feudal lords

Feathers and Feudal Lords: The Noble Art of Falconry in Medieval Times

In medieval times, falconry was not just a sport, but a symbol of nobility and wealth. Many noblemen took pride in their ability to train falcons and hunt with them, making it an important part of their daily lives.

Key Takeaways:

  • Falconry was a popular pastime among noblemen in medieval times.
  • Noblemen trained falcons for hunting small game and birds.
  • Falconry was an important symbol of wealth and status.

The Origins of Falconry

Falconry, also known as hawking, is an ancient art of hunting with birds of prey. The history of falconry can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Hittites and the Persians, who used falcons as a means of hunting for food. However, the true origins of falconry are still debated among scholars.

One theory suggests that falconry originated in central Asia and spread to Europe and the Middle East through the Mongol invasions of the 13th century. Another theory proposes that falconry was independently developed in different regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

Regardless of its true origins, falconry became particularly popular among the nobility of medieval Europe, who used falcons as a means of hunting and as a status symbol. Falcons were highly valued for their keen eyesight, speed, and agility, and were often trained by noble falconers to catch small game and birds.

Falconry and Nobility

Falconry was not just a sport or hobby for noblemen in medieval times; it was a symbol of wealth, power, and social status. The art of falconry was a closely guarded secret among nobles, and they considered it a privilege to be a part of this exclusive circle. The nobility treasured their falcons and took great care to train and maintain them.

Being a noble falconer was not just a matter of owning a falcon; it involved a deep knowledge of the bird’s habits, behaviors, and training techniques. Falconry was considered a noble art, and falconers were respected members of the aristocracy.

In fact, the nobility took such pride in their falcons that they often named them after themselves, their wives, or their estates. For example, a falcon belonging to King Henry VIII was named “Brydges,” while a falcon owned by Philip II of Spain was named “Nonpariel.”

The nobility saw falconry as a way to demonstrate their power and wealth to others. They would often take their falcons with them on public outings and display them to impress their guests. Falconry was also a popular pastime during hunting expeditions, where falcons were used to catch game such as pheasants and rabbits.

Falconry and the Code of Chivalry

Falconry was not just a leisure activity for the nobility; it was also an important part of their code of chivalry. Falconry was seen as a way to develop courage, honor, and discipline in young nobles, and many were taught falconry as part of their education.

The nobility believed that falconry taught important lessons about patience, perseverance, and respect for nature. Falconry also required strict adherence to a code of conduct, which included rules about the treatment of the birds and proper falconry etiquette.

Overall, falconry played an important role in the lives of noblemen in medieval times. It was a symbol of wealth, power, and social status, and it required a deep knowledge of the bird’s habits and behaviors. Falconry was not just a leisure activity, but an important part of the code of chivalry that the nobility upheld.

Falconry Equipment

Falconry is an ancient sport that requires specialized equipment to train and handle falcons. The tools used in falconry in medieval times were designed to ensure the safety and comfort of the birds, and to allow the falconer to maintain control over the bird during training and hunting.

The most important equipment used in falconry is the jess, which is a leather strap that is used to tether the bird. Jesses were made of high-quality leather and had to be strong enough to hold the bird, but also soft enough not to damage the bird’s legs. The falconer would attach the jesses to the bird’s legs when training the bird to fly.

The falcon’s head was covered with a hood to keep it calm during transport. The hood was typically made of leather and could be removed quickly when the bird was ready to hunt. The falconer would also attach a small bell to the bird’s leg, which helped them locate the falcon in the field.

Other important equipment used in falconry includes the lure, which is a decoy bird that is used to train the falcon in pursuit of prey. The lure was typically made of a feathered bird-shaped object that was designed to mimic the behavior of prey. The falconer would also use a perch to keep the bird comfortable when not in use and a casting glove to protect their hand when casting the bird.

The development of medieval falconry tools was essential to the practice of falconry and allowed it to become a popular sport among the nobility. The equipment used in falconry has evolved over time, but the basic principles of the sport remain unchanged.

Falconry and Nobility

Falconry was an essential activity for noblemen in medieval times, and it required a specific set of skills that only the wealthy could afford. Falcons were highly valued for their ability to capture prey and as symbols of prestige. Therefore, noblemen invested significant resources in the training and care of their falcons to ensure that they were well-prepared for hunting expeditions.

