"The perfection of a falcon in Europe is that her pitch be as high, her range as far, and her
swoop as perpendicular as possible." Richard Burton
1: Hawking in the Indus Valley
2: Hawking in Arabia
3: Hawking in Algeria
4: Hawking with Golden Eagles (Mongolia and points north)
Arm of falconer: a single falconer, in Eastern nomenclature.
Affaitage: training of the hawk.
Attrempes: kept neither too fat nor too thin.
Bait: the hawk's struggle to rise from the wrist or fist.
Bells: two little silver bells, fastened to the hawk's legs; the sound was said to please the bird, and prevent her being lost.
Bewits: leathers and bells buttoned round the hawk's shank. Used in Europe; in the Indus Valley the bells were attached to the leg by means of the jesses.
To bind: (French falconry term) the first touch of the talons upon the prey.
Birds of the lure: long-winged hawks
Birds of the fist: round or short-winged hawks; so called because they flew at prey from the handler's fist rather than stooping down from the sky.
Block: short-winged and passage hawks were mewed on a perch; long-winged birds were mewed upon a block or truncated cone about a foot high, with a small staple on the top as a resting place for the bird, and a broad base to prevent her overturning it. Used in European hawking, not in the East.
Brace: a pair of slain quarry, carried by the hunter.
Brail: a band of soft whitleather fastened round one wing, confining it without hurting the bird.
Many hawks could be trained without resort to this device, and in all cases, the sooner it was
dispensed with, the better.
Cage: European device, an oblong frame of wood, in the middle of which the falconer placed himself, with his birds tied to the sides and ends, so that one man could carry several birds.
Carrying the prey: walking off with the wounded quarry, a terribly bad habit in a hawk.
Cast: a pair of hawks. A cast of hawks might be flown against a larger prey such as a hare, and they would work in tandem to harry and weaken the quarry: hovering over it so as to confuse it with fear, flying around it and wounding it with shallow rakes of the heel talons until it may be caught. Description of a cast of hawks being loosed upon a hare: after fifty yards of harrying the prey staggered, fell and rolled over and over, whereupon an attendant seized the hare's leg and whipping a sheet from about his waist spread it over the quarry, and the falconers lured their birds to them and rewarded them with a taste of blood or brain. The hare was later fed live to goshawks.
Cheek: forsake the quarry, and fly at any chance bird that crosses the path.
Creance: French filiere or tiens-le-bien: a long thin string tied to a bird's leg.
Crabbing: when two hawks fought, they were said to crab. This might happen when one hawk
was thrown in full pursuit of the quarry, and someone in the hunt inadvertently slipped the jesses
of a second bird.
Dasti: Oriental falconers used (in place of the European's glove) a small square napkin of wadded cotton, secured to the wrist by a noose and twisted round the hand so the bird sitting on forefinger could grip it with her pounces.
Eyess: hawk taken from the nest.
To feak: to wipe the hawk's beak.
Griffade: a sudden seizure with the claws.
Gulabi-chashm: (Eastern term) yellow-eyed birds, round of wing and ignoble.
Gurgit: gorge upon the prey.
Hack: the place where a bird's meat is laid.
Haggard: wild bird older than a year.
Hand of hawks: one hawk, in Eastern falconry.
Hood: a cap of soft thick hog-deer hide, fitting the head closely but easily. A drawstring bound it
close about the neck. The hood was be ornamented with embroidery, handsome silver aigrettes,
tassels, crests etc. At home, the hood kept a hawk quiet and at rest. In the field, it prevented her
from fluttering upon the fist at the sight of every wild bird that flew.
Imping: sewing a grafted feather on in place of an injured one.
Intermewed bird: one which has been mewed, as opposed to a haggard.
Jesses: two narrow pointed thongs of soft, light, well-greased leather, made fast to the hawk's
legs, close above the toes. In the East, these were connected by a loose slip-knot to the leash or
strap, which in the field went round the hawk's neck; it was cast off when the bird was to fly, and
the jesses were twined about the fingers. In Europe, a swivel attached them to the leash.
Kept at hack: eyesses being trained with meat laid at hack.
Laghar: a large kind of hobby-hawk
Lure: a toy for the falcon to train on. In the East, the lure was usually a dead bird was tied by a
creance; in Europe, where only long-winged hawks were trained on it, it was a heavy piece of
wood garnished with wings. The dead bird was superior because the wooden lure could bruise
the stooping hawk's breast, injuring it or rendering it shy of the prey.
Mails: breast feathers.
Make-hawk: a staunch bird, one accustomed to fly at a particular type of game, often used to head the pack when more than a cast were thrown up at once.
Makes her point: the hawk marks the spot in which the quarry has taken refuge by towering the air.
Manned: accustomed to the presence of mankind.
Mantle: the hawk mantles when she stretches her wings successively after her legs behind her.
Mew: keep a falcon in captivity during its moult.
Passage-hawk, or bird of the year: a hawk caught full-grown in a net or trap at the time of its migration.
Pelf: what the hawk leaves of its prey.
Pelt: the dead quarry.
Perch: for short-winged hawks, a round rod projecting from the wall, garnished with a cloth which hangs beneath it like a towel; this last assisted the bird's ascent when she happened to flutter off it.
Plume the prey: strip off its feathers.
Pounces: the talons of the bird.
Rake: to fly low like an owl.
Rake off: abandon the pursuit of the game.
Rufter hood (chaperon de rustre): a large wide cap, open behind, put upon the hawk when she was first taken. Not used in the East.
Rangle: gravel, generally given to bring down a bird's stomach; as hawking season draws near, the
falconer gave his birds rangle to keep them from laying.
Sails: wings: the beams are the long feathers of the wing, the two longest being called the principle feathers, the next two flags, and so on - there being a word for each in ancient falconry.
Scar, sere: yellow part between a hawk's beak and eyes.
Seeling: sewing a newly-caught hawk's eyes shut.
Sharp set: in good hunting condition: ie hungry.
Siyah-chashm: (Eastern term) black-eyed birds, long winged and of noble order. In the Indus Valley, when looking around for a good hunting bird, one distinguished between the long-winged noble breeds and the round-winged or ignoble gulabi-chashm. The price was different and they were flown against different prey.
