Pigeons are one of the most intelligent birds on the planet. Pigeons can also recognize all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualize. Also, Pigeons can differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph.
How old are pigeons?
Pigeons have lived alongside man for thousands of years with the first images of them being found by archaeologists in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and dating back to 3000 BC. 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 for the amazing variety of colors that are 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. Throughout human history the pigeon has adopted many roles ranging from symbols of gods and goddesses through to sacrificial victims, messengers, pets, food and even war heroes!
As a war hero
n modern times the feral pigeon has been used to great effect during wartime. 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. In many cases this lead to the survivors being rescued and lives saved. Mobile pigeon lofts were set up behind the trenches in the First World War from which pigeons often had to fly through enemy fire and poison gas to get their messages home. The birds 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 relayed invaluable information back to the allies about the German V1 and V2 Rocket sites on the other side of the Channel.
As a messenger
The earliest large scale communication network using pigeons as messengers was established in Syria and Persia about 5th Century BC. Much later in the 12th Century AD the city of Baghdad and all the main towns and cities in Syria and Egypt were linked by messages carried by pigeons. This was the sole source of communication. In Roman times the pigeon was used to carry results of sporting events such as the Olympic Games and this is why white doves are released at the start of the Olympic Games today. In England, prior to the days of telegraphs, pigeons were often taken to soccer matches and released to carry home the result of the game. Their use as a messenger in war time resulted in many pigeons being awarded honors by both the British and French Governments. Incredibly, the last ‘pigeon post’ service was abandoned in India in 2004 with the birds being retired to live out the rest of their days in peace.
Are pigeons intelligent?
Pigeons are considered to be one of the most intelligent birds on the planet with pigeons being able to undertake tasks previously thought to be the sole preserve of humans and primates. The pigeon has also been found to pass the ‘mirror test’ (being able to recognise its reflection in a mirror) and is one of only 6 species, and the only non-mammal, that has this ability. The pigeon can also recognise all 26 letters of the English language as well as being able to conceptualise. In scientific tests pigeons have been found to be able to differentiate between photographs and even differentiate between two different human beings in a photograph when rewarded with food for doing so.