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Famous Pigeon Fanciers

Here is a selection of famous people who have kept pigeons, courtesy of Lee Fribbins:

Noah – may not have raced pigeons because of the lack of competitors, but we know he raised them

Roy Rogers – his pigeons may have helped inspire “Happy Trails”

King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II – The royal lofts are still being maintained today with Golden Jubilee One Loft Race and a website

Elvis Presley – The King of Rock n’ Roll

Ray Price – country singer; still maintains birds in East Texas

Mike Tyson – World Heavyweight Boxing Champion; Flights Rollers and Clean Leg Tumblers: at one time belonged to the Eastern Tumbler Club. Still has a mixed stock of many kinds of pigeons.

Terry Bradshaw – Champion quarter back, four times in Super Bowl for Pittsburgh Steelers. Now a Sports Commentator.

Marlon Brando – actor

Yul Bryner – actor: kept several fancy breeds including Oriental Rollers at his home in France.

Tony Curtis – actor

Charles Darwin – Scientist and Author whose writings include ” On the Origin of Species (1859), The Descent Of Man (1871), The Voyage Of The Beagle (1909)” and a “A variety of plants and animals under domestication”. Together with Wallace, offered the theory of evolution. Darwin kept all kinds of breeds and showed us that all breeds can be traced to Columba Livia, the wild rock dove. He had a loft with a variety of fancy breeds which he used to experiment and develop his hypothesis of “Theory of Domestication” using selective breeding techniques. He was an active member of some London pigeon clubs, and reference to his pigeons and his scientific results is published and available on-line.

Andy Devine – actor, in the same racing pigeon club as Roy Rogers.

Walt Disney – Famous for his “white” birds. They were some of the original Belgian Pletinckx of the early ’60’s. They are reportedly beautiful, very fast, and cross well with other strains including Stassarts, Devriendts, and Janssens. The lofts are still maintained at Disneyland in Southern California (Anaheim) and the birds are still flown & displayed. The lofts there are reported to be part of the park’s original architecture. The loft at Disney World is on the property. There are also lofts at Disney World in Florida although here the lofts and birds are maintained by a fancier who lives a short distance from the park. The California State Racing Pigeon Organization has a flying award (The Disney award) that was originally sponsored by him or started in his honor. Walt Disney was awarded the NPA Levi Service Award for the movie “Pigeon Fly Home”. NOTE: The Walt Disney World loft was ALWAYS located on property and maintained by Disney employees, but it was closed down about two years ago due to hawks.

George Foreman – World Heavyweight Boxing Champion was very interested in racing pigeons and did get some from George Girdler in Texas.

Willi Brandt –  former German Chancellor, was a keen pigeon fancier. As a Socialist (Social Democrat) he had to flee Germany under the Nazis and did so by going to Norway. After the war he returned to Germany, eventually became mayor of Berlin and ultimately the first Social Democrat Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Marvelous Marvin Hagler – World Boxing Champion: Rollers? Our informant states “Back in the 70s, I attended a pigeon show at Joe Curran’s House in Worcester, Massachusetts, where I met a young man, named Marvin who was supposed to be an up and coming boxer. Years later, I was told that Marvin mentioned his love for pigeons in an interview”.

Michael Landon – actor, produced and starred in the movie “Where Pigeons Go to Die”, also starring Art Carney. The film was mostly made in Kansas where they contacted Bill Bonwell, who was then AU Legal Advisor. Mr Bonwell and the racing fanciers in Kansas supplied most of the pigeons for the movie. At the same time Jim Jenner was in the process of producing “Marathon in the Sky” and Bonwell put Landon & Jenner in contact with each other. Jenner loaned Landon the aerial pigeon shots in exchange for Landon narrating “Marathon in the Sky”. He is reported to have been a very avid fancier and flyer.

Alan Jordaan –  Manager of the South African Cricket Team; Racing Homers.

Gypsy Rose Lee – Queen of Strippers; she kept Fantails.

Irene Brown – who keeps Homers and Danzig Highfliers. She’s famous for her studies upon pigeons; Cornell University, NY, USA.

Lee Marvin – actor

Willie Mays – baseball player. I don’t know if Willie had, or has pigeons, but he appeared in ad that ran in the Pigeon Debut, for the Flight Club around the New York City area.

Claude Monet – artist

Wayne Newton – actor, or as he is called in Las Vegas, ‘ Mr Las Vegas’. A famous American entertainer that had pigeons as a boy. He had homers, rollers, tumblers and high flyers.

