Ibiza is to stage the World Racing Pigeon
Grand Prix next year.
It is a big honour and comes after some
notable successes by breeders from the island.
"Columbophilia" also "Peristeraphilia"
or "Colombofilia" in Spanish, is a word made up
of "Columbas" (Latin for pigeon) and "Philos"
(Greek for lover).
It is about the art, the science and the
rules to develop and increase the natural capacity of orientation
and the flying resistance of the pigeon.
This word is only used for the "fanciers"
who nurse and train the messenger or racing pigeon. They are
"Columbophilos", a special name that distinguishes
them from those who just nurse and keep any pigeon in general.
Men throughout history have used different
kinds of messenger pigeons. It was probably a pigeon that
flew back to Noah's Ark with a green olive tree branch in
its beak (though it is a white dove that is nowadays recognised
as the peace symbol).
The Egyptian pharaohs used them five thousand
years ago to communicate with their vast empire. The Greeks
used pigeons to communicate the names of the Olympic Games
champions to all their cities. The Romans legions took them
through France, Great Britain, Spain, North Africa, the Middle
East, etc., leaving a few in every setting and camp, so their
information could reach Rome in a matter of hours, when it
would take days or even weeks by any other way.
There are historical records of Marc Anthony
using them in the battle of Módena in the year 43 BC.
But it was as early as 1171 BC when Malik el Adel Nour-Eddyn
Mahmoud, Sultan of Alepo and Egypt, was considered to be the
creator of the first regular airmail post.
Since then, messenger pigeons have been
involved in most wars and historical events in this part of
the world and also used as a regular post service in the Middle
East cities. In the year 1280, in Cairo, there were more then
two thousand messenger pigeons maintaining regular communication
with Alexandria, Damieta, and Gaza and from there to Damascus,
Jerusalem and Baghdad. They were also used by the Arabs to
battle with the Crusaders and against the Christians in Mainland
In the Flanders wars of the sixteen century,
in the siege of Paris in 1594, in the French Revolution, etc.
History is full of citations and anecdotes about the very
important role that messenger pigeons have been involved with.
But not only for war: sailors and merchants
of any epoch sent pigeons in advance to announce their arrival.
In 1815, after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, a messenger
pigeon brought this news to Mr. Rothschild in London, fifty
hours before the British government knew it. This was enough
time for him to buy a big amount of public options, very cheaply
because of the war and to make one of the biggest fortunes
of the first half of the nineteenth century.
When the telegraph was invented, it looked
like it was the end for the services of the messenger pigeon.
But again when Paris was besieged in 1870, pigeon power was
the only way that the Parisians could communicate with the
rest of the country and over 60,000 messages were sent by
them. This was also the first time that microphotography was
used to reduce the size of the messages.
In World War One, there were over 30,000
messenger pigeons in the French army. One of them was called
"Cher ami" and passed into history. This "Dear
Friend" (this is what its French name means) was a really
good friend to an American battalion trapped in between two
fires and being bombed by error with their own guns. There
was no radio or telephone available, so, the battalion commander
sent this pigeon with the message to cease fire and the right
situation of the enemy. The poor bird was wounded by the enemy
fire, it was bleeding, almost dead when it reached the allied
lines, the message in a little tube hanging from its broken
leg, but a lot of American lives were saved by its action.
In World War Two, there were so many services
and actions done by this amazing bird, that we would need
a thick book to mention only part of them. They were sent
with parachutes from planes flying very high, in special cages
that opened automatically with a little explosion when they
were two hundred metres above ground. Some were released from
the seabed by submarines in special capsules, driving in special
lorries in all the battle fronts, flaying day and night, with
strong winds, snow, rain or fog, like the "Pony Express"
etc. Only from England more then 17,000 were sent to the enemy
territory and to the French resistance, 1,700 of them came
back. These birds were trained since 1941 in great secrecy
somewhere in England by British "columbophilos".
One of these birds called "William of Ornare" flew
from Arnhem (Holland) 260 miles in four hours and twenty-five
minutes in a special message mission.
There are about three hundred species of
the "Columba" family in the world. In Europe, three
of the wild species are the most important, "Columba
palumbus" the biggest of them, "Columba oenas"
a little bit smaller and "Columba livia" of the
same size as the one before, also the one to adapt itself
better to life in the cities.
