Pigeon racing first sport to return after lockdown

Pigeon racing has become the first sport to return after the lockdown restrictions were eased in England.

The 4,465 pigeons were released from Wicksteed Park in Northamptonshire
PA Media

The Barnsley Federation of Racing Pigeons released more than 4,000 birds from a park in Kettering for them to fly the 90 miles (145km) home.

Organiser John Greenshield said he expects his 35 pigeons to start arriving at his allotment in Hemsworth about 1 hour 50 minutes later.

The sport has beaten horse racing and snooker to be the first to resume.

Mr Greenshield, 72, said: "The racing is something for people to get out of bed for. People are really looking forward to it.

"I think it would have killed some off if there hadn't been racing until next year.

"It's like putting oxygen back into the area."

The Secret Life of Pigeons

Join us as we uncover the little-known world of the humble homing pigeon
“They’re wonderful creatures, wonderful creatures with wings.” Says 11-year-old Callum Brooks, who has just recently started pigeon racing. 

We join Callum and other pigeon fanciers from all over the UK  as they give us an insight into the highs and lows of pigeon racing and find  why a sport that was once a popular pastime of the working classes is now falling out of fashion and is in danger of disappearing altogether. 

We discover the art of  breeding a winning bird from Clive and Jill in Radstock. Head to the back of the Larkhall Inn as pigeons are marked up ready for a Saturday race. Then spend  a morning with the Convoyors as they prepare for the liberation of 5000 birds. And  finally join  Trevor and his son Simon on race day as they anxiously wait to find out if they have won, or even if their pigeons will return home at all.

Produced by Nikki Ruck


One of our oldest companions, the pigeon inspires both love and loathing.
The relationship between humans and pigeons is one of the oldest on the planet. They have been our co-workers; delivering messages, assisting during the war, providing a source of food, a sport and obsession for many, and a suitable religious sacrifice. They helped Darwin with his theory of Natural Selection, have become a powerful symbol of peace and helped us unravel some of the mysteries of navigation. Yet many of us still regard them as vermin, as “rats with wings”. Brett Westwood and Verity Sharp probe into this paradox, and explore how pigeons have helped us and what they can reveal about the homing instinct and what it means for us to feel at home.  Producer Sarah Blunt

Dr Jon Day – Lecturer in English, Kings College, London and Author of 'Homing - on pigeons, dwellings and why we return'.
Ian Evans – Executive Director of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association
Barbara Allen - Author of 'Pigeon'
Gordon Corera - BBC Security Correspondent and author of 'The Secret Pigeon Service'.
Amy Dickin - Awards and Heritage Manager for The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA)
Tim Guilford - Professor of Animal Behaviour, Oxford University & member of the Oxford Navigation Group
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