Summed: a summed hawk is one whose feathers are fully grown.
Tire the prey: pull at the quarry.
To trample (French falconry tenn) to hold the game down under foot.
Truss: a short-winged hawk does this by seizing the prey, raising it aloft and falling with it to
earth, dashing it to the ground.
Varvels (vervelles) little rings of metal - upon which, in Europe, the owner's name used to be engraved - placed on a hawk's legs.
Haute volerie: when hawks were flown at large game, ie heron, geese, cranes and wild duck.
Basse volerie: when hawks were flown at small victims, namely pheasants, partridges, quails etc.
Wait on the falcon: follow him in the air wherever he pleased.
Warbling: crossing the wings over the back after stretching the legs.
Weathering: French jardiner: exposing the hawks to the morning sun in a garden or other open place. Weathering was essential to a hawk's health when they spend the day shut up in a warm mews, and they enjoyed it keenly, showing their pleasure by rousing themselves, mantling and warbling, and in general acting as if they had escaped from a prison.
Names for hawks, European tradition: Where the female is a falcon, her male is a tiercel or tassel, one-third smaller than the female bird. Where the female is a goshawk, her male is a tiercelet. Where the female is a jer-falcon, her male is a jerkin. And also, to a merlin a jack; to a hobby, a robbin; to a sparrow-hawk, a musket; and to a lanner, a lanneret.
Names in ancient European heron-hawking: first hawk cast off was called hausse-pie and caused
the quarry to take the air; the second, tombisseur; and the third, generally a jer-falcon, was called
le teneur or the grappler.
Source: Richard Burton, The Valley of the Indus, originally published in 1852.
Kinds of hawks known to the Indus Valley falconer:
1 . Shahbaz, or hawk-king, a large grey goshawk with yellow eyes, caught in the hills of Afghanistan and surrounding regions. The tiereelet or male of the species is much smaller than the female; it was called a Jurrah, in Persian "the active". Scindians accounted them the most noble of sport birds - for the Sher-baz (lion-hawk) or peregrine of Bokhara and the snowy regions was unknown to them. (Nor, unlike the tribesmen of Mongolia and southern Russia, did they go out hawking with golden eagles.)
Description of a goshawk: "Upon his wrist was a splendid goshawk, unhooded as usual, perfect in all her points, with great deep-set eyes, blue beak, bright yellow scar, small castey head, broad throat, full breast, covered with regular mail, broad sails with long projecting principal feathers, and a queenly train, of perfect regularity. Most majestic was her attitude as she sat upon the arm of royalty, clasping it with her singles, and firmly resisting the wind - chevauchant le vent, as the French falconers express it, - with the stiffness of an eagle."
The word goshawk seems derived from gross-hawk, much for the same reasons that Scindees call the bird a hawk-king. It is Linnaeus's falco palumbarius, and properly a hawk and not a falcon, its wings being shorter than its tail. It is common to Europe and Asia, generally preferring hilly to very mountainous countries or hot plains. The goshawk was an expensive bird, and often a bad one (Burton comments) but a good one was a very queen among hawks. She might cost up to 20 pounds, the equivalent of 200 pounds among the Scindees, and for this reason she was never turned loose when the season is over. But while mewed to moult she was hard to care for, and prone to many diseases. Her critics claimed that she flew like an owl, would put in her quarry (drive it into cover) like a cat, and then creep into the brush after it in the manner of a terrier.
When flown against a hare, she afforded little sport, for she struck the prey down within a minute. This was the manner of it. She seized the hare with one foot, fixing her talons in its back, and with the talons of the other foot she grappled at a twig or tuft of grass, so as to suddenly arrest her flight. Scindee falconers invariably breeched her, tying a broad leather thong between her knees, to prevent her from being split in two!
She was often flown against gazelles, hunted in tandem with greyhounds. The gazelle would at first vanish into the distance, but soon the mounted hunters drew close and saw it, harried by the goshawk. She swooped upon its back, ripping its delicate yellow coat in passing, and then descended on its head, deafening it with her clashing pinions and blinding it with her talons. At first she would take care to avoid its jet-black dagger-like horns (which menaced her tail and the pendant feathers behind her thighs) but grew more bold as her prey weakened. Soon she seemed to perch upon its brow; then it would fall, only to rise staggering and uncertain. Then the greyhounds caught up, fastening their fangs in its hindquarters, and soon the hunter would arrive and found them all worrying the prey. He would then lasso the dogs and draw them off, and dispatch the quarry with a prayer to Allah.
Burton writes: "The death of the gazelle is now considered the highest triumph of Eastern falconry. As with us, there are amongst them traditions that in ancient times the haute volerie was of a nobler kind that the wolf of the woods and the wild sheep of the hills were the favorite quarry of the barons, white and black, who, ignoring or disdaining such poaching tools as musket and matchlock, prided themselves upon the prowess of a hawk as of a son or a second self."
2. Bahri, Bhairi, or falco calidus; her tiercel was called the Shahim; they were flown at partridges, hares, bustards, curlews, herons and the Saras (or tall Indian crane, a splendid bird sometimes standing six feet tall); they are long-winged hawks or birds of the lure; they were taught to fly high, to wait on the falconer, and to make the point.
3. Bashah, a kind of sparrow-hawk; her mate was the Bashin: a short-winged small low-flying bird with (in her first year) yellow eyes and dark plumage; in her maturity she is of a light ash color, marked with large grey bars. Bashahs made good hunters to fill a supper pot rapidly, especially when flown after partridges. They were cheap passage hawks, caught in the spring and not worth mewing over their moult, and were let loose when the moulting season commences.
4. Shikrah, the common English sparrow-hawk; her tiercel was the Chipak. Flown at partridges, affording tolerable sport. However falconers insulted them with the name of "dogbirds" on account of their ignoble qualities, their want of staunchness and their base habit of carrying the game.
Old European authors, however, praised the sparrow-hawk for she "serveth for winter and summer, with great pleasure" and would fly at all kinds of game, more so than the falcon; she was also commanded for her activity and spirit when making her dash.
The shikrah preys entirely upon birds, and flies just like a goshawk: low, and frequently taking advantage of shelter to fall unexpectedly upon her prey. However she was cited for her scant endurance, her ill temper on the perch and uncertainty in the field, and her timidity. She was hard to reclaim and train; indeed, he who mastered her would have no trouble with other birds.
