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The art of rearing domestic pigeons

The art of rearing domestic pigeons


Homing pigeons, a variety of the domestic pigeon, have always been good at navigating back to their nests. Before the telegraph and telephones were invented, homing pigeons were used as a means of communication — to carry messages back and forth — due to their natural homing ability.
Here in Qatar, when rearing homing pigeons became a hobby for many people, they got together and formed their first such association in 2006. According to Qatar Association of Homing Pigeon (QAHP) President Jassim Mohammed al Sayyed, the association is now under the Youth Hobbies Center, which is directed by the Minister of Culture and Sport himself.
As Qatar gears to host events and festivals this cool season, the QAHP's tournaments kick off in December and last until the end of March. But this year's tournament was exceptional, as they launched a new 800-km race.
The tournaments vary in distance starting from 160km, in which pigeons are taken in cages to Saudi Arabia and are set free there. The birds return to Qatar the same day, within nine hours, despite wind and rain. Jassim al Sayyed said the association has several starting points, especially in Kuwait and neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
QAHP members, he said, had participated in several international tournaments like the 'One Loft Race' organised in South Africa. Sayyed said some of the Qatari contestants hold records in international tournaments, like Abdallah Fakhrou, who got the fifth place in an international tournament in Thailand.
Pigeons have their breeds and some are well known for certain abilities. According to Sayyed, they were slower in olden days but with new breeding techniques, some of the birds were inter-bred to form a new breed of faster and stronger pigeons. Thus, some homing pigeons are sold at prices as much high as 200,000 euros. Qatar has its own breeds of pigeons, though amateurs still import some good pigeons from abroad."QAHP had offered members to hold an auction for their trained pigeons but the members refused, as their pigeons are dear to them like their children," said Sayyed.
QAHP provides veterinary services to members at very reasonable prices, Sayyed said, adding it also conducts workshops and training for members, including in schools, so that students can learn about this hobby. The efforts help attract amateurs to the association. Sayyed praised Youth Hobbies Center Director Abdulrahman al Hajri, for his constant support to QAHP and for promoting this sport.
Describing the process of training homing pigeons, Qatari amateur Mohammed al Sada, who spends most of his free time caring for his pigeons and training them, said,"Training a pigeon starts from the moment they are in the eggs: by providing good conditions for the egg and the mother pigeon. Once they have hatched and are eight days old, they are ringed with identifiers to distinguish them. After day 25, they are taken away from their mothers and given special food supplements and are allowed out of the cage to discover their surroundings."
Homing pigeons have a special attachment to their loft, and the trainer is keen on finding methods to enhance this love. One of the methods Mohammed al Sada explained was 'widowing', which is separating couples in different cages and allowing them only once a week to mate."This process is a big motivator for pigeons to love their homes as they are species that make a family," Sada said.
Unlike other birds, homing pigeons fly home in any condition, wherever they are. As Sada said, they sometimes come back even with broken wings or bullets of hunters.

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