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Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution 
Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution 

Show & Tell: 17th-Century Falcon's Hood

Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution 
Cooper Hewitt/Smithsonian Institution 

This early-17th-century falcon’s hood is made of tooled leather, inset with velvet panels that are embroidered with metallic yarns and metal beads, and topped by a silk tassel. The Cooper-Hewitt, which holds it in its collection, says the whole confection features two openings: one in the front for the bird’s beak, and one in the back, where leather straps could be tied to secure the hood to the falcon’s head. 

Although the Cooper Hewitt was unable to definitively pinpoint this hood’s origin, the museum hypothesizes that it was made in England or France (there’s another early-17th-century hood from Britain in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum that looks like this one). European falconry was relatively new in the early 17th century, at least compared to the sport’s much longer history on the steppes of Mongolia or Iran; falconry was commonly practiced in Asia and the Middle East as long ago as 2000 BCE.

The concept of the falcon hood, writes falconer Lydia Ash, was Arabic in origin. “The purpose of a hood is to calm the bird,” she writes. “These birds are so visually oriented that they are not fearful of what they cannot see … Hoods protect the bird and allow ease of control of situations that otherwise could be startling to the bird.” Today's hoods, like this older one, are made of leather. They should be constructed with enough room for the bird to be able to open its beak wide, and they should be stored open, rather than closed, to retain their shape.

By the time this hood was made, falconry in England had become enmeshed with human social hierarchy. Royalty practiced the sport, which became a status symbol. In 1486, the publication of The Book of Saint Albans set forth rules called the Laws of Ownership, which assigned the right to fly certain birds of prey to particular ranks of human falconer. A yeoman could fly a goshawk, an earl a peregrine falcon; a knave could only hope to fly a kestrel, and a priest a sparrowhawk. Gyrfalcons were reserved for kings, and eagles for emperors.

Like other charismatic animals, such as polar bears and elephants, birds of prey made excellent diplomatic gifts, since they carried connotations of nobility, wealth, and power. According to the International Association for Falconry and Conservation of Birds of Prey, in the 17th century, falcons arrived at the French court from many faraway locations, including Turkey, India, Russia, Norway, Corsica, Sardinia, and Spain. You can imagine a gift falcon sporting a hood like this as an additional embellishment, like a ribbon on a package. 

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Martin Wittfooth
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Art
The Cat Art Show Is Coming Back to Los Angeles in June
Martin Wittfooth
Martin Wittfooth

After dazzling cat and art lovers alike in 2014 and again in 2016, the Cat Art Show is ready to land in Los Angeles for a third time. The June exhibition, dubbed Cat Art Show 3: The Sequel Returns Again, will feature feline-centric works from such artists as Mark Ryden, Ellen von Unwerth, and Marion Peck.

Like past shows, this one will explore cats through a variety of themes and media. “The enigmatic feline has been a source of artistic inspiration for thousands of years,” the show's creator and curator Susan Michals said in a press release. “One moment they can be a best friend, the next, an antagonist. They are the perfect subject matter, and works of art, all by themselves.”

While some artists have chosen straightforward interpretations of the starring subject, others are using cats as a springboard into topics like gender, politics, and social media. The sculpture, paintings, and photographs on display will be available to purchase, with prices ranging from $300 to $150,000.

Over 9000 visitors are expected to stop into the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles during the show's run from June 14 to June 24. Tickets to the show normally cost $5, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a cat charity, and admission will be free for everyone on Wednesday, June 20. Check out a few of the works below.

Man in Garfield mask holding cat.
Tiffany Sage

Painting of kitten.
Brandi Milne

Art work of cat in tree.
Kathy Taselitz

Painting of white cat.
Rose Freymuth-Frazier

A cat with no eyes.
Rich Hardcastle

Painting of a cat on a stool.
Vanessa Stockard

Sculpture of pink cat.
Scott Hove

Painting of cat.
Yael Hoenig
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Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images
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Animals
How a Pregnant Rhino Named Victoria Could Save an Entire Subspecies
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Sudan, the last male member of the northern white rhino subspecies, while being shipped to Kenya in 2009
Tony Karumba, AFP/Getty Images

The last male northern white rhino died at a conservancy in Kenya earlier this year, prompting fears that the subspecies was finally done for after decades of heavy poaching. Scientists say there's still hope, though, and they're banking on a pregnant rhino named Victoria at the San Diego Zoo, according to the Associated Press.

Victoria is actually a southern white rhino, but the two subspecies are related. Only two northern white rhinos survive, but neither of the females in Kenya are able to reproduce. Victoria was successfully impregnated through artificial insemination, and if she successfully carries her calf to term in 16 to 18 months, scientists say she might be able to serve as a surrogate mother and propagate the northern white rhino species.

But how would that work if no male northern rhinos survive? As the AP explains, scientists are working to recreate northern white rhino embryos using genetic technology. The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research has the frozen cell lines of 12 different northern white rhinos, which can be transformed into stem cells—and ultimately, sperm and eggs. The sperm of the last northern white male rhino, Sudan, was also saved before he died.

Scientists have been monitoring six female southern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo to see if any emerge as likely candidates for surrogacy. However, it's not easy to artificially inseminate a rhino, and there have been few successful births in the past. There's still a fighting chance, though, and scientists ultimately hope they'll be able to build up a herd of five to 15 northern white rhinos over the next few decades.

[h/t Time Magazine]

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