Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 221

Racing Pigeons


Hello Everyone



As you know, Bill and Bob have pet rabbits in their garden and Auntie Alice has lots of pets in her house.


Nowadays, all sorts of traditional and exotic pets are kept by people in their homes and back gardens.  Some of them are entered into competitions and are especially bred for the purpose.


One of the most popular of these is the racing pigeon.


My cousin Hamish has some pigeons in his back garden and he was telling me all about them last week when l went to visit him.


lt is fascinating to see how the birds can be let out of the back of his car a long way off and then find their way home.  He is training his pigeons to take part in a big race.


He told me about how racing pigeons live for about 20 years when they are well-looked-after and race for about 6-7 years.  Then they are kept for breeding.


Pigeon racing is a sport where specially bred and trained racing pigeons return home over a measured distance.  This special breed of pigeon is called the Racing Homer. 


The time they take is measured so that the pigeon’s rate of travel can be compared to all the other birds in the race.  The bird with the highest speed wins the race.  The birds can compete against birds from the same loft or from different lofts in various locations.


The race usually takes place over distances between 100 and 1,000 kilometres.


Pigeons were the first bird to be domesticated, and it is thought that pigeon racing could have taken place as early as nearly two thousand years ago!  The bird’s ability to find their way home is a natural ability, and people obviously noticed this and saw the opportunity to invent a new sport.


But there was an even more useful application for this ability – and that was to carry messages.  The birds would know how to get home and any message they were carrying would be delivered there.  These messenger pigeons were used mostly by the military, but also in more modern times by news agencies who gave information to newspapers.


When railways were invented, pigeons could be carried great distances at very little cost.  Pigeon racing is a sport of one starting line but many finishing lines.  The birds will always fly to their homes.


ln those days, timing clocks were used to give accurate readings of the birds’ flight times.  The birds would carry a band on their legs and when they returned to the loft, the owner would place the band in a special compartment in the clock.  When struck, the clock recorded the time and placed the band in a compartment that could only be opened by race officials so that no cheating could take place.


Nowadays, the Electronic Timing System is used.  The bird has a band on its leg with a tiny chip in it.  The electronic scanning records the bird’s arrival at the entrance to the loft automatically.  The owner does not have to be there to record its arrival.  Even though a race can be over hundreds of miles, a bird can win a race in just a fraction of a second.


ln 1886, some racing pigeons were presented as a gift to the Royal family and since then they have been breeding racing pigeons too.  A pigeon loft was set up on the Sandringham Estate.  The Queen’s loft manager now looks after them but the Queen is the patron to the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and takes a keen interest in her pigeons.


There are about 300 pigeons in the royal pigeon lofts at Sandringham.  They wear rings with ER on them and win many trophies each year.


There are some very old breeds kept there.


Some of the King’s pigeons were among the 250,000 pigeons that were conscripted during World War ll.  (To be conscripted means that you have to go and join the military.)


Each bomber and reconnaissance plane that flew out over enemy lines took 2 pigeons on board.  lf the plane’s radio was shot out or the plane itself was shot down, the pigeons could bring coded messages back home.  The birds saved thousands of lives by doing this.


Racing pigeons can fly up to 60 miles an hour and so it was actually a really efficient way to send messages.  They did not have to wait for a train, they did not look as though they were engaging in suspicious activities.


Royal Blue, one messenger, was awarded the Dicken Medal for Bravery.  (Of the just over 60 animals awarded this medal 32 of them were racing pigeons.)


Young birds are trained to race by their owners taking them away from their loft and releasing them – short distances at first and then longer and longer until the trainer is confident they are ready for racing.  This is what Hamish is doing at the moment.


Some trainers have secret methods to train their birds.  Hamish won’t tell me what his methods are.  l don’t think he has quite worked them out yet, that’s why! 


He does look after his birds very well though.  They have good food to eat and a little water bath so that they can relax their muscles.


Using the modern facility of GPS, pigeon movement can be tracked.  lt is possible to see which routes birds use on their way back home.


The birds have to be wary of many hazards when they fly.  They have to watch out for bad weather, falcons and electricity pylons.


So how are the pigeons able to find their way home?


lt is thought that racing pigeons rely on the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate over large distances.  They have biological devices in their heads to pick up this magnetic field. 


Their brains are different from ours.


Bill and Bob always manage to find their way home by dinner time too.


Their mum reckons their tummies tell them when the meal is going onto the table.


More birds next week…



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Thank you!


And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses




Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bill: What do you get when you cross a racing pigeon with a walking stick?


Bob: l don’t know.  What do you get when you cross a racing pigeon with a walking stick?


Bill: A hurry-cane!



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material from this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

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Picture Gallery


A pigeon


An old racing pigeon clock



Pigeons perching in an old tree


A pigeon looking for weed seeds


Seeds are a high-energy food


Who says you never see baby pigeons?










This week Bill, Bob and Henry went out with Mr Crackenthorpe and the rest of their Beaver Scout friends to practise their map-reading skills.

Mr Crackenthorpe told the boys that when you see the names of places on the map they can sometimes indicate what kind of terrain you will find there.



Of course Rocky Bay is built in a sea bay.

A coombe is a steep, narrow valley that does most probably not have a river in it, whilst a hurst is a wooded hill.

A heath is an area which has quite infertile soil and is characterized by having low, woody shrubs growing on it and moorland is similar but is on higher ground.

A common is an area of land that anyone can access to walk their dog or graze their pigs.  The word ‘common’ means for everyone.

A meadow is grass land that may be flooded for part of the year.  The word riparian means relating to a river and maritime relates to the sea.

A copse or a grove will probably be a very small wood.

A village is a small settlement with a church and a hamlet is a small settlement without one.  Villages are usually bigger than Hamlets.

They certainly learnt a lot that day – oh, and they didn’t get lost either.



It is not just pigeons and people that can find their way around.

This poppy seed managed to find a tiny place to grow!








Quick Quiz


What do the following words and expressions mean?


  1. Pigeon-hearted
  2. A pigeon hole
  3. Pigeon-livered
  4. Pigeon-toed
  5. To put the cat amongst the pigeons
  6. A pigeon fancier
  7. A dovecote






lt’s the Weekend!




This dress would look stunning in black and white but black is a difficult colour for a knitting newbie to use so you could use purple instead of black.



Using 4mm knitting needles and rich purple dk yarn cast on 25 stitches

Knit 32 rows of garter stitch

Cast off

Sew up back seam using over-sew stitching



Using 4mm knitting needles and purple dk yarn cast on 40 stitches

Knit 8 rows of garter stitch


Change to white yarn

Knit 14 rows of stocking stitch

Knit 4 rows of garter stitch

Cast off



Sew up back seam of bodice and of skirt

Crochet 70 chains into a length of yarn and thread this cord between the lines of garter stitch at the top of the skirt



Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand



Quick Quiz Answers


  1. Pigeon-hearted – timid
  2. A pigeon hole – a division in a desk or case for holding papers (as well as a hole that a pigeon can use to gain entry to their nesting box)
  3. Pigeon-livered – having a mild temper
  4. Pigeon-toed – the front of the feet pointing inwards
  5. To put the cat amongst the pigeons – to create havoc
  6. A pigeon fancier – a person who keeps and probably breeds pigeons
  7. A dovecote – a structure to house doves and pigeons – it is usually quite round in shape and positioned high up on a pole – there are individual compartments inside for the birds to have individual dwellings



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