homing pigeon

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English[edit]

Noun[edit]

homing pigeon (plural homing pigeons)

  1. A variety of domesticated rock pigeon (Columba livia) that has been selectively bred to be able to find its way home over extremely long distances.
    • 1960, P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves in the Offing, chapter XV:
      “Oh, Wooster,” he said, “I was talking to my mother a night or two ago. [...] She tells me you are interested in mice. [...] She says she found you trying to catch one in my bedroom! [...] She says you seemed to be making a very thorough search of my room. [...] I wonder if by any chance you happened to find an eighteenth-century cow-creamer? [...] It's gone.” [...] “No, I'd just wait a while, if I were you. I expect it'll turn out that the thing's somewhere you put it but didn't think you'd put it. I mean, you often put a thing somewhere and think you've put it somewhere else and then find you didn't put it somewhere else but somewhere. I don't know if you follow me?” “I don't.” “What I mean is, just stick around and you'll probably find the thing.” “You think it will return?” “I do.” “Like a homing pigeon?” “That's the idea.”

Usage notes[edit]

  • The term carrier pigeon is often used, especially in newspaper and magazine articles, for a homing pigeon or racing pigeon that carries messages. Many pigeon fanciers (particularly homer men and homer women) consider this to be a misnomer because the term is outdated and originally referred to the ancestors of present-day Old English carriers. These "carrier pigeons" were formerly used to carry messages before the modern homing pigeon was developed in the 1800s (initially in Belgium and Britain), but is today strictly an exhibition pigeon or show pigeon that has mostly lost its strong homing instinct. The "carrier pigeon" was also one of the breeds used to develop the modern homing pigeon and therefore does have some "carrier blood" in it.[1]

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  1. ^ The Carrier, or certainly the Horseman, was the first breed used in England for message-bearing purposes. The name, “Carrier Pigeon,” is still used today erroneously by many writers, especially in newspapers and periodicals, to describe the true Racing Homer. The Carrier today has been developed into a show bird alone, its homing propensities having long since ceased to be developed. — Wendell M. Levi, The Pigeon, 1941 (Renewed 1968), 1946, 1957, and 1963; p57.