Pigeon racing for sport has become increasingly popular over the last decades. It could be said that pigeon racing has been experiencing a rebirth of sorts. Pigeon races are sanctioned events that encourage new participants and seasoned pros to get together and release their pigeons for a race against the clock back to home base. These races can be anywhere from a few miles to hundreds of miles. Special pigeon clocks are designed to track the pigeons’ times and determine a winner.
Racing pigeons are specially raised and trained to enter long range races, but even some of the best trained pigeons don’t always make it home at the end of the race. Anywhere from 10% to 20% of racing pigeons are lost, injured, or killed on their way home. The pigeons that are lost are often eventually returned to their owners through the kindness of someone who finds the lost pigeon and rescues it.
The traditional timing methods of the pigeon clock are rapidly being replaced with more humane electronic pigeon racing timers. The traditional method involves a rubber ring that is slipped from the clock, which starts the timing, and then is wrapped around the pigeon’s leg often causing discomfort. However, electronic timing methods mean that not only are the birds more comfortable (especially those who end up lost with no one to remove the ring) but they also alleviate the owner from having to meet the pigeon at the loft for bad removal and replacement of the ring into the clock. Electronic timing offers more accurate timing and more ease for human and pigeon.
Pigeon racing has been banned in the city of Chicago and may be banned elsewhere. There are concerns that pigeon racing advocates may have killed a certain number of birds of prey which has led to concern. Animal rights activists have also taken issue with some training methods and have been fighting to have pigeon racing banned. Many pigeons are taught to fly home with a great sense of need as they are separated from their babies and are only permitted to see them upon returning home from a training flight or a race. Additionally, more losses have been reported with the use of cell phones and the increase in cell phone towers since it is hypothesized that pigeon navigate their way home through the intimate use of the planet’s electromagnetic field and cell phone towers may be interfering with their ability to accurately navigate. If this is true then more birds will be lost as cell phone use is only increasing.
Pigeon racing is extremely popular in Asia and Australia. In these countries pigeon races are bet on with the same vigor that horse racing and other sporting events encourage betting. While the future of pigeon racing might be questionable, there is no question that the popularity of pigeon races is increasing world wide. The increase in popularity has led to new research and theories on creating highly humane training methods to help keep the sport growing and thriving.