Pigeon Racing Anyone ?

A pigeon race

To those of us, who think that the pigeon racing  ended with the era of maharajas and nawabs, here is a surprise. Pigeon racing as a hobby is doing very well and in keeping with the times has become a high tech sport. The short distance annual racing for pigeons begins today as the birds are released from Kavali and there is another on January 29 from Vinukonda.

How do pigeons race? Do they know their tracks and who follows them to know who won?  We are sure you too have such questions and this post is an eye opener on Pigeon racing in which Chennai is a leader with many number of Pigeon enthusiasts and clubs. Surprised ? Read on to know more…

Actually in the 21 century there are two schools of pigeon racing. Old Nawabi types – looking for a leisurely type of sport and modern pigeon racing enthusiasts who try to make this hobby as scientific as horse racing.

Of the old veterans there are still a sizable number, mainly in the cities of Old Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Hyderabad and other citadels of the Mughal era. For example Allauddin Mian (name changed to protect identity) a prosperous mithai shop owner in Chandni chowk is a classic example. Kabooter baz, they are called – Urdu for “pigeon handlers.” “This was a sport of kings and nawabs,” says Allaudin. “Not many people are doing it in the old ways anymore.”

Carrier Pigeon

In pre-independence India, pigeon handling was long the pastime of gentlemen. It is also, perhaps, the gentlest of sports. Or that is what it’s like for men like Allaudin, a “khalifa” – or master – of the pigeon world. While there are thousands of pigeon handlers in old Delhi, there are only a few dozen khalifas, men who trained under earlier masters and for whom pigeon handling is a serious craft. To them, overt competition is crass. Allaudin has a veritable pigeon empire, with perhaps a dozen coops scattered across the neighbourhood. He has breeding coops and coops for sick birds. He has coops full of pigeons from India, Afghanistan, Iran and places he can’t even name. He has workers to help care for them.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Dr Noel Kannan of Kottivakkam Tamilnadu, who has returned after a stint as a dental surgeon in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and boasts of a whopping 250 birds in his loft. In 1992, Dr Kannan took time off from his practice and travelled across Europe.

He went from country to country to pick the brains of famous pigeon fanciers and breeders and in Belgium bought five pairs of the famous Silvere Toye racing pigeons worth one lakh of rupees a pair and today he has dozens of these famous breed in his lofts.

Chennai Leads the Number in Racing Pigeon Enthusiasts

Today most of our metros have associations of racing pigeon enthusiasts and Chennai in Tamilnadu has the maximum number of these sportsmen. Believe it or not, there are now anywhere from 300 to 500 pigeon fanciers at least five racing pigeon clubs in Chennai and even an All India racing pigeons federation has been formed to coordinate the activities of all the Indian pigeon clubs. Next comes Calcutta with its Calcutta Racing Pigeons Club which is the oldest in India, with birds left behind by the British at Independence helping nurture the “sport” during post-Independence years. The third place goes to Bangalore and there are around 150 professional pigeon racers called “girebaaz” or “kabutarbaaz” in this city,” The Coimbatore Racing Pigeon Association came into being in September 2009 and has number of races to its credit.

What is Pigeon Racing?

Pigeon racing does not actually mean there is a race; it is more of an endurance test. It involves transporting the birds from their lofts across the intended course of the race and then releasing them to see which one finds its way back to homestead the fastest. Before being released for the flight, each of the racing pigeons are tagged with a ring around their legs containing details of name, gender, age, address of the loft, and a certain identification number.

Seasons and Racing

The pigeon-racing season in India runs from January to April, before the acute summer heat sets in.

Little expeditions of pigeon fanciers set out in vans or on trains, carrying medical certificates and police clearances and forestry permits, and their birds in flat steel cages. Pigeons of a good bloodline can fly a 600-mile race in a day. If a racing bird is released at 6 a.m. from Allahabad, it reaches its home in Calcutta by evening. So you can imagine the speed (nearly fifty miles an hour) at which they fly with their sense of direction Once the pigeons return, observers on the rooftops match their colour, sex, number and identification band tied to their feet with the registration details to confirm the authenticity of the pigeon’s ownership. The pigeon, which clocks the lowest time to enter its own loft is declared the winner and its owner is presented with a trophy and a certificate. As the winning bird has to reach its loft at the fastest, some trainers will fly female pigeons who are sitting on eggs or nursing newly hatched. The mother will be desperate to return home. Others separate males and females from their mates the day before, giving the athlete a different kind of hunger.

As the age of the bird also impinges on its speed, races fall under two categories – old bird and new bird. A new bird is one that was born within a year before the racing date; any other bird will qualify as an old bird. There is also an open category in which birds of all ages can compete. Homing pigeons in India are in the racing circuit for five years, as opposed to seven years abroad. This is put down to the more nutritious diet that pigeon fanciers abroad can afford for their racers.

“For a loft of 100 birds, one has to spend around Rs 2,000 every month, on feed, medicines, vitamin and mineral supplements,” says Thamburaj a pigeon fancier of Chennai. His pigeons are fed mostly from mixtures of corn, ragi, maize and peas, stored in huge Asian Paints cans in his stairwell.

It is estimated that out of 100 birds released from 100km away a bird fancier could lose as many as 40 from 1,000km away, on average, only one in 10 returns. The main danger to the racing pigeon comes from predators like eagles/vultures/falcon and internationally pigeon racing associations are trying to find out a solution, to spray the pigeons with nasty-tasting chemicals, or feeding them special diets that will make them unpleasant to eat. Today the greatest problem of pigeon race enthusiasts is the cell phone towers that have sprouted all over India, especially in metros. Experts believe that pigeons develop a keen sense of direction by following the position of the sun, stars and even the path of the earth’s magnetic field that ‘draws’ or ‘pulls’ them home from over hundreds of miles. With the radio signals of the cell phone towers, all the pigeons go off track and many are lost. Other scientists believe that pigeons navigate through a map of win-borne odours or even low-frequency sound waves. The birds are also known to remember visual landmarks to find their way back to their owner’s loft.


The scene is hot down South with Chennai Racing Pigeon Society organising regular competitions that include short-distance and long-distance races. Some of the popular clubs of the South are Karnataka Racing Pigeons Club, New Madras Racing Pigeon Club, Tamil Nadu Homer Pigeon Racing Association and Chennai Homing Pigeon Fanciers Club.

Despite being enjoyed in many places, pigeon racing in India is still a hobby. In many European and American countries, this sport is a part of the economy. In fact Belgium with its three hundred thousand pigeon trainers is said to be the most important citadel of this leisure pursuit.  Chennai has a lot more to offer than what meets the eye. Hope to see more pigeon enthusiasts joining the clubs.

For more details Check out

Indian Racing Pigeon Federation

No: 47 & 49, Cart Track Road,
Chennai – 600 032.

Off: 2244 3790
Res: 2234 9808
Cell: 93810 03423

Website :  http://irpf.in

The Chennai Homing Pigeon Fanciers Club

No.28, VOC Nagar, Main Road,
Annanagar, Chennai 600 102.

President: R.Shankar
Phone no: 9790828451

Secretary: S.Srinivasan
Phone no: 9840633232

Website : http://www.chpfa.com/


Posted on January 22, 2012, in Attractions, Hobby, Pets, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. How to identyfy best bloodline of raceing homer pigeons.

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