Before the medieval ages and during it’s early phase, hunting was usually used as a method of gathering food. In later period of the middle ages, however, it became a stylised and elaborate activity which was usually indulged in by the nobility.
It also changed from an activity for food gathering to a hobby of the wealthy. Due to its immense popularity among medieval nobility, a wide body of literature related to hunting was developed and specific vocabulary came to be associated with it. Typically, the nobility used horses, hounds and birds of prey such as hawks and falcons during hunting.
Medieval Hunting History
Hunting remained popular in Europe throughout the medieval ages. During the early period of the medieval ages, it was particularly popular with Frankish and Carolingian kings. Charlemagne, the notable Frankish king, was known for his fondness for hunting in which he indulged till the last years of his life. Similarly, hunting became exceptionally popular following the Norman Conquest in the 11th century.
In France, an elaborate terminology came to be associated with hunting and nobles took pride in learning it. In England, vast tracts of land containing small and large prey were reserved for the nobles and it became punishable for non-owners to poach in the area. By later medieval ages, elaborate laws governed the establishment of different areas in terms of hunting activities.
Medieval Hunting Equipment
Typically, the medieval nobles rode on their horses during hunting. The hunting itself was done either with the help of hounds or through birds of prey. Arrows and bows were also used to directly hunt large game such as hart deer. Hounds were usually used to hunt larger game on land while birds of prey were more often used to hunt birds.
Greyhounds were a popular type of hound used in hunting and a wide number of servants were dedicated to looking after the hounds used for hunting. Hawks and falcons were usually afforded by the richer members of the nobility, given the fact that they were quite rare and expensive to procure. The medieval monarchs were particularly fond of hunting with falcons and hawks, and usually owned a vast variety of them.
Among the land game, by far the most common animal hunted by medieval European nobility was a deer of specific age and breed called hart. The hunting of hart was most frequently done with the help of hounds, called hunting “par force”. In this method, the lay of the hart was found and then hounds were used by a hunting party to corner down or tire the harts in the chase. Once the hart was slow enough, the leading man of the hunting party would kill it with sword or spear. Boars and wolves were two other notable animals which were hunted in a similar fashion.
Medieval Hunting Terminology
Hunting became popular in mainland Europe in particular during the reign of Frankish kings and continued throughout the medieval ages. At the same time, a vast vocabulary of specific terms related to hunting developed, first in France and then spreading to the whole Europe.
This vast set of terminology became a part of the medieval hunting culture. And the hunters were expected to be thoroughly informed and educated about such terminology in order to be a successful hunter.