Burton writes: "Every falconer knows how violently they will bait when first placed upon the fist; with what ill grace they learn to endure the hood; and how often when summed, as well as unsummed, they fall victims to an incurable disease - the cramp."
All varieties of sparrow-hawk find it very difficult to fly where there is the least wind.
5. Laghar, or hobby, and her mate the Jaghar. The only long-winged hawk generally used in the Indus Valley: large, black-eyed, yellow-legged, and with black claws and a tail of a cincreous white color. A native of the area, she moults during the hot months from April to October and makes her nest in ruined walls and old mimosa trees. She was flown at quail, partridge, curlew, bastard-bustard and hares; but her best sport was at crows, save that she was much addicted to carrying the quarry and was therefore likely to be killed or maimed by her angry enemies. (Crows flock instinctively to attack anything seen carrying a limp feathery black object.)
6. Kestrel, the common kestrel of England: a small bird with naked yellow legs and a yellow bill. Disparaged by Europeans as she was said to be good for catching nothing in the air beyond a butterfly, and not able to be taught to fly at any wild bird whatsoever, only perhaps to take a young sparrow or blackbird loosed from the hand. In the East, she was rather a favorite with the falconer and had much honor unknown to her in the West.
Flying a falcon: first the beaters would raise a covey of grey partridge, and one of these was separated from the bunch, perhaps to take refuge in a solitary bunch of wild caper. And then . . .
"After slipping the knot that held the jesses to the leash," Burton writes, "I gently unstruck my Shikrah's hood, pulled it off, and turning her from me - our short acquaintance forbade any familiarity - with the fingers of the left hand clasping her back and wings, I raised her from my fist so tenderly, that the thought of kicking or struggling never seemed to cross her mind. Then jerking the wadded cotton napkin from its old position into the palm of the right hand, I placed the little savage flat upon it and secured her body within the grasp, her head and tail protruding at either extremity. This delicate operation was successfully performed, not a feather of her plumage being ruffled. looks of abundant approbation told me as much.
"Then walking up to within twenty yards of the bush I motioned the assistant falconer to flush the partridge. It rose steadily and strongly. The moment I saw the quarry hastening away in the accustomed straight line, raising my right hand, with care, however, not to tighten the grasp, I "shied" my bird after it as Lilly does a cricket ball." <Here Burton recommends this Oriental method of casting off small hawks to the attention of European falconers.>
"The sparrow-hawk, as has been said, is a sharp active flyer for short distances. In less than a nfinute loud cries of 'Laga, Laga!' <Hit! Wounded! > resounded from behind me as the two birds, victor and victim rapidly descended with outspread wings. Another delicate operation was to come, and the company hurried up to see it performed.
"The Shikrah, when I caught sight of her, was holding down her quarry, and concealing it with her outspread wings, now fiercely glancing around her, now eagerly pecking at its head and body. Stooping low and ejaculating the 'Ao Bachehi" <Come, my child!>as though I loved her, I approached, knelt down to her, put forth my left hand and turning the dying bird upon its back, drew my knife across its throat with the usual religious formula. Then as the hawk still held firm, I thrust the point of the dagger into the partridge's tongue, and splitting the head open, gave the Shikrah her due, the brain. Lastly, one flight being enough for that day, I gorged her with the heart, breast, and the other parts to which she took a fancy, gently pulled her off the pelf, feaked and hooded her, tied the leash to the jesses, handed her to the falconer, and stood up to receive no small quantity of 'butter' from the rest of the 'hunt'." ... soon afterward, a sharp wind rising signaled the end of the day's hawking.
Long-winged birds were always been favored by Western hawkers: they were said to be docile, have great ardor and heart, and persevere mightily. Their habit of hunting was to stoop from the air upon their quarry, swiftly as lightning, and fell it to earth with a single stoke of their powerful avillons (hindtalons) slantingly delivered from behind so as to lay open the shoulders and loins, or the back of the neck, or the skull. The long-winged hawk required to soar high before she could put forth her full powers, and if she missed her first strike, she had to gyrate upwards ere she made a second onset; it was difficult for her to work directly uphill, but when stooping she struck her quarry with the force of an arrow.
Short-winged birds pursued the game in a horizontal course with considerable speed, trussed it (raising it aloft and descending rapidly with to the ground) and killed it by force of wing and strength, held it under the feet and proceeded immediately to tire and plume it.
Burton noted that the English dislike hawking with the race of round or short-winged hawks; however his friends in the Sindh got excellent sport from such birds - such birds as the Goshawk. As for reclaiming and manning birds, the system practised in the East was (in his opinion) far superior to that of England or France; also the Oriental manner of throwing up smaller birds was unknown to Europeans, and yet quite effective.
Proper training increased the energy and ferocity of a hawk, teaching her to fly at quarry she would never aspire to attack in the wild; thus she was shown her own powers in the hunt, and learned courage in finding she can master large animals and birds. She had to be taught spirit and confidence in her own powers.
Hawking for grey partridge was unexciting sport, as the chase followed a swift and predictable course: the quarry mounted, flying in a straight line, the hawk raked along after it and usually caught it within a minute; though sometimes the partridge would take shelter under a bush or thorn-plant, and the hawk was unable to follow by reason of her jesses; she then made her point upon some nearby tree or eminence, or else sat on the ground with her eyes fiercely fixed on her prey, waiting for the beater to kick it up again.
The black partridge or Karo-tittar afforded more sport. It is larger and heavier than its European counterpart: the female resembles a cock grouse, while the male is a remarkably fine bird with strong game plumage, a jet black neck, and a jet black breast upon which every feather bears a milk white spot the size of a small bead. They are fond of brushy grounds full of cover, fly with considerable power, and show no little craft in trying to escape the hawk. Indeed, hawks were sometimes seriously injured by blows from the long, sharp spurs of the black partridge when struggling in its death-throes.
Hawks in going off against the prey had generally to be thrown from the lee of the wind, so that they could breast and rise upon the breeze.
Hawks also disliked flying at prey over water. Small birds roused over water fly in a straight line right to the next pond over, or else circle slyly above the pond so that the hawks cannot come at them; this made for slow and frustrating hunting, for only a few of the prey would dart out where they could be taken.
