It is open to debate but it is generally thought that pigeons were the first birds to be domesticated. The ancestor of the modern day Racing Pigeons, were bred from Rock Doves firstly for their meat and then for their ability to return home, from wherever they were released, primarily to carry messages especially in times of war.
Hundreds if not thousands of Homing Pigeons were used in both World Wars, carrying messages from troops and observers, often from behind enemy lines, which in turn saved thousands of human lives. After World War 2, animals and birds that had served courageously in the war were given the Dickin Medal which was the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
- 18 were given to dogs
- 3 were given to horses
- 1 was given to a cat
- 32 were given to pigeons
Despite all these feats of courage and things that make the homing and racing pigeon truely amazing, people still often see them as pests and dislike them. If only they knew that cute little white dove of peace actually has no scientific difference except prehaps the size between it and the Rock Dove which was the ancestor of the modern racing pigeon, maybe they would feel a bit differently about them.
Modern day pigeon racing as we know it today originated in Belgium in the mid 19th century and soon spread to many european countries as well as the USA.
Although it is seldom recognized, the homing pigeon was used to deliver messages before the advent of electronic communications such as the telegraph and telephone. Reuters News Agency, even started as a pigeon service carrying closing stock prices between Belgium and Germany.
With the advent of the railways pigeons were able to be quickly sent to distant release points allowing the sport of pigeon racing to expand. Each bird was fitted with a race band which was on return to the loft removed and placed into a thimble which in turn was placed into a specially designed accurate clock.
The clock would then be taken to an official and opened. From the time and distance of each loft from the release point, a velocity for the pigeon could be worked out. Obviously the bird with the best velocity won.
Today many pigeons are raced and timed electronically and the time recorded automatically as they enter the loft.
As a sport pigeon racing has been on the decline in some countries such as the UK but it is becoming ever more popular in others especially in countries like Taiwan.
Pigeon Racing is a time consuming sport but a very rewarding and enjoyable one.