Pigeon racing: examine the eyes

A number of ambitious newbies to the pigeon sport have asked what to look for in the eye of a carrier pigeon. The information here is based on my own experience and, in my opinion, is backed by results.

Beware of the “eye sign” experts
This warning will save you money and the heads of many good pigeons. First, if a so-called “eye sign” expert examines your pigeons’ eyes and tells you which one to shoot, politely guide them off your property. I’ve had four generations of birds that finished in silver positions in the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race (SCMDPR), whose base pair was ignored by an “eye sign” expert. After examining the pair’s eyes through a barrel-loop watchmaker’s magnifying glass, the “expert” abruptly commented, “I wouldn’t waste my time on this.” He wasn’t the first person to ignore the pair. Prior to this exam, I had the female in my bakkie on her way to a pigeon competition.

When I asked a friend to take the bird into the showroom for registration, he looked at its outward features and told me I should be ashamed to put it in a show pen. public. He actually offered to do me a favor and kill him and throw him in the tall grass where the amateurs were parked. Now, these two men were very convinced of their findings, but their arrogance gave me a red light. They didn’t bother to ask me for the pedigree or history of the pigeons and ignored their genetic history and racing record. They based their conclusions solely on external reviews. Did they think I failed to research the potential of the birds in the first place?

Judge in isolation
You should also be wary of show judges who are “eye sign” men, and will discriminate against your pigeon and grade it if they don’t like its eye conformation. In 2002, I had the honor of obtaining 15th place at the SCMDPR with the son of the unknown couple. In fact, it was the only entry I recorded, as opposed to an entry supported by two reservations. Since then, I’ve had three best scores in subsequent generations. However, the best positions I could score in shows with these pigeons was a deserved third. What surprised me was that most of the points I lost were on the balance and muscle exam, with an aside that there was nothing impressive about the eyes.

The judge didn’t know that my pigeon took 15th place in the SCMDPR, because show pigeons are judged anonymously. I didn’t make a scene, but I had two questions. How could this pigeon finish 15th against international competition if it had weak muscles? It took the first 250 entries a week to reach the dovecotes, the weather was so bad. Also, how could the bird stay on course if it had bad “eye signs”?
At pigeon shows, the most is learned about evaluating the external characteristics of a racing pigeon, but nothing about the genetic history and potential.

The pigeon race is nothing more than a beauty contest. Certainly, many show champions are also capable racing pigeons, but there are too many exceptions of “ugly ducklings” that do not succeed in shows, but rewrite records in racing competitions. Don’t take pigeon racing too seriously. We must test the birds on the merits of the racing basket. This is called practical pigeon racing.

beat the system
In the early 2000’s I teamed up with a buddy, Johan Hamilton, after we were asked to enter our birds at a show. We dethroned the regional and national show champions on our first attempt. Twice we won the national exhibition title and we won every local club exhibition at the time by outstanding point margins.

We beat the system by entering the right “eye sign” pigeons into a class judged by an “eye sign” expert, the pigeon with the right muscle structure into a class judged by a “muscle man” and the bird with the right wings in a class judged by a “wing man”. We also knew that some judges preferred larger or smaller types, so we entered our birds into classes that matched their preferences.

No bead-to-bead mating problem
I once showed my skipped base pair to an amateur champ, and he said he wouldn’t have mated pearl to pearl. After telling him about the success I had with him, he still insisted that he didn’t like mating. Well, why should that be the only reason to disqualify him? Shouldn’t the many other ways that physical characteristics complement each other be considered first? Many lofts in South Africa and abroad have a stock of champions of which most of the best are those with only pearl eyes. Many textbook authors around the world are against bead to bead mating – they are old, don’t believe them.

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