|Gauntlet Bird of Prey Centre, near Knutsford Closest I've ever been to a barn owl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Falconry and hawking were very common activities in most of the world until recently, being used for both sport and obtaining food. In Europe, the goshawk was known as the "cooks hawk" because it could catch so many things for the table including rabbit, hare, pheasant, partridge, pigeon, grouse etc. Gyrfalcons were prized as the most fitting bird for an Emperor, a peregrine for a king, a merlin (because of its small size) for a lady. Eagles were used to hunt wolves in Siberia, Saker falcons to hunt gazelle in the Arabian deserts. The Saker would catch the gazelle and slow it enough for a Saluki (a desert dog breed) to kill it. Falconry was a hugely popular sport with nobility and a vital activity for ordinary people.
The most common use of owls in falconry currently is in falconry displays for the public. Barn owls are always hugely popular birds with their gentle, beautiful flight and lovable nature. Barn owls are also common in most areas and relatively easy to care for making them an ideal candidate for falconry shows. They are also one of the most suitable birds of prey to be used for giving audience members the experience of holding a bird of prey on their fist. The beautiful slow flight of a barn owl gives the audience much more chance to see a bird of prey up close while flying than the fast flight of a falcon which might only be in view for a few seconds as it zooms by.