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Racing pigeons is definitely thrilling on many levels. One is overcome with joy when his pigeon makes its journey homeward. Setting it free and then sitting in wait till it comes back has a mixture of excitement and fear until the pigeon arrives at the loft. Pigeon racing is a sport whereby many pigeons are released and first one home is the victor.

Pigeon racing demands you to incorporate a lot of techniques. From the beginning keep two pigeons. From the outset acquire two birds. If they are not purebred that should not put you off your goals. You might be even taken aback to realize that it is a common occurrence for breeders to breed crossbreeds. Secondly read as much as you can on pigeons. After gathering the information you should be well versed on food acquisition, diseases the pigeons are susceptible to, loft housekeeping, moulting, banding, tossing as well as training guides. The upkeep of the pigeon needs to be rigorously followed so that you don’t compromise your pigeon and its winning chances in any way.

New pigeon trainers are fall into a trap of having a house pet relationship with their pigeons. Given that you invest quite a large amount of time to the birds this is bound to happen but one has to stick to the primary goal and that is to create pigeon racing. When one coaches an athlete there are some strict rules in place so that they develop a winning stance. Pigeons are no different and the same strict rules need to apply to them as well.

Another common mistake is over feeding your pigeons. Pigeons have the tendency to gain weight quickly. Most trainers commonly feed their pigeons around 6 times per week. You might as well not bother racing the pigeon if they are fat as they will not move with the speed needed for winning.

Humans are not the only creatures that have to deal with stress. If their living arrangements are not in order then this will result in poor performance. Safe guard the lofts against mice and other rodents. Change their feeding water continuously as diseases often occur from unhygienic conditions and most importantly don’t push your pigeons to participate in many races. Smart trainers only allow their pigeons to participate in four official races annually.

One can easily see that a race pigeon requires one to have a lot of dedication and time. You therefore need to source insightful information as you need to be fully versed in this field to become successful at it.


How do you get into Pigeon Racing

First off, you need a pigeon of course! The best place is to look for pigeons that are for sale, then go ahead and buy one (or some) from a certified pigeon breeder, to buy young birds.

If you want to buy winning pigeons already, that may a great start as well. make sure you find out how old the bird is first, before the purchase is made.You should also verify that the owner has won races before you buy it.

Also, you may hear something that is known as “eye sign” but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the pigeon is a good racer, so don’t base everything on that item alone.

Probably the best way to learn about the sport is pick up a pigeon racing guide.


Breeding Racing Pigeons

Your most valuable birds are ones which are good breeders. These birds should not be used for racing. Although they may be winners you could lose them and and also your future winners.

Good record keeping is key to early recognition of which the good breeding birds are. It is time consuming but will enable you to make the right decisions as to which birds to race.

Check your records often to make analyses of your birds. Keep records of all the progeny from a pair. Once you have found a good pair of breeding birds which have produced several winners build your own family around them.

There are a numner of systems available which can be used in breeding. These include cross breeding, line breeding and in-breeding.

Records of the pedigrees are important when buying birds and should show that winners were produced and that impossible gene patterns did not occur which would suggest mistaken or false records or possibly matings have occured with other birds.

It is easiest to cross breed birds whilst in breeding needs more care. Cross breeding is the mating of birds which have no relationship with the other for 5 generations or more.

Line breeding is said to occur when a pair are mated from different generations of the same line.

In breeding is used to concentrate desirable genes in a family. This system uses matings between closely related birds ie. father to daughter, mother to son, brother to sister. For inbreeding you need very good stock.The concentration of genes can also strengthen poor qualities if they exist as well as the good traits.

When inbreeding the sytematic culling of weaker birds is used to remove poorer gene characteristics and strenghthen the line, again the keeping of good records is important to identify weaker birds which lack speed or may have a less reliable homing instinct.

The strategy of inbreeding is to remove weaker variables from the line so the temptation to outcross should be resisted as this may introduce some unpredicatable elements.


The Sport of Racing Pigeons

So you want to know what’s the racing pigeons sport about? Let’s try a really short description to help you understand the basics. If you want to join our crazy game, there are many learning resources available.

The RACING PIGEONS SPORT in a few words:
1. You must have a team of birds (10 to 50 or more). You train the birds, offer them a good loft and good food.

2. The races are usually during the weekends. All the fanciers from an area join a pigeon club, and before the race, all the teams of birds are entered in the transporting car of the club.

3. The car transports the pigeons to the releasing location (from 100 to 1000+ kilometers away) and sets them free in the morning.

4. The pigeons will always fly home as fast as they can (they don’t know they race, but their instinct always makes them fly back to the place where they were born and where their nest is, no matter where you set them free). Depending on the quality of the birds and the knowledge of the fancier that manages them, the initial flock of hundreds or thousands of birds liberated will split in smaller flocks, the fastest, strongest and smartest of the birds being ahead the others. Depending on the distance, the race can last several hours (there are short distance, middle distance and long distance races). The marathon races usually take two days.

5. When a pigeon gets home, an electronic clocking device will register it and when the race is over, the race sheet is calculated based on the velocity of each bird. The prizes you can win depend on the country or area, they can be cars, money, … or just fame and soul satisfaction.

6. This is more fun than Counter Strike, FIFA Manager or any other computer game. You are the manager of a team in REAL LIFE, and the team is made of tiny birds that are powerful, intelligent and fast. Join the fun!

See what it is all about, in the movies below.

A final note for the pigeon fanciers: after visiting hundreds of websites dedicated to the racing pigeons sport, I discovered that 99% of them do not have an area that promote the hobby, explaining people outside the hobby what this is all about and how fascinating it can be. So, this website won’t focus on pedigrees, pigeon auctions and race results. Instead, it will try to show the pure beauty and adrenaline from this hobby.


Deficiency and metabolic diseases

Deficiency and metabolic diseases
Within this group of infections I have included the ones which produced by deficiencies
(of vitamins, minerals salts or amino acids) and tumors.
Vitamins and their deficiencies It is practically impossible to produce a hipervitaminosis or overdose of vitamins. All the ingested excess, the animal the metabolises and eliminates it.



The existing vitamins are organic substances in foods, incapable to be synthesized by the organism in adequate quantities being used in small doses, for the normal functioning and maintenance of the organism and health.
According to this definition, vitamins must be supplied periodically in order to prevent upheavals.
(necessities per day and pigeon)
VITAMIN C: 0.7 mg
VITAMIN B1: 0.1 mg
VITAMIN B2: 0.12 mg
VITAMIN B6: 0.12 mg
VITAMIN B12 0.24 mg
BIOTIN: 0.002 mg
FOLIC ACID: 0.014 mg
Lice, Acaruses, Dipteros (flies), Carraças.With respect to the subject I am not going to extend, I will only say that lice, mites, flies and garrapatas (a kind of aracnideos) exists in the pigeons and that cause damages in the plumage, sometimes quite seriously. The best way to fight them is with an aspersion bath but never with an immersion one. It is also necessary to consider to not use products derived from the piretrins (by: kaotrina) because is toxic for the birds, and although poisoning symptoms are not pronounced can cause low perfomance in the races.Carbaril 5 % (in powder)

Never use gamexane



CAUSAL AGENT: A fungus, Aspergilium fumigatus. It reproduces quickly in the straw of the nests, or in the humid food.
SYMPTOMS: It is an infection of the group of the respiratory diseases. It appears under two forms:
Respiratory difficulty (disnea)
Greenish excrescences on the tongue and palate.
Bare skin and with fractures of pens
TREATMENT: NONE. Does not exists one that is effective
PROPHYLAXIS: Dry and well aired loft.
Avoid the humidity in the food.
Disinfection (iodo povidona)


Some authors describe this disease together with the trichomoniasis and others speak of an associate micotic disease due to Vitamin A deficiency.
SYMPTOMS: White or yellowish spots (easy to give off) in all the mucosa of the mouth and the throat.
TREATMENT: Topic applications with iodine povidona to 10% or weak iodine dye (diluted with glycerin) in the spots. Administer Vitamin A.


CAUSAL AGENT: Haemoproteus Columbae.
It has a definitive host, a fly haemotografe (he is fed on blood), pseudolynchia canariensis.
The intermediary host is the pigeon. It is necessary that the infested fly resentment the pigeon to developed this disease .
SYMPTOMS: Seen only in the summer months . The symptoms are very similar to those of the plasmodiosis, so its possible a confusion (due to time and symptoms).
The flies that suck infected blood are able to transmit the haemoproteosis 15 days late and between 25 to 30 days later begin the symptoms:
Recurrent fever (it raises and low) 43 º C
– diarrea: White lees or yellowish, liquid and persistent.
Disnea: increase of the respiratory frequency.
Gradual Anemia
Caquexia: Weakness when the disease becomes chronicle.
DIAGNOSE: Examination of the blood (method of Giemsa)
PROPHYLAXIS: Fight the fly: Kaotrina


Disease of the costal zones (bordering to the rivers)
CAUSAL AGENT: A esporozoario of kind PLASMODIUM
EPIZOOTIOLOGIA: There are three factors that condition the maintenance and development of the malaria:
carrying or sick Birds.
transmitting Mosquitos (culex, haedes, anopheles).
the temperature, rains and the flora of region (essential elements for the reproduction of the mosquito)
Fever it raises and low)
Anemia (of there the eye and the white mucous)
general Weakness
Death in the youngsters.
After this acute phase, where the symptoms are evident, the plasmodiosis enters a period of diminution of their clinical manifestations and parasitemia to endoglobular arriving at a stage of normality between the 30 – 40 days of begun the symptoms.
DIAGNOSE: Examination of the blood (method of Giemsa).
TREATMENT: Plasmodicidas used in the human malaria:
For ex.: the cloroquina or ARALEN MR (2 mg by kg of weight that is 1 mg. by pigeon. 3 doses day by average.
PROPHYLAXIS: Avoid the mosquito:-Metalic net
-Fuyi Vape
IMUNIDADE The cured animals develop certain degree of immunity


CAUSAL AGENT: Trichomona Columbae (a protozoário)
We considered that 80% of the old pigeons are carrying, being able to happen inadvertent. It is used to say that the oldiers live in balance with trichomonas in ominous consequences. In the youngsters is fatal.
– Spiny plumage.
– Viscous diarrea —> thinning.
Intense thirst
Anorexy (lack of appetite)
Disnea (difficult breading: penguin position)
white and yellow spots in the mouth and throat.
DIAGNOSE: Microscopic examination of isopods of crop and esophagus.
1 gr. by liter of water during 7 days.
PROPHYLAXIS: Hygiene and general disinfection.
IMUNIDADE: A small amount of trichomonas in pigeons with good health causes its own antibodies.


Of this infection I only want to reveal that it is important as prophylaxis, to fight all the intermediate hosts (larvae of mosquitos, cockroaches, weevils, slimy, snails, etc) the tapeworms or the ring of tapeworms are sometimes visible in the sewer of the pigeon. It is common that they appear in pigeons that been have lost for a certain period. The treatment is individual – Niclosamida.


CAUSAL AGENT: Capillaria obsignata
Is considered that this parasite is present in 50 % of the pigeons, but particularly is more sensible in the young animals.
SYMPTOMS: A slight infection practically does not produce symptoms, only diminution in the sport perfomance. But if the infection is serious, youngsters can die one week after starting the disease.
DIAGNOSE: Idem ascaridiosis.
TREATMENT: Idem ascaridiosis. (NO PIPERAZINA)
PROPHYLAXIS: Idem ascaridiosis

ASCARIDIOSIS racing pigeons

CAUSAL AGENT: Ascaris Columbae.
The cycle where the egg of the parasite is eliminated by the faecal matter, goes to the ground, is developed the larva and again it is ingested, matured and again eliminated it is of 20 days for that reason it recommends the preventive treatment every 21 days)
SYMPTOMS: Few roundworms cause little damage, but if the number increases too much it produces a reduction of the sports perfomance and inflict many casualties.
– Anorexy (loss of appetite)
– Loss of weight.
– Weakness
– Little consistent faecal material.
– Intense thirst.
– Anemia
– Opaque and made bristle plumage.
– we can see the parasites in the excrements and sometimes in vomits. The damages caused by these parasites are imputed to 3 reasons.
1 – The wounds that cause in intestinal wall
2 – Because they absorb many elements nutritious.
3 – Because they excrete toxic substances.
DIAGNOSE: Analysis of fecal material
TREATMENT: There are different drugs:
– Levamisol -RIPERCOL MR
– Piperazina
– Ivermectina (Ivomec Mr)
PROPHYLAXIS: Alternate the treatment with the above-mentioned drugs every 30 days. In this way we diminished the possibility of dependence to the drug. Do not forget that the LEVAMISOL is an excellent inmunomodulator as well (stimulating of the defences) therefore its use is essential whenever we vaccinate against New Castle.
The old animals develop a certain immunity.
Cleaning – hygiene. Disinfection

COCCIDIOSIS racing pigeons

CAUSAL AGENT: A tiny parasite. Two species:
Eimeria Labbeana
Eimeria Columbarum
SYMPTOMS: Two forms:
Clinical: proper of the adult pigeon. There is no symptom but it diminishes the sport perfomance. There is a certain immunity.
Itself: It attacks young pigeons at the third week of age. Watery and faded faecal material, sometimes with blood (never liquid and green). Loss of weight and forms. Loss of color of the rainbow of the eye, changes grayish. Mucous of the mouth and the throat becomes pale (anemia). Opaque plumage.
DIAGNOSE: Analysis of faecal material.
TREATMENT: Sulfamidas “the continued use in the eye, causes damages at renal level
Toltazuril (Baycox Mr.)
PROPHYLAXIS: Alternate the above-mentioned drugs every 30 days in a preventive form. Possibility to use this treatment together with the one against trichomonas. Once finished the treatment, give vitamins during 3-4 days. Deep cleaning and general disinfection (do not forget that the eggs of coccidios reproduce in the accumulated faecal matter in the floor or trays being necessary three conditions: temperature, humidity and oxygen. Therefore we must prevent the humidity).

Racing pigeons colonise!

I was watching a program about tropical fish one day and in the water were two groups of fish. These fish were the same colour but with different pattern ie a striped shoal and a spotted shoal .What I found interesting about all of this was when the Diver took a striped fish and introduced it to the spotted shoal at about a meter apart so what happened? the little fella went straight back to his stripy buddies .Now what would happen if you were to rear a small team of racing pigeons the same colour you might ask why!! my racing  pigeons do alright for me and they are mixed ,or maybe you have already tried this method with no results if this was so how would your returns have been. We let our racing  pigeons out to fly on a daily basis and what do they do they fly around and around for at least two hours repeating the same circular flying pattern day in and day out looking at the same colour of buddies flying below them now if these birds are reared only knowing what they are shown surely this should increase our chances of a bird wanting back to his own kind .Imagine the birds being released from the transporter and what is the first thing they see?  That`s  right lots of different coloured buddies is this going to increase your chances of getting a better percentage of returns? What about even when you train your one coloured team  and they accidentally have a smash with another team, could this help to increase your chances of getting better returns than the other guys & gals? Combining this method with your own favourite motivation tactic could have that extra bit of edge on the rest of the fancy or could it?

Method or Madness.



CAUSAL AGENT: Borrelia columbae (virus)
INFECT: By the water of drink, food, fecal material, dust, pricked of mosquito, wounds, etc. Youngsters are most susceptible. The adults rare time become sick.
SYMPTOMS: Typical crust formation white yellowish, difficult to give off (blood ones), in eyes, nose, peak, toggle of the legs, mouth, throat, around the sewer.
TREATMENT: To separate the excrescences and to apply dye topics of iodine. Give antibiotic and vitamins (mainly vitamin A) during 4-5 days.
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfection (iodine povidona)
IMMUNITY: The cured pigeon acquires immunity for a lifetime.


Virus disease of recent appearance. There have been some cases in the Buenos Aires.


It is little what its known about this disease caused by a virus that has its preference by the devices of the lymphatic system (ganglia, bazo). Thats where its name comes from.
SYMPTOMS: During the breeding it is very common to observe the unequal growth of the youngsters. The frequent vomits are one of the symptoms most characteristic of the disease.
TREATMENT: Homeopathic substances.
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfection of the pigeons.


CAUSAL AGENT: Bird Paramixovirus type 1
SYMPTOMS: 1 – Digestive upheavals:
Virus – vicerotropo
Liquid Excrements —-> (as water)
Intense thirst (it can increase to 4-5 times the consumption)
2 – Nervous upheavals:
– vírus neurotropo
Slight tremors of head.
Difficulty to peck grains (it affects the optical nerve).
Problems of balance: it falls for a side or back towards (pirouettes)
– Torticolis: of 0º – 180 º
– Problems in sight with discolouration of an eye.
– Paralysis of a wing or the two.
– Paralysis of a leg or the two.

3 – Breath upheavals (Vírus neumotropo)
Conjuntivitis, coriza, death rattle. (They are not frequent)
DIAGNOSE: Laboratory, by examination of the blood.
TREATMENT: To eliminate sick pigeons of small value.
To isolate the pigeons that we want to treat. Reduce to normality the water consumption (50 cs per day).
To fulfill the food trays or to give them to eat with a sleeve or syringe.
To administer together:
– Antibiotics (Tetraciclinas, enrofloxacina, etc.)
– Amino acids

– Vitamins
– Levamisol (to stimulate the defenses).
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfecting of the loft.
VACCINATION: a) Dead virus: or inactivated in watery solution.
Intramuscular or subcutaneous.
Immunity: a year COLOMBOVAC (Holland)
b) Alive virus: Cepa B1 or La Sota.
In the water of drink and by nasal or ocular drop.
Immunity: 2 months. On the 4th day of applied the vaccine to the alive virus it is advisable to make the following recipe:

– Levamisol: 1-2 days
– Vitamins, Antibiotics and Amino acids: during 4-5 days.
IMPORTANT: It is an obligation of the Fancier to denounce or to communicate to his society a bud of this disease in his loft, so that all the other people can take their own precautions.


SYMPTOMS: Similars to an influenza.
Nasal and ocular secretion similar to the micoplasmosis
diarrea—-> slow thinning —> death.
DIAGNOSE: Laboratory (Stamp method)
TREATMENT: Clortetraciclinas + Tilosina.
PROPHYLAXIS: Deep disinfection.


Microplasma – Microorganism halfway between a bacterium and a virus. Cured pigeons acquire immunity, however they happen to be carrying and transmitting the illness to the youngsters. This disease generally is associate to the ORNITOSIS.
Many pigeons are carrying and the diseases appear after the effort of a difficult competition.
CAUSAL AGENT: Microplasma
SYMPTOMS: Nasal, watery humid secretion and becomes sticky and mucous. Inside the mouth a gray, rough scab.
Tongue and sticky palate. Very disagreeable breath (repulsive). Nose of dirty gray color. Very difficult breathing.
Very strong noises at night. Very slow evolution. It is rare to have an generalised infection but when happens the diminishing of the defences (stress, the races, lack of hygiene, overpopulation etc.) can cause deaths.
DIAGNOSE: Serológic examination of the antibodies of the attacked pigeons.
TREATMENT: Tilosina (Tylla MR) ENROFLOXACINA. Administer it to 5 days consecutive
PROPHYLAXIS: Deep disinfection. Preventive treatments can be done in the weeks frees of races, and mainly after a hard one.


CAUSAL AGENT: Hemophilus influenzae
SYMPTOMS: Tears in both eyes at the same time. Swelling of the lacrimal coats (owl head). Slight nasal unloading (snot)
DIAGNOSE: Bacteriological examination of nasal and ocular secretions.
TREATMENT: Antibiotics – Vitamins.
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfecting (iodine povidona)


It can attack a few pigeons, as thus also to provoke an epidemic. Normally it finishes in a fatal mode. The overpopulation and the lack of hygiene are of the more important causing factors.
CAUSAL AGENT: Pasteurella multocida
SYMPTOMS: High fever 42 º – 43º C
Death between 24 – 48 hs.
TREATMENT: Tetraciclinas
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfecting (iodine povidona)


Disease of youngsters that causes an early death without specific symptoms. The cured adult pigeon becomes into carriers and continue eliminating salmonellas, reason why it is preferable to eliminate them. When hatching they can transmit the disease through the pores of the rind of eggs
CAUSAL AGENT: Salmonella Typhimurium
TRANSMISSION: Oral: By the food or the drinking water.
Aerial: By inhalation of the dust.
Ovarian: Of the ovary to the egg.
4 forms
1 – Intestinal: diarrea with thick lees surrounded by snots, elements nondigested in dirty water of brown or green, and frothy color. Thickening of the sewer.
2 – Articulte: of the internal goes to the blood and from there to the joints of greater movement (elbow). Fallen wing
3 – Organic: it attacks all the devices pronouncing itself with a short breath and general weakening.
4 – Nervous: it attacks the brain and the spinal marrow producing:
– loss of balance
– paralysis
– tortícolis (similar to New Castle)
DIAGNOSE Serologic, wich means the antibodies of the blood of the infected animals.
TREATMENT: Antibiotics:
– Tetraciclinas
– Enrofloxacina
– Furazolidona
Minimum 15 days.
PROPHYLAXIS: Cleaning and disinfecting (at least weekly)
1 – 2 days of antibiotics every 15 days
IMPORTANT: It is a ZOONOSE (it can infect the man by a very close contact).



DIPTEROS (flies)
CARRAÇAS (aracnideos)

Administration of medicines

Administration of medicines
Injectable form: Subcutaneous (underneath the skin of the neck)
Oral form: 1. – By capsules or tablets (individual treatment)
2. – In the drink water: administer the right amount of water that is consumed per day according to the time of the year (winter or summer). The vitamins in the water from a day to another, will be inactivated.
3. – In the food: it is not recommended.
4. – Topics: with a small stick and cotton (Muguet case, trichomoniasis, smallpox, etc)
Doses: Insufficient dose:
It doesn’t produce the wished treatment and causes resistance or to be dependent.
It can cause very detrimental effects (case sulfas)
1 coffee spoon = 1.5 – 2 grs.
1 teaspoon = 3,5 – 4 grs.
1 soupspoon = 8 – 10 grs.
1 soup spoonful = 15 grs.
20 drops = 1 millilitre = 1 cc
Important: Whenever antibiotics are administered (tetraciclinas, tilosina, eritromicina, etc), it is necessary to provide vitamins, electrolytes, amino acids and reconstituyentes of the intestinal flora. (Ex.: acid filofago, yoghurt)In the case of administering TETRACICLINAS (terramicina MR), suppress the GRIT during those days as the calcium salts precipitate the antibiotic and they inactivate it. Do not use interactive products simultaneously: they can produce interference, cooperation, antagonism or it can change the effect desired.
Prophylaxis or prevention Disinfection of the loft and all the facilities: at the present time IODINE POVIDONA is the antiseptic par excellence. It has bacterial, viricida and fungicida action. Apply it with spray whenever we clean the loft ( minimum once a week).
Dilution: 20 cc in 1 litre of water.
Pratical advice and rules of treatment

A. – Illness – Symptomatic

B. – Preventive or Prophylactic
(hygiene, vaccines, etc.)

C. Helping
(for example: antibiotics in virus diseases)


Physiological Constants of the Pigeon

Physiological Constants of the Pigeon


38,8º – 40º C

Weight Average :
= 450 – 500 grs.
= 400 – 450 grs.

Water Ingestion:
30 – 60 cc per day (45 cc average)
1 litre of water for 20 pigeons.
Increase to double in the Summer
(60 – 100 cc)
Food Ingestion
30 grams per day (average)


Racing pigeons are housed together in a specially designed dovecote or loft. From about five weeks of age until the end of its racing career, the racing loft is the pigeon’s home and this is where it returns to on race day.

Selective breeding and rigorous training has led to birds such as this Australian winner.

Young pigeons are usually trained progressively for at least six months before being allowed to compete in a race event. A racing pigeon’s initial training involves familiarising it with the loft and its surroundings and training it to use the various features of its home (e.g. entry points). It is also this critical time that the birds learn commands, such as entering the loft when the trainer whistles.

After a few weeks of initial training and ‘homing in’, the young birds are allowed outside for the first time. This is usually before they can fly strongly so as to prevent an overzealous pigeon from flying away before it can find its way back home. As the birds grow older, they become stronger and smarter and are therefore allowed to fly further and further away from their home loft. When a few trainers fly their pigeons in the same area, these loft flying kits (as flocks of pigeons are called) can number in the thousands. This ‘loft flying’ familiarises the birds with their home area and builds fitness. It does not, however, help them much in relation to finding their home from long distances away, a fundamental of pigeon racing. As confident flyers, the young pigeons are taken on progressively longer ‘training tosses’, driven a distance away from their home and released. This is like the format of a real race, however on a much smaller scale and it is usually not timed in the same way as a race. This practice of loft flying and tossing continues throughout a pigeon’s career.
Training methods are as varied as the pigeons themselves. Some fanciers believe their system is the secret to their success and guard these hard learned lessons closely. Most fanciers will explain their basic strategy but some may be reluctant to share the details of their success. One of the most popular systems is widowhood. This system uses motivation to try to give the bird a sense of urgency on race day. The use of widowhood is usually begun by first allowing the racer to raise a baby in their nest box. After the baby is weaned the hen is removed and often the nestbox is closed off, from then on the only time these birds are allowed to see their mate or enter the nest box is upon returning from training or a race. This conditioning is one of the key elements in a lot of racing programs.


One-loft racing

One-Loft Racing is the process of training birds bred by many different breeders in the same loft, under the same trainer and in the same conditions (as opposed to trainer against trainer in their own lofts and usually with their own birds). It is thought to be the fairest method of proving which bloodline or breeder is best and usually provides the highest amount of prize money. Pigeons are recorded by electronic timing systems scanning the birds as they enter the home loft with winners decided by as little as 100th of a second. The birds are all taken to the same release point and they return to the same home loft, so therefore it is the fastest bird to complete the journey from A to B. One loft racing is now becoming very popular all around the world with fanciers able to compare their bloodlines on an equal basis against the many other pigeons.


Electronic timing method

The latest development and preferred method for timing racing pigeons is the Electronic Timing System. The bird’s arrival is recorded automatically. When using an electronic system, the pigeon fancier doesn’t even have to be at the loft to clock the birds as they return. Birds are fitted with a band that has a tiny RFID chip in it which can be read when the bird comes home. At the home loft the electronic scanning records the pigeons arrival. The pad or antenna is placed at the entry point to the loft entrance and as the pigeon crosses it the electronic band is scanned. The clock is attached to the antennas. The serial number of the transponder ring is recorded along with the time of arrival. This is very similar to transponder timing systems used in human races.

In February 2008 the members of the Penygraog Homing Society Racing Pigeon Club in Wales won an award to fund a new electronic timing device. The club was able to obtain the device thanks to funding from the All Wales award initiative. Club secretary John Williams said: “The electronic timer certainly makes it a lot easier for us”.


Traditional timing method

The traditional method of timing racing pigeons involves rubber rings with unique serial numbers and a specially designed pigeon racing clock. The ring is attached around the bird’s leg before being sent to race. The serial number is recorded, the clock is set and sealed, and the bird carries the ring home. When the first bird returns, its trainer removes the ring and places it in a slot in the clock. The time that the ring was placed in the clock and is recorded as the official time that the competing bird arrived home. From this timestamp an average speed is measured and a winner of the race can be found.

Although serving its purpose, this method has proved somewhat problematic for a few reasons:

  1. The pigeon’s “official time” is not the actual time it arrived, it is the time the ring was removed, placed in the clock and recorded, which could be many vital seconds later.
  2. Exceptional pigeons may arrive home first on multiple occasions; knowing it is going to have the ring removed speedily, which may be uncomfortable, the pigeon could be reluctant to enter the loft for the trainer.


In short, competing birds are taken from their lofts and must race home. The time taken and distance are recorded and the fastest bird is declared the winner. Races are generally between 100 and 1000 km in distance. In the United States flights of up to 1800 kilometres have been recorded.

Provided it survives the many hazards associated with racing, a single pigeon could compete from about 6 months of age and still be in competition at over ten years of age. Such feats are uncommon, however, and the average racing career rarely exceeds three years.

To compete in a race, it must wear a permanent, unique numbered ring or band that is placed on its leg at about 5 days of age. For a race to be conducted, the competing pigeons must be entered into the race, usually at the organisation’s clubhouse, and taken away from their home to be released at a predetermined time and location. The distance between the bird’s home loft and the racepoint is carefully measured by GPS and the time taken by the bird to return is measured using one of the two acceptable timing methods. Sometimes as in some leagues there are 2 divisions. One for the young birds (usually yearlings in their first year of competition) and another for the old birds.



Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years. The predecessors of modern day Racing pigeons were pigeons bred for their homing ability, primarily to carry messages. “Pigeon Posts” have been established all over the world and while mainly used in the military, some are still in service today. Modern pigeon racing originated in Belgium in the mid 19th century.


Pigeon racing

Pigeon racing is a sport involving the release of specially trained racing pigeons, which then return to their homes over a carefully measured distance. The time it takes the animal to cover the specified distance is measured and the animals’ rate of travel is calculated and compared with all of the other pigeons in the race to determine which animal returned at the highest speed.

The winner of a pigeon race is the bird with the highest velocity, that is, the distance flown divided by the time taken. Races can often be won and lost in seconds, and to counter this, many different timing apparatus have been developed. The traditional timing method involves rubber rings being placed into a specially designed clock, whereas a newer development uses RFID tags to record arrival time.

While there is not definite proof, there are compelling reasons to think the sport of racing pigeons may go back as least as far as 220 AD or possibly earlier. The sport achieved a great deal of popularity in Belgium in the mid 19th century. The pigeon fanciers of Belgium were so taken with the hobby that they began to develop pigeons specially cultivated for fast flight and long endurance called Voyageurs. From Belgium the modern version of the sport and the Voyageurs which the Flemish fanciers developed spread to most parts of the world. Once quite popular, the sport has experienced a downturn in participants in recent years, possibly due to the rising cost of living, aging fanciers, and a severe lack of public interest.

One recent development in the sport of pigeon racing is “one loft racing”, where birds are raced against each other under the same training regime, in an effort to test the best birds rather than the best trainer.

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