The birds flock in for the big race

The 20th SA Million Dollar Pigeon Race, due to be held early next year, is once again attracting top-rate entrants from around the world, says Thomas Smit.

The birds flock in for the big race
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Young racing pigeons have already been received for placement in the 20th South African Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SAMDPR), due to be held at Linbro Park, Sandton, in February 2014. The quarantine station was opened on 25 May 2015 and closed on 30 June. Quarantine was due to be lifted 30 days after the last shipment was received. Pigeons not requiring quarantine will be accepted until 31 August.

Since its inception in 1996, the SAMDPR has shone the spotlight on South Africa every year by presenting a big money pigeon race that attracts participants from around the world. The entry fee is US$1 100 (about R13 700) per entered pigeon. Should the pigeon intended for the race be lost during loft orientation and training, one of the two reserve pigeons will automatically be entered at no extra cost.

If all three pigeons are lost while training and none has won any money or being basketed for the SAMDPR, a free entry may be provided to the next SAMDPR. (This applies only to a full team of three pigeons.)

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The pigeons will be electronically tagged and the details entered onto a secure computer database. Identity rings will be covered to ensure that no pigeon is advantaged over another and all pigeons have an equal chance of success. A team of trainers, vets and loft helpers will ensure that all pigeons receive the best possible care during training and are in top condition for the race.

Cash prizes
The SAMDPR final is scheduled for 6 February 2016. It will cover a distance intended to provide a fair test of the pigeons’ ability. The distance will be between 500km and 600km. Pigeons are expected to complete the race in eight to 10 hours, weather permitting.

The winner will receive US$150 000 (about R1,85 million). Second and third will receive US$100 000 (about R1,2 million) and US$75 000 (about R930 000) respectively. The fourth bird home will receive US$50 000 (about R620 000) and the fifth US$40 000 (about R495 000).

Other ways to win

As usual, Hot Spot Car Races will take place on the five longer distance training flights in the build-up towards the main race. All entered pigeons will compete in these. Reserve pigeons not entered (or ‘activated’) by paying the entry fee will not be eligible for prizes.

The winner of each race will receive a prize of US$16 000 (about R195 000) to spend on a car of his or her choice. The next 19 pigeons home will receive US$1 100 (about R13 700) each. The Hot Spot Car Race Ace Pigeon is the bird that completes the combined distance of all the Hot Spot training flights in the shortest time. Its owner will receive US$5 000 (about R62 000).

In the Two- and Three-Pigeon Challenge, the best combined velocity of the competing teams during each of the five Hot Spot races and the SAMDPR final is calculated. Winners of the Two-Pigeon Challenge will receive US$2 000 (about R24 900) each, and winners of the Three-Pigeon Challenge will receive US$3 000 (about R37 000) each.

The winner of the Knock-Out Competition will earn its owner US$25 000 (R310 000). The competition takes place over the last four Hot Spot races and final; a sliding scale is used to knock out the late arrivals and identify a winner in the main race. Only pigeons entered prior to and basketed for the first Hot Spot Car Race will be eligible to enter. All pigeons entered into the SAMDPR also compete for the title of SAMDPR Grand Average Ace Pigeon, which will win US$10 000 (R124 000).

All pigeons that complete the race may be auctioned off. Those not sold on the day after the race will be auctioned at regional venues or on the SAMDPR website. A list of the venues will be published on the website. Reserve pigeons not activated by the entrants can be entered by anybody simply by paying the entry fee.

For more information, phone SAMDPR admin at 011 680 1118 or visit