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Sports In The Middle Ages

Standing in thick forestry waiting for the right moment , waiting for the right time, waiting for the right falcon to step into his clutches, man gets anxious as the falcon gets closer and closer. This is his chance, its almost there, WHAP!! Trapped, this is only the beginning of a pastime of flying, diving, and rewarding killing. Falconry as well as other sports in the medieval time period were huge pastimes for men. From falconry to fencing and bearbaiting these sports evolved and survived for centuries. Falconry was and is a sport of employing falcons, other hawks, and ometimes eagles in a hunting fashion.

It was an ancient pastime that had been practiced by man from preliterate times. Falconry originated with the nomadic people in the Asiatic plains. ( Internet/Pg. 1) The nomads tamed their falcons to help seize the food necessary for survival, this was perhaps one of the first methods of hunting ever used by man. It soon developed into a sport and its fascinating cooperation between man and bird was one of the oldest of all open-air pastimes. Falconry was brought to England around the eighth century by merchants, adventures, and crusaders from Europe and

England that became familiar with falconry in the east on their return home and survived until the seventeenth century. The falconer was seen as a figure of authority mounted on his horse surrounded by his companions and his whit falcon descending from the sky to rest on his arm. (Internet/Pg. 1) With skill and patients hawks, owls, and eagles, natural predators and which kill in order to survive, may be trained by man to kill selected quarry, but none will retrieve the prey. Some birds are more desirable than others because of their behavior and flight habits.

The most popular of the birds is he Pergine falcon, which possesses all of the desirable traits. It can stand the climatic changes of the country. It is strong but gentle, and swift but fearce as required. When caught wild it is quickly trained by man. Only two groups of hawks ( about a dozen species ) have such characteristics. These of which are the true falcons, long-winged hawks and the accipiters or short-winged hawk. Among the short-winged species are the goshawk and the European sparrow hawk. The long-winged hawks were used in open country, while the short-winged, accipiters, were better equip to hunt hedge rows and woods.

Falcons usually killed their quarry in the air, cleanly at the end of a strong, powerful dive or stoop. They usually clung or bound to their prey. The goshawk may perch in a tree watching intently while man and dogs beat the cover. When its prey is flushed out the goshawk dashes fiercely in pursuit, binds to its victim and carries it to the ground, piercing its vital organs with its massive talons. (Britannica/Pg. 664) The male hawk, which was surprisingly smaller than the female by one-third, was the Tiercel. Only the larger female was properly called the falcon.

A hawk that was taken from the est fully fledged but still flightless was called an eyas. Wild-caught immature birds were called passengers because they were usually caught when they are migrating and the adults were called haggards. After these hawks were captured, until they were ready to be trained, eyases were at hack. While being hacked the birds are fed regularly. they are fed fresh meat, tied to a board or block, always in the same spot. (Britannica/Pg. 664) Goshawks were used for hunting hares, rabbits, and pheasants.

The smaller accipiters are best for hunting starlings and other small birds such as partridges and quail. The falconer must decide weather to use an eyas or a wild trapped hawk. Trapping a hawk requires skill and patients. One way to do so was to hide in a blind near a bow net set over a wild hawks kill. After the bird returns the attached cord was pulled and if the falconer was successful he would immediately remove the bird and attach leather thongs, called jesses, to its legs, and covers its eyes with a rufter, which was a soft leather hood used on newly caught birds.

After the birds are caught the training period begins. The first step in this procedure was to carry the hawk strapped on a heavy gloved fists for everal hours each day while talking to it gently and stroking its plumage with a feather. When the hawk is able to eat from the fist without a rufter it was next ready to be broken to people, dogs, and the life of falconry. Then it was tamed to feed from the lure, this is made from a padded weight with wings of each side of it and meat is tied between the wings.

The lure was whirled on a cord and the hawk was taught to fly aggressively to it over increasing distance. Soon this technique was mastered and the bird was trained to kill for its-self. Now it was ready for hunting. Eyases were trained uch like the wild-caught birds. There are nearly sixty species of hawks. Falcons are characterized by long streamline, slinder bodies, pointed wings and swift powerful flight. The name is applied in a restricted sense, as true falcons, to the genos Falco, which number more than thirty-five species(Britannica/Pg. 63)

They range in size from about six inches long in the falconet species to about twenty-four inches long in the gyrfalcon, which is an arctic species(Britannica/Pg. 664) In true falcons the female is larger, bolder, and preferred in the sport of falconry. Falcons have flags or plumes on their egs. They also have a notch in the beak which is well developed to develop a tooth Their flight pattern is fast and direct with their wings digging into the air. Falcons are superbly suited for aerial combat and among all of the birds of prey are the uncontested masters of a midair kill. Birds of Field and Forest /Pg. 49)

They prey mostly on other birds of unwooded terrain. A falcon crusing or perched, waits patiently until its quarry reaches just the right altitude – sometimes after being driven out of the relative safety of the bush by the falcons mate and hunting partner, then streaks from the sky and elivers a deadly blow to the neck with its talons, hitting with such a force that its victim is sent hurdling to the ground. Such a high-velocity power-driving stoops would be fatal to the falcons themselves if they were striking prey on or near the ground.