Herons when chased by the hawk soared straight up. When downed by the hawk, a heron made too formidable a prey; a good falconer would always rush up, plunge the heron's beak into the ground to disarm it, and hold its legs and wings while his hawk made her kill. A live heron used as a training lure had to have its beak securely bound beforehand.
Curlews afforded a soaring and racing chase.
Description of a Bahri set upon a Saras (ie crane), given by its Scindian handler: "Ha! There they went (wheeling his finger round his head) the crane heavily flapping, then shooting up perpendicularly as an arrow, and the hawk circling after her, narrowing the sweep, and following the quarry with the eye of a greyhound. Now the Saras is tired out; she can rise no more; the Bahri is on a level with her. Ha! She screams; the hawk is above her; Ajal <sudden death> within an instant of her. Again she shrieks shrilly; she knows that the swoop is coming, her only chance is to face the foe with her sharp stout beak. Now the Bahri stoops; the crane has escaped this once, by bending back her neck; the falcon must tire her out with twenty sham attacks. Between flight and fatigue the Saras can scarcely move. At least the Bahri holds her, blinding her with the talons; they tumble through. the air; they spread out their wings as they reach the earth. It was a splendid sight!
"Well ... one day I flew my beautiful Bahri after a little heron which we all expected to see killed in a moment. They took the air well together, when, of a sudden, 'see the Ukab! Oh, the Ukab!' <vulture> cried the Bazdar. True enough! High above us was the wretch, a black dot in the blue sky, looking out like an Affghan, for what he could plunder. We shouted - we waved the lure: unfortunately my poor Bahri was so eager after her quarry, that nothing could tempt her out of the way of destruction. Then the Ukab disappeared from our eyes, and we thought that the maroon <cursed> had been frightened by our noise. The falcon and the little heron kept rising and rising, till we lost sight of them also. Presently, by the Prophet's beard I swear to you, Sahib, as we stood looking upwards with straining eyes, a speck appeared like a fly in the air, larger and larger it grew, the instant after, plump fell a body at our feet. It was poor Sohni my falcon. The accursed vulture had shattered her skull with his foul beak."
Reclaiming and manning the hawk in Scinde:
Hawks are of two kinds everywhere: the eyess (or nyess) and the passage-bird. The eyess is the bird taken from the eyrie; also called the nyess, ie old French oyscau niais or faucon royal. In the technical terms of European falconry, a bird which has left the nest was a brancher., when it began to hunt for itself, it became a soar-hawk or sourage; birds of the first year were called red hawks (on account of the color of the plumage) and in the second year, after the plumage changes color, they became mewed hawks; in the third year, white hawks; in the fourth year, hawks of the first coat. (Young hawks are dark red, but at each moult the feathers become lighter, especially on the backs of old birds.)
As for the Scindees, they had only two technical terms of this sort: Chooz or young bird ie hawk of the year, and the tarinak or intermewed hawk.
The eyess or nestling was treated in much the same way in the East as in Europe. It was taken from the parents when fully fledged, and placed in a large, light room facing southward, with windows latticed to keep out cats, and sods of turf spread upon the floor. Twice a day, the birds were summoned with a whistle and fed from the hand, a plentiful meal every morning and evening. They were usually fed goat's meat with the skin and fat removed; as a treat they were allowed pigeons, fowls, and the flesh of kittens; and the skin of a bird, with feathers intact, was given to them when deemed advisable.
An ill-fed eyess will show hunger-traces in its plumage, these being flaws on the shaft and web of every feather in the body, especially the wings and tail; such flawed feathers were likely to break off at the weak spot.
The good falconer's voice (Burton writes from experience) must be sweet and clear as a bell, for falcons fear and hate a shrill, harsh, or loud sound. He must never show his temper about his birds. Their sense of smell is powerful, and they excessively dislike strong-smelling articles such as garlic, etc. He must learn what sort of food they relish, and win his way to their hearts through their stomachs. He cultivates their acquaintance, makes them familiar with his voice and appearance, and without handling them more than necessary, accustoms them to follow and approach him. He gives them boughs of trees to perch upon, spreads clean gravel on the turf, and places a tub for them to bath in.
These are the signs of good health in a hawk: the crop should be full and firm after feeding, with the food in a mass not in bunches. The mutings should be white and clean; blue and yellow mutings are bad signs. A red tongue and bright eyes are tokens of excellent health.
Young hawks grow quickly. As soon as they began to fly strongly they were taken from hack (the hack is the place where meat is laid; "eyesses are said to be kept at hack when in this preparatory state of half liberty." Then their education began in earnest. They were not seeled like haggards and birds of passage; their reclaiming commenced with being broken in the hood.
Catching a wild hawk: first, the aspiring falconer found the bird in her territory, sitting on a branch over the domain of a small lake to which flock troops of ducks, snipe and paddy birds for her food and sport. After careful observation of his chosen hawk, this falconer would lay out his snare: a circle of running loops of strong gut, fastened to bamboo pins pegged in the ground. In the center was the bait, a live pigeon loosely tied to a low perch, with a string attached to its leg. The falconer concealed himself and, jerking upon the pigeon's string, made the bait flutter to attract the hawk. Presently the hawk would rise from her perch and swoop at the fluttering pigeon, snaring her own legs, her wings or neck in the loops - which drew tight and secured her. She was allowed to struggle until completely entangled. Then the falconer approached and took her up, carefully warding his fist from her blows, and keeping her feathers from breakage in her frantic attempts to escape.
Then came the difficult and ticklish business of reclaiming the hawk. The bird must be tamed, but never cowed; good training would produce a clever high-spirited sourage, full of heart and courage, apt for any prey; but a beginner's mishandling produced only a bird which, fearful of grappling with the quarry, spurned sport and returned currishly to the wrist.
First the hawk was seeled. The falconer threaded a small needle with fine silk, and firmly holding the bird's beak, sew through the outer rims of the lower eyelids. The ends of the threads were knotted over the bird's head, drawn tightly so that the lower eyelid closed over the upper - seeling the hawk's eyes shut. This state was continued for a week, till the hawk ceased to bait when placed on the fist. She was fed with strips of raw mutton or goat's meat soaked in cold water; if she refused to feed, her toes were pinched and her legs pulled, till she pecked at the hand; a bit of meat, which she was sure to swallow, was thus gotten into her beak. Her castings and muting were carefully observed. She was given artificial castings of cotton, that the state of her crop could be seen, and occasionally purged with a half-penny-weight of sugar-candy and two cardamons. The latter served to increase her hunger and keep her stomach clean.
