Breeding them slow & steady

Not all races are won by the sprinters, which can be knocked out of the running by adverse weather conditions.

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That’s why it’s always good to have some ‘plodders’, who may be slower, but have the endurance necessary to win longer races.

Usually the ultimate goal in pigeon racing is to breed the fastest birds. However, there will be races where the prevailing conditions are too demanding for sprinters. That’s why certain pigeon families are valued for their ability to produce birds that are slower, yet have the endurance to beat faster pigeons over longer distances, or when weather conditions make for a prolonged flight.

Consider velocity
In pigeon racing, the velocity of a race is calculated by dividing the distance of the race by the time it took to complete it. The average flying velocity of a pigeon race is 1 200m/min to 1 250m/min. A velocity above 1 300m/min is considered fast-paced; below 1 100m/min is considered slow.

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When the race velocity drops below 1 000m/min, participants panic, fearful of losing good pigeons – a distinct possibility if the weather is also extremely hot, or rain has fallen en route. If weather conditions worsen during the flight, a fast-paced race ends in a slow finish. And the average velocity won’t be an accurate indication of performance.

Similarly, the front runners in a pack might fly into a storm that will be over by the time the slower-paced pigeons reach the same point. Wind is also a problem. It can blow inconsistently, pick up suddenly, force the pigeons entirely off the line of flight, and then settle as fast as it has appeared. The point is, we need to bear these factors in mind when studying race velocities and trying to determine how well our birds did.

Back to slow velocities – it might seem to make sense using all-rounders, but while a fair amount seem to excel at any distance, there are too many exceptions to make this a hard and fast rule. Then there are the fanciers who say all you need to do is adjust your training and feeding methods and your pigeons will win in all conditions. It sounds plausible, but that’s not always the case.

Breed ‘medium’ pigeons
There is no magic formula for success, and time and again you find the same pigeon doesn’t perform equally well in “sprints” and “marathons”. Even all-rounders will show a preference for a certain distance and velocity. The fact is, sprints and marathons each require different training techniques. Specialise in the distance and velocities your pigeons prefer. If you want to win the marathons, use the sprint races as part of your training.

If you prefer the sprint races, don’t burn out your sprinters on the marathons. However, if you feel the need to be competitive at all distances and don’t have the loft space necessary to keep pigeons that “specialise” in the various velocities, the aim should be to strike a happy medium between fast and slow. Pick from the pigeons who do well on the middle distances (500km to 600km) under average race conditions. We’re looking for a working racer that can give its best without a helping wind and won’t fade if the weather suddenly turns nasty.

Breeding six to eight youngsters from a quality middle distance pair you will get some birds that are a bit faster and some that are a bit slower, giving you a chance to score in all weather conditions. Besides the gene pool, wing design is important when it comes to distinguishing the faster pigeons from the slower ones. 

The latter have more louver between the wing’s primary flights and the wings are a little more umbrella-shaped when extended. If the middle distance races in your area are mostly fast-paced you may have to look at matching the pairs that scored on the lower velocities to keep the “guts factor” intact in your breeding programme.