All material Copyright © 1996-2009 by Silvio Mattacchione & Co. unless otherwise noted.
Racing pigeons--more accurately described as racing doves--are, in fact, one of man's oldest feathered companions. Pigeons date to antiquity! Far from being a lowly servant, the racing pigeon was the special prerogative of kings, princes, and nobles of all kinds. During these past times it was contrary to law for a common man to own pigeons.
The great empires of Carthage, Egypt, and Rome made full use of them in many ways including the production of squabs (a great delicacy) as well as high-grade nitrogen (droppings) for their fields. The aforementioned civilizations also used pigeons in a great network of advanced communication. They kept emperors in touch with the most remote areas of their lands during a time when horse and riders or caravans would have taken weeks to deliver the same information. Caesar made formidable use of them during his conquest of Gaul.
It is now extremely difficult to imagine that our feathered companions were at one time the ultimate communication tool used in the greatest of all communication networks! It is further difficult to comprehend that these little warriors of the airways made possible both great empires as well as great fortunes. As already mentioned the Egyptians and Persians trained rock doves to carry messages. They were an exceptionally reliable method of communication hitherto unheard of. As these empires spread across the then known civilized world capturing country after country they discovered that these other countries had also trained rock doves. These countries included China, Greece, Italy as well as India. Among these many countries China had in fact organized a postal system based upon the use of messenger pigeons. Knowledge is power, and at one time the surest and swiftest way to deliver this knowledge was with racing pigeons.
One would, at first glance, believe it difficult to draw a connection between racing pigeons and the Rothschild banking dynasty. However it seems that they increased enormously their fortune in 1815 with the exceptional help of what was then called a carrier pigeon. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, Count Rothschild knew of his defeat long before any other persons in England. He had received this critical information via carrier pigeon. This advance knowledge allowed him to make critical decisions that made an enormous fortune possible. Here is a prime example of the reality that, knowledge and its timely use, in fact, are the ultimate in power!
In the 19th Century Julius Reuter founded the news service that globally still caries his name 150 years later. The Reuters news service was actually founded as a line of pigeon posts. The Reuters pigeons helped the banks of Aachen make fortunes and avoid bankruptcy.
Today, as in the past, speed and endurance and the ability of our racing pigeons to orient quickly are the key to success. Pigeon fanciers today are as enthralled with this exceptional bundle of courage, speed, endurance and intelligence as were the originators of those couriers countless centuries ago.
Even today, as the unbridled power of technology creates new communication frontiers, one can imagine, given certain circumstances, that the racing pigeon can again be a powerful communication tool. Several countries, even as we enter the 21st Century, make use of this remarkable bird in military communication and rescue applications. It was recently reported in The Globe Daily that future communication could be literally for the birds! Claire Wolfe, the author of I'm Not A Number, comments that in the near future pigeons could actually be used to ensure the secrecy of messages. She indicates that safe communication modes could replace--for some freedom seekers--unsafe communication modes like the Internet and telephone. Well, we would then have come full circle, low-tech replaces high-tech for reasons of security. Is she right? Time will tell, but certainly an interesting twist!
Currently all over the world, racing pigeons are cultivated for their beauty, their will to survive, their tenacity, their incredible speed, and their legendary endurance-in short, the marvelous ability to race to their individual homes at breakneck speeds. From the deserts of the Middle East, to the plains of South Africa, to the industrial towns of Europe, to the ancient cities of China, and finally, to the skyscrapers of America, there exists a bond that goes beyond color, creed, origin, class, and politics. Lovers of racing pigeons are part of a worldwide fraternity that has been with us from the dawn of time itself!
The modern racing pigeon has been developed over the past 150 years to fly farther and faster and more often than any performances hitherto imaginable. Now, if memory serves me correctly, the racing pigeon is the product of the mixing together of several different breeds of pigeons including Horseman, Dragoon, Smerle, the carrier pigeon, and others. In different countries, different pigeon breeds formed the base from which the fanciers worked to develop their homing pigeons too lesser or greater degrees of perfection-usually lesser. The modern racing pigeon is therefore a hybrid and therefore not a pure breed at all.
In point of fact, the modern homing pigeons is not a pigeon at all, but more correctly speaking--that is, from an ornithological point of view-a dove. That is why in Dutch it is more correctly referred to as a postduiven (messenger-dove).
The most successful modern racing pigeons were developed in Belgium. This development began in approximately 1810, and by 1868, W.B. Tegetmeier in his Pigeons: Their Structure, Varieties, Habits, and Management could write:
"From the fact that many of the breed come from Antwerp, they are not infrequently known as Antwerp's or Antwerp's Carriers...in rapidity and power of flying these birds far exceed any other variety of pigeon with which I am acquainted...This power of flight is conjoined with an attachment to home that is not surpassed by that of any other pigeon".
In time, these Antwerp carriers, as well as the short-faced pigeons of the province of Liege, were crossed.
The homing pigeon of Belgium is the result of the crossing of the Cumulet of Antwerp with the Smerle of Liege. The Cumulet was described by Mr. Andre Coopers, secretary of one of the Belgium Societies in 1868, as being of Flemish origin with white eyes, and having a habit of flying so high that it was gone from sight for several hours. The Smerle, he advises, is of Wallon origin, with a short beak and having several recurved feathers on its neck. It did not fly as high or as long as the Cumulet, but it was much more rapid. Finally, in Belgium, the Bec-Anglais (Dragoons) were also crossed, and so these three varieties formed the basis for the appearance of the better built, stronger, faster, and more precisely cultivated homing instinct of the modern form of homing pigeon.
As a breeder of racing pigeons, I enjoy the challenge of producing a bird of great strength and beauty, with tenacity and endurance and the consummate ability to orient. A bird that can fly week after week with a minimum of training, a bird that can excel under almost anyone's care. The name of this strain is Spanjaards/Janssen, named after their originator, Mr. Gerrit Spanjaards of Holland.
I began where he left off, and hopefully others will begin
where I leave off. It is wonderful to think that the birds that were
carefully bred by Spanjaards in Holland for
37 years are now successfully flying the skies of Australia, Germany,
Holland, Canada, the USA, China, Taiwan, and Mexico!
Background on Silvio Mattacchione, his pigeons, his loft, and inbreeding program.
A group of articles and editorials addressing various aspects of the sport of pigeon racing and the history of Silvio's line of Spanjaards/Janssens pigeons.
Buy fantastic pigeon books online! Selections include The Will to Prepare by Robert Kinney, Rotondo on Racing Pigeons by Joseph Rotondo, and The Pigeon Guide by Dr. Jon Esposito and Shannon Hiatt.
Some of Silvio Mattacchione's own winning stock is for sale.
Sivio Mattacchione offers a wide range of racing pigeon consulting services and consults with owners as far away as Australia, Mexico, Taiwan, The Philippines and the United States. Each consultation is tailored specifically to meet the client's needs, and is conducted in as thorough a manner as possible.
Good causes supported by Silvio and the racing pigeon and parrot communities.
Clever pigeon pictures constructed of keyboard strokes by artist Jerry Downs.
Links to other racing pigeon sites including those of clubs, products, and information resources.
An easy way to navigate a series of pigeon web sites!
Silvio's e-mail, mail, phone, and fax contact information.