Falcon Races

on December 18, 2013

The falcon races are a new thing for most westerners (falconers) and the nearest thing we have to this in North America are the sky trails where falconers and their falcons are competing against each other in attaining a great pitch and drastic stoop and chase of the fastest of pigeons released beneath them. Here in the gulf (GCC) countries the ability to find and hunt wildlife is very hard and combined with the lack of natural wild quarry and strict laws pertaining to hunting, it was somewhat inevitable that the countries leadership, set on maintaining and if not enhancing cultural heritage, had the foresight and vision to create the falcon races. 

Although it has been going for over a decade, it is only now that it is reaching a global audience. The ruling Sheikhs of the UAE are very generous and this is many ways they try to give to their people.   

The falcon races have three main categories that comprise of the gulf falcon race tournament scene. These are to the lure (Telwha) whereby a falcon is timed on how fast it can fly over a 400 meter distance to an awaiting falconer swinging a lure. The there is the balloon where the falcon is released and timed as to how fast it can ascend to a pre determined height and grab the bait suspended form the balloon. Lastly and perhaps most uniquely is the chasing of a model airplane that is towing a baited lure over an extended distance that reaches 2 km. It is widely followed and in recent years the participation levels have exploded which can be accredited to the huge prize pool of money and other prizes being awarded to the top competitors. This years prize pool exceeds 15 million dirhams at some races. Hundreds of high end vehicles are given as prizes along with significant cash prizes and so it is of no wonder why it has taken off. 

Some of the top competitors are winning Bentley Turbo's and Toyota Landcruisers for wining each category. This has grabbed the attention of many locals and it is becoming very competitive and high tech. The Arab falconers have been long since known for their very fit falcons and in recent years have turned to model aircraft and drones to pull the lure high up into the sky and making the falcon work hard to catch it's dinner. This fitness preparation is crucial to the birds overall fitness and worthiness to enter such a high profile competition. No question the level of fitness and standard of condition in the birds is very high and becoming a science. Not all falcons are created equal and this in turn has created a huge sudden demand for falcons in the gulf which has significantly boosted the worlds raptor breeders, particularly in Europe and North America. A competitor, particularly one that has the finical backing of a sheikh, can process as many as 150 new falcons per year from which he whittles down a team of approximately 15 top performers. Often this team of falcons can attribute to the winning of several top prizes, not to mention the bragging rights that comes with them.

 Some of the top performers are recognized at the race finals and collect their award and huge prizes. It is reported that one contestant had won over 26 SUV vehicles this race season alone.

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