find incredibly hard to drink. It’s a taste almost sharp to the tongue, and the goat skin bag definitely lends some flavors of its own to the drink.

Before heading to the jailoo, I told our guide that I really didn’t want to drink the drink — I had drunk it before and knew of its harsh flavor! But I had to. I had to touch it to my tongue.

We had it at one yurt.

And then at another.

kumis horse milk

Kumis: fermented horse milk with blobs of “burnt butter”, some has more than others.

At the second one, I asked the woman to give me just a little bit.

“Why?” she asked me in Russian.

“Because this flavor… it is hard to drink,” I responded.

“But it’s healthy,” she said.

And to that she gave me a healthy dose.

This is the worst for us. What’s the most disgusting drink you’ve ever had on your travels?

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About Brooke

Brooke is a passionate traveler who has a love for any country that ends in -stan, languages she'll never be able to speak, and cannoli. She is the creator of the female travel focused FTU Newsletter and Her Packing List website. Follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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15 Responses to We Drank the Horse Milk

  1. Melissa - The Mellyboo Project August 7, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    Eeeeek! That’s pretty nasty sounding! I guess Ben Stiller’s Gaylord Focker in Meet the Parents was right when he said “you can milk anything with nipples”

    as for me… when I was bush camping in the Okavango Delta, our mokoro polers had brought some scud beer, under the name Chibuku Shake Shake.

    Here is wikipedia’s definition of the scud beer we had…
    “Chibuku Shake Shake, so called by the need to shake the carton before drinking it, is brewed by Chibuku, and remains a popular beer in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi. Chibuku Shake Shake is made from a mix of sorghum and maize. In Zimbabwe it is known as “scud”. It is sold in paper cartons or brown plastic containers with a wide blue lid. It is thought to be a drink for lower class people. This thick brown millet beer costs less than a dollar and it is shaken vigorously before drinking it because of its thick Layer of sediment collected on the bottom of the carton. It has a powerful yeast flavor that is offset by a lemony tang, surprising given the color. When the liquid has been consumed and you reach the bottom of the carton, standard practice is to slurp up the pile of sludge that remains.”"

    YUCK!

  2. Jeremy August 7, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    GROSS!

    I was hanging out with some islander boys (Maori, Tongan, etc) in New Zealand who pulled out some moonshine. It’s legal to brew your own beer or spirits in Kiwi land so anybody can do it…and anywhere! Let’s just say, the lack of regulation was quite apparent. OOF. What a night.

  3. Callie August 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the idea of fermented horse milk in general, or the fact that the goatskin bag appears to be a whole goat that’s been hollowed out. Yikes!

    I don’t think I’ve had any disgusting drinks, but once I was served a big plate of what I thought were vegetables…that turned out to be…intestines. That I had to finish out of politeness!

    • Brooke August 9, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Yeah the goat skin that still looks like a goat is disturbing, but not as disturbing at the neighbour boy using an inflated goat skin as a soccer ball. true story

  4. Christy August 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

    Eww.. I would have the hardest time continuing to drink it even after I knew it was gross. I would probably gag.

    • Brooke August 9, 2012 at 11:17 am #

      Not the easiest thing to down that’s for sure. There was suppressed gagging involved ;)

  5. Susan @ Travel Junkette August 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    Ahh! I drank this same stuff in Mongolia! They call it airag. It was… interesting.

  6. kevin August 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    is that milking a male horse???? i dont see the udders or whatever.seriously.

  7. Rebecca August 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    Ew. Looks… interesting… it looks very similar to raw sake we drank at a festival in Japan. Not nice. But the old Japanese folks kept filling up our little cups. After a while it wasn’t too bad…

  8. Lauren, Ephemerratic September 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Well, ask people over in most parts of Asia what they think of cheese, which we Westerners love so much, and they’ll have similar reactions.

    “You curdle cow milk, mix it with processed calf stomach lining, and then let it sit out, getting moldy and fuzzy — and you EAT that?”

    That said, props for continuing to drink something you tried and didn’t enjoy. You’re a considerate guest!

    • Brooke September 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

      Well when you put it that way, yes it does sound awful! haha :)

  9. aidana November 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    i love it…drink it everytime i go to bishkek

  10. Borat December 3, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Guys, if you cannot accept something it doesn’t mean it’s yuck or whatever. I was born in Kazakhstan I drank kumis at least once a month. Last 3 years I live in the USA and only one thing I’m missing about my country it’s – Kumis. For you guys, kumis preparing process sounds awful but just think about junk food you eat every day. Unfortunately, a lot gals who has pretty face in benefit has fat butt. This is disgusting. kevin was kidding about male horse milk. Very smart! Now I can realize individual from developed country, not like my. Before you say it’s yuck or awful try it. And you’d love it. Also you can Google and find how popular Kumis in Germany. Good to know – Germany developed country. Although, what I’m expecting to get from the people who think the knew everything, but can’t show on the map Australian and Austrian location. Borat forever!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The August Express 2012 | Brooke vs. the World - September 1, 2012

    [...] those concerning some more interesting times in Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. In Kyrgyzstan, we drank the horse milk, discovered that horse milk tourism is a thing, got our haircuts at the Osh Bazaar, and talked [...]

  2. Some Things That Don’t Mesh in the Countries of the Silk Roadistan Tour | Brooke vs. the World - November 13, 2012

    [...] boil sheep heads and serve the eyes to guests of honor. Dear. God. And let’s not forget about horse milk and horse milk tourism. The kumis bag in the yurt – made from a goat skin and inside milk is [...]

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