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Some Facts About Pigeons

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Pigeons are thought to be the oldest domesticated bird; they have been kept by humans for thousands of years, and for many different reasons. Pigeon fancying – keeping them for racing or as pets – is something anybody can enjoy, regardless of age, gender or ability.
Pigeon fanciers get great pleasure from caring for their birds, a pair of which can be kept in a coop similar to a large rabbit hutch. A larger flock needs a special shed, known as a loft. They can be let out daily to fly free and will return to their loft; they often form a close bond with their owner.

Racing pigeons will naturally return from distances of several hundred miles, such is their love of home. To enable them to do this they are fed a quality diet of cereals, beans and peas, their loft is kept very clean and they are treated for any ailments or diseases they may encounter. These domestic pigeons are specially bred and are completely different from the pigeons found in city centres!

Not all pigeons are bred for racing. Rollers and tumblers can perform flying tricks like backward somersaults; tipplers are bred for endurance flying and fantails are kept purely for their beauty. For thousands of years, pigeons have been used by man to carry messages, especially during wartime, and racing the birds for sport probably arose from that. As recently as the Second World War, pigeons were taken behind enemy lines to fly home with secret information. They were also released by fighter pilots who had been shot down, carrying their co- ordinates back to England and thus enabling the rescue of the crew. These pigeons often endured dangerous conditions during this important contribution to the war effort and thirty-two of them were awarded the Dickin Medal for their incredible bravery.

The modern-day racing pigeon has its origins in Belgium where, about 200 years ago, the sport enjoyed a rapid rise in popularity. Pigeon fanciers began selectively breeding for speed and the sport soon spread around the world. The many educational aspects of it include the history of the birds and knowledge of geography to study their flying routes, including the weather patterns they encounter. Maths skills are honed when calculating anticipated arrival times, and the day-to-day care of the birds encompasses biology, nutrition and other aspects of welfare. This will involve the breeding of and caring for young pigeons, known as squeakers or squabs.

In conclusion, the keeping and racing of pigeons today has global appeal – and long may that continue. You can find out more about it from the National Pigeon Association at:

Website created and designed by Samantha and Matthew Bush

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