The actual racing pigeon, the Belgian pigeon,
because it was created in Belgium, is a relatively new species.
The first news we have of them is around 1815. Five years
later there are already records of pigeon racing. No-one is
one hundred per cent sure of its origins; its creators never
told their secrets, most probably quite a few mixtures had
to be done to get where we are, but we know that all domestic
pigeons come originally from the wild European "Columba
Before then there were several species used
as "messengers" being created in Belgium, the wild
and very well built "Bizet" is the ancestor of a
good number of the actual domestic pigeons, the "Culbutants"
almost extinguished today, the "Gravates" smaller
and very fast, the "Camus" completely disappeared
at present time, the "Persian messenger" and the
"English carrier". Most probably all these species
were used to create the "Liege pigeon" of small
size, rounded head, short beak, fast and persistent, and the
"Antwerp pigeon" bigger, more resistant and stronger.
From these two races, mixed together, the actual racing pigeon
was created, the "Gantt pigeon" of about 500 grams
for the male and 450 grams for the female.
When a good "columbophilo" breeds
a real champion, he forms his own stock, and his new pigeons
will be called after his name, so we have the Hansenne stock
(he was considered the first "King of the Columbophilos"),
the Janssens stock, the Vanschingem stock, the Speder stock,
Therefore the actual racing pigeons and
the modern competition, can be considered a Belgian creation,
where this art-science-sport can be considered too as the
National sport, with more then 160,000 licences for "columbophilos"
in actual times.
In Spain, the first club or society of "Columbophilia"
was founded in Barcelona, "Sociedad Colombofila de Catalunya"
in the year 1890, with Diego de la Llave as president. The
army, the commandant Pedro Vives y Vich, as president of it,
a real pigeon expert, in 1894 founded the Spanish columbophilos
federation "Federación Colombofila Española".
"Sociedad Colombofila de Mallorca" in 1899 was the
first in the Balearic Islands. In Ibiza in 1928, "Sociedad
Colombofila Mensajera La Ibicenca" was the fifth of the
Balearic clubs to be founded. Two new ones have been founded
in this Island since then. In following weeks we shall be
proud to present them to you.
Racing Pigeons have a very special relevance
and a relative old tradition in the Balearic Islands. Joan
Torres Roselló, (Tarba) Joan Prats Ferrer, both from
the "Sociedad Colombofila Portmany" of Sant Antoni
(Eivissa) have been Spanish champions in some of the categories,
Prats Ferrer is the actual Spanish champion, Ramón
Palau Serra from "Club Colombofilo Eivissa" was
third in a World championship celebrated in Mexico, his pigeons
have also contributed to win an International tittle for Spain,
as well as several National titles and plenty of other important
awards. Within the following editions we shall explain all
about the different categories and championships.
This very well gained reputation brought
the chance and the honour of celebrating the next Racing Pigeon
World Grand Prix 2002 here, in the island of Eivissa (local
name for Ibiza). I am sure that our enthusiastic and very
much "columbophilos" experts will make a real success
of this magnificent event. So far, I want to thank them very
much for the big amount of help and information that I have
from them, and for what is already a big success "Eivissa
2002", "World capital of Racing Pigeons".
In the near future there will be a website
http://www.eivissagrandprix.com especially for this
event and all the information of the "columbophilos"
All Pictures © Gary
Hardy (1988 & 1989)
Demolition News to Ruffle Feathers
I want to congratulate and thank as
well GEN-GOB (Grup de Estudis de sa Natura-Grup Ornitologic
Balear) especially its president Joan Carles Palerm
and the speaker Mariano Marí for their courage
and the extraordinary job they are doing for the ecological
legality here in Eivissa.
Last week, the tribunals in Palma
de Mallorca proved them right over the lawsuit they
had versus the Sant Antoni Town Hall, about the legality
of a big villa built on top of a hill in a protected
area (ANEI - Area Natural de Especial Interes). The
Town Hall has been condemned to demolish this house
two years since it was built, even though there was
a big opposition at the time and the house was denounced
by GEN when it was starting to be built.
This is the second time that a similar
thing has happened. There's a second house condemned
by the tribunals to be demolished because of its illegal
licence given from this institution. If demolition has
to go ahead, the cost to the town, paid with public
money, will be about 8,414,500 euros (1,400,000,000
pesetas) as compensation to the owners.
José P Ribas