By BEN DUDLEYThe Wilson Post
When someone talks about a race in the South, most people think of NASCAR or horse racing or maybe even dog racing; but today at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center, Lebanon witnessed a completely different kind of race.
The Dixie Southern Racing Pigeon Association held a race today and the starting line was the Ag Center. Yes, you read that right. Pigeon racing.
The obvious question would be, “What is pigeon racing?” Mike McKinney, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, describes it as a fun hobby for children and families where you raise homing pigeons, train them to return to their loft, take them to a starting point and release them. After that, you time them to see how fast they can make it back home.
“We have someone that will drive the birds to Lebanon,” McKinney said yesterday, “and at 7:30 a.m., he will release about 160 pigeons that will fly back to one of 10 locations in Spartanburg. Then an hour later, he will release another 160 that will fly back to one location.”
Spartanburg, S.C., is approximately 260 miles from Lebanon. McKinney said that with the right conditions, a well-conditioned homing pigeon can travel over 600 miles in a day.
Today is the 2009 DSRPA Convention and it is hosted by the Spartanburg Co. Open Racing Pigeon Club, of which McKinney is a member.
“I’ve had pigeons my whole life,” McKinney said. “When I was a boy, a baby pigeon fell out of a nest and I raised it. It’s a very fun hobby.”
McKinney said that the pigeons used in these races are not your garden variety pigeon found on a city sidewalk or atop a billboard. “Those are just common pigeons. Homing pigeons are an actual breed that we raise,” McKinney said. “This is popular in Europe and, similar to horses, a fast, quality bird can be sold for around $100,000 to keep a winning bloodline.”
McKinney said the birds are known as the “thoroughbreds of the skies.” He said these are pampered birds and are treated similar to pets in that they have elaborate lofts, are well fed, and even given medical attention.
He said that pigeons were used as far back as ancient Greece to send results of the races in the first Olympics. He also said that photographers for whitewater rafting companies take homing pigeons with them and send the film back to their offices via the birds in order to have the pictures developed by the time the rafters return.
“Pigeon racing is a good alternative for kids instead of being on the streets or sitting in front of the television,” McKinney said.
Staff Writer Ben Dudley may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.