WHILE breeding of racing pigeons is a serious business abroad, it is mostly a hobby in Slovakia. But interested hobbyists had an opportunity to see about 700 of these birds, sometimes called carrier pigeons, at a two-day exhibition at the Agrokomplex fairgrounds in Nitra beginning on January 6.
The pigeons competed in various disciplines including sport competitions and beauty contests, Daniel Krajčík, a member of the presidium of the Slovak Pigeon Breeders’ Association, told the TASR newswire. Each organisation enrolled in the competition entered their 18 best pigeons in 10 categories and the entrants included Slovak champions as well as the winners of regional competitions.
“The best three pigeons from each category will represent Slovakia at the European exhibition in Budapest in late January,” Krajčík said before the competition.
Pigeon breeders from several other countries attended the Nitra event, particularly individuals from Belgium and the Netherlands, where pigeon races involve high stakes.
“I visit Slovakia each year,” said Eyckmans Ferre, a breeder from Belgium, as quoted by broadcaster STV. “But in Belgium it [the sport] is perceived in a different way.”
Ferre said that pigeons in Belgium race for large amounts of money and sometimes even to win a car, adding that these high stakes increase the value of racing pigeons, which can sometimes be sold for as much as €60,000. Juraj Kurek, president of the Slovak Pigeon Breeders’ Association, told STV that the most expensive pigeon he remembers being sold was for a price of €77,000.
One of the most interesting sporting competitions is the super-long distance category of 