Online Encyclopedia

PIGEON POST

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V21, Page 597 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIGEON POST. The use of homing pigeons to carry messages is as old as Solomon, and the ancient Greeks, to whom the art of training the birds came probably from. the Persians, conveyed the names of Olympic victors to their various cities by this means. Before the electric telegraph this method of communication had a considerable vogue amongst stockbrokers and financiers. The Dutch government established a civil and military pigeon system in Java and Sumatra early in the loth century, the birds being obtained from Bagdad. Details of the employment of pigeons during the siege of Pans in 1870-71 will be found in the article POST AND POSTAL SERVICE: France. This led to a revival in the training of pigeons for military purposes. Numerous private societies were established for keeping pigeons of this class in all important European countries; and, in time, various governments established systems of communication for military purposes by pigeon post. When the possibility of using the birds between military fortresses had been thoroughly tested attention was turned to their use for naval purposes, to send messages between coast stations and ships at sea. They are also found of great use by news agencies and private individuals. Governments have in several countries established lofts of their own. Laws have been passed making the destruction of such pigeons a serious offence; premiums to stimulate efficiency have been offered to private societies, and rewards given for destruction of birds of prey. Pigeons have been used by newspapers to report yacht races, and some yachts have actually been fitted with lofts. It has also been found of great importance to establish registration of all birds. In order to hinder the efficiency of the systems of foreign countries, difficulties have been placed in the way of the importation of their birds for training, and in a few cases falcons have been specially trained to interrupt the service in war-time, the Germans having set the example by employing hawks against the Paris pigeons in 1870-71. No satisfactory method of protecting the weaker birds seems to have been evolved, though the Chinese formerly provided their pigeons with whistles and bells to scare away birds of prey. _ In view of the development of wireless telegraphy the modern tendency is to consider fortress warfare as the only sphere in which homing pigeons can be expected to render really valuable services. Consequently, the British Admiralty has discontinued its pigeon service, which had attained a high standard of efficiency, and other powers will no doubt follow the example. Nevertheless, large numbers of birds are, and will presumably continue to be, kept at the great inland fortresses of France, Germany and Russia. See L. de Puy de Podio, Die Brieftaube in der Kriegskunst (Leipzig, 1872); Brinckmeier, Anzucht, Pflege, and Dressur der Brieftauben (llmenau, 1891). PIGEON-SHOOTING, a form of sport consisting of shooting at live pigeons released from traps. The number of traps, which are six-sided boxes, falling flat open at the release of a spring, is usually five; these are arranged 5 yds. apart on the arc of a circle of which the shooter forms the centre. The distance (maximum) is 31 yds., handicapping being deter-mined by shortening the distance. The five traps are each connected by wires with a case (" the puller ") ; a single string pulled by a man stationed at the side of the shooter works anarrangement of springs and cog-wheels in the " puller," and lets fall one of the traps; it is impossible to know beforehand which trap will be released. At a fixed distance from the centre of the traps is a boundary within which the birds hit must fall if they are to count to the shooter. This line varies in distance in the various clubs; the National Gun Club boundary being 65 yds., that of the Monaco Club being only 20 yds. The charge of shot allowed must not exceed 11 oz. The best type of pigeon is the blue rock. From the start of the Hurlingham Club at Fulham in 1867 pigeon-shooting was a favourite sport there; it was, however, stopped in 1906. The principal pigeon-shooting centre in England is now at the National Gun Club grounds at Hendon. The great international competitions and sweepstakes take place at Monaco. An artificial bird of clay, now more usually of a composition of pitch, is often substituted for the live pigeon. These clay birds are also sprung from traps. This sport originated in the United States, where, under the name of " trap-shooting," or inanimate bird shooting, it is extremely popular. At first the traps invented threw the birds with too great regularity of curve; now the traps throw the birds at different and unknown angles, and the skill required is great. In clay-bird shooting the traps usually number fifteen, and are out of sight of the shooter. The Inanimate Bird Shooting Association in England was started in 1893.
End of Article: PIGEON POST
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