Art of Falconry in Portugal declared UNESCO immaterial cultural heritage

Following on from the classification of Bisalhães’ “black clay pottery” (click here), UNESCO decision-makers have given the art of Portuguese falconry their seal of approval for Immaterial Cultural Heritage.

The new classification follows a bid for recognition by Salvaterra de Magos borough council in partnership with the organisation for Alentejo/ Ribatejo tourism, Évora university and the Portuguese Falconry Association, citing the sport as “one of the oldest relationships between man and bird”.

Salvaterra de Magos is considered the “capital of national falconry”, and as such the UNESCO seal promises not only more in the form of visitors, but in the likelihood of “investigators and students”.

Popular with Portuguese royalty through the centuries, these days there are only around 100 falconers, or hawkers as they are better known, practising in this country.

Pedro Afonso, president of the Portuguese Falconry Association says recognition of the ancient sport that has its roots in Mesopotamia 4000 years ago is just what it needs to avoid “disappearing”.

He told journalists that falconry is rooted in the principles of “respect for the birds – which maintain their wild characteristics – the environment, the captured prey and the prevalence of the beauty of the chase in Nature”.

Afonso stressed that falconry is an “ecological method of hunting”, with very few animals preyed upon and the establishing of a bond between the hawker and his bird.

In receiving this latest UNESCO recognition, Portugal has become the 14th country to be awarded Immaterial Cultural Heritage status for falconry.

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