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Falconry – living heritage of humanity

UNESCO list: 2010, National list: 2009

Falconry is a special way of hunting wild quarry using trained birds of prey, in particular falcons, hawks and eagles, and it also includes other activities the falconers do, mainly breeding young birds, protection of birds of prey in their natural habitat, and education. Historically, it is a traditional specific field of hunting which uses its own methods, has its own animals, quarry and philosophy.

Reprezentativní seznam – Nominační dokumentace Sokolnictví – žijící lidské dědictví      verze CZ        ENG version

Národní seznam – Návrhový a evidenční list “Sokolnictví – umění chovu dravců”

This way of hunting was originally used as a way of obtaining food, but its meaning changed over times. In the Middle Ages, it served rather to entertain the nobility, while nowadays, falconry is understand as part of game management in our country, especially as part of gamekeeper tradition in terms of historical way of hunting.

The contemporary falconer, due to changing role falconry played in the history, is a friend of the birds of prey, who was and still is engaged in the protection of the birds of prey. Injured birds of prey can find professional help at his; and if it is possible, the falconers return the birds of prey back to the nature.

Falconry was well-known already in the era of the Great Moravian Empire and it is substantiated historically and archaeologically in the 8th and 9th centuries. From that time a bronze guard on the bell with the motif of a walking hunter with the bird of prey, a “bird´s” buckle and a silver relief with a falconer on horse were found as archaeological finds. The latter one has become a symbol of the Czech Club of Falconers. A document on the foundation of a settlement called Sokolí Dvůr [Falcon Courtyard], today´s Sokolov, comes from the 13th century. The settlement near the royal castle of Loket was a seat of royal falconers who could train their bird of prey there. The professional falconers, who were employees of noble lords, bred the birds of prey, trained them and introduced them during hunts. They occupied a privileged position among other serfs and they were well paid. They used to live near the lord´s seats and their settlements often became a basis for later villages and towns. One of them is Sokoleč near the town of Poděbrady, which was built for the royal falconers. The falconry survived there until the second half of the 16th century; then the falconers and their birds of prey lived in Poděbrady, in a special house called “sokolárna  – falcons´ house”.  The probably last falconer died in the Poděbrady domain in the mid-17th century. The period of decline beginning in the second half of the 18th century moved the birds of prey from the hands of nobility to the hands of their employees – gamekeepers who continued in keeping birds of prey and owls for their pleasure.

The modern history of falconry commenced in the 1920s thanks to Bedřich Mensdorff Pouilly who revitalized the tradition of falconry through hunting with hawks and falcons, and made it popular in his expert articles. The further promotion of falconry came only after 1945, to which contributed MUDr. Jiří Brdička who bred the birds of prey, and Svatopluk Doubrava in the late 1950s, whom Jan Kumbera and Ivan Maroši joined later. Falconry began to arouse interest mainly with young gamekeepers. This interest led to the foundation of the Club of Falconers. The contemporary falconry does not mean any more just hunting. It also includes education as well as introduction of the birds of prey, their biology and position in the nature to the wide public, protection of the birds of prey and their professional use for the protection of airports or vineyards. The professional falconers working at the airport with their birds of prey often prevent incalculable damage caused by plane crash after a collision with bird. The professional falconers also educate those interested, as they demonstrate the work with and of the trained birds of prey, doing an excellent amount of work in this realm

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