Racing pigeons are descended from the Rock Dove, and the earliest recorded reference to the use of messenger pigeons comes from Ramses III (c1200 BC) when they were used to convey news between cities regarding the flood state of the Nile.
The Romans used pigeons to convey messages throughout the empire, for example Olympic games results for betting syndicates, and ships warning their home port of their imminent arrival.
Carrier pigeons were held in very high esteem in the Arab world, and were called “The Kings Angels”, and in medieval times pigeons were brought back to Europe by the Crusaders.
In the 1800’s there was an official pigeon postal service throughout France, and this was expanded between capitals so that a postal service by carrier pigeon between London and Paris was advertised in 1870.
The British royal family began to keep pigeons in the late nineteenth century, and pigeon racing became a sport of the masses in the early 1900’s. Pigeons were used extensively as message carriers by armies on both sides during World War 1 and World War 2. (See our separate pages on the Royal Connection and Pigeons in War and Dickin Medal winners.)
A video presentation of the evolution of pigeons and their use throughout history is available to view here, and What Price Our Heritage? is a study of pigeon history by former RPRA General Manager, Peter Bryant.