God Save The Pigeons !

Posted on 08/05/2017, Author: SH/PHIL

The Queen of England heading to her 91st birthday refused a celebration on February 6th for her 65th year of government. For health reasons? No! As an example. st She foresaw fierce opposition to the costs that cause such a celebration, given the times we live in now. A royal anniversary still costs a lot of money.

In her private life, "The Queen" still pursues her passions with full conviction. Although she does not actively participate in the hunt, she still remains a very attentive spectator. She is also still passionate about race horses and .... pigeons! The renovation of the royal pigeon lofts, where the queen's pigeons are housed, cost more than 60,000 euros.


queen-elizabeth-ii-pigeons-470014-002.jpg | Pitts

The construction of the ultra modern pigeon lofts was announced in 2015 but only completed in 2016 because the English sensation press, always ready to hate the Royal Court, had not hesitated to bring the expenses for this project into the news and called it  shameful and whimsical expenses. As a consequence, the renovation was delayed until the storm in the media had died down.

The royal loft is now built from adjacent lofts of 23 meters in length and 3.7 meters wide. These lofts, which are ventilated and easy to clean, form the home base for almost 200 racing pigeons. The building was pulled out of very hard wood while the slanted roof was plastered with a variety of dark pans with light-emitting pans between them. Ceilings, doors and windows have a system that maximizes sunlight within the lofts, which benefits the pigeons.

Layout of each box: four sections in height for the old pigeons and for the other pigeons, 48 luxury boxes. On the bottom a grid where the manure can fall on a removable drawer. The other boxes of the loft are finished for the young pigeons. Ladder-shaped chairs make the young pigeons active and encourage them to socialize.

A Belgian Story

The royal lofts are of course not in Buckingham Palace. The lofts are located in the royal estate of Sandringham in West Norfolk. It is a private area of 3200 hectares that belongs  to the royal family since 1862 but which they use since 1771. Sandringham House has been open to the public since 1977 and it was George V.'s favorite residence. The domain itself can be visited, but not the pigeons. The loft is not open to the public, this in view of the well-being of the pigeons.

Elisabeth II really loves her champions. She sponsors and maintains the United Kingdom Pigeon Union. All her pigeons are racing pigeons who can obtain a national or international prize here or there. In 2016 not one prize was won. The last significant victory was in Carentan's race in 2015. The queen is inexhaustible when it comes to spreading her pigeon knowledge. She was insisting that the new loft was facing South-East. Well done Your Majesty! Firstly, because now the pigeons can take full advantage of the light, but also because most major matches in England are played from Belgium or France. Know that the façade of the old pigeon house was facing the West. It would also have been the queen who would have proposed the new location.


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When Elizabeth goes to Sandringham House, she also visits the pigeon lofts and informs herself about the health of her proteges. The loft manager, M. Farrow, must always  sum up the prices that the pigeons win, important or not. She also does not give names to her pigeons but numbers. It is also one of Mr. Farrow's duties to strictly track the pedigree of each royal pigeon. These pigeons have a special license plate that is easy to recognize if one of those pigeons gets to your cabin. Each pigeon has a special ring with a stamped seal ER (Elizabeth Regina).

The pigeon sport has been practiced by the royal family since 1886 through the interferene of King Leopold II of Belgium who donated some racingl pigeons to Queen Victoria.

What will William do ?

The passion that King Elizabeth II has for the pigeon sport isn’t questioned. The press in England even writes that she does everything she can to make this sport a favorite onse for her successors. Prince Charles (who may never rule ...) has always been attracted to polo, hunting, golf, clay pigeon shooting and horse racing, but he visits the pigeons less than his mother.

All eyes are now focused on the couple William-Kate. A jump of two generations that inevitably leads to changing morals, habits and uses. Sandringham is just a favorite residence of this royal couple.


sandringham-002.jpg | Pitts

William is clearly a man of his age who does not really eager to maintain the great traditions of the royal family but he will have to make choices in the future.

The British press makes the following statement: William will maintain the status of royal stables and the royal pigeons, but with less enthusiasm than his grandmother. More isn’t needed to worry a lot of fanciers in the UK. But also to raise the interest of a handful of them who want to be there soon to get something out of the royal colony .

But we are not there yet, gentlemen! A little respect please! There will be another million galons of water flowing through the Thames and the Mersy before the pigeons of Her Majesty will be auctioned!


What is the status of the pigeon sport in the UK? The national federation has 25,000 members with just over 2 million ringed pigeons.

One the island they were also very careful and alert to the bird flu. For example, there was a formal ban on pigeons in December, and until February the national federation alerted the fanciers through their website to keep the pigeons locked up on the lofts. Over the entire territory many ponds were contaminated by wild birds. The British, however, maintained their calm and flegma.

For those who remember, the last big gunfire of a British fancier was one big deception. The winner of the most prestigious race of the season in U.K. , The Tarbes flight from 2015, was declassified. Eamon Kelly basketed 14 pigeons for this match. Pigeons who, in fact, never left their loft, because they were replaced by other pigeons in the baskets. Eamon Kelly was contest controller and could therefore use his position to commit this fraud. He was suspended for a lifetime.

After this heavy hit for the pigeon sport, the 2016 season became the year of truth for the British federation. It was a beautiful season with as most important events the races out of Fougères, Messac, Ancenis, Saintes, Coutences and especially Tarbes.

Tarbes is for the British what Barcelona is for the Belgians. Given the area and vastness of the United Kingdom, Tarbes for the South Coasters (eg Southampton or Brighton) is a 805 km contest and 1.300 km for the fanciers in the North of the country. Of course, they are released by sector. When the last release  takes place in the early afternoon, it happens that the pigeons arrive late at night.

The contest provides a national champion per sector and a general national champion. In 2016, the best pigeon from Tarbes traveled 1,146 km to Wirral, near Liverpool !! He was called "The Phoenix." He is a descendant from the Van Bruaene line. André Van Bruaene, the Toreador of Lauwe, as he was called, won Barcelona International twice in his time. The proof to say that, if you are a king of the Rhône races then you are fit to work all heavy-duty flights, including the flights that travel over the heathlands, Poitou and Charentes, then still fly over the channel to finally cross England from one side to the other!

 God save the Pigeons !



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