Pigeon Post - Send Messages, No Stamps Required


Nov 06, 2014 Europe/London

Smart phones, e-mails and social networks or even mails with stamps may be the choices when it comes to sharing information and communications, but there was a time when pigeons were the traditional messengers of information. About 2000 years ago, pigeons were used to send information and the practice has persisted through the years, even in the face of emerging technologies in communications. In fact, during World War I, these birds were used as carriers of messages and have helped change the tides of war.

Persian roots and Military Use

What makes pigeons effective carriers of information is their honing capabilities. A pigeon can be transported from a certain place, and when it's released from the cage, it will instinctively return to its cage that it considers her home, with the message carefully attached to one of the two legs. According to researches, the use of pigeons as emissaries started with the Persians, and was followed by the Romans. According to Levi Wendell, even Julius Caesar used these birds in his quest to acquire Gaul, and the practice was also popular in Baghdad in 1100's. Throughout human history, these birds retained their usefulness among leaders, travellers and even merchants. The use of pigeons for sending messages was popular among military leaders, especially during the Franco-Prussian War. When the Prussians covered the perimeter of the French capital and all traditional modes of communications were cut off, the pigeons took the task of sending and receiving messages for the officers. In the absence of the post office and mails with stamps, pigeons managed to keep the information and details flowing. Thanks to this development, training schools for birds were put up.

First Stampless Pigeon Post Service Established

Mr. Howie’s Pigeon Post Service was introduced in 1887, and was acknowledged as the world’s first regular air mail service. Experts believed that this was the inspiration for air mail stamps. During its time, it connected the Great Barrier Island with Auckland suburb of Newton, New Zealand.
In the history of the service, one well-known homing pigeon was named Cher Ami. This pigeon was the recipient of the French Croix de Guerre when it managed to deliver 12 messages even though it was suffering from injuries. Other birds also received citations, including the 32 pigeons that received the Dickin Medal during World War II. In a time when communications were down and traditional mails with stamps were no longer possible, the pigeons assumed the tasks, and assumed it well. The last active service was in eastern India (Orissa) for disaster management, but with the development and popularity of the internet, the pigeons started to gave way.