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Developed for racing and carrying messages, these birds can be easily trained to return to their home loft when released from a distant place, hence their common name.
Like all domestic pigeons, homing pigeons are descended from the rock pigeon of Europe, Asia and Africa. Homing pigeons carried messages for the ancient Egyptians and Persians over 3,000 years ago. In Greece, pigeons carried news of Olympic games victories to the different cities. The Romans used them to send military messages. During the Franco-Prussian War, the French used homing pigeons, and the Germans trained hawks to catch them. Homing pigeons served the U.S. Signal Corps in World Wars I and II, and in the Korean War. During World War I, one bird carried a message about 24 miles in 25 minutes. It arrived with one leg shot off and its breast injured by a bullet; the message this bird carried ultimately saved the city of Verdun, which erected a plaque in honor of "Homing Pigeon No. 183/140F." Homing pigeons became obsolete as electronic communications became more advanced, and the army sold the last of its birds in 1956.
Today, homing pigeons are most commonly raised by private citizens for the purpose of racing them. Racing pigeons are given a training period to familiarize them with the territory over which the race will be held. They are then released simultaneously at a central location, and the time that each pigeon enters its home loft is recorded. The bird which completes the race in the shortest amount of time is the winner.
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This page was last updated on 04/20/2017.