Falcon training was no easy feat, and it required noble falconers to have an in-depth understanding of the birds’ behavior and instincts. Falcons were trained using a variety of techniques, including tethering, luring, and reward-based training. These training techniques were closely guarded secrets, passed down from generation to generation of noble falconers.

Noble falcon trainers were also responsible for the well-being of their birds. Falcons were housed in luxurious accommodations and provided with care and attention that was unavailable to other animals. Falconry was a status symbol, and owning a well-trained bird was a sign of wealth and power.

The relationship between noblemen and their falcons was a close one, and it went beyond the sport of hunting. Falcons were often given names and elevated to the status of treasured companions. The birds were even included in portraits and heraldry, cementing their place in the noble world.

Despite the decline of falconry in modern times, the art of training and hunting with falcons remains an important cultural legacy of the medieval era.

Training Techniques

The training of falcons was a complicated and delicate process, and noblemen spent years perfecting their techniques. Falcon trainers used several methods to train their birds, including tethering, luring, and reward-based training.

Tethering involved securing the bird to a perch and allowing it to familiarize itself with its surroundings. This technique helped the falcon to become more comfortable with its trainer and the training environment. It also helped to build the bird’s physical and mental stamina.

Luring involved baiting the bird with food to encourage it to fly towards the trainer. This training technique helped the falcon to learn how to fly towards its target and catch it. It also helped the bird to develop its hunting instincts.

Reward-based training was the most effective technique for training falcons. Falcons were trained to associate food with specific behaviors such as flying towards the trainer or catching prey. This method was successful because it reinforced the bird’s natural instincts and allowed it to learn at its own pace.

Overall, the training of falcons was a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, but for noble falconers, the rewards were worth it. A well-trained bird was a symbol of status and power and was an essential tool for hunting expeditions.

Hunting with Falcons

Falconry hunting was a popular noble sport in medieval times, with falcons trained to catch small game and birds. The use of falcons in hunting expeditions gave noblemen an opportunity to showcase their wealth and status, with displays of falconry prowess becoming a social event.

Medieval falconry hunts were carefully planned affairs, with the falconer and his assistants setting out to a hunting ground in early morning hours. The hunting party would carry with them a variety of equipment and supplies, including hoods, jesses, and bells, and the falconer would release the falcon at the appropriate moment during the hunt.

The noblemen and their guests would then follow the falcon as it soared high into the sky, scanning the ground for potential prey. Once a target was spotted, the falcon would dive to the ground, using its sharp talons to catch the prey. The falconer and his assistants would then retrieve the prey, and the hunt would continue.

Despite the decline of falconry as a hunting practice in modern times, the use of falcons in hunting expeditions remains a unique and awe-inspiring sight. The medieval tradition of noble falconry hunting endures as a testament to the long-standing relationship between man and bird.

The Role of Falcons in Noblemen’s Lives

Falcons were highly valued in medieval society and were often associated with the nobility. These magnificent birds of prey were not only used for hunting but also served as a symbol of wealth and power.

For noblemen, owning and training a falcon was a way to display their status and wealth. Falcons were expensive to acquire and maintain, making them an exclusive commodity. The equipment used in falconry, including jesses, hoods, and bells, was also an indication of the owner’s wealth.

Falconry was also closely tied to social status and etiquette. Noblemen followed strict customs and rules when it came to falconry. For example, it was considered improper to let a falcon fly over the head of a lady. Falcons were also used in formal falconry displays and tournaments, which were spectacles of wealth and prestige.

Falcons were not just pets or hunting companions; they also played a significant role in the daily lives of noblemen. Falcons were often carried on the arm of their owners to social gatherings, emphasizing their status and wealth. These birds of prey were also featured in artwork and literature as symbols of nobility and power.

Despite the decline of falconry in later centuries, the legacy of these magnificent birds of prey as a status symbol endures to this day.

Falconry Etiquette: The Customs and Practices of Noble Falconry

Falconry was not simply a sport for medieval noblemen, but a way of life. As such, it was governed by strict rules, customs, and practices to ensure the safety and welfare of both the falcon and the falconer. Here, we delve into the world of falconry etiquette with a look at some of the most important customs and practices observed by noble falconers.


