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The Gyrfalcon in the Middle Ages, an Exotic Bird of Prey (Western Europe and Near East)

Abstract : This paper will consider the medieval trade of the Gyrfalcon as an exotic animal. The exoticism the gyrfalcon is considered from two geographical points of view, Western Europe and Islamic lands. The bird was imported in Muslim countries form Northern Europe (through diplomatic gifts or from Italian and Spanish merchants) of from Russia through Central Asia; Gyrfalcons were also popular in Europe, praised as one of the noblest birds of prey. This study emphasizes three main topics. First, the naming of a foreign animal, as the name “Sunkur” was borrowed in Arabic from Turk languages of Central Asia. The medieval Latin Gyrofalco has a German and Old Norse etymology. Second, the paper investigates the geographic origin of this bird (Scandinavia and Russia) according to medieval Latin, Arabic and Persian historians and geographers. Third, the trade of this rare and expensive raptor is studied upon Latin and Arabic sources; during Mamluk dynasty, possessing gyrfalcons have been rather common in Egypt, an elite’s fashion.
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Submitted on : Friday, May 21, 2021 - 1:48:04 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, May 26, 2021 - 11:44:36 AM


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Thierry Buquet. The Gyrfalcon in the Middle Ages, an Exotic Bird of Prey (Western Europe and Near East). Burnett, Charles; Van Den Abeele, Baudouin. Falconry in the Mediterranean Context During the Pre-Modern Era, 9, Droz, pp.79-98, 2021, Bibliotheca Cynegetica, 978-2-600-06236-7. ⟨hal-02139381⟩



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