The peregrine falcon , which ranks among the worlds fastest animals, has been clocked at speeds up to 175mph. (Birds of Field and Forest /Pg. 49) Owls were another important asset to the sport of falconry. They measure from eighteen to twenty-five inches from the tip of their bill to the tip of their tail. (Great Horned Owl/Pg. 9) The wingspread is from hirty-five to fifty-five inches. The most striking feature of an owl is that its eyes are placed in the front of its head, like our own. The bigger eye of an owl allows much of the available light to pass through, an important characteristic for a nocturnal creature.

The frontal eye arrangement is a method of accommodating such eyes and provides binocular vision. An owls hearing is acute, enabling them to pin-point their prey even in total darkness. ( Birds/Pg. 61) The eagle family contain some of the most powerful of all living birds. The eagle spends most of its time on its wings, gliding effortlessly nd covering up to three hundred or more kilometers per day. (Birds/Pg. 58) It engages in acrobatics, including side rolls, which have to be seen to believe, and its stoop as it rushes towards the ground has been described as sounding like the passage of a six inch shell.

Although it is known as a scavenger it has been known to attack antelope, moles, and larger raptors such as vultures and lammergeiers in an effort to pursued them to give up their food. Eagles have long lied to be a top hunter along with the falcon and owl. these three birds made The sport of falconry look as if it ould be done with ones eyes closed. Another sport of the era which could not be performed with ones eyes closed would be fencing. To do this pastime without ones eyes wide open would assure death.

The history of fencing parallels the evolution of civilization, back from the days of ancient Egypt and Rome, to the barbaric dark ages, to the fast and diligent renaissance, up to the modern, increasingly popular fencing today, fencing has always been regarded as more than a sport; it is an art form, an ancient symbol of power and glory, and a deeply personal, individual form of expression. Fencing is and always has been an ntrinsic part of life, from dueling and Battle of Yore, to the widely captivating movies and facets of popular culture such as Zoro and The Princess Bride.

The earliest evidence of fencing as a sport comes from a carving in Egypt, dating back to about 1200 B. C. ; which shows a sport fencing bout with masks, protective weapon tips, and judges. (Internet/Pg. 1) Fencing is a sport involving the use of swords for attack and defense according to set movements and rules. While the use of swords date back to prehistoric times and swordplay to ancient civilizations, the sport of fencing began only at the end of the nineteenth century. The sport divided into three major branches based upon the weapon used: epee, foil, and sabre. (Britannica/Pg. 23)

Swordsmanship, as a pastime and in single combat and war, was also practiced widely by the ancient Persians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans as well as by some German tribes. The Greek and Roman civilizations favored short swords and light spears, and taught their warriors in schools called Ludi. (Internet/Pg2) The collapse of the roman civilization around 746 A. D. , brought the crude, heavy weapons of the barbarian invaders and signaled a regression of fencing through the dark ages. With the introduction of gunpowder in the fourteenth country armor fell in to disguise, and swords became lighter and more manageable.

Skillful swordplay became very important in war and in gentlemans daily life. By the fifteenth century guilds of fencing masters were formed throughout Europe, the most notable of which was the Marx Bruder, or the Association of St. Marcus of Lowenberg, which was granted letters patent by the Emperor Frederick in 1840, with headquarters at Frankfort am Main and branches else-where. (Britannica/Pg. 723) These schools, teaching students skill for use in war and duels of honor, became very powerful and ealously guarded their secret moves and strokes, which later became orthodox fencing movements and survived into modern fencing.

Early fencing moves were rough and ready and wrestling tricks were allowed. The Italians discovered the effectiveness of the dexterous use of the point rather than the edge of the sword. By the end of the seventeenth century, the lighter, simple and nimble weapon, the rapier controlled fencing style, emphasizing on skill and speed rather than force as it spread through Europe. Most of the wrestling was abandoned, the lunge was discovered, and fencing was established as an art. The long rapier was beautifully balanced, excellent in attack and for keeping an opponent at a distance but too heavy for all the movements of combat.

