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Pigeon fanciers home in on Great Britain

Racing pigeons are released from their racing boxes as they start their flight from Alnwick to their home lofts across Yorkshire and Humberside in northern England April 21, 2012.
Racing pigeons are released from their racing boxes as they start their flight from Alnwick to their home lofts across Yorkshire and Humberside in northern England April 21, 2012.Nigel Roddis / Reuters

Reuters reports -- All those years ago when Paul Julius von Reuter was just starting out his news agency, he used homing pigeons to plug a gap in the information link between the bourses of Paris and Berlin. The operation only lasted a year, until the final telegraph line was laid, but the fact that pigeons carried stock market price reports remains an anecdote on resourcefulness. 

Racing pigeons wait to be loaded for the One Loft race at Birtsmorton, central England, Aug. 25. 1200 pigeons are entered in the loft during March for $160 each and then trained by loft keeper Jeremy Davies. The race from Hexham to Birtsmorton is 203 miles, taking the winning bird around 4 to 5 hours. Prize money totals $87,000, and the winner receives $31,600.
Racing pigeons wait to be loaded for the One Loft race at Birtsmorton, central England, Aug. 25. 1200 pigeons are entered in the loft during March for $160 each and then trained by loft keeper Jeremy Davies. The race from Hexham to Birtsmorton is 203 miles, taking the winning bird around 4 to 5 hours. Prize money totals $87,000, and the winner receives $31,600.Nigel Roddis / Reuters

Fast forward to 2012, where the world is connected by fibre optics and satellite beams, one may be surprised to learn that aficionados still train, keep and race pigeons for sport. Although the membership of Britain’s Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) has been declining over the past few decades, tens of thousands remain. This year the 40th annual British Homing World Show of the Year had 2,500 pigeon entries from around the world including the U.S. and China, and its 25,000 visitors made it the largest single event at the seaside resort.

To stem the hemorrhaging of its membership, the RPRA has been promoting novel ways in which to sustain the sport. In traditional club racing, one would need his or her own loft to raise and train pigeons. With the new One-Loft method, anyone can join. All that’s needed to start is a membership in the association and a young pigeon, which is entered in the race and delivered to a loft in Tewkesbury. About 1,200 young pigeons are held here and trained. They take part in a series of races until the final 200-mile race from Scotland. As an added incentive, the first prize pays out $31,600. Read the full story.

Pigeon fancier Katie Adwas feeds birds at her loft in Knayton, northern England Aug. 21. Topcliffe club secretary Adwas has been racing since 1996 and spends 15 hours a week on her 100 pigeons. Over recent years the club has dwindled to just nine members.
Pigeon fancier Katie Adwas feeds birds at her loft in Knayton, northern England Aug. 21. Topcliffe club secretary Adwas has been racing since 1996 and spends 15 hours a week on her 100 pigeons. Over recent years the club has dwindled to just nine members.Nigel Roddis / Reuters
A racing pigeon waits to be released from its racing box before starting his flight from Alnwick to its home loft across Yorkshire and Humberside, northern England April 21.
A racing pigeon waits to be released from its racing box before starting his flight from Alnwick to its home loft across Yorkshire and Humberside, northern England April 21.Nigel Roddis / Reuters
Steward Brian Harrison examines entries at the annual Homing Pigeon World Show at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, northern England Jan. 21. The show, which is in its 40th year, has 4,000 entries from around the world, including the U.S. and China, and expects 35,000 visitors over the weekend.
Steward Brian Harrison examines entries at the annual Homing Pigeon World Show at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, northern England Jan. 21. The show, which is in its 40th year, has 4,000 entries from around the world, including the U.S. and China, and expects 35,000 visitors over the weekend.Nigel Roddis / Reuters
A man walks past entries in the annual Homing Pigeon World Show at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, northern England Jan. 21.
A man walks past entries in the annual Homing Pigeon World Show at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, northern England Jan. 21.Nigel Roddis / Reuters

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