HISTORY OF FALCONRY
Evidence suggests that the art of falconry may have begun in Mesopotamia, or in Mongolia and China, with the earliest accounts dating to approximately 2000 BC. Falcon was a symbolic bird of ancient Mongol tribes. There is some disagreement about whether such early accounts document the practice of falconry (from The Epic of Gilgamesh and others) or are misinterpreted depictions of humans with birds of prey. Falconry was probably introduced to Europe around AD 400, when the Huns and Alans invaded from the East. Frederick II of Hohenstaufen (1194–1250) is generally acknowledged as the most significant wellspring of traditional falconry knowledge. He is believed to have obtained firsthand knowledge of Arabic falconry during wars in the region (between June 1228–June 1229). He obtained a copy of Moamyn's manual on falconry and had it translated into Latin by Theodore of Antioch. Frederick II himself made corrections to the translation in 1241 resulting in De Scientia Venandi per Aves. King Frederick II is most recognized for his falconry treatise, De arte venandi cum avibus ("The Art of Hunting with Birds"). Written himself toward the end of his life, it is widely accepted as the first comprehensive book of falconry, but also notable in its contributions to ornithology and zoology. De arte venandi cum avibus incorporated a diversity of scholarly traditions from east to west, and is one of the earliest and most significant challenges to Aristotle's often flawed explanations of nature.
Historically, falconry was a popular sport and status symbol among the nobles of medieval Europe, the Middle East, and Mongolian Empire. Many historical illustrations left in Rashid al Din's "Compendium chronicles" book described falconry of the middle centuries with Mongol images. Falconry was largely restricted to the noble classes due to the prerequisite commitment of time, money, and space. In art and in other aspects of culture such as literature, falconry remained a status symbol long after it was no longer popularly practiced. The historical significance of falconry within lower social classes may be underrepresented in the archaeological record, due to a lack of surviving evidence, especially from Altaic nomads and non-agrarian societies. Within nomadic societies like the Bedouin, falconry was not practiced for recreation by noblemen. Instead, falcons were trapped and hunted on small game during the winter months in order to supplement a very limited diet.
In the UK and parts of Europe, falconry probably reached its zenith in the 17th century, but soon faded, particularly in the late 18th and 19th centuries, as firearms became the tool of choice for hunting (this likely took place throughout Europe and Asia in differing degrees). Falconry in the UK had a resurgence in the late 19th, early 20th century during which time a number of falconry books were published. This revival led to the introduction of falconry in North America in the early 1900s. Col R. Luff Meredith is recognized as the father of North American falconry.
Throughout the 20th century, modern veterinary practices and the advent of radio telemetry (transmitters attached to free-flying birds) increased the average lifespan of falconry birds and allowed falconers to pursue quarry and styles of flight that had previously resulted in the loss of their hawk or falcon.
Timeline of Falconry
• 722-705 BC - An Assyrian bas-relief found in the ruins at Khorsabad during the excavation of the palace of Sargon II (Sargon II) has been claimed to depict falconry. In fact, it depicts an archer shooting at raptors and an attendant capturing a raptor. A. H. Layard's statement in his 1853 book Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon is "A falconer bearing a hawk on his wrist appeared to be represented in a bas-relief which I saw on my last visit to those ruins."
• 680 BC - Chinese records describe falconry. E. W. Jameson suggests that evidence of falconry in Japan surfaces.
• 355 AD - Nihon-shoki, a largely mythical narrative, records hawking first arriving in Japan as of the 16th emperor Nintoku from Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea.
• 2nd-4th century - the Germanic tribe of the Goths learned falconry from the Sarmatians .
• 5th century - the son of Avitus, Roman Emperor 455-456, from the Celtic tribe of the Arverni who fought at the Battle of Chalons with the Goths against the Huns introduced falconry in Rome.
• 500 - a Roman floor mosaic depicts a falconer and his hawk hunting ducks.
• early 7th century - Prey caught by trained dogs or falcons is considered halal in Quran. By this time falconry was already popular in the Arabian Peninsula.
• 818 - The Japanese Emperor Saga ordered someone to edit a falconry text named "Shinshuu Youkyou".
• 875 - Western Europe and Saxon England practiced falconry widely.
• 991 - The Battle of Maldon. A poem describing it says that before the battle, the Anglo-Saxons' leader Byrhtnoth "let his tame hawk fly from his hand to the wood".
• 1070s - The Bayeux Tapestry shows King Harold of England with a Hawk in one scene. It is said that the King owned the largest collection of books on the sport in all of Europe.
• c.1240s - The treatise of an Arab falconer, Moamyn, was translated into Latin by Master Theodore of Antioch, at the court of Frederick II, it was called De Scientia Venandi per Aves and much copied.
• 1250 - Frederick II wrote in the last years of his life a treatise on "The Art of Hunting with Birds": De arte venandi cum avibus.
• 1390s - In his Libro de la caza de las aves, Castilian poet and chronicler Pero López de Ayala attempts to compile all the available correct knowledge concerning falconry.
• 1486 -See the Boke of Saint Albans
• early 16th century - Japanese warlord Asakura Norikage (1476-1555) succeeded in captive breeding of goshawks.
• 1600s - Dutch records of falconry; the Dutch town of Valkenswaard was almost entirely dependent on falconry for its economy.
• 1660s - Tsar Alexis of Russia writes a treatise which celebrates aesthetic pleasures derived from falconry.
• 1801 - James Strutt of England writes, "the ladies not only accompanied the gentlemen in pursuit of the diversion [falconry], but often practiced it by themselves; and even excelled the men in knowledge and exercise of the art."
