Being in the business of sending mail, we are always interested in post-related information. Of course, modern tech allows us to explore the workings of everything from a paper jogger to an automatic envelope sorter. However, what we want to know today is less technical.
Before the days of post offices and mail delivery, did people really use pigeon post?
Was Pigeon Post Really Used?
The short answer is, yes, people really did use pigeons to carry messages.
As early as 2000 years ago the ancient Romans used homing pigeons, also called carrier pigeons, to communicate with their armies. They were used up until 1957 as communication tools and may well still be used by some hobbyists today.
Homing pigeons, true to their name, have a strong homing instinct and can navigate back to their ‘homes’ from many kilometres away. These pigeons would be taken in cages to their destination, and when it was required, a small, lightweight attachment holding a message was attached to their leg and they were set free.
It is estimated that a good 95% of these smart little birds made their way home without getting lost or eaten, which is a pretty decent success rate. When they arrived back at their roost, a little bell in their cage would let their owner know that they were home, and he would divest them of their message. Very important messages may have been repeated and sent with two or more pigeons in case the one didn’t make it.
An interesting point to note was that homing pigeons only knew the way home – they weren’t sent to places, rather from places to deliver messages home.
While used a lot in war times, pigeon post was also used in the 19th century between financiers and stock market employees who would communicate trading prices between each other.
Indeed, these fascinating little animals have served their countries well over the years with their unfailing navigation systems. Perhaps our own postal system can take a feather out of the caps of these little fellas?