Natural castings are the oblong balls of indigestible matter thrown up by the bird: fur and feathers left after the prey has been digested. Now, artificial castings are emetics given to the bird when she is supposed to be foul within, to clean her crop and increase her appetite. They came in two kinds. The first were the feathers of a hen's wing. The second were pellets of fine soft cotton about the size of a large pill, conveyed into her crop after supper. In the morning she would cast them, and the falconer judged her health from their appearance. If they were whitish, clean, hard, dry and inoffensive to the nose, he argured well of her crop. If she was ill, they would be discolored, very wet, strong-smelling, mixed with bits of undigested meat, or held together by mucus.
After seeling, the bird was given her jesses, bells, hood and leash. (In the Scinde, varvels and bewits were not used.) Here is how this is done: once the bird was tame enough to sit quietly on the hand, the knot of her seeling was loosened so she could see a little light. The hood was then put on, and the bird was distracted from trying to pull it off. A hole was pricked with a needle in this training hood, and the seeling threads were cut short so that in time the stitches will of themselves worked free from the eyelids.
The hawk was then placed upon the fist and broken to the hood: ie trained to sit quietly while this is put on and removed. (It was advised to place a soft pad of hay or pillows underneath her perch or block, lest she injure her feathers at this point; this saved the falconer much imping or repairing the long feathers of her wings and tail.) If she baited violently, she was tortured until docile, in this manner: She was constantly carried about, and stroked with a brush of feathers; her head was dipped in a tub; streams of water were squeezed out to drench her back; during the day she was kept in the noisiest part of the house; she was fed only once a day; and lastly she was deprived of sleep, by being kept nightly in a ring of candles and being stirred up with a stick whenever drowsy. (Sometimes she died of such treatment, and no wonder!)
But if she was pliant, her wing was brailed during the training hours and at other times she was carried about on the fist. Every day, the hole in her hood was enlarged to admit more light. Her meals were increased. A good falconer could thoroughly reclaim and man (accustom to the presence of mankind) a fresh-caught hawk within twenty days. A well-manned bird would suffer her hood to be put on and taken off without the slightest fuss, and she could be carried through a noisy bazaar without once fluttering on the fist.
Once reclaimed and well manned, the hawk was then trained.
The old hood was discarded, and a new one fitted. As a rule, eyesses were kept in high condition and passage-hawks, low: that is, eyesses were well-fed, twice a day, while hawks in training were always kept as sharp-set (that is, hungry) as their nature allowed, and usually fed only once daily, in the evening. Nightly, after feeding, the hawk in training was placed unhooded on her perch and allowed to peck and plume herself. Daily, she was weathered, and exercised by being carried about and made to stand in the hood.
She was then brought to the fist. The falconer unhooded her, placed her upon the perch, and guarding his hand with the napkin, tempted her to his fist with a bit of raw meat. This was done over and over in a variety of conditions, but always slowly and with patience. Sometimes she was fastened to a branch, her leg secured with a creance, and sometimes she was lured from the ground. This phase of training ended when the falcon came roundly to the fist from a distance of forty or fifty yards.
The next step was the lure. This was either a dead bird tied with a creance, or a bamboo bow to which were fastened the dried wings of some quarry. Meat was hidden under the lure, and the hawk allowed to feast upon it. The lure was then thrown on the ground, and the hawk (if tame enough) cast off, the falconer cried out and the bird, hearing his call, swooped down upon the lure. She was allowed to make two or three descentes or swoops at it, and then let fasten upon it. Then the falconer walked gently up to her, coaxed and talked to her, kneels, slowly putsforth his hand, holds her, and rewards her with a plentiful meal.
Ideally, a hawk ought to be trained with the lure of the prey to which she would be flown; if intended to catch hares, for instance, her lure should be a live hare with one leg broken, or else the skin of a hare stuffed with straw, with a bit of raw meat fastened to its back to tempt her to the strike. Her habits would be made by her training, and if she was thwarted at the lure of a pigeon two or three times, for instance (flown at it from too far a distance, so that she fails to take the prey) or not allowed to taste her victim, she would refuse to hunt it in the field. Her preference is for what she knows she can take and will enjoy.
After about a week, the hawk ought to be perfectly used to the lure. The falconer would then progress to a live lure: a partridge, a pigeon, or a crow with fastened claws and beak, each with a creance bound to its leg. The hawk would be cast off, the falconer whooped (called) to her, and the live lure was thrown upon the ground. By jerking the prey out of her reach as she swooped at it, her anger was excited. The trainer then threw up a bird of the same color, with eyes seeled and wings shortened. If she attacked boldly, a favorable judgement of her nature and breeding was formed, and when she struck it down she was allowed a gurgiting (gorging) and then hooded and carried home.
That evening, her falconer gave her a casting, and after weathering her next morning physicked her with cardamons and sugar-candy. She was kept upon the perch that day, and in the afternoon was only half-fed to be left in readiness for the next day's lesson.
The second live bird thrown to her would have opened eyes, but cropped wing-feathers, and it should be thrown high by an assistant stationed at some distance from the falconer. A day was then let go by, though the bird was not physicked, and then a third live bird given to the falcon, and lastly a fourth. About a fortnight should now have now passed. The training or affaitage of the hawk was complete, and the most hazardous step alone remained.
She must be taken on an actual hunt and entered upon wild game. Any experienced falconer was able to reclaim, man and train her - but no man living could make her fly. She would do what she pleased in the field, whether to cower upon the fist, abscond carrying the quarry and never be seen again, or simply squat upon the ground or in some branch and refuse to fly at all.
Burton writes: "As in India, however, so here, the common way of training long-winged hawks is
to 'fly them out of the hood', that is to say, to cast them off at the game when it rises, instead of
teaching them to mount high, range far, and fly round the falconer before the quarry is sprung.
The former, as well might be expected, is far the shorter and easier as well as the inferior way."
