If you are looking for a hobby which requires only a small amount of agriculture space, take a look at pigeons.
Back in the 1930’s in Europe they were called the sport of the working man because they did not require a great deal of space and did not require great sums of money to raise a champion.
Pigeons or doves, either name can be used, all originate from the Grey Rock Dove which dates its ancestry back upwards of 20 million years.
It is man’s oldest feathered friend and has long been referred to as the “symbol of love” and “bird of peace”. Because of its gentle nature, easy domestication and its ability to return home over long distances, many breeds and types of pigeons have been created by intensive breeding programs all over the world. Today there are upwards of 4,500 different breeds of pigeons. Not only are there different breeds of pigeons but there are also types of pigeons for example carrier, homing and racing pigeons are not individual breeds but are pigeons who have been selected for their specific abilities.
Homing and carrier pigeons have been used to deliver messages since the early Egyptian times and for thousands of years they were the fastest way to deliver messages. When the first Olympic Games were held in Greece in 776 BC, pigeons carried the news about the winners. They were used extensively in WW1 and WW2 to deliver messages; the first message coming to Europe saying Napoleon had been defeated at Waterloo was from a pigeon.
Pigeons are still sometimes used as messengers. For example, medical workers on an island in France use pigeons to carry blood samples to the mainland. They can be trained to carry up to 2 ½ oz. Although pigeons generally need to be taken from their home location and they then fly back home; they can also be trained to fly back and forth between two locations.
Pigeons’ ability to find their way home is not clearly understood but it is believed they have an internal clock with a keen sense of smell and hearing. They have been clocked at flying non stop for 15-16 hours covering 800 km. Racing pigeons average speeds of 80 km/h but have been clocked at upwards of 110 km/h and have made flights of up to 1,800 km.
A local pigeon hobbyist is Bill Inden. He was first introduced to pigeons at a very young age while growing up in Holland. By age 11 he had his own loft and became one of the youngest members at a local pigeon racing club. He got back into his hobby about five years ago and has formed a partnership with a Calgary pigeon racer with Bill breeding young racing pigeons for him.
The latest development in the sport is derbies, which is only for young birds born in the year of racing. In BC there is the Western Canada Challenge which has races from Keremeos to Prince George during the summer. Racing derbies are held in many countries around the world and anyone can participate with entry fees around $250.
The Internet has had a great influence on the sport with live auctions around the world where people can bid on superb birds. Individuals can communicate with other fanciers regarding health, breeding, feeding and racing issues by e-mail. Live results are available over the Internet and, of course, if you win, your name is instantly known around the world.
So from the original man’s best friend to trusted message deliverer to flying local the last 100 years, the sport is now heading globally to the big races but it is still a hobby available to young, old, wealthy or, as in the 1930s, the working person.