Pablo Picasso – artist who kept Fantails. Picasso loved pigeons so much that he named his daughter Paloma, which means pigeon in Spanish. Picasso’s father also kept pigeons and specialized in painting the same.

Johnny Otis – jazz and blues musician of California. Johnny was a jazz/rhythm and blues musician, who, along with other musicians of his era, was credited with developing the beginnings of rock n’ roll. Johnny bred Saxon Fairy Swallows (Wing Pigeons) and had strong ties with Southern California Color Pigeon breeders such as Bill Griebel and Leon Stephens.

Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward – may have been more involved, but didn’t like the autograph hounds, at the one show they attended they were “swamped” by fans in the showroom. Ms Woodward was very interested in pigeon racing and competition, but this incident turned them off.

Clint Eastwood – actor; at least there was a Clint Eastwood that raised rollers (maybe still does) but there is some question as to whether this is the same one as of Dirty Harry Fame.

Scott Baio – actor, played in TV Show ‘Happy Days’ and many others over the years. He had flying Flights in Brooklyn with his dad.

Bles Bridges – the most well known Afrikaans singer in South Africa owned some great Stichelbauts (Racing Homers).

Nicola Tesla – American electricity pioneer, he designed the hydro-electric plant at Niagara Falls for Westinghouse. Our informant says “I don’t think he raised or bred them, but I know he loved pigeons. He was kicked out of a few high brow Hotels for that, he would bring in injured birds and try to rehab them in the room. There are a number of references in the books on this marvelous man. Anyway he was definitely a pigeon fancier.”

Maurizo Gucci – Italian fashion designer. His products are sold in the most upscale stores in the world. He is also a fancier of show pigeons who is on record as having paid more than $10,000 for an American bird.

Jimmy Smits – actor, US TV show NYPD Blues. He is also reputed to have narrated the second video on pigeons produced by Jenner “our oldest feathered friend”. He made an appearance at the NPA National this year. Racing Homers is his game.

Sir Gordon Richards – British flat racing Champion Jockey 26 times.

Bill Lawry – Australian cricket captain and one of the world’s top cricket commentators still races his birds in Victoria, Australia

Bob Guilteon – a Davis cup tennis player. His birds were sought world-wide, and bred the champion bird of Taiwan a couple of years ago

The Sultan of Jahore

The King of Belgium – and his family

President Mitterand of France – or his brother – raced

Andy Capp – famous cartoon character

Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, Consort of Queen Juliana and father of Queen Beatrix. Prince Bernhard had his own loft with pigeons which were raced during the season and also very often showed up at racing pigeon shows. The loft had a special proprietary card with a little crown on it which showed that that was a pigeon from the royal loft; these were often sold on charity exhibitions in the Netherlands.

Prof Herbst  – A racehorse owner, won the biggest and most prestigious horse race in Africa (the Durban July) with his horse Classic Flag.

Dr Willard F Hollander –  expert on the genetic make-up of pigeons.

Gerald Durrell – English naturalist and founder of the Jersey Wildlife Fund, who rescued the Pink pigeon from near extinction. Perhaps best known as the author of ‘My Family and Other Animals’.

Jeff Fenech – (World Champion Boxer). Purchased Rollers from Sydney Performing Roller Club … Our informant believes his son raises them.

Virginia Graham – US talk show host years ago. Breed unknown.

Karl Hagenbeck – who kept all kinds of breeds at his zoo in Hamburg, Germany. Hagenbeck was the first or among the first to do away with cages at his zoo, using moats instead.

Boet Troskie – Famous for the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”.

Suleiman the Magnificent –  who kept fancy breeds at his palace in Instanbul, Turkey.

Alexander Alexandrovich Romanova III – the Batiushka-Tsar of Russia kept his pigeons in a house like a small palace at Gatchina until his sad and surprising death in the Crimea in 1894. These pigeons were named “Ostanski Golubi” and “Pokrovski” that he acquired from his brother Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich Romanova after watching them fly as the young Tsarevich at Tsarskoe Selo.

The Counts Orloff –  of the early part of 20th Century Russia. They imported rare(r) breeds of pigeons from the Middle East and parts of the Russian empire and are credited for having “maintained” them.

Samuel Pepys – Diarist and one of the most important naval administrators in England’s history.

Senator Hilaire La Haye, Secretary to the Belgium Govt, he named his birds after prominent members of the Belgium Govt. Gifted his gold ring of Belgium ‘Monsieur Spaak’ to Marcel Desmet in the early 1970’s.

Gerry Francis – former QPR and England footballer, and keen pigeon fancier.

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