Robert's Thoughts

Comments (2) / April 30, 2024

Back from my recent trip to Budapest, I called my buddy, Viziló, in Toronto to report on the recent major architectural happenings in the Hungarian capital. (Viziló means ‘hippopotamus’ in Hungarian and was my childhood buddy’s nickname because his family name ‘Jonas’ was identical to that of a highly popular resident of the Budapest Zoo – the hippopotamus.)

“Remember the sand-box in which we played with our marbles in the summer of 1943?” I asked.

“Sure do. It was at the City Park entrance, in front of the building with the pigeons.”

“Well…, all that’s gone: the nearby big church, the building with the pigeons, the sand-box… The plan is to build museums on the land.  Frankly, I never understood why so many pigeons kept buzzing around us all the time while we were playing there.”

Viziló chuckled. ”So you didn’t know that the building was the Headquarters of the Hungarian Military Pigeon Service?”

“No idea! I never knew such a thing existed.” I hated coming off as an ignoramus. So I decided to read up on the matter.

* * *

Homing pigeons can return to their original loft from hundreds of miles away.  Why and how they do this nobody knows. Naturally, Homo Sapiens soon found ways to exploit this talent to its advantage.

A B-type bus from London converted into a pigeon loft for use in northern France and Belgium during World War I.

Homing pigeons were potentially being used for pigeon post in Ancient Egypt by 1350 BCE. Messages were tied around the legs of the pigeon, which was freed and could reach its original nest. The Roman Pliny the Elder described pigeons used in a similar fashion as military messengers around the first century BCE. By the 19th century homing pigeons were used extensively for military communications.

In 1818, a great pigeon race, called the Cannonball Run, took place at Brussels. In 1860 Paul Reuter, who later founded Reuters press agency, used a fleet of over 45 pigeons to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen, the terminus of early telegraph lines. During the Franco-Prussian War pigeons were used to carry mail between besieged Paris and the French unoccupied territory. In December 1870, it took ten hours for a pigeon carrying microfilm to fly from Perpignan to Brussels.

Dispatching a message by carrier pigeon by the Swiss Army during World War I.

Historically, pigeons carried messages only one way, to their home. They had to be transported manually before another flight. However, by placing their food at one location and their home at another, pigeons have been trained to fly back and forth up to twice a day reliably, covering round-trip flights up to 160 km (100 mi). Their reliability has lent itself to occasional use on mail routes, such as the Great Barrier Pigeon-Gram Service established between the Auckland, New Zealand, suburb of Newton and Great Barrier Island in November 1897, possibly the first regular air mail service in the world. The world’s first “airmail” stamps were issued for the Great Barrier Pigeon-Gram Service from 1898 to 1908. In the 19th century, newspapers sometimes used carrier pigeons. To get news from Europe quicker, some New York City newspapers used carrier pigeons. The distance from Europe to Halifax, Nova Scotia, is relatively short. So reporters stationed themselves in Halifax, wrote the information received from incoming ships, and put the messages in capsules attached to the legs of homing pigeons. The birds would then fly to New York City where the information would be published.

Crewman of an RAF Bomber with homing pigeons nestled in niches as a means of emergency communications in the event of a crash, ditching, or radio failure.

Homing pigeons were still employed in the 21st century by certain remote police departments in Odisha state in eastern India to provide emergency communication services. In March 2002, it was announced that India’s Police Pigeon Service messenger system in Odisha was to be retired, due to the expanded use of the Internet.

The Taliban banned the keeping or use of pigeons, including racing pigeons, in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

To this day, pigeons are still entered into competitions and a homing pigeon with a good pedigree sells for between two and three-thousand US Dollars. (Wkipedia)

2 Responses to :

  1. hogyha minden sohajtasom galambszarnyon repulne…galambok kozt mehetnek a vasarnapi misere

  2. janice says:

    Clearly, you have no fear, Robert, of being pigeonholed!

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