sports in the middle ages

Sports In The Middle Ages

Standing in thick forestry waiting for the right moment , waiting for

the right time, waiting for the right falcon to step into his clutches, man

anxious as the falcon gets closer and closer. This is his chance, it’s

there, WHAP!! Trapped, this is only the beginning of a pastime of flying,

diving, and rewarding killing. Falconry as well as other sports in the

medieval time period were huge pastimes for men. From falconry to fencing

and bearbaiting these sports evolved and survived for centuries.

Falconry was and is a sport of employing falcons, other hawks, and

sometimes eagles in a hunting fashion. It was an ancient pastime that had

been practiced by man from preliterate times. “ Falconry originated with

nomadic people in the Asiatic plains.”( Internet/Pg.1) The nomads tamed

their falcons to help seize the food necessary for survival, this was perhaps

one of the first methods of hunting ever used by man. It soon developed into

a sport and it’s fascinating cooperation between man and bird was one of

oldest of all open-air pastimes. Falconry was brought to England around the

eighth century by merchants, adventures, and crusaders from Europe and

England that became familiar with falconry in the east on their return home

and survived until the seventeenth century. “The falconer was seen as a

figure of authority mounted on his horse surrounded by his companions and

his whit falcon descending from the sky to rest on his arm.”(Internet/Pg.1)

With skill and patients hawks, owls, and eagles, natural predators and which

kill in order to survive, may be trained by man to kill selected quarry, but

none will retrieve the prey. Some birds are more desirable than others

because of their behavior and flight habits. The most popular of the birds is

the Pergine falcon, which possesses all of the desirable traits. It can stand

climatic changes of the country. It is strong but gentle, and swift but

as required. When caught wild it is quickly trained by man. Only two groups

of hawks ( about a dozen species ) have such characteristics. These of which

are the true falcons, long-winged hawks and the accipiters or short-winged

hawk. Among the short-winged species are the goshawk and the European

sparrow hawk. The long-winged hawks were used in open country, while the

short-winged, accipiters, were better equip to hunt hedge rows and woods.

Falcons usually killed their quarry in the air, cleanly at the end of a

powerful dive or stoop. “They usually clung or “bound” to their prey.

goshawk may perch in a tree watching intently while man and dogs beat the

cover. When it’s prey is flushed out the goshawk dashes fiercely in

“binds to” it’s victim and carries it to the ground, piercing it’s
vital organs

with its massive talons.”(Britannica/Pg.664) The male hawk, which was

surprisingly smaller than the female by one-third, was the Tiercel. Only the

larger female was properly called the falcon. A hawk that was taken from the

nest fully fledged but still flightless was called an eyas. Wild-caught

immature birds were called passengers because they were usually caught

when they are migrating and the adults were called haggards. After these

hawks were captured, until they were ready to be trained, eyases were “at

hack.” While being hacked the birds are fed regularly. they are fed fresh

meat, tied to a board or block, always in the same spot.”(Britannica/Pg.664)

Goshawks were used for hunting hares, rabbits, and pheasants. The smaller

accipiters are best for hunting starlings and other small birds such as

partridges and quail. The falconer must decide weather to use an eyas or a

wild trapped hawk. Trapping a hawk requires skill and patients. One way to

do so was to hide in a blind near a bow net set over a wild hawks kill. After

the bird returns the attached cord was pulled and if the falconer was

successful he would immediately remove the bird and attach leather thongs,

called jesses, to it’s legs, and covers its eyes with a rufter, which was a

leather hood used on newly caught birds.

After the birds are caught the training period begins. The first step in

this procedure was to carry the hawk strapped on a heavy gloved fists for

several hours each day while talking to it gently and stroking its plumage

with a feather. When the hawk is able to eat from the fist without a rufter

was next ready to be broken to people, dogs, and the life of falconry. Then

was tamed to feed from the lure, this is