The breed was developed in England from a combination of non–European breeds, including the Persian and Baghdad Carriers, and the Powter. The largest of the flying pigeon breeds, the Old English Carrier was originally used for sending messages.
By the mid 19th century, the points in the standard of the English Carrier were deemed to have been achieved, and the breed was praised for its "perfectness to which all the points most admired have been brought". At this point the colors of the breed were limited to black, white and dun (a brownish grey color). Today, the English Carrier is strictly a show pigeon, and is not the modern homing pigeon. This modern homing pigeon is a breed known as a Racing Homer, a breed which was bred from eight different pigeon breeds including the English Carrier.
DescriptionEditCharles Darwin wrote of the English Carrier in The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, "This is a fine bird, of large size, close feathered, generally dark–coloured, with an elongated neck". Darwin compared the dimensions of the breed to the Rock Pigeon, showing the length of the carrier to be nearly double that of the Rock Pigeon. It was also found that the English Carrier could open its mouth wider than the Rock Pigeon, 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) as compared to 0.4 inches (1.0 cm).
The English Carrier is typically about 17.5–18.5 inches (44–47 cm) in height, with a long, slender body. The breast bone should be straight and long, as should the back which should slope towards the rump. They have a slender neck which should appear long in proportion to the rest of the bird and the legs should be solid, with no feathering below the knees.
The English Carrier has typically deep red eyes, and a distinctive wattle which should be large but firm with a rounded shape and a powdery white finish on the surface. The beak is long and thick, and is of the type known as a box beak. The National English Carrier Club standard states that ideally the distance from the pupil of the eye to the tip of the beak should be not less than 2 inches (5.1 cm) in females, and 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) in males of the breed.