One of the most important practices in falconry is hooding, the act of covering a falcon’s eyes with a small leather hood. This calms the bird and prevents it from being distracted or frightened by its surroundings. Hooding requires great skill and practice, and it is important to ensure that the hood fits snugly enough to be secure, but not so tight as to obstruct the falcon’s breathing.


The handling of a falcon is also subject to strict customs and practices. While the bird is perched on a falconer’s gloved hand, the handler must remain calm and still, avoiding sudden movements or loud noises that might startle the bird. The falconer must also be careful to avoid handling the bird’s feet, which can be easily injured by tight grips or clumsy movements.


Falcons are fed a raw diet of meat, which must be carefully prepared and served to ensure the bird’s health. It is customary to use a small piece of leather, called a “feed bag,” to prevent the falcon’s sharp beak from injuring the handler’s hand during feeding. The amount and timing of feeding must also be carefully monitored to avoid overfeeding or underfeeding the bird.


When a falcon is released to fly, it is important to ensure that the bird is not at risk of injury or harm. Prior to flight, the handler will examine the bird’s feathers and wings to ensure that they are healthy and well-maintained. During flight, the falconer must be alert and attentive, keeping an eye on the bird’s movements and location to ensure that it does not become lost or injured. It is also customary to use a small bell, attached to the bird’s leg, to make it easier to locate the falcon in flight.


These are just a few of the many customs and practices that governed the world of medieval falconry. By observing these traditions and following the rules of etiquette, noble falconers were able to build strong relationships with their birds and enjoy the thrill of this noble art.

Decline of Falconry

Despite its popularity among nobility in medieval times, falconry began to decline in later centuries for a variety of reasons. Firstly, advances in firearms and hunting technology made it easier to hunt prey, thus rendering falconry less practical. Secondly, changes in societal values meant that the use of birds of prey in hunting was seen as cruel, and a more humane approach to hunting was sought.

Furthermore, as the power of nobility waned, so too did the practice of falconry. With fewer noblemen able to afford the equipment and time required for falconry, it gradually became a pastime for the wealthy and elite. In modern times, falconry is largely a recreational pursuit, enjoyed by enthusiasts around the world.

Despite its decline, the legacy of falconry lives on in many ways. The techniques and equipment developed by medieval falconers have had a lasting impact on the sport, and many of the same training methods and tools are still used today. Additionally, the cultural significance of falconry can still be seen in the coat of arms of some noble families, which feature birds of prey as a symbol of power and prestige.


Through the exploration of falconry in medieval times, it is evident that this noble art was not only a sport but also a symbol of wealth and power. The close relationship between noblemen and their falcons was a significant aspect of their lives, and falconry was cherished as a prestigious pastime.

Although falconry faced a decline in later centuries, it has evolved into a recreational pursuit that is still enjoyed by many enthusiasts today. However, the legacy of falconry in medieval times remains enduring, with its traditions and techniques still influencing modern falconry practices.

In conclusion, falconry in medieval times was a unique and treasured sport that embodied the values and customs of the nobility. Its rich history and significance continue to inspire and fascinate people today, making falconry not just a sport but also a fascinating cultural heritage.


Q: What is falconry?

A: Falconry is a form of hunting that involves training and using falcons to catch prey.

Q: When was falconry practiced?

A: Falconry was practiced during medieval times, primarily by noblemen.

Q: What equipment is used in falconry?

A: Falconry equipment includes jesses, hoods, and bells, among others.

Q: How were falcons trained by noblemen?

A: Noble falconers used techniques such as tethering, luring, and reward-based training to train their falcons.

Q: What is the role of falcons in noblemen’s lives?

A: Falcons played a significant role in the lives of noblemen, serving as both hunting companions and symbols of wealth and power.

Q: What is falconry etiquette?

A: Falconry etiquette refers to the customs and rules of behavior associated with falconry, ensuring proper practices and respect for the birds.

Q: Why did falconry decline?

A: Falconry declined in later centuries due to various reasons and evolved into a recreational pursuit.