REARDAN, Wash. — The eyes of the world are on Qatar for the next three weeks as soccer teams battle it out at the World Cup.
Qatar is the first Arab and Muslim-majority country to host the World Cup. While soccer fever is sweeping through the country, it built eight stadiums to host the World Cup.
There is another sport at the heart of many Qataris, one that dates back hundreds of years and is now connected to a ranch near Reardan, Washington.
That sport is called falconry.
A few years ago, a member of the Qatari Royal Family came to a ranch near Rearden to find a falcon. Local breeders say just like a cat or dog, they are life partners.
“They take ducks and geese things like that in the wild,” Danny Ertsgaard, a falcon breeder, said.
For centuries, falcons are used to hunt and provide food in many Arabian regions.
“They have had falcons in their life for many many years,” Ertsgaard said. “To them, if you think of Americans with dogs and cats, for them, everybody has them.”
Danny and his wife Jorgene have more than 150 birds at their ranch, where they raise them, from hatchling to hunter.
“Our birds also work with our dogs,” Ertsgaard said. “It’s like a team. You have good hunting dogs that will point and falcons understand that. It will go way above the dog knowing that something is going to come out in front of the dog.”
Just like anyone, if they are uncomfortable with the situation, the falcon will say something.
As Qatar has been a focal point for falconry for centuries, before the World Cup, Ertsgaard says one of their clients is the royal family from Qatar.
“He likes the bird from us and he buys the birds every year from now,” Ertsgaard said.
Training the falcons isn’t easy, as it takes time and dedication to do so.
“Some can be [trained] very fast,” Ertsgaard said. “You can be hunting literally in a couple of months. Our program is different. We take several months.”
For this couple, however, raising falcons is more than just a business. That is how Danny met his wife.
“That’s how we met… over a bird that was captivated for breeding,” Ertsgaard said. “She was very busy, I called her. We met. The rest of it is the history.”
It’s been a good business, too. These falcons sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars each.