The history of Falconry is such a vast subject and being a bit of a history geek I could go on forever, so instead what I’ve decided to do is to tell you a few different facts and things that I personally find interesting and hopefully you will too.
Falconry is the art of hunting wild quarry in its natural habitat using birds of prey, Falconry is also referred to as Hawking.
Evidence suggests Falconry began in Mesopotamia or possibly china around 2000bc and possibly introduced to Europe around 400-500AD, by 875AD it was practiced widely throughout Western Europe.
Due to lack of recorded details from these times the true origins of the sport have been of much debate, although we have the date of around 2000bc the records indicate falcons were seen as a suitable royal gift and that falcons were being used by humans for hunting, suggesting that falconry was already well established at this point. But without recorded data no history records can be made.
Falconry is detailed as being one of the oldest sports and historically Falconry has been described as the sport of kings. It was a status symbol among the nobles and was largely restricted to the noble classes, but falconry within the lower classes may be underestimated.
Falcons were valued so high that punishments for harming falcons or to steal or destroy eggs or nests resulted in one-year imprisonment or other punishments such as your eyes being poked out or your hands being cut off. In the 5th century the Burgundian penal code of the period proclaims that the penalty of the theft of a hawk was the removal of six ounces of flesh by said hawk from the thief’s buttocks!!
At one time falcons were so highly valued that they were worth more than their weight in gold. During the late 14th century the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid 1 kidnaped the son of Phillip the Bold, Duke of Normandy and refused Phillips ransom offer of 200,00 gold ducats and instead wanted and was given something much more valuable, 12 white Gyr Falcons.
Mary Queen of Scots was a keen enthusiast of Falconry with a love of Merlin’s and enjoyed going lark hunting. It has been written that during her long imprisonment she was allowed to fly her merlin.
Around about the late 18th century falconry was in sharp decline as firearms began to overshadow the sport, with people preferring to hunt by shooting rather that with a falcon.
Falconry did however make a comeback with a lot of books being written during the 20th century on the art of falconry, which soon led to falconry being introduced to North America.
In 1927 the British Falconers Club was founded and is today the largest and oldest falconry club in Europe.
Falconry today is very much alive and practiced worldwide. We can enjoy the rich history of falconry and practice and promote the best of modern falconry.
There are so much more interesting finds out there on falconry, different countries have their own history with the sport and their own traditions and it makes for very interesting reading. I hope in the near future to write some posts on a couple of different countries, including our own and their story with falconry.
If anyone wants to know about a specific country please feel free to comment, some interesting pages to look at are
Darren and Clare
Darren and Clare
Husband and wife and owners of Speyside Falconry