The history of pigeons as message carriers goes back more than 5,000 years.
However, none of the various types of pigeons used as the early message carriers were capable of flights much farther than about 40 miles. By 1819, the homing pigeon was developed to sufficiently fly 200 miles in a day at a time when the principle mode of travel was either by foot or horse.
For centuries, because homing pigeons were the fastest and most reliable means of communication, leading newspapers of many countries used them to carry news of importance. In the early 19th century, homing pigeons were used in many Belgian cities to bring news of the stock exchange quotations from London across the English Channel.
Homing pigeons were often used to bring back results of battles and to carry vital messages. One U.S. homing pigeon called "G.I. Joe" was awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery by saving more than 1,000 British soldiers during World War II. "G.I. Joe" is the only bird or animal in the United States to be given this high award.
The racing of homing pigeons is made possible by the birds' uncanny ability to find home and by its desire to return to its home as quickly as possible over unfamiliar territory hundreds of miles away. Scientists have yet to totally unlock the mystery of this homing mechanism.
(Source: The American Racing Pigeon Union Inc.)
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