The Sports Archives – Taking Flight with Falconry

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I have a sneaking suspicion that this creature is involved in this sport…

How many different sports involve animals? Both wild and domestic creatures occupy a much larger field of sports than most people expect. Different forms of animal sports often feature their respective animals in a variety of ways. For example, in sports like racing or fighting, the animal is a central (often, instrumental) component of the activity. In sports like hunting or fishing, the creature is a target or measurement of success. Hunting wild game alone is a surprisingly popular hobby, but perhaps the most refined, elegant animal sport (which, incidentally, is a variation on hunting) is falconry.

What is Falconry?           

For the average person, deriving the nature behind falconry is pretty simple; it must have something to do with falcons, hence the name, right? Formally, this sport partners partakers with birds-of-prey, the most popular of which are hawks, eagles, and, of course, falcons, and involves the development of an intimate relationship with a cultivated raptor birds. The culmination of this process features “teamed” hunting of wild prey in a non-artificial environment. Though the terms “falconer” and “falconry” once referred specifically to practitioners of this sport who worked exclusively with falcons, the name has come to universally address all birds-of-prey and trainers of the craft, respectively.

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If nothing else, the sport certainly is photogenic!


Like many sports, falconry features deep elements of complexity, artistry, and the
spread of global culture. The sport aspects of the trade come in primarily with experienced raptors and humans alike – this is when active hunting in an environment is optimized. However, falconry does not begin and end with hunting. Breeding, domestication, the development of personal connections, and persistence are all elements of falconry that may not seem immediately present in such an undertaking. Becoming a “falconer” requires commitment and a desire for more than just entertainment and recreation. After all, half of the sport itself is carried out by a creature that is not even human!

The procedure and execution of hunting with a raptor may seem daunting, and rightfully so; a predator like the falcon must be untethered and free to hunt according to its nature, but depending on its training, the behaviors it exhibits in a natural environment can be controlled to some extent by the falconer. Proper falconry training features beginning at a young age (for the bird) and a lot of easy, natural repetition. Technically speaking, the bird may need more time practicing the craft than its commanding human!

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Bare-handed falconry is as questionable and more unsafe than bare-back horse riding. Use a glove! It is also more comfortable for the perching bird.

The equipment that goes into falconry can vary from complex and expensive to basic and “organic.” One of the most important pieces of equipment that is widely regarded as “necessary” for any falconer is a leather glove or gauntlet. All raptors have sharp talons (used naturally for hunting) and, as a result, allowing them to perch on an exposed hand or arm is generally not recommended. Other equipment may include certain mounted or worn gear for the birds while flying, designed to improve comfort and promote calmness. Certain electronics may be equipped/attached to make tracking and working unanimously easier for man and bird in the process of hunting.

            Why Falconry is Awesome…

            Falconry is, admittedly, unorthodox compared to what much of the world would commonly define as a “sport”, but part of what makes it such a powerful, inspiring activity is how alike a sport it is, despite involving naturally feral, non-human creatures. Falconry requires teamwork, commitment, a competitive spirit, and perseverance – from ALL of its participants – and it manages to bring mankind and elevated sense of communication, purpose, and environmental awareness.

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