Show judging criteria for pigeons

What do you look for? And should you apply the textbook requirements of the show to select pigeons for race lofts? These are questions I’m asked frequently by beginners, and it’s not hard to see why.

But first let’s see what judges look for at a show. When judging commences, the judge first walks down the aisle to get a general view of the pigeons in the show pens, then returns to the first lot to begin a closer examination of the birds.

He’ll be looking for the following attributes:

  • General impression – the ideal is a masculine head, sturdy neck, a breastbone of reasonable length and a strong body frame tapering down towards a narrow tail attachment. The pigeon must also have an upright, alert and confident stance. Listlessness, droopy eyelids or a general run-down appearance will not be well received.
  • Head and eyes – the head must be broader toward the back of the skull and the eyes must be in the upper part of the skull. Long narrow beaks will not receive high marks.
  • Quality of plumage and tail – the pigeon is inspected for the feel of its feather quality. Some pigeon families have a natural soft-to-the-touch, silky-smooth feathering. Pigeons with high quality feathering are believed to possess a better hormonal function. In practice, however, there are great champions that don’t have outstanding feather quality. The judge will also check the condition of the feathers. Broken feathers and evidence of lice and mites can result in disqualification. Pigeons with equal moult will get a lower marking.
  • The whole bird – the wings, balance, back and rump, bone structure and the vent bones – are examined and points awarded.Often, the combined point totals are so close the winners are determined by decimals. These specifications tell us exactly what the judges are looking for.

Shows versus racing competitions

Should you apply these requirements when selecting pigeons for race lofts? This is where things can get confusing for the beginner, because the answer to this question is no. Simply put, your best-looking racing pigeon might win all the shows thanks to its physical attributes, but be your worst performer in racing competitions.

Conversely, many top performers in racing competitions fail miserably in the show pen. But that’s not as strange as it seems. Racing requires attributes such as endurance and direction, which can’t be seen in the show pen, and therefore cannot  be judged. However, there are pigeons that do well in both racing and show requirements. These specimens are the ideal. The beginner must be careful when seeking advice from other breeders, as he might be dealing with a perfectionist when it comes to looks.

These pigeon fanciers have contempt for anything that doesn’t meet the “official criteria”. Consequently, new starters will find themselves “encouraged” to purge their lofts of birds that don’t make the grade – but which may be fine racers. Always remember advice is simply someone’s opinion. Let the racing basket be the true judge.

Healthy pigeons

This doesn’t mean entering shows is a waste of time, though. Pigeon shows promote hygienic pigeon-keeping because only healthy pigeons will receive good marks.

That sounds self-evident – but, believe it or not, hygiene is something some fanciers ignore. That’s why I think all clubs should hold their own mini-shows from time to time.

That way you’ll soon see who doesn’t take proper care of their pigeons. Since their neglect could see other pigeons being contaminated, these culprits shouldn’t be allowed to enter races until their pigeons’ health improves.

So, shows are important, but we need to keep some perspective and remember a pigeon can get low marks at a show and still do extremely well in races. Let that be the true measure of a pigeon’s worth.