Meet the bird with no name - Britain's most fancied pigeon

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In the unsentimental, if not unflappable, world of pigeon fanciers, even the cock of the walk has no name.

Crufts winners may have double-barrelled monikers and advertising contracts, but all that is known about this "best in show" is that, if released, it would wing its way directly to a Mr and Mrs R McCarthy of Newport, South Wales.

The British Homing World Pigeon Show opened in Blackpool's Winter Gardens yesterday, with 2,500 pigeons and 25,000 pigeon fanciers.

It went ahead despite the threat of bird flu, which led the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to ban all gatherings of birds. Brian Mead, chairman of the show committee, said: "At that time I was suicidal, to say the least."

The show was only saved after Mr Mead presented Defra with evidence that pigeons were highly unlikely to catch the disease.

In Blackpool yesterday, all thoughts of bird flu were pushed to the back of the mind as the show got under way. Among the more peculiar events was "best eye sign". The judge, Chris Gulliver, microscope in hand, inspected the eyeball of each pigeon, rating their colour and depth.

There was no scientific basis to his decisions, he said. "You just know."