Skip to main content

The Belgian race pigeons

Today's most popular carrier or racing pigeon comes originally from Belgium. Crossbreds with different species at circa 1850 created the "Belgian racing pigeon". The pigeon racing sport has had a major influence on the development of the bird later on.

Already in the early 19th century races were organized in Li├Ęge, Ghent, Brussels, and Antwerp. After 1850, the carrier pigeon was introduced in northern France, later in the Netherlands, Germany, England, etc. In 1900, this Belgian pigeon with the corresponding racing sport spread virtually over the entire world. The sport is very simple. The pigeons are all taken to a distant location and are there released at the same time, the pigeon that returned the fastest to his home "dovecote" or "loft" wins the race.


Army's around the world made use of the Belgian pigeon since 1870. In the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) at the siege of Paris, the Belgian pigeons were used for the first time to send messages. Since then every army had seen the effect and the skills of the carrier pigeon. The German army established a military pigeon service with stations in different cities. The Russian army bought 5000 pigeons in Belgium. The French government had a pigeon station set up in Paris for 25 000 birds, while each corps received a detachment of 500 pigeons. During the first World War, the pigeons were the leading way of communication.


Some pigeons became hero's during and after the war, like "Cher Ami". On October 3, 1918, Major Charles White Whittlesey and more than 500 men were trapped in a small depression on the side of the hill behind enemy lines without food or ammunition. Only one pigeon was left: "Cher Ami". She was dispatched with a note in a canister on her left leg, As Cher Ami tried to fly back home, the Germans saw her rising out of the brush and opened fire. For several moments, Cher Ami flew with bullets zipping through the air all around her. Cher Ami was eventually shot down but managed to take flight again. She arrived back at her loft at division headquarters 25 miles to the rear in just 25 minutes, helping to save the lives of the remaining 194 survivors. In this last mission, Cher Ami delivered the message despite having been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, covered in blood, and with a leg hanging only by a tendon.

This is the message Cher Ami carried read: “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”


Cher Ami became the hero of the 77th Infantry Division. Army medics worked long and hard to save her life. They were unable to save her leg, so they carved a small wooden one for her. When she recovered enough to travel, the now one-legged bird was put on a boat to the United States. Cher Ami died less than a year later due to complications from her injuries. She was stuffed and is kept on display at the Smithsonian in Washington,



Today the pigeon racing sport is still popular in some places in Belgium, but it needs a fresh approach to survive the upcoming years. Not a lot of young generations and their pigeons enter the race.


Popular posts from this blog

Belgian kids got to drink beer during their school lunch

There are almost 800 different kinds of beer in Belgium. One kind was very popular till the70's, it was even given to kids at school during their lunch break. Beer to kids? You must be kidding! Well, let's go a bit further into this. The beers we are talking about were so-called table beers, a kind of beer that was specially made for people who can't drink alcohol. So it's was a kind of alcohol-free beer, a kind, because there was some alcohol in it. between 1 and 4 percent alcohol. The most popular table beer was Piedboeuf, it had 1.1 percent alcohol in it and there was a lot of sugar added to make it as sweet as Coca-Cola. A good marketing strategy made that it was well distributed in almost all schools in Belgium. The reason was that it would be very healthy for them, because of the natural ingredients and of course the sugar. It would make them grow fast and strong. It would even be good for pregnant women and for women that were breastfeeding their baby'

How the Belgians founded New York

In order to avoid any confusion in this story, it is important to know that in the sixteenth century, the Netherlands covered a part of northern France and Lorraine, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the present Netherlands. Its inhabitants were called the Belgians, and the maps represented the country in the shape of a lion: the "Leo Belgicus". Besides, numerous maps from the sixteenth century showed this territory under the name of Belgium. The latter failed into disuse for the benefit of the Netherlands and only reappeared in 1789 on the occasion of the first Belgian revolution. In 1831 Belgium became an independent country. Today Belgium is a lot smaller and is divided into two big regions mostly based on the language they speak in that particular region. In the north, there is Flanders where they speak Flemish (Dutch) and in the south, there is the Walloon part where they speak French. Almost in the center and between the two parts is the region of the capital Brussels.

A secret medieval street in Antwerp

The Vlaeykensgang is a unique small street in the center of Antwerp. Hidden between two busy Antwerp streets and close to the Cathedral. This medieval times street can easily be walked past unnoticed. Behind its meter-wide entrance, there is an oasis. A step into the passage with its quiet courtyards transports visitors back in time, back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Picture by Harry Fabel Previously, the street was the domain of shoemakers, who had to sound the alarm bell of the Cathedral, also some of the poorest people of the city lived in that very small street. Now you will find antique shops, art galleries, and an exclusive restaurant, Sir Anthony Van Dyck. There is a subdued atmosphere and the street is a popular place to listen to the cathedral's summer carillon concerts. At its heart, you find the Axel Vervoordt Gallery. Picture by Harry Fabel The "Vlaeykensgang" exists as a key piece of Antwerp’s architectural and sociological history, offering a