A History of Falconry
Falconry in France
In France, falconry reached its heights of complexity, scale and magnificence in the seventeenth century under Louis XIII. His falconry consisted of 300 birds, subdivided into six specialised équipages: for the flight at the heron, the flight at the kite and the crow, the flight at the river, the flight at the partridge, and so on. Numerous paintings, tapestries and works of literature survive from this period.
It slipped off the law after the revolution when a scribe neglected to include falconry in the list of acceptable hunting techniques in 1844 hunting legislation and although it continued under the Empire there was no legal provision for it. A revival came after the last war.
In 1945 the Association Nationale des Fauconniers et Autoursiers Francais (ANFA) was formed. It aimed to legalise, revive and popularise falconry and protect raptors. It was instrumental in obtaining full legal protection for French birds of prey. Today, ANFA has around 300 members, who fly a wide variety of hawks and falcons.
France has a special significance for the cultural heritage of falconry. In 1999 it submitted the Pierre-Amédée Pichot collection at the Museum of Arles for inclusion in the UNESCO World Register; it is undoubtedly among the most significant falconry-related archives in the world. The International Musée de la Venerie in Gien also has a falconry collection, including significant fine art and tapestries.
Falconry in Italy
Falconry reached Italy from three different routes; from Arab falconers through the Norman Court in Sicily; from the north through German influence, and through Venetian contacts with falconers in Asia and the Orient. A wealth of literature, art and records exists on falconry in both medieval and early modern times.
Among the most famous—or infamous—falconers of the period include Lorenzo di Medici, Lucrezia Borgia, Francesco Foscari, the Doge of Venice, and Cardinal Orsini. And of course, the most famous falconer, claimed by both Italy and Germany, Federico II, Holy Roman Emperor (1154-1250).
Starting from 1700 we see a progressive decline of falconry in Italy. By the 1900s falconry had almost died out. A new interest revived in the early twentieth century and the publication of falconry books by Chiorino and Filastori in 1906 and 1908 helped reawaken an interest in the sport. The “Coppaloni” style or “Italian” style, was a training and flying style as well as a “philosophical” new way to interpret the magic of falconry.
Dr. Coppaloni was a pharmacist, physician, eclectic sculptor, dog lover and judge of racing dogs, breeder of pointers, and he never left a paper on his work or his hunting tecniques. Coppaloni’s advice was to look primarily for flight style purity, this should be always pursed even at the cost of limiting the number of kills. In the sixties, he demonstrated his hunting style during a meeting in Spain, where Felix Rodriguez de la Fuente was flying cul levé at the red-legged partrige with falcons; his performance was received with enthusiasm. Fulco Tosti di Valminuto, the first disciple of Coppaloni, spent two years on Torrejon flying field near Madrid exhibiting to Spanis falconers the Coppaloni’s technique.
In the year 1967 Coppaloni organized a meeting in Settevene, near Rome. Among the people attending the meeting there was the great Renz Waller, President of German Falconers,Jack Mavrogordato, Mrs. Woodford, Charles De Ganay and others. At the end, after many hunting fligts, there was the unforgettable fligth of Frikki Pratesi peregrine, named Fulvia. She performed all her pitch over the falconer, but remaining completely out of sight, till the descent to stoop her grey partridge in an astonishing way.
Today, Italian falconers fly longwings at pheasant, partridge, quail, crows and magpies, and goshawks at rabbits and hares. Classical game hawking is exceptionally hard to practice, due to competition for land with strong shooting interests.
Italian museums with important falconry collections include the Castel del Monte and Castello di Melfi, both in Puglia region, the Fortezza del Girifalco in Arezzo, Museo of Bargello in Florence and the Vatican library in Rome. Castello di Melfi is of particular importance; it was Frederick von Hohenstaufen’s castle and continues to host an annual falconry field meeting.
There are many local falconry clubs and two National ones. As in other countries, falconers have pioneered conservation reintroduction programmes for peregrines and eagle owls.
Falconry in Germany
The period from 500 to 1600 saw the zenith of falconry in Germany. Particularly notable past German falconers include, of course, Emperor Frederich II, and the fanatical eighteenth-century falconer Margrave Karl Wilhelm Friedrich von Brandenburg-Ansbach. By 1890, however, only a single hawking establishment remained in Germany, that of Baron C. von Biederman. A small number of falconers practised the sport in near-isolation until a falconry revival began in 1923, and the establishment of the Deutscher Falkenorden and today the DFO is a thriving organisation with over 1000 members and is the oldest falconry club in the world. The Orden Deutscher Falkoniere has around 250 members, and the Verband Deutscher Falkner, a former GDR club, has approximately 100 members. German falconry remains highly traditional. Dedicated hunting-horn music is played to greet falconers when they arrive at falconry meets, when they depart to the field to hunt, and to honour the quarry as it is laid out by torch or firelight at the end of the day. After the meet, falconers attend a celebratory feast, hawk on fist.
Falconry in Denmark
In Denmark, 6th century documents record that Rolf Krake and his men on a visit to King Adils in Uppsala each carried a falcon on his shoulder. Remains of hawks are found in the graves of important Vikings.
Later on in 985 there is a record of 100 marks and 60 hunting falcons paid in annual levy by Hakon Jarl to Harald Blåtand as rental for a part of Norway. King Knud the Holy (1040-86) was a competent falconer as were several kings up to Frederik the Second (1559-88) who established a royal falconry.
In 1662 Crown Prince Christian, later King Christian V, spent some time at the court of Louis XIV and on his return to Denmark founded a small falconry. A royal mews existed till 1810 and the last royal hunt with falcons was in 1803 to mark a visit by the Duke of Gloucester.
Falconry in Iceland and Norway
Both Iceland (Danish territory) and Norway were well known for gifts of goshawks and gerfalcons to foreign sovereigns. In the 18th century at least five shipments of falcons were sent to the Emperor of Morocco. No less than fifty different courts, received these presents. In 1764, fifty falcons went to the French King, 30 to the German Emperor, 60 to the King of Portugal, 20 to the Landgrave of Hesse and 2 to the French Ambassador. Gifts of falcons to France continued untila few months before the execution of Louis XVI when the falconry in Versailles was abolished (1793). The last time the Emperor of Morocco received falcons was in 1798 and the Portuguese court in 1806.
In modern times a few people kept falconry alive in Denmark after the cessation of royal patronage, but so few that a Hunting Act in 1967 effectively prohibited it. The Danish Hawking Club quickly established good relations with politicians and civil servants and is working hard to reverse this ban.