• 1934 - The first US falconry club, The Peregrine Club, is formed; it died out during World War II
• 1941 - Falconer's Club of America formed
• 1961 - Falconer's Club of America defunct
• 1961 - North American Falconers Association (NAFA) formed
• 1970 - Peregrine Falcon listed as an Endangered Species in the U.S., due primarily to the use of DDT as a pesticide (35 Federal Register 8495; June 2, 1970).
• 1970 - The Peregrine Fund is founded, mostly by falconers, to conserve raptors, and focusing on Peregrines.
• 1972 - DDT banned in the U.S. (EPA press release - December 31, 1972) but continues to be used in Mexico and other nations.
• 1999 - Peregrine falcon removed from the Endangered Species list in the United States, due to reports that at least 1,650 peregrine breeding pairs existed in the U.S. and Canada at that time. (64 Federal Register 46541-558, August 25, 1999)
• 2003 - A population study by the USFWS shows peregrine falcon numbers climbing ever more rapidly, with well over 3000 pairs in North America
• 2006 - A population study by the USFWS shows peregrine falcon numbers still climbing. (Federal Register circa September 2006)
• 2008 - USFWS rewrites falconry regulations virtually eliminating federal involvement. Federal Register: October 8, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 196)
• 2010 - Falconry is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
The often-quoted Book of St Albans or Boke of St Albans, first printed in 1486, often attributed to Dame Julia Berners, provides this hierarchy of hawks and the social ranks for which each bird was supposedly appropriate.
1. Emperor: The Eagle, Vulture, and Merloun
2. King: The Ger Falcon and the Tercel of the Ger Falcon
3. Prince: The Falcon Gentle and the Tercel Gentle
4. Duke: The Falcon of the Loch
5. Earl: The Falcon Peregrine
6. Baron: The Bustard
7. Knight: The Sacre and the Sacret
8. Esquire: The Lanere and the Laneret
9. Lady: The Marlyon
10. Young Man: The Hobby
11. Yeoman: The Goshawk
12. Poor Man: The Tercel
13. Priest: The Sparrowhawk
14. Holy Water Clerk: The Musket
15. Knave or Servant: The Kestrel
This list, however, was mistaken in several respects.
• 1) Vultures are not used for falconry.
• 3) 4) 5) These are usually said to be different names for the Peregrine Falcon. But there is an opinion that renders 4) as "rock falcon" = a peregrine from remote rocky areas, which would be bigger and stronger than other peregrines. This could also refer to the Scottish Peregrine.
• 6) The bustard is not a bird of prey, but a game species that was commonly hunted by falconers; this entry may have been a mistake for buzzard, or for busard which is French for "harrier"; but any of these would be a poor deal for barons; some treat this entry as "bastard hawk", possibly meaning a hawk of unknown lineage, or a hawk that couldn't be identified.
• 7) 8) Sakers were imported from abroad and very expensive, and ordinary knights and squires would be unlikely to have them. There are contemporary records of lanners native to England.
• 10) 15) Hobbies and kestrels are historically considered to be of little use for serious falconry. (The French name for the Hobby is faucon hobereau, hobereau meaning local/country squire. That may be the source of the confusion.), however King Edward I of England sent a falconer to catch hobbies for his use. Kestrels are coming into their own as worthy hunting birds, as modern falconers dedicate more time to their specific style of hunting. While not suitable for catching game for the falconer's table, kestrels are certainly capable of catching enough quarry that they can be fed on surplus kills through the molt.
• 12) There is an opinion  that, since the previous entry is the goshawk, this entry ("Ther is a Tercell. And that is for the powere [= poor] man.") means a male goshawk and that here "poor man" means not a labourer or beggar but someone at the bottom end of the scale of landowners.
Species for beginners
In North America only the American Kestrel and the Red-tailed Hawk are permitted for a beginner falconer during his/her apprenticeship, except in Alaska, where the Northern Goshawk is allowed as it is much more abundant there than the Red-tailed Hawk. Opinions differ on the usefulness of the Kestrel for beginners due to its inherent fragility. In the UK, beginner falconers are often permitted to acquire a larger variety of birds, but the Harris Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk remain the most commonly used for beginners and experienced falconers alike.The Red-tailed Hawk is held in high regard in the UK due to the ease of breeding them in captivity, their inherent hardiness, and their capability hunting the rabbits and hares commonly found throughout the countryside in the UK. Many falconers in the UK and North America switch to accipiters or large falcons following their introduction with easier birds. In the USA accipiters, several types of buteos, and large falcons are only allowed to be owned by falconers who hold a general license. There are three kinds of falconry licenses in the United States, typically Apprentice class, General class, and Master class.
Falconry is currently practiced in many countries around the world. The falconer's traditional choice of bird is the Northern Goshawk and Peregrine Falcon. In contemporary falconry in both North America and the UK they remain popular, although the Harris Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk are likely more widely used. The Northern Goshawk and the Golden Eagle are more commonly used in Eastern Europe than elsewhere. In the Middle East, the Saker Falcon is the most traditional species flown against the Houbara Bustard, Sandgrouse, Stone-curlew, Hares, and other birds. Peregrines and other captively bred imported falcons are also commonplace. Falconry remains an important part of the Arab heritage and culture. The UAE reportedly spends over 27 million dollars annually towards the protection and conservation of wild falcons, and has set up several state-of-the-art falcon hospitals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the largest falcon hospital in the whole world. There are two breeding farms in the Emirates, as well as those in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Every year, falcon beauty contests and demonstrations take place at the ADIHEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi.