The Popular Sport of Pigeon Racing
Pigeon racing is a form of sport that was derived from post pigeons, as the pigeon is one species of bird that has been domesticated by humans for hundreds of years. Their magnificent ability to find their way home made them perfect messengers before telephones, airplanes and modern technology took over. These pigeons were able to fly great distances, deliver important messages and find their way home. Some pigeons are still used in the military, as they are the silent, unnoticed messengers of the sky.
Everyone is vaguely familiar with the sport of pigeon racing. We all know that a group of pigeons are taken to a specific location, set free and then they miraculously fly home. The question on most peoples’ minds is: How do they do it? And the answer to this question is quite simple really. Trainers exploit their natural abilities. Pigeons that live in the wild return to their nests or homes every night. They are able to familiarize themselves with certain landmarks in the area that enable them to find their way back to their nests. To train racing pigeons to return to their owner, young pigeons are put in the loft before they are able to fly. By doing this, they become accustomed to the loft as their home, and start to record the entrances to the loft and of the garden surrounding them. As time passes, the young bird will begin to recognize the whistle of the trainer as a command to leave the loft and one to return. These commands enable owners to train their racing pigeons for fitness and long distance traveling. Trainers are usually very secretive about their training methods, as they believe this is the key to their success, but one method used by all is ‘training tosses’. This is when a bird is taken a short distance from home and set free. All that is then left for the pigeon to do is survive the dangers of racing, such as predator birds, and fly home.
To compete in a racing event, racing pigeons are required to be tagged by a unique numbered ring that is placed on the birds’ legs when they are approximately five days old. The number is given to the clubhouse or race organizers and then, by GPS, the distance between the racepoint and the birds’ home is determined. Each bird is then fitted with an RFID transponder that records the time of the birds’ flight, through the Electric Timing System. Much like road-runners that cross the mats on the road to record their times, pigeons do the same when passing the specific antennas.
Breeding champion racing pigeons is another part of the sport that generates a lot if interest and income. To be able to find the correct breeding pair is very rare, and they will often be named as a unit, for instance “The Larkins Pair”. Some females are able to produce winners, no matter which male they mate with. Breeding is the luck of the draw.
The sport of pigeon racing has become popular across the world, with parts of Asia flying pigeons as a betting sport, where people can bet on the pigeon that they think will win the race. Other countries have established premier racing events, such as the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race in South Africa, as pigeon racing has become as competitive and thrilling, as any other sport.