Keeping the falcon:
Hawks were flown about three or four times weekly. Six flights in a morning were enough.
The day before she was flown, her keeper fed her once only; on the day of flying she fasted in the morning, and was after flying plentifully fed (usually upon the field) and given a solid evening meal. The next day was a half-fast. The warm flesh of her quarry, fed to her upon the field and added to by a mouthful of feathers, was far better for her than the cold mutton or goatmeat which she was fed at home.
She was weathered twice a day, all year round. Twice or three times a week she was made to bathe in a clear pool of fresh water. She was sometimes starved for three or four days, and once a week allowed a gurgiting. Her hood was kept free of vermin, and her furniture changed when soiled.
These were the marks of her health: bright eyes, a tongue free from scale, a whole and smooth coat, a full breast, and a weight proportioned to her size. In ancient days (before Burton's time) she was physicked with quack remedies which injured her: raw beef soaked in rhubarb water, white pills and aloes and musk pills; by bleedings twice yearly, and emetics of ten split peppercorns wrapped in a fowl's skin. These drugs were no good for her; avoid them, Burton writes. Cold was her greatest enemy: a good falconer kept her in a warm dry room and hunted her only on clear and sunny days. When she was wounded, her master washed the injury and sewed it with a fine needle. lf her jesses chafed, the raw spot was buttered or oiled; but grease of any kind injured the plumage, and it was really better to merely cover the sore with a cold-water bandage.
When her tail or pinions were broken, the falconer trimmed them short with a sharp knife and imped a substitute shaft to the quill, neatly sewing and binding it on. Old falconers would cut off the broken feather and engraft a fresh one, binding it round and pasting it. Modem falconers (ie in the middle of the 19th century!) preferred to cut both feathers obliquely, with corresponding slope, and unite them by means of an iron needle. This they wetted with strong brine, and thrust through the centre of the two feathers, perfectly straight, and about the same length in each. The salt and water caused the needle to rust, thus holding it in longer and more firmly.
Hawking season in the Indus Valley was usually from October to March. As hawking time grew
near, the falconer gave his birds bits of rangle the size of a pea, to prevent them from laying eggs.
On the first of April at the latest, the birds were placed in the mew where they were to moult. At
this season, a responsible owner gave them great care and attention. He fed them moderately
twice a day, keeping them neither too fat nor too thin, and if their appetite was delicate, he
furnished them with such dainties as larks, sparrows or parakeets.
Source: H. R. P. Dickson, The Arab of the Desert, originally published in 1949
On the Arabian peninsula, the heart of hawking country was in the north and north-east, and the high season fell between October and April. This was the time and the place for the annual migration of the hubara, or lesser bustard. The hubara was the game principally hunted with hawks (though the hare and even the gazelle were also pursued). It migrated (according to local wisdom in Arabia) down from the highlands of Persia, for the express delight of any Arab who could get his hands on a trained hawk. Certainly the hubara migration was observed in Persia, Iraq, north-west India, Baluchistan and eastern Arabia; Dickson thinks the birds which passed through Arabia came from somewhere in central Asia. They sometimes (but very infrequently) settled and nested in Arabia.
The two breeds of hawks most commonly flown were the hurr or hurra--apparently, this name was given to both saker and lagger falcons--and the shahin. The former was much more prized, and cost much more to boot. The best birds came from the Persian littoral. Their cost in the 1930's was from Rs.50 to Rs.150 per bird. Those Bedouin of Arabia who were clever at snaring, also hunted and caught hawks locally; the Kuwait Bedouin, for instance, favoured the islands of Bubiyan and Warba as prime hawk-catching territory, and the Dhaharan peninsula south of Qatif was also a good place to hunt. As for training the falcons, around Kuwait it was said that Rashaida and Al Murra tribesmen had a special touch and would invariably turn out skilled and valuable hunting birds.
Hubara were plentiful. A good hawk could kill four or five hubara daily; an exceptional hawk would bring in seven or eight; but the sheikh of Kuwait, a keen sportsman, owned a priceless gem named 'Petrol' which could kill eleven birds in a single day's hunting. This same sheikh usually bagged two thousand or more hubara each hunting season, nor did the other sheikhs and princes of Arabia lag far behind him. Dickson writes that Petrol appeared always ready to go after one more hubara; he saw the bird, after taking its tenth kill, fall over and lie flat on its back with exhaustion--almost at the point of death itself--only to be roused with a dose of aspirin crushed in water, and sent out for just one more flight.
A falconer was called a saggar, and a good saggar could train a year-old hawk in roughly thirteen days. A two- or three-year-old hawk was trained in twenty to twenty-five days. The wild hawks were usually snared with a lure and a net: the most common methods were:
A) A small square net erected over a jerboa or pigeon tied to a peg. The net was made of very coarse-mesh, pale-colored twine (not easily visible from the air) and erected at a 60-degree angle sloped away from the wind (this being the angle from which a hawk would stoop upon the prey, hard down and into the wind). This net was very lightly strung, and when the hawk swooped into it, came loose and wrapped itself all round the bird. The meshes were invariably large enough that the hawk's head and neck could go right through them; this snared the bird even more securely.
The net folded into a ball, small enough to carry in a man's wallet when not in use. Two long thin rods supported the top of it when erected; when not, they were carried about in a hollow bamboo tube slung rifle-fashion across the owner's back.
B) A much finer-mesh net, about seven foot by four foot rectangular, was laid flat on the ground. With it went a rod and string attachment, roughly one hundred feet long. The hawk-hunter laid the net out, and retired to a hole at a distance, covering his head with brushwood and gripping the end of the string.
A captive pigeon was tethered by one wing to the ground, near the net but on the far side from the hunter's blind. A second string, attached to it, was also held by the hunter.
With still another string--but this one was about twice as long as the others--he controlled a trained raven, a tame bird with a thick clod of black wool attached to its legs. The raven, released, flew up and circled around; the knot of wool trailing beneath it looked like a bird in its claws. Any hawk within ten miles would see and be attracted by this kind of bait.
