The scene was straight out of a Genghis Khan movie.

There were Mongol warriors clad in armor and helmets, armed with swords and mounted on the short, stout horses unique to Mongolia. The warriors hoisted colorful battle flags on spears.

Dancers in colorful costumes and elaborate masks that resembled the heads of animals performed traditional routines. Others banged on gongs or played horns.

Cows, camels and grunting yaks roamed nearby.

President Bush, his wife, Laura, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice waded into the scene Monday, a settlement of tentlike "gers" set up for the occasion in chilly weather just outside the capital city.

Bush entered the first of the wood-and-felt homes, made warm by one of the wood-burning stoves that are a staple of Mongolian living.

He drank fermented mare's milk — sometimes likened to a mix of warm beer and buttermilk — sipped tea and nibbled cheese curd, a White House official said. Reporters were kept outside and could not watch.

Inside a second ger, Bush listened as three women in exquisite red and blue-gray gowns performed the traditional Central Asian art of throat singing, a technique that allows the singer to create more than one pitch at the same time.

Walking back to the motorcade for the ride to Air Force One, Bush checked out the camels but stopped short as he approached, saying he did not want to be spit on.

Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar beckoned Bush to see the yaks and their handlers, which he obligingly did.

------

Bush joked that there was another important reason for his visit.

It had to do with a coffee-brown gelding named Montana.

"I'm here on an important international mission," Bush told the Mongolian Parliament in his speech at the Government House. "Secretary Rumsfeld asked me to check on his horse."

During his own lay-the-groundwork visit in October, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was presented with a Mongolian horse as a symbol of friendship between the two countries.

He said he would name it Montana because the arid, mountainous landscape around the Mongolian capital reminded him of the state where his wife, Joyce, was born.

But because the horse was the kind of gift Rumsfeld couldn't take back to the Pentagon, Montana remains in Mongolia, cared for by a herdsman who goes by the single name of Bilegerdene. The horse is never to be ridden by anyone for the rest of its life.