Falconry is recognised by UNESCO for it embodies precise aspects of world cultural heritage and as such should be safeguarded for future generations.
The term “Falconry” has the following meaning – The taking of wild quarry in its natural surroundings by trained Hawks.
The origins of this noble pastime can be traced back as far as 5000BC to what is now central Iran, its widely believed that Falconry originated in the far east records exist from China in 2200BC showing Falcons being given as gifts.
The great Khan as documented in the travels of Marco Polo was known to house many hundreds of Hawks, Falcons and Eagles and his hunting retinue comprised of over a thousand men.
Falconry entered Europe byway of trade along the Silk Road and by the conquest and wars of the various horse tribes that crossed the steppe in search of plunder, Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes favoured the flight of the Golden Eagle the Goths and Gaul’s were known to practice falconry and this is known from the writings of the Romans during the invasion of northern Europe, the peoples we now collectively call Vikings were great traders in Hawks and travelled across the Mediterranean to trade Gyr Falcons with the Arab tribes , there are no records of the Celts in Britain practising the sport but Saxon and Viking invasions brought Falconry to our Isles .
Falconry flourished both as a provider of meat for the table and a noble pastime for the landed gentry, King Alfred the Great although besieged by Danes and internal strife still found time to compile a manuscript of Falconry. Prior to 1066 and the Norman Invasion, Harold visited William in Normandy and they went Hawking together and this is shown in the Bayern Tapestry. The Plantagenet Kings all were follows of the sport and Richard Lionheart took 30 Falconers with him during the 3rdCrusade to the Holy Land.
In 1240 probably the most notable book ever written on Falconry was completed by Frederick 11 who was King of Sicily, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Jerusalem , this book is still used as a point of reference today.
Falconry flourished through the Tudor period with harsh penalties imposed on anyone who should harm or steal a Hawk or Falcon as they were deemed to be the property of the king, with the development of firearms during the reign of the Stuarts and the subsequent civil war Falconry declined and all Birds of Prey suffered as a result of the upsurge is firearm development and game shooting it was not until the early 1900’s that Falconry once again started claim its place as the most noble of field sports.
Today falconry is practised throughout the world with great wealth and investments in captive breeding and conservation of quarry species being championed by the Gulf States, the North American Peregrine nearly brought to extinction by the use of pesticides has totally recovered due to the efforts of skilled and dedicated Falconers, the advances in captive breeding has brought many species within the scope of the ordinary man todays challenges centre mainly on finding wild places to fly our charges. Falconry faces many challenges both from within due to poor practice, lack of training and conservationists who lack understanding in our passion, but Falconry will survive, it is man’s ultimate link with his hunting past and the love of wild creatures .