THE SPORT OF PIGEON RACING
Modern pigeon racing had its beginnings in the early 1800s in Belgium. However, man has long used pigeons as pets, a source of food, and as message carriers as far back as 5000 years ago.
Neolithic man began taming animals about 8000 years ago. The pigeon, a seed eater, would have been relatively easy to domesticate. Certainly, as man began to grow grains, the pigeon is a species that would have naturally gravitated around human settlements and farms.
At the height of the Moorish Empire, the Arabs used pigeons as messengers. In the Dark Ages and Medieval times, from Bagdad in the Middle East to the Barbary Coast in north Africa, Arabs officialdom employed carrier pigeons. Genghis Khan also reputedly made use of pigeons as his empire expanded.
Carrier pigeons were a major component in the expansion of the industrial revolution. Reuters News Agency was begun with homing pigeons. The symbol for many European postal systems is a stylized figure of a carrier (homing) pigeon to this day.
Pigeon racing in Belgium probably began with the use of Persian messenger pigeons as the foundation stock. Crossed with local pigeons, the modern racing homer gradually developed into what we know it as today. That development continues unabated.
The first long distance pigeon race was in Belgium in 1818. In 1820, a race was flown from Paris to Liege, and in 1823 from London to Antwerp. By 1870, there were 150 racing societies and in Belgium and over 10,000 lofts. Neighbouring Holland became fascinated with the hobby and wholeheartedly joined in. After 1875, the hobby of pigeon racing gained popularity in England. Today, there are approximately 90,000 lofts in both Belgium and Holland while there are some 100,000 lofts in England.
The hobby was introduced in the United States in the nineteenth century. It also gained a foothold in parts of France. It is now becoming popular in Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and mainland China. There are fliers in India, Argentina, and Hungary. However, the birthplace of the sport as we know it, Belgium, remains the centre of the fancy.
At present, there are 20,000 registered racing pigeon lofts in North America. In the past five years, interest in pigeon racing in this country has been growing. It is thought that this is mainly due to the popularity and escalating number of young bird futurities. This hobby has developed into a wholesome backyard sport in which the entire family can participate. The tendency toward enterprise and competition is nicely met by this trend in the hobby.