Having seen the raven, a luckless hawk would fly in to steal the raven's 'prey'. When the raven saw this, it would (naturally) caw in alarm and descend to the ground, there to be pulled into concealment by its owner. The hunter then jerked the captive pigeon into motion, making it flutter wildly. The hawk, catching sight of the pigeon, at once stooped and killed it. While the hawk fed, the hunter gradually pulled the pigeon's carcass toward the waiting net. Once the hawk and its meal were in position, voila! the net-string was pulled, the net whipped up and over, and the hawk was snared.
Once a hawk was caught, it was seeled with a thread pierced through the lower eyelid of one eye, passed over its head and then through the lower eyelid of the other eye, forcing both eyes to close. It was then hooded with the burqa, or leather head-cap. This was basically a bag with a leather thong to draw it tight over the hawk's head. The falconer's equipment also included a leather glove, and a hawk-stand (which was part of the furniture of every well-appointed tent).
Dickson writes that Arabian falconers used to let their birds fly free after the prey, but a recent innovation was slowly taking over: more and more falconers were tying the two end and longest wing feathers of their birds together with small bits of string. This reduced the falcon's speed and kept it close to the falconer, reducing the expense of lost birds.
In a typical hunt, the hawk was unhooded and let gaze over a piece of ground. If it spotted a hubara it flew from its master's hand and stooped on the quarry; the spectator would see a white flutter of feather and tail as hawk and hubara scuffled, then the hawk would grip its prey by the neck and hold it till the hunter caught up. The hubara sometimes managed to hide so well that the hawk was entirely baffled; or else the hubara got the upper hand and escaped; or else another hubara put the hawk out of action by a natural defence, squirting slime from its vent. This slime is dark-green and noxious, of the quality of birdlime, and a hawk hit by it is but put entirely out of action, not only half-blinded but with its feathers so glued together that it can barely fly till washed clean.
But when the hawk was successful, the happy hunter would arrive to find it busy plucking its quarry's neck, ready to dive in and eat. The hunter's job was then to cut the hubara's throat (rendering it fit to eat by Muslim custom) and then give the triumphant hawk a few bites of the breast before moving on to another patch of ground.
If the hubara managed to hide itself by the time the hawk reached it, a well-trained hawk would perch on a bush overlooking the area and wait. The falconer, coming up, would then walk up and down, gun in hand, flushing up hubara and shooting them as they rise. The hubara's habit is to go to ground and lie immobile when a hawk is nearby; they camouflage perfectly on the stony or pebbly ground of the desert, and can only be seen if they move.
An experienced hunter would also walk through a likely patch of ground, holding his hawk on high and raising a slow shrill cry something like 'A-hoh--'A-hoh--'A-hoh ending with a rapid Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. The idea was to startle the camouflaged hubara, which might be lying concealed all around. Even if the hubara made the slightest movement, the alert hawk could detect it at half a mile's distance and fly right after.
Hawking for gazelle with salukis: Bedouin hnters, and very rarely town Arabs, did this, and they did it not for sport, but to put meat in the pot. One could train hawks to attack gazelle on sight. Thrown, the hunting bird would single one gazelle out of a herd, cut it out by circling closely about its head, and also stoop and attack the gazelle's head and eyes with its talons. The hunting saluki, meanwhile, have been loosed and are closing in fast; the hawk never killed the gazelle (a feat beyond its powers) but to slowed it down for the dogs, and if lucky, blinded it. If blinded, the gazelle would lie down and the saluki would have an easy kill. In any case, the huntsman riding in pursuit would find that the combination of hawk and dogs secured the prey.
Carl Raswan, another British officer stationed in Arabia, described going on the hunt with war-mares, beaters on foot and hawks and greyhounds. After the hunt, the mares (which were run to
exhaustion in the chase) were cooled before they were watered. The hounds had water splashed
into their mouths at once, and the falconers placed their hawks in cooking-vessels half-filled with
water, so that the dusty birds could fluff and preen their feathers.
Source: General E. Daumas, The Ways of the Desert, originally published in 1850.
In the Sahara in the middle eighteen-hundreds, every man of means had his falcons and took them on the hunt. Thaïr el horr was their term for a pedigreed bird. The thaïr el horr was rare, and it was caught by going out with a domestic pigeon clad in a sort of horsehair-net shirt. When the wild falcon was sighted, the pigeon was thrown into the air and left to its fate; the falcon, taking the bait, became entangled in the netting and eventually descended exhausted to earth.
Four breeds of thaïr el horr were recognized: el berana and el terakel, el nebala, and el bahara. The terakel (or peregrine falcon) was the largest and most highly esteemed; female terakel could attain the size of an eagle. The berana, next in status among hunting hawks, was a little smaller and less powerful than the terakel; its wings were greyish white, its breast white, its tail grey and white but with white predominating. The bahara was almost completely black, but with a few white breast feathers. The nebala was mostly grey, with yellow feet and some white tints on the wings. All four breeds molted at summer's end.
Once caught, a thaïr el horr would be hooded, rings placed on its feet and jesses of elegantly worked Morocco leather gently fastened on, to tie it to its perch in its owner's tent. It would then be left hooded for some time, habituated to company in the usual way, and fed daily with as much good raw mutton as it cared to eat.
In training, it was first given pieces of meat while called with what would become its hunting-signal: "Ouye, ouye, ouye." Trainer and bird play tug-of-war with the meat, till the bird is worn out and then it is taken back to its perch and there fed. Once it is used to being fed on the perch, it is given more freedom, being leashed with a camel-hide thong perhaps fifty or sixty yards long; now it can venture outside the tent at will. When it is used to this, it is taken on the wrist and carried around, sometimes hooded, sometimes unhooded, and generally brought into company and inured to loud noises and crowds. When it became used to being taken everywhere, without hood or leash, but still fed with the same call of "Ouye ouye ouye," it was considered tame.
Then, it could be trained to the hunt. First it was given a live hare with its throat bloodied, while being called, "Ouye, ouye, ouye." The falcon was allowed to kill the hare, to eat some of it and become excited by the sport. Seven or eight times, this was repeated. Then the falcon was taken out to some open plain or plateau, and loosed upon a hare whose legs had been broken beforehand. This too was repeated several times. Once the lesson was engrained in the bird's memory, it would (if amenable to training) go out and hunt hare happily and confidently wherever it found them.
