The Other Sport of Kings

 Photo: Siqui Sanchez / Getty Images

It’s easy enough to divide up the animal kingdom into ‘domesticated’ and ‘wild’ - our pets and farm animals on the one hand and wildlife on the other. It is tempting, too, to think of mankind as master of all of them.

The first time one finds oneself with a falcon upon one’s wrist, however, one realises that there is a third category: ‘allies’.

For though one may think that one is domesticating a bird of prey by feeding it and tethering it, one would not dare to suggest such a thing within beak or talon range of a goshawk. One could lose an eye.

No, as soon as one realises that only one of you is essential to the success of the hunt, one realises that one is little more than an ambulatory perch wearing a fancy leather mitt. And though one might fancy oneself a fine shot or particularly cunning with the fly and tackle, all the noise and effort of a day’s shooting looks akin to chaos when the circling peregrine silently folds its wings, drops out of the sky at over 200mph, and shows the true form and pitiless nature of a hunter. The best one can hope for is to be regarded as an equal in those black and beady eyes. As a sport, falconry has to many minds a vague and rather romantic association with Arabia; with the stark glare and boundless quarters of the desert; with princes and nomads bound by a common pursuit and an ancient, dignified askesis. It’s less commonly associated with Kent.

Fortunately, however, you can eschew the camel trains and desert caravans, jump in the motor and find all sorts of displays and hands-on courses just off the M2, near Maidstone in Kent. We commend The Hawking Centre to you without hesitation: