Discover the Ancient Sport of Falconry in England’s Cotswolds
The sport of using trained birds of prey to hunt game for their trainers, known as falconry, is thought to have begun as long ago as 1000 BC. With only noble classes having the time and resources to raise and train birds of prey, during the Middle Ages the sport became a status symbol. The Japanese took the issue of status to an extreme by detailing what was permissible to hunt and who was permitted to hunt it, according to rank within the military nobility – the Samurai. Today, there are numerous falconry centers around the world where visitors can watch exhibitions of these remarkable birds in action, as well as learn and practice the sport of falconry.
In Moreton-in-Marsh, in northeastern Gloucestershire, England, the Cotswold Falconry Centre houses approximately 150 birds of prey, many of which can be seen in action during the center’s free-flying demonstrations. Established in 1988, the aim of the center is to use education and fun to promote a greater understanding of birds of prey. With more than 20,000 visitors each year, the center is doing much to achieve their goal. More than thirty bird species have been bred successfully in the center’s non-commercial aviaries, with owls being encouraged to breed naturally in the aptly named Owl Woods, an area that visitors can stroll through at leisure. CCTV and infra-red cameras allow a peek into the secretive world of these fascinating nocturnal birds of prey.
Bearing in mind that the center does not put on bird shows as such, but allows the birds to decide if they will participate or not, displays are held four times daily in season – at 11:30, 13:30, 15:00 and 16:30 – and the Cotswold Falconry Centre opens on 9 February 2013 after being closed for the coldest part of winter. Birds that participate in the displays include vultures, falcons, caracara, owls and eagles and visitors are assured of some dazzling aerobatics and high-speed flight from these awe-inspiring birds.
The Cotswold Falconry Centre offers a number of activities for visitors who are looking for a hands-on experience. Starting at 9:30 and finishing at around 16:30, the Introductory Course covers the basics of falconry, including an in-depth explanation of birds types and training on handling and flying the birds. The Eagle Day offers participants the opportunity to spend some quality time with a mature Golden Eagle, including a walk into the Cotswold Hills where they will be able to fly an eagle. Certainly, the Cotswold Falconry Centre is the perfect day’s outing for anyone who is interested in the ancient sport of falconry.