About the Falcons

Falcons in Arab culture

Mankind has practiced hunting with birds of prey for thousands of years.

The inscriptions show that the Arabian Peninsula has known falconry for nearly nine thousand years. Arabs have, for a long time, shown preference in hunting with falcons rather than other animals, while other nations have hunted using different animals, such as eagles, buttocks, to name a couple.

There are dozens of species and breeds of falcons and hybrids. Falcons are generally divided into four main species, Falco Cherrug/Saker Falcon, Gyrfalcon Falco Rusticolus, Falco Peregrinus, and Lanner Falcon/Falco Biarmicus.

The Cherrug/Saker Falcon has been the Arabs’ most favorite since ancient times. They also knew different types of Falco Peregrinus and Lanner Falcon/Falco Biarmicus. On the other hand, the Gyrfalcon Falco Rusticolus was not common because it lived in cold places and it did not migrate or pass through the Arab areas, all this made it difficult for it to be adopted.

Evidence in Arab heritage suggest that AlHarith bin Muawiya bin Thor Al Kindi was known to have obtained firsthand knowledge of falconry at the time of the Kingdom of Kenda. Upon seeing one falcon fall into a trap for birds and eat the birds in it, AlHarith liked the unique bird and ordered to capture it. Surprisingly, while AlHarith was with his falcon, the falcon slipped out of his hands to catch a passing pigeon. A few days later while AlHarith was looking, the falcon also slipped to catch a bigger target as he snatched a rabbit.

Eventually, AlHarith knew that this bird was of different kind, so he ordered to tame the bird and train it for hunting. After that, the Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula kept hunting with Falcons and it was passed down from generation to generation.

While Falconry was a luxury for kings, princes, and the elite people of the Arabian Peninsula, it was also a tactic to supplement a sparse diet for the poor. Falconry was not only limited to the Arabs. It had spread from the middle valleys of Asia to Europe where it became the symbol of nobility as a hobby as well as a mean to serve a great diplomatic role in the middle ages. Falcons were also sent as presents to the kings of Europe.

The Arabs knew Falconry since thousands of years as early accounts document the practice of raptor hunting for prey among Arabs for more than 9,000 years before Christ, which is thousands of years before the story of the AlHarith from Kenda and the attributed story to the Assyrian King Sargon II. The remains of the recently discovered “Al-Mager Civilization” in the Second Stone Age showed that man in the Arabian Peninsula tamed horses, falcons and other animals very early in comparison to other civilizations.

The Arabian Peninsula was still a transit point for migratory falcons from Central Asia and Eastern Europe to Africa. Falcons were located in the deserts of northern Arabia for hunting in the summer each year. Some falcons also inhabited in the Arabian Peninsula up in the mountains for reproduction.

Falconry has a great deal of interest in Saudi Arabia among those who seek to revive the Bedouin side of their culture. Festivals usually dedicate a space to display live falcons’ shows. The importance of specialized courses in falconry education has not been overlooked. Moreover, Saudi Arabia cooperates with the rest of the GCC to prevent hunting falcons with guns, reduce illegal hunting, and promote compliance with laws imposed to maintain the balance of endangered species. However, due to adverse environmental conditions i.e. high temperature and too much humidity for breeding falcons, production and hatching became very limited.

The Arabs were among the most interested nations in falconry.

Indeed, the Arab kings had a clear mark in the history of taming and companionship with the falcons, especially in the Arabian Peninsula. They have even given it a high social status that it has become a symbol of strength, honor, courage, pride, beauty, loyalty, unity and trust.