Belgium is regarded as the home of pigeon racing, with approximately 60,000 pigeon fanciers in a population of 10 million.
In a standard race, as many as 5,000 tagged pigeons are transported to a single location and released.
When the pigeon arrives home his owner removes the tag and gets it time-stamped by a sealed timing device, designed so that it cannot be tampered with.
Homing pigeons have a long and distinguished history. In 1815, a pigeon belonging to the financier Nathan Rothschild carried the news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo to London.
A homing pigeon belonging to the US Army Signal Corps in 1918 was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. The bird, named Cher Ami, is currently mounted in the Smithsonian’s Price of Freedom exhibit in the US.
According to Tucker Daniel, and his fellow enthusiast Kevin Barry, some pigeon fanciers of note include footballer Duncan Ferguson, actor Paul Newman and boxer Mike Tyson. (Iron Mike? Really?) For more information see www.racingpigeon.ie or www.isrf.ie
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