History of racing pigeons

" A true fancier is the one who`s birds are always on top, whether they race under his management or somebody elses generation after generation,a true fancier is the one who love competitions and speak highly about his competitors ...Above all ,a true fancier is the one who teach others into the sport and gladly talk about his winning ways "

Dacian Busecan.

Pigeons are the oldest domesticated bird. The predecessors of modern day racing pigeons were pigeons bred for their homing ability, primarily to carry messages. "Racing Pigeon Posts" have been established all over the world and while mainly used in the millitary, some are still in service today. Modern pigeon racing originated in Belgium in the mid 19th century.

The importance of homing pigeons in the centuries before electronic communications, such as the telegraph and telephone, is seldom recognized. However the Reuters News Agency, the world's largest information provider, began as a pigeon service carrying closing stock prices between Belgium and Germany, basically between the Western and Eastern terminus of the telegraph in Europe. Also the use of homing pigeons by Financier Nathan Rothschild to gain advance news of Napoleon's unexpected defeat at Waterloo is thought to have led to a fortune being made in the bond market of the day.

The history of the racing pigeons goes back in time a very long way ,nearly 3500 years ago .

Experts on pre-historic remains have discovered records wich provide us with concrete proof of the high regard in wich pigeons were held by the ancient races of the Middle East .

They were well aware of the ability of the pigeon to find its way home over strange terrain and different locations . Pliny the roman historian states that pigeons were successfully used as messengers

around the year 43 BC at the siege of Mutina ,we know that Julius Caesar used them in this way during his conquest of Gaul .

Another point in history when the racing pigeons were mentioned were the Crusades ,the efficiency of the Saracen pigeon service caused trouble for Richard the Lion Heart who was frequently surprised by the speed with which the enemy were informed and updated about his troops movements.

At the siege of Leyden in 1574 the Dutch are known to have used pigeons informing the besieged that help was coming to withstand the fierce onslaughts of the Spaniards, this episode of history was very well described by the well known writer Alexandre Dumas in his full of action book The Black Tulip.

During the siege of Venice in 1849 and the siege of Paris in 1870-1871 ,during the Franco-Prussian War

pigeons were used to deliver messages and letters from outside the walls of Paris to the besieged within .Over i million messages were sent using the pigeon service .

From this time the military services in Europe began to realize the fantastic importance of pigeons in time of war and records show that the Germans were the first to establish a wide range of military pigeon posts around the year 1887.

In the First and Second World War many lives were saved and extremely important messages were sent through the pigeon services .Such messages were contained in tubed capsule attached to the pigeons leg or concealed in a gelatine- covered capsule which was sliped down its gullet and into its crop ,where it remained until it was safely delivered at signal headquarter .

Racing Pigeons taking part on these dangerous missions were supplied by civilian lofts co-opted by the War Office into National Pigeon Services ,and although many people don t realize we owe a great deal of respect to the racing pigeons for their magnificent job they ve done through the history

Each succeding war since the Franco-Prussian has seen a considerable increase in the growth and popularity of racing pigeons .Many famous notabilities have been enthusiastic pigeon fanciers and the Britain s Royal Family has not been immune to the sport .

King Edward Vll was a keen racing pigeon fancier and for that we thank him deeply . King George V was also a racing pigeon fancier ,he took a keen interest in the Royal Lofts and donated trophies competed annually in Great Britain in the Kings cup race s allready mentioned .

In those early days of the sport ther Duke of York later King George V,was very keen and in 1893 expresed a desire to start a loft but was obliged for constitutional and family reason to race his pigeons in the name of the local schoolmaster ,the late J.Walter Jones .

King George V also awarded the O.B.E yo the late Colonel Osman whose name became world famous as a result of the magnificent work done by him during the First World War in the Army Pigeon Service.

The Dickin Medal was awarded for any animal displaying conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during World War II and its aftermath. Of the 53 Dickin Medals presented, 32 went to pigeons.

The founder of the People s Dispensary for Sick Animals Mrs Maria Dickin, instituted the award, popularly referred to as the ‘Animal VC’, and was made only upon official recommendation and was exclusive to the animal kingdom.


The Americas

United States

The sport was introduced into the United States about 1875, although regular racing did not begin until 1878.

The sport of pigeon racing is well established in the US, and growing. According to the American Racing Pigeon Union, one of two large accrediting groups, there are 15,000 registered lofts in the U.S. Although the sport is banned in Chicago it was popular throughout the twentieth century in the New York area, particularly Hoboken New Jersey and Coney Island, where it still has devotees. Shady Hills ,Florida is home to a pigeon racing club and hosts an annual racing event.


The sport of pigeon racing has increased in Canada with Pigeon Clubs and Ladies Auxiliary popping up in cities and towns. CRPU - The Canadian Racing Pigeon Union is an organization that is dedicated to the Growth, Preservation and Support of Pigeon Racing in Canada.


