Pigeon Racing Etiquette


The fact that the Pigeon Racing sport has developed to an almost professional occupation does not mean that the normal rules of etiquette and ethical behaviour no longer apply. In fact, racing for relatively big sums of money or other valuable prizes makes it so much more important that we act in an honest and responsible manner.

Therefore one should at all times play the game according to the rules. Here are some aspects which are often neglected or intentionally violated and which should be protected in the Constitution of every club, union and federation.

Handling of pigeons:

One does not catch and handle pigeons in the lofts of fellow racing fanciers without their permission.

One never presses on the back of someone else's pigeon.

One does not open the beak of someone else's pigeon to inspect its throat without the permission of the owner.

One never damages the feathering of someone else's pigeon.

One does not intervene in the loft management of a fellow pigeon fancier, e.g. chasing his pigeons up to fly, whistling or anything you would do with your pigeons, which he might do differently.

Lost pigeons:

It is never acceptable to intentionally lure and trap a pigeon not belonging to you. Likewise it is not acceptable to keep a pigeon that entered your loft, be it by accident or through your manoeuvrings. One should always try to find the owner of such pigeons, and should never race a trapped pigeon. Neither should one breed with a trapped pigeon.

I am convinced that a pigeon fancier who keeps, breeds and races trapped pigeons can never be successful in the sport of pigeon fancying. Once in a blue moon he might strike it lucky, but on averages he can never compete with a pigeon fancier who purchases good quality pigeons.

I kept statistics on the youngsters that I lost and found that less than 2% of them ever flew a place in the club. What are the chances of a trapper trapping one of the 2% (maybe good quality) pigeons that are lost every year? At the same time – some of the pigeons lost as youngsters boast very good pedigrees, of which the trapper knows nothing.

By keeping a trapped pigeon and not reporting him the trapper separates the pigeon from his pedigree, thereby condemning him to a life of being "just another trappy".

Breeding and racing trapped pigeons is the most expensive pigeon fancying method one can possibly follow!

Do some simple calculations – how much does the trapper spend on feeding, training, administering medicine and managing trappies and what percentage of them eventually turn out to be worth his while? Not to mention the mess the "duds" cause to his breeding efforts.

A trapper can never achieve homogeneity in his loft! If he were to spend reasonable, even substantial, amount on one or two pairs of top quality pigeons from a prominent and honest South African or foreign breeder, chances are much higher that he would lift the quality of his entire loft in a very short time.

The efficiency ratio of spending much money in the short term on purchasing good quality pigeons is much better than trying to sort out trappies and eventually wasting more money on them in the long run.

We all know how most trappers treat their trapped pigeons. They are flown in every possible race, regardless of the weather conditions or distance, in the hope that they will win the trapper some extra, undeserved points. Who cares if the pigeon is lost?

Gossip, Jealousy and Backbiting:

It is never acceptable to say that "gossipers and backbiters will always be with us and we have to accept it". Perhaps it is true, they will always be there, but by accepting this we are actually promoting this kind of attitude.

Crime and violence is most part of the South African culture, and the day we stop fighting it will be the beginning of the end of our beautiful country. Likewise, if we stop fighting the negative element of the racing pigeon sport, we will all eventually lose.

Vision is what we need. Vision is the ability to foresee the consequences of our actions. We need to understand that we can eventually kill the racing pigeon sport if we don't fight negative attitudes and practices.

Jealousy leads to malpractices gossip, backbiting and sometimes even violence or threats of violence amongst pigeon fanciers. If this is allowed to happen it will soon become a way of life. This has been the downfall of many clubs and will continue to damage the sport unless we fight it.

Loft Hygiene:

It is unforgiveable to enter pigeons in races that were not inoculated against Pigeon Pox and injected against Paramyxo virus. It is also unethical to treat your pigeons with medication, which will infect the pigeons of other fanciers.

It is irresponsible not to maintain sound loft hygiene, since this not only limits the chances of your pigeons flying well, but can cause problems for other pigeon fanciers whose pigeons contract illnesses or parasites from your pigeons.

Selling of worthless pigeons:

"What comes around goes around." If you sell worthless pigeons, chances are that, one-day, you will in turn buy the (useless) offspring of your own pigeons, or at least the products of someone else's (useless) pigeons that he sold to someone else.

Again, we need to think "visionary" – think what the long term consequences will be to your own loft and to the racing pigeon sport in general if we sell worthless pigeons.

I am not an advocate of unrestricted killing of pigeons, but in some instances it is probably better to get rid of the obviously worthless ones. At the same time I have to mention that there is nothing as irritating as the pigeon fancier who tries to impress others with the ruthless manner in which he "sorts out the passengers".

Even worse, I have been told (fortunately not witnessed) of pigeon fanciers who entertain fellow pigeon fanciers by demonstrating how easily they kill unwanted pigeons. Getting rid of poor quality or sick pigeons is something one does in private.

In fact, this is a good yardstick of your true quality as a pigeon fancier – if you don't feel some measure of remorse when killing a pigeon, you are probably not worth the name pigeon fancier and should not be permitted to keep racing pigeons.

The true racing pigeon fancier always places the interests of his pigeons above his own need for money, recognition or whatever reasons he may be involved in the sport for.

Falsifying Pedigrees:

Not only is it unethical to falsify pedigrees – it is just as bad to claim that a pigeon is a "Janssen" or "Putterie" or whatever strain if this is not the truth. And really, I have seen and been sold pigeons which the owner claims to be, say, a Janssen, that either does not have a proper pedigree or perhaps shows one Janssen in the very distant past on the pedigree.

I met a specialist in Genetics in Switzerland once, who claimed that they succeeded in identifying and separating the genes of most of the well-known racing pigeon strains. He (Dr Lipp) claimed that they could determine what percentage a pigeon, say Janssen, carries Janssen blood.

The advertised this in Belgium and not a single pigeon fancier was prepared to have his pigeons tested!

Then again, even the best-known pigeon breeders bring in new blood from time to time. I could not (yet) find hard and fast rules on the definition of pedigrees, but would suggest that you should rather think about "creating" your own strain once you have bred a pigeon type which no longer carries more than 50% blood of the strain you claim it to be.

Of course your strain must comply with certain prerequisites if it is to be accepted as a viable strain by the racing pigeon community. Such prerequisites would probably include characteristics such as speed and/or perseverance, resistance to illnesses, and some phenotype (appearance) characteristics.

Colin Osman (Racing Pigeons. A Practical Guide to the Sport, 1996.) Suggests that it will take at least three years before one can even think about starting an own strain.


It is against the rules of all-racing pigeon clubs, Federations and Unions in South Africa to use doping in the hope of achieving better racing results. Besides, it is very short sighted to use measures that might provide short-term results at the expense of the long-term success of ones pigeons.


It is always difficult to write an article such as this, because it can easily create the impression that the writer regards himself as "better" than others. When one points a finger, three fingers are always pointing back at you, and I am very much aware of this.

However, I am confident that it is the wish of every racing pigeon fancier to promote and protect the sport that gives so much meaning to our lives.

If we all are sincere about the future of our sport, and if we participate in an honest manner without losing our sense of humour, we will all reap the good fruits of our efforts.

By Dr JP Nel

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