03:00PM, Sunday 22 September 2019
“I’ve had 72 years of racing and 72 years of winning,” said George Burgess, an 87-year-old pigeon racer from Wraysbury.
The keen racer won his first race at the age of 14 after being introduced to the sport by his father, George Senior, who was also a pigeon fancier.
He went onto win the Pau Grand National in 1988 with his champion pigeon Rosemead Abbygale, who competed against almost 5,000 birds.
“I’m the oldest man still winning pigeon racing competitions,” said George.
He has also taken part in the 682-mile race from Palamós, Spain, with the British Barcelona Club, where he has won three Spanish Diplomas.
Racing birds are specially bred and trained by pigeon fanciers to maximise speed, strength, stamina and homing instinct.
They then travel from the start point of the competition to their homes over a carefully measured distance.
The pigeons’ rate of travel is compared to the other birds in the race and the winner is determined by the bird that returns home at the highest speed.
George, a great grandfather, said: “Training pigeons is a complicated business.
“You have to find out what makes them race the best.”
This involves determining what diet has the greatest effect on each bird.
George has more than 100 pigeons in a specially designed loft at his home.
Lofts are commonly used by pigeons fanciers to house their birds and they also provide a home base to return to after races.
George’s love of the sport is shared with royalty. The Queen, who is patron of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association and the National Flying Club, has her own pigeon lofts in Sandring-ham, Norfolk.
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