Falconry or hacking is an age old art which can be dated back to 2000 BC and is believed to have been evolved by falconers in Egypt and China, or the ancient Mesopotamia to be precise. Falconry originally began with the idea of survival and continuation, wherein falcons were trained to hunt and catch hold of game for subsistence. It spread gradually to the European continent via the expeditions of the Huns and the rulers from the Middle East in AD 400, wherein the technique of hacking or training procedure for making the raptors expert hunters was perfected and carried on a larger scale, for falconry had evolved into a great sport from being a source of subsistence.
Early literature passages, poetic references, paintings and porcelain structures depict falconry in China as an important part of the Chinese culture, wherein it was practiced avidly by the imperial patronage, aristocrats as well as the common public. From early or middle 600 BC onwards, falconry or hawking was considered as a symbol of luxury and royal lineage in India as well, wherein royal parties were organized for hunting game with the aid of specially trained raptors.
China, India And Beyond
However, the hawking practices in China, India and Middle East had subsequently become feeble in the period from the end of the 18th century to the mid 19th century owing to reasons like colonization, partition, change or ruling races, invasion by foreign rulers, as well as due to ethnic clashes. Introduction of westernized elements and modernized way of thinking was another significant reason for its decline in these regions.
The art of training the raptors to catch their prey is extremely difficult to master, and experts agree that Fredrick II was the person who made a significant contribution towards this cause by authoring comprehensive literature regarding falconry and ornithology. Falconry soon transcended boundaries and became a popular sport amidst the royal families and noble classes in Europe, since this sport required significant investment in terms of time, money and other resources. Falconry soon began to be considered as a higher status symbol, and in 1500 AD, England had even brought out strict rules regarding the classification of raptor training according to one’s class and profession.
The popularity of falconry reached its peak in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, so much so that the Dutch city of Valkenswaard was dependant entirely upon the sport for running its economy. Falconry made its appearance in the United States in early 1900s, wherein it became a popular sport. The North American Falconer’s Association was formed in the year 1961, which boasts of more than 3000 members today. The population of Peregrine species of raptors was found to be affected by excessive usage of DDT, and successful efforts were directed towards saving them from being wiped out.