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In both the First and Second World Wars the pigeon saved hundreds of thousands of human lives by carrying messages across enemy lines.Pigeons were carried on ships in convoys and in the event of a U-boat attack a messenger pigeon was released with details of the location of the sinking ship.It was the Sumerians in Mesopotamia that first started to breed white doves from the wild pigeon that we see in our towns and cities today and this undoubtedly accounts, certainly in part, for the amazing variety of colours that are commonly found in the average flock of urban pigeons.To ancient peoples a white pigeon would have seemed miraculous and this explains why the bird was widely worshipped and considered to be sacred.
These early biblical references have paved the way for the many different ways that the urban pigeon is viewed in modern societies worldwide.Sources: to top During the First World War a pigeon named Cher Ami (dear friend) saved the lives of many French soldiers by carrying a message across enemy lines in the heat of battle. In 2004 British and American ornithologists officially re-named the bird the ‘rock pigeon’.Cher Ami was shot in the chest and the leg, losing most of the leg to which the message was attached, but continued the 25-minute flight avoiding shrapnel and poison gas to get the message home. Joe saved the lives of a thousand soldiers in World War 2 after British troops had established a position within an Italian town that was due to be bombed by allied planes. Back to top The pigeon has side-mounted eyes, unlike humans and owls which have forward facing eyes.The birds also played a vital role in intelligence gathering and were used extensively behind enemy lines where the survival rate was only 10%.In the Second World War pigeons were used less due to advances in telecommunications, but the birds still relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and V2 Rocket sites on the other side of the English Channel.
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In many cases this led to survivors being rescued and lives saved.