Falconry in Saudi Arabia

I first become aware of falconry as a sport when I was living and working in Pakistan.  Various times at the airports I would notice Arab men who would be carrying a falcon which was wearing a hood so as not to be traumatized.  I remember thinking how majestic and powerful those birds looked.  When I met the man who eventually became my husband he told me Pakistan was a choice destination for Saudis to bring their falcons and have them trained.

It is amazing when you think about it that the falcon can spot its prey while a mile high up in the sky.  It can transcend quickly with exact precision and catch its prey.  A falcon can live up to 15 years of age.

There are several types of falcons:  “Saker” (Falcon chirrup)and “Shaheen” the Peregrine (Falcon peregrines) are the two main species used for hunting. The Saker is most popular because it is well suited to desert hawking. The female, larger and more powerful than the male, is a brave, patient hunter with keen eyesight, and copes better under stress. The temperamental Peregrine has brittle feathers that are easily broken. Again the female of this species is preferred for hunting purposes.  (www.arabhunter.com)



Falconry continues to be a popular sport in Saudi Arabia although it is a sport oriented to the elite for a prize hunting falcon can easily cost US$50,000.  I think it is amazing how these graceful and powerful birds can be let loose to seek its prey yet at the same time return to the owner.  Part of this tradition is due to the trainer who should receive large credit.  A trainer will begin working with a falcon when it is still a baby, allowing the bird to become accustomed to the touch and smell of humans.

I wish I knew more about falconry and particularly the sport of falconry in the Kingdom.  I’ve not had the opportunity to witness the sport firsthand.  However I have had the opportunity at various cultural events to see a falcon up close and personal as well as hold one.  The falcon has very sharp talons and it is necessary to wear a thick glove when attempting to hold the falcon.  And usually the falcon will be wearing a hood over its head which keeps it calm and relaxed.  I do hope that I’ll be able to see the falcon in action hunting its prey and could then write more knowledgably about the experience and tradition.

But in closing this post I should point out that the sport of falconry has been a tradition in the Arab world to include Saudi Arabia since the time of the Mesopotamian civilization. 


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