Defense was effective by parrying with the left hand, protected by a gauntlet or cloak armed with a dagger. Opponents strokes were often avoided by ducking or side-stepping. Rapier fencing was a two handed contest with the swordsman squared off to each other as they circled, seeking advantage of terrain or light. (Britannica/Pg. 723) In the latter half of the seventeenth , the sword and swordsmanship changed dramatically with a change in gentlemans dress. In France the court of Louis XIV set the fashion of silk stockings, breeches, and brocade coats, which replaced the doublet and hose, top boots, and cloaks.

Fashion also decreed the wearing of light, short court sword. The French style set in throughout Europe , the short court sword was soon recognized as an ideal light weapon capable of performing all attacks and defense movements. The court sword evolved swordsmanship to one hand. Hits were made with the point only, defense was effected by the blade, and true fencing emerged as the French style displaced the Italians. A fencer needs only a jacket, a mask, a glove, a weapon, trousers or encing breeches, white stockings, and flat soled shoes. Aside from any equipment physique, skill, and endurance would be great for this sport.

The Piste, or fencing mat, made of linoleum, cork, rubber, or composition, is a strip about two meters(6. 5ft wide) and fourteen feet long with a two foot extention at either end. The piste has a center line, on-guard lines, warning lines and rear-limit lines. The match starts with the fencers in the on-guard position so far apart as to require a lunge to reach the opponent. Judging of hits are made by official judgment. Each weapon has a different target area. To score with the oil a hit has to be made to the torso, with the epee the entire body is scoreable, and for the sabre roughly the upper half of the body including the hear and arms.

The mens bouts last approximately six minutes, and the first man to score five points with the designated portion of his weapon is the winner. The womens bouts last about four minutes and only four points are to be scored Aside from fencing and falconry, bearbaiting would defiantly not been done with ones eyes closed because it was a spectacle that if one blinks he will miss an exciting but barbaric event. Bearbaiting is the setting of dogs n a bear chained to a stake by the neck or leg. Held from the twelfth to the nineteenth country, when banned as inhumain.

These spectacles were usually staged at a theater like arena properly called bear gardens. In England many large groups of bears were kept just for this purpose. For a bearbaiting attended by Queen Elizabeth I in 1575 there were thirteen bears provided. (Internet/Pg. 5) When a bear was baited, its noes was often blown full of pepped to further arouse it, specially trained dogs were let loose singly each attempting to seize the tethered animals nose. Often a hole in the round was provided into which the bear might thrust this vulnerable part. A successful dog was said to have pinned the bear.

The bear was almost torn to pieces by the dogs. Bearbaiting already was traditionally popular entertainment for over 100 years throughout England; the exhibitions took place usually on Sunday after church. In this festive atmosphere large crowds of all classes would gather, bringing their lunches and taking their seats to delight in the herificly bloody event. Some of the variations of these activities included whipping a blinded bear and baiting a pony with an ape tied to its back. This was said to be a terribly funny event which one could not stop laughing and his heart burst.

A sport called bear-running also developed in some places, usually as an annual affair. The townspeople, armed with clubs, chased a bear until it was exhausted; then killed it. Baiting and its diversions declined very slowly from the late seventeenth century onward, the sport having been banned in England by the Puritans during the civil war and commonwealth (1042-1660) The spectacles were permanently outlawed by act of parliament in 1835. The bulldog is a breed of dog developed in England in the late hirteenth century for courage and ferocity in the sport of bearbaiting.

Bulldogs are a proud fighting breed. The mature male dog weighs about fifty pounds and the female about forty. The bulldog has a heavy, thick set, low-slung body; a massive head; wide shoulders; short, stout, and straight forelegs; long hind legs; and a fine textured coat of short, straight hair. It is also characterized by small, thin ears, located high in the head; a large broad nose; and a deep, broad, and full chest. The lower jaw projects, enabling the dog to take a grip that is difficult to break. The tail is short, straight, or screw, but not curled, and is hung low.

The color of the dog may be red brindle, other brindles, solid white, or piebald. (Internet/Pg5) After baiting became illegal in 1835 the dog was bred to eliminate viciousness but there are still traits in bulldogs that are undesirable, a bulldog will turn on its owner at no given time. Falconry, Fencing, and Bearbaiting were huge pastimes for men that made life a lot less boring and certainly more dangerous. All three of these sports required adequate skill and attentiveness or otherwise one could not enjoy them…… Dead.

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