In the actual hunt, noblemen went out with their thaïr el horr on their wrists. The falcons' hoods and jesses would be rich with silk and gold, Morocco leather and small ostrich plumes; the jesses would be embroidered and hung with tiny silver bells. To match them, the hawks' masters would wear gauntlets, and they would ride out to the hunt in a procession, each nobleman often carrying one hawk on the shoulder and a second on the wrist.
The horsemen found a likely hunting ground, dispersed and beat the underbrush till hares flushed out, whereupon the hawks were unhooded and loosed. Once a hawk killed, the hunters would toss out a hare's skin, a lure which enticed the bird away from its dead quarry. Not until they were home at the tents were the falcons actually fed. Two or three falcons could usually bag ten to fifteen hares on a single day's hunting.
The thaïr el horr was also used to hunt habara (which General Daumas identified with the guinea
fowl and which was as large as the stork), rabbits, young gazelle, pigeons and doves. The price
of a trained falcon was a camel or sometimes a horse. But the birds were seldom kept beyond a
single year; most birds were freed after one season's hunting, and fresh birds caught and trained.
The bird which was kept two or three years was an exceptional prize indeed.
(Mongolia and points north)
Kirghiz tribesmen in western Mongolia used to keep tame eagles in their tents; Sir Francis Younghusband, when wandering through the area in the eighteen-nineties, once walked into a Kirghiz tent and was startled by coming face to beak with a large, fierce-looking eagle, tied up by the leg just inside the tent door. The Kirghiz kept their eagles to hawk with, and also hunted small deer with them.
Kirghiz in the Pamirs (Younghusband saw this too) sometimes rode down eagles. He was riding with a Kirghiz man when they saw two eagles on the ground at a distance, and the Kirghiz set out wildly after them; seeing him start to gallop the bird down, Younghusband thought the man was mad. Both birds flew upon seeing the rider coming at them, but he went careering along after them until one gradually sank down to the ground; it was gorged from carrion, and could not fly for any great distance. The Kirghiz dismounted, seized the bird, wound it into a parcel with his waistcloth, and tucked it under his arm. He then mounted and came riding back. If an eagle turned into a promising hawker, it could be sold for as much as two hundred rupees.
The Kirghiz nomads of the Tien Shan mountains in southern Russia (as witnessed by Ella Maillart in the 1930's) used to catch their eagles in traps, in nets baited with pigeons. Then for forty days and nights the captured bird was carried around hooded; once a day, it was given meat cut up with water added, and unhooded to eat. After forty days, the eagle was fed from a goat's shoulder ten paces away; then twenty paces, then thirty. And so forth. It was never allowed to gorge, because then it would be sluggish at the hunt. An eaglet bred in captivity is born with its hunting instincts innate and intact: four or five days after its first flight, it will catch hares; after a month it will stoop upon and seize a fox.
The golden eagle of the Tien Shan is mottled, its breast-feathers distinct as scale-mail. Its beak is very hooked, the head at a little distance looks vulture-bare and pale; at the nape of the skull is a burst of white feathers like a ruff. Its cries sound like ten door-hinges all screeching in chorus. Its talons are enormous and black, masked by a rough grey sheath of skin; the Kirghiz hawking glove was cut for only one finger and thumb, so that the reins could be grasped in the hand which supported the bird of prey. The rider's hand then rested on a wooden fork socketed in the saddle. When the nomads shifted camp, their hunting-eagles rode with them; those who carried them used a sort of wooden saddle-support for their arms, because of the weight of the great birds.
When Ms. Maillart traveled through the area, wild eagles could be seen soaring everywhere in the Tien Shan; she described them, every feather of their vast wings silhouetted distinctly as they sailed overhead. Some were seen perched on rocks near the trail. The Kirghiz applauded them, because they drove away the crows and magpies which settled on the Kirghiz saddle-horses and pecked at the raw sores along their backs.
Douglas Carruthers, who also traveled among the Kirghiz, said that the style of life among these mountain nomads was simple: the women did the work, and the men lived the life of gentlemen, riding and hunting and hawking all day long. They were all great hawkers. Since one of their main chores was hunting the alpine wolves (which preyed on their sheep during summer pasturage), Carruthers wondered that they did not use their trained eagles to help at this time; instead, they went out with ponies and hounds. When he asked, he was told that they disliked flying their eagles in the summer season. They preferred to reserve them for winter hunting, and to enter them against fur, which would later be sold; that is, their main use was not for driving away vermin, but for taking quarry with valuable pelts. Also, these eagles had great powers of fasting and it was difficult to get them sharp-set enough to be in prime hunting condition; if flown in summer, they were more likely to abscond than to take the quarry. If you were lucky and your eagle didn't fly off over the nearest mountaintop, never to be seen again, all you would gain anyway would be a few unsaleable pelts, thin-furred and useless.
Then, hawking with golden eagles was a universal pastime of settled Kirghiz and nomads alike . . . though only the well-to-do owned them, and though the market value of an eagle was about two horses, good ones were neither bought nor sold, for they were accounted priceless. They were taken from the nest, not captured on passage, though sometimes adult birds were captured; they could easily be ridden down when gorged on carrion. These adult eagles sometimes submitted to training; to domesticate them, they were carried around wrapped in sheepskins and showed roughly the same trainability, the same traits and temperament as goshawks.
Eagles entered against fur would bolt (or fly straight from the fist) at the quarry, which they
would then clutch and hold. To cast them as if they were falcons was impossible; to fly them like
short-winged hawks was equally impossible. They were used to take mostly foxes, gazelle,
wolves and (in an earlier time) the Saiga antelope. There was no drama in the chase either; the
eagle simply flapped along, not bothering to gain height for a swoop, easily overtaking its quarry,
and once having overtaken, the hunt was finished. It was said that a good eagle could kill a wolf
unaided, but Carruthers himself never saw such a thing. However the Tien Shan wolf was a
favourite prey of the wild golden eagles.
Richard Burton, The Valley of the Indus (1852)
Douglas Carruthers, Beyond the Caspian (1949)
General E. Daumas, The Ways of the Desert (1850)
H. R. P. Dickson, The Arab of the Desert (1949)
Ella Maillart, Turkestan Solo (1934)
Carl Raswan, Black Tents of Arabia (1935)
Sir Francis Younghusband, The Heart of a Continent (1896)