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The pigeon sport

The history of pigeon racing

The Registration

A short introduction into the pigeon sport

If you are not familiar with the pigeonsport, here is a short description:

When a young bird is born it gets a band for life. It is possible to give the young bird its band untill it is 7 days old. After that the leg is to big to put the band on. This also leads to the fact that when the band was given and the pigeons become older than 7 days it is impossible to remove the band.

The band
The band which is given to the pigeon is like a passport. Every band around the world contains the following information: Country of origin, year and unique serial number. To the band also belongs a ownershipscard with the same number so you can always prove that you are the owner of the pigeon.

When the pigeon is about 30 days old it will start to fly around the house and will fly miles away, but always returns!


Pigeon bands

At about 3 months it will be possible to bring the pigeon about 40 miles away, from where it will return to its home. Now it will be possible to start real races!

The pigeon fancier takes his birds to a club where he will meet other pigeon fanciers. In the club each pigeon becomes a rubber race ring. Where is is impossible to remove its identification band it will be very easy to remove the rubber race ring.

Now the pigeons will be taken to a place from 90 to 1200 km (young birds untill 500 km).

When the pigeon arrives at home the fancier takes the rubber ring of the pigeon and puts it in his pigeonclock. Now the time of arrival is stamped on a piece of paper or punctured into a dial.


Rubber race rings
To find out which pigeon has won the race the following data will be used:
The coordinates of the place where the pigeons where released
The coordinates of the place of arrival
The time of release
The time of arrival
The result will be in miles/minute, and the winner is the one with the most miles per minute.

A short introduction into the history of the pigeon sport


To understand why the pigeon clock was invented, hereby a piece of history.

The carrier pigeon was already known in ancient times and was a sign of peace.

Later people found out that a carrier pigeon always found its way back. Lots of money were earned by people like the famous banker Rothschild and mr. Reuter who used the pigeons to receive information before anyone else did.

In the beginning of the 18th century people found out that the racing pigeon could also be used for competition. We know that races already took place in 1806 and in the information I have I even found a flight from London to Antwerp in 1816. In those days the transportation was a matter of walkers. People with a small basket with pigeons on their back walked sometimes weeks to get to the place where the pigeons were released.

This got better when the trains came. With the trains it was possible to transport many pigeons over bigger distances which improved the popularity of the pigeon sport.

After WO1 many people started racing pigeon pigeons, probably caused by the achievements of the pigeons in the war. Many peoples lives were saved because of the messages the pigeons transported.

A short introduction into the registration of racing pigeons


In the beginning of the pigeon racing ara wingmarks were used. These marks were stamped onto the wings of the pigeons, giving them a unique mark.

When the pigeon arrived back home, the fancier took the bird to the club and showed the pigeon. The pigeon that was shown first was the winner. Simple as that. For the transportation of the pigeons, special pigeon bags were used. These could be carried in the hands or between the teeth.


Time registration with a normal clock, ca. 1880

When the sport gained in popularity this was no longer workable. It was also unfair, because fanciers who lived further had to walk further as well.

The next step was the use of the telegraph. People who lived further away could go to post office and telegraph the time to the club. Because there were no bands at these times, the still had to show the pigeons in the club.

Than, people started trying pocket watches with people who wrote the times down, but also industial time recorders were used.

The first one to build a timing apparatus especially for the pigeon sport was Emery Van den Bossche from Oudenaarde, Belgium. He made his first clock around 1885.

In the same period of time others also started producing clocks for the pigeon sport. Famous clocks from these times are the Remy and the Lejeune.


Pigeon carrying bag, ca. 1890
This was also the starting time from Toulet. Special on the Toulet clocks is that there construction didn't change much until the production stopped in 1972.

A big change took place in 1888 when Jean Rosoor from France invented the rubber race ring. Now the fanciers could leave there pigeons at home. All they had to do was bring the rubber race ring to the club.

Around 1900 the pigeon clock was still not accepted everywhere. In Belgium every club used one or more. In Germany practicly none. In England they started to accept the clocks, just as in Holland.

10 years later it was a different story, and pigeon clocks were used everywhere.

More and more fanciers now also had their own clock.

The next big change took place in 1993 when Diehl introduced an electronic timing system.

You will not find the electronic timing systems on this site. This site is dedicated to the mechanical pigeon timers only.


2010 Gerwin Basch