Article published in:Reinardus: Yearbook of the International Reynard Society
Edited by Richard Trachsler and Baudouin Van den Abeele
[Reinardus 27] 2015
► pp. 1–32
Nets, Lures, and Camouflage
Capturing Birds in Late Medieval North and Central Italy
This essay is about those many hunters in northern and central Italy who captured birds (mostly) for commercial reasons, far from the glamorous performances of aristocratic falconry. It investigates their techniques and practices in the context of their local environments and socio-cultural frameworks. While birds were status food, hunting them thus mostly amounted to a marginal economic activity. The variously wary nature of their target species, and the necessarily repetitive nature of commercial hunting warranted practices in which the hunter’s profile was consistently very low, and in which unsuspecting birds were attracted and captured on the basis of their ecological behavior. The paper is based on Book X of Pier de’ Crescenzi’s early fourteenth century manual Ruralia Commodorum as well as a series of Italian documentary sources from Venice and Tuscany and argues that in late medieval Italy such hunting knowledge was predominantly part of an oral tradition. These sources point both to actual use of certain practices in bird hunting as well as suggesting the modus operandi of the hunters, keen and dynamic observers and users of their local natural environments.
Published online: 24 March 2016