Inside Twin Cities Pigeon Racing – WCCO

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – When you think of pigeons, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably not “world class athlete”.

“People know them as ‘sky rats’ and things like that. Sit on downtown buildings and poop on people, ”said Paul Rudolph. “Pigeons have had such a bad reputation over the years.”

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But among a small group of people here in the Twin Cities, these birds simply inspire awe.

“It’s a fun sport,” Rudolph said.

Compete in a sport that most people have probably never heard of.

“It’s like having a kite, without a string,” Rudolph said.

Race of pigeons.

“Yeah, most people I meet have no idea,” Rudolph said.

Race day begins before sunrise. As of this Saturday morning, the release point is just across the border from Iowa, just south of Albert Lea.

Rudolph is working to get everything ready. There is a starting gate, if you will, but the peculiarity of pigeon racing is that the finish line is in different places in the Twin Cities, as the birds use their return instinct to get into their own cage. .

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There are about 60 carrier pigeons in the Twin Cities, and in this caravan, about 1500 pigeons.

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Then, at the appointed time, the race begins.

This race is only about 100 miles, but others are as long as 600.

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“They’re averaging about 50 miles an hour, but if they have a tailwind, 85, 90 miles an hour,” Rudolph said. “And on some of the long runs, when you think these birds gave them wings for 15 hours, that’s pretty impressive.”

This race will only take a few hours.

In the meantime, in co-ops like Rudolph’s in Maplewood, it’s a waiting game.

How much will the winner of this race win?

“Seconds. Seconds. If that bird stops for just a second, you’ve lost the race. Just that fast, ”said Rudolph.

The way this is measured is high tech.

“These are what we call antennas. And when the bird approaches it has a little band of fleas on its leg, like this one, that sets off the clock, ”Rudolph said.

Since they end up in different places, a calculation must be made – total time divided by total distance – to determine an average speed. The fastest is the winner.

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The keys to the sport are breeding and training – in fact, much like horse racing.

“Over time you find the birds that can go the distance, do the tough things, and so you mate them naturally and eliminate the ones that don’t. And, uh, sell them to someone else, ”Rudolph said.

Are there any cash prizes?

“There is. But it’s so tiny,” Rudolph said.

It’s not a sport you do for money. It’s for the love of the game.

“When I see a bird come home from a four, five, six hundred mile run, and you think of the times that bird has been in flight,” Rudolph said. “You can take them 600 miles and they’ve never been there, you drop them and they come home?” Quite astonishing. I don’t know what other animal can do it.

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