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Some people consider the pigeons a symbol of peace, others – the embodiment of The Holy Spirit, but most only see them simply as birds that litter the buildings’ fronts and statues. However, there are many people who have speculated the pigeons’ distinct sense of orientation and have decided to use this quality, even since ancient times, in order to facilitate their communication both during wartime or times of peace (Julius Reuters, the founder of the Reuters News Service press agency has started the business as a line of pigeon posts). Even if, in the past, only the noblemen could own pigeons, as years passed, increasingly more people have started to breed these birds, pigeonbreeding has become a sport. The modern racing pigeons were developped in Belgium, hence the first pigeon race was organised in this country in 1818.
According to their type, the competitions are classified as follows: speed contest – starting from 100 km and up, speed contest – middle distance– starting from 300 km and up, and where there are breeders with distances between 300 and 400 km, – middle distance contest – starting from 400 km and up, and where there are breeders with distances between 400 and 500 km, – middle distance – long distance contest – starting from 500 km and up, and where there are breeders with distances between 500 and 600 km, long distance contest – starting from 600 km and up, marathon contest – starting from 800 km and up. The competitional season lasts from the end of april until the beginning of august (for adult pigeons) and from the middle of august until the beginning of october for squeakers.
Transporting the pigeons to the launch site is accomplished in special automobiles, with a satellite GPS surveillance system. Before embarking the pigeons, the following operations are carried: receiving the pigeons from the owner, checking them (their serial number and health), passing them over the electronic embarking system, comparing the ring serial number with the serial number shown on the screen of the embarking system (the two must be identical), introducing the pigeons into the transportation vehicle, listing the electronic chart. The distance from the launch site to each fancier’s location is calculated by the National Program for ranking, based on the coordinates of the launch site, according to the satellite GPS surveillance system.
Depending on the flight distance, a race can last from a few hours up to a few days (in the case of speed contests, a pigeon can fly with an average speed of over 100 km/h; marathon contests are very exhausting, many of the launched pigeons never return home). At the return from the race, upon entering the cage, there is a hatch connected to an electronic clock. When a pigeon „lands” on this hatch, the identification number of the chip and the time of arrival are automatically registered, and based on this time, the rankings are going to be made. Feeding varies depending on the reproduction season, the shedding season, the resting and the competitions season.
The winners of the contests are granted diplomas, medals, bowls or cash awards. In Romania, the price of a racing pigeon oscillates between broad limits, starting from 50 RON up to 21,400 euro (the most expensive pigeon bought in Romania until the present). The most expensive racing pigeon in the world was purchased for 250,400 euro.