Coun­try Mouse

Help for he­roes

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

ARACING pi­geon ar­rived on our doorstep and pro­ceeded to stay for the next cou­ple of days. Won­der­ing what to do, I con­sulted the Royal Pi­geon Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion web­site and, af­ter I put out some crushed corn­flakes (never bread) and a bowl of wa­ter, the bird stayed for an­other day and then dis­ap­peared, hope­fully to its home loft.

I also learned that rac­ing pi­geons are de­scended from rock doves and that their first recorded ref­er­ence to mes­sen­ger pi­geons comes from the reign of Ram­ses III (about 1200BC), when they were used to con­vey news of the state of the Nile flood. The Ro­mans used them to re­lay sport­ing re­sults for bet­ting pur­poses and, by 1870, there was a postal ser­vice be­tween Lon­don and Paris.

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War about 250,000 birds were used by the RAF and Army. Once, af­ter the Bri­tish had taken a town in Italy, but with ra­dio con­tact bro­ken, one pi­geon, GI Joe, saved thou­sand of Bri­tish lives by fly­ing back home at a mile a minute, just in time to call off a bomb­ing raid on our troops by the Air Force of the USA.

I’m glad my corn­flakes did a lit­tle good for a species that has served us so well. MH

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