Live Falconry Demonstrations!
Exactly where and when the time-honored sport of falconry originated is still unknown. There are depictions in drawings of people hunting with hawks that date back some 4,000 years. It became popular in Asia around 400 B.C. and made its way into Europe by the mid 800’s. It was then practiced by kings and noblemen where it became known as “the sport of Kings”.
The sport of Falconry was derived from the returning crusaders, many of whom, in the course of their travels to the east, had become acquainted with the Asian falconers and the Asiatic methods of training and flying hawks. Among such Crusaders was the Emperor Frederick II, who brought back with him some Asiatic hawks and their trainers. He even declared that falconry was the noblest of all arts. For more than four hundred years falconry flourished in Europe as a fashionable sport among all classes. Falconry reached its peak during the Renaissance period in Europe, and was practiced by every class and society. However, your social standing greatly influenced the bird you were allowed to possess, with eagles and the peregrine falcon reserved only for the King. Meanwhile, the yeoman enjoyed the less aristocratic goshawk and sparrow-hawk as suppliers of wholesome delicacies for the table. Even the serf was not forgotten, and was allowed to train and fly the small but graceful kestrel.
Some rulers had their favorite birds brought with them into battle, taking breaks from the war to go hunting. You may have read the story of Henry VIII who was thrown into a ditch and nearly drowned when his leaping-pole broke while trying to follow his hawk. Catherine II of Russia was as great at falconry as at most other things, and she especially delighted in the flight with Merlins.
Falconry was struck with a devastating blow with the introduction of the shotgun. It was found that you could bring much more game to the table in far less time and with less upkeep. Falcons were still kept around by a few dedicated enthusiasts for a peaceful afternoon on the grouse moor. And falconry is still practiced today in the United States as a natural and humane means of abating infestations of nuisance animals such as rodents and/or small birds.
Learn more about the art of falconry and watch amazing birds take flight 4 times daily at the Carolina Renaissance Festival!