Falcon breeding played key role in Arab world

Falcon breeding played key role in Arab world
Falconry in the Arab world uses different techniques than in Europe, but some details, such as traditional training equipment, are the same. (Photo/SPA)
Updated 26 January 2019

Falcon breeding played key role in Arab world

Falcon breeding played key role in Arab world
  • Falcons are carried on the left hand as it moves less than the right one. They accompany their breeders to become familiar with their voices and able to answer to a specific name

JEDDAH: Falcon breeding is an ancient hobby in the Arabian Peninsula, and has spread from Central Asia to Europe. Popular among nobles, falcon breeding played a major role in diplomacy during the Middle Ages. Arab falcon-breeding countries adopt similar breeding and training techniques, except for some specific details.
Training falcons that are less than one year old and making them familiar with their breeders takes up to 40 days; training older ones can take up to a year. Falcons vary in their responsiveness. The peregrine is considered more responsive to training than the lanner, but it is highly susceptible to diseases and has a relatively slow molting process (shedding and renewing feathers). Training falcons requires both modern and traditional methods and equipment, such as binoculars to help locate and follow them, a burqa (leather hood) that covers their head to keep them calm, and a gauntlet (piece of cloth) that is put around the hand.
Falcons are carried on the left hand as it moves less than the right one. They accompany their breeders to become familiar with their voices and able to answer to a specific name. Recently, small drones containing prey in a cage have started being used to train falcons to hunt. Once training is complete, the breeder must be confident that the falcon will always return to them.
Falconry in the Arab world uses different techniques than in Europe, but some details, such as traditional training equipment, are the same. Due to environmental crises, falcons are now kept in private bird sanctuaries where they are raised, trained and bred.
In Belgium, falcons are usually left free to nest next to humans and adapt to their environment. Falcon breeders and hunters in the UK are free to pursue their hobby without the need for a license, provided that they commit to relevant regulations.
In Europe, the rich were not the only people to own falcons; workers used them to search for food. During World War II, falcons were used to kill pigeons carrying messages and prevent collisions between birds and aircraft at and near airports.
Falcons are among the strongest and most popular predatory birds, characterized by their sharp eyesight and claws. Their great hunting ability is what led humans to start using them. Their height varies between 25cm and 75cm, and they weigh 2 kg. Female falcons are bigger than the males. Falcons nest in rocky reefs, trees or on the ground, and generally build their nests with sticks, though some use small branches.
Due to the strong link between falcons and Saudi culture and history, King Salman issued an order in 2017 to establish the Saudi Falcons Club, which cares for falcons as they are considered a national cultural heritage.
It seeks to introduce, highlight and spread this heritage, organize events in the Kingdom and abroad, arrange auctions to sell falcons, and manage sites and reserves that contain them. The club works with universities, scientific centers and health institutions to conduct research and studies.