Animal Training: Gyrfalcons are used in hunting in China


Gyrfalcon, also called "Hai Dong Qing" in Chinese

From the ancient time to today, in the northeastern China, the Manchu hunters living in the forest like to raise and train a kind of gyrfalcon, which is called "Hai Dong Qing" in Chinese, to help them catch preys.
Gyrfalcon is a proud predator, so it needs to pay a lot of efforts to establish a close relationship between a gyrfalcon and a hunter. Firstly, after capturing a gyrfalcon, the hunter brought it home. Then the hunter usually spends a week with the captured gyrfalcon and keeps the gyrfalcon awake during that week. After this step, the gyrfalcon will behavior less widely.
Secondly, the hunter needs to let the gyrfalcon always stand on his arm while the gyrfalcon is receiving the hunter's touch, which results in that the gyrfalcon will be gradually used to standing on the hunter's arm.

Manchu hunter.jpg
A Manchu hunter with a gyrfalcon

Thirdly, the so-called "Running on the rope" is an essential step in the process of falconry. The hunter ties a end of a rope to his arm and ties the other end to the gyrfalcon's claw. Then the hunter puts a piece of meat on the arm and calls the gyrfalcon in a long distance. After hearing the hunter's calling, the gyrfalcon will fly to the hunter along the rope. Thanks to this training, the gyrfalcon can hear the hunter's call and fly back to him even though the gyrfalcon chases after the prey far away from the hunter.

Finally, the hunter manages to have a well-trained gyrfalcon. In the real hunting, the gyrfalcon will rush to and kill a prey as soon as possible with screaming loudly.

Haidongqing badge.jpg
A "Haidongqing" Badge

During the long history of Manchu, the gyrfalcon "Hai Dong Qing" has become a symbol of Manchu nationality, showing the bravery of Manchu.


Very interesting post, and gret images, too!

Do you think they primarily rely on classical conditioning to train these birds? I bet it takes a really skilled trainer to accomplish this. :)

This is insane. I can't believe that people were able to do something like this. I think that you should have connected this to psychology a little bit but in the end I think this article is fantastic. You wrote one of the more interesting blogs I have read and put up a ton of great pictures. In the end you did a great job.

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This page contains a single entry by wang3159 published on February 25, 2012 11:36 PM.

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