The "Brazilian Pigeon Racing Grandprix" is the biggest pigeon race in South America. The Sergipe's Pigeon Racing Association and the government from Aracaju City, organizes this event.


Pigeon racing is becoming increasingly popular in parts of Asia, especially China, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Bangladesh. Its popularity in India is now on a rise, and youngsters are particularly involved in this hobby, especially in places like Chennai, Bangalore,Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Tuticorin. In Bangladesh there are three pigeon racing associations which are looking after the sport and are organizing many races. There are thousands of registered pigeon fanciers in Bangladesh and more people are getting involved in this sport.

Clubs in Chennai, India holds the record of long distance races of up to 1300 miles(2100 km) mark in India.

Taiwan has more racing pigeon events than any other country in the world, and can point to between 2 and 3 million birds. Nearly 500,000 people race pigeons on the island, and each year, prize money for races reaches the billions of NT dollars.



The largest Racing Organisation in Australia is the Central Cumberland Federation.

In Australia, velocities are recorded in meters per minute. The state of Queensland also has a number of clubs and organisations. The biggest of these is the Qld Racing Pigeon Federation Inc (QRPF). Located in Brisbane, the QRPF has a long history dating back to the second world war. Each year the QRPF organises pigeon races for its some 80 members. These races start at approximately 145 km in distance and continue on a gradual basis out to distances of over 1000 km. A specialised transporter is used to transport the birds to the release points. This transporter enables the birds to be fed and watered on route before mass release at a predetermined time for their flight back to various home lofts. Many thousands of pigeons compete in races each weekend during the winter months...

An innovative new One Loft Race is the Australian Pigeon Punt Race held in Victoria,Australia.

The sport of pigeon racing has been declining around Sydney with pigeon club members gradually dying off as fewer younger people take up the sport. The high cost of feeds and fuel have also contributed to the decline.



The first regular races in Great Britain was in 1881. The British Royal Family first became involved with pigeon racing in 1886 when King Leopold ll of Belgium gifted them breeding stock. The tradition continues to this day, with a bird of Queen Elizabeth II even winning a race in 1990.The sport is declining in the UK with membership of recognized clubs and federations falling by about five per cent annually.

The National Flying Club is a British pigeon racing club, and open to anyone in England and Wales.

In the United Kingdom Pigeon Racing is regulated by 6 independent organisations.

  • Irish Homing Union (IHU)

  • North of England Homing Union (NEHU)

  • North West Homing Union (NWHU)

  • Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA)

  • Scottish Homing Union (SHU)

  • Welsh Homing Union (WPHU)

In 2007 the British Parliament banned pigeons racing from the mainland of continental Europe to Britain because of the risk of bird flu.A British MP is supporting fanciers to have the ban lifted. Labour's MEP Brian Simpson, from Golborne, believes that it is unfair to allow concerns about avian flu to throttle the fanciers' sport.Mr Simpson said, "But what is clearly apparent now is that pigeon are low-risk in regards to avian flu and the decision to ban continental pigeon racing was wrong."


The Janssen Brothers (Louis, Charel, Arjaan and Sjef) are a famous and very successful pigeon racing family from Arendonk Belgium.

Louis Janssen, born 1912, is the last of the Janssen Brothers still alive.

Descendants of their pigeons can be found racing all around the world.

Another famous and successful pigeon fancier is Karel Meulemans. Karel, born in Retie, also lives in Arendonk As often occurs in smaller communities there is much competition between the families Meulemans and Janssen.


Pigeon racing in Romania is one of Europe's hot spots in the sport. Many pigeon breeders join the (FCPR) National Association every year, triggering more and more competitive challenges. Another aspect is the image that has changed in the last decade in regards of pigeon racing, since nowadays it stands for a fine art within the country, with high prizes and bets. A high collaboration with pigeon fanciers from Belgium, Holland, Germany and so forth is also observed.

In the recent years FCPR which is the national association, is organizing a national race with a release point from Berlin ,in which more than 10000 pigeons from all over the country are send ,pigeons sent on this racewill have to fly a distance of over 1300 km for the fanciers located in the south of the country .


The sport is popular in Turkey. In May 2008 a nine part, 1,150-kilometer pigeon race from the town of Manisa to Erzurum was organized with participants from many pigeon associations across the country.


The sport is very popular in Hungary ,these fanciers even organizing extreme long distance races from Barcelona within the Panon Marathon Club ,their pigeons will have to fly a distance of 1300 km


South Africa

South Africa is the home of the richest One-Loft Race in the world, the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race. The Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race pits 4,300 birds from 25 countries against each other for a share of $1.3m in prize money. The runners-up win cars and smaller monetary prizes, while the overall winner can expect to pocket US$200,000. Sun City's "one-loft" race, sees birds from across the world air-freighted to South Africa as squabs, months before the race, and trained to orientate to a single loft. Then on race day, after being released 550 km out on the South African veldt, the birds all race back to the same destination.

Brought to you by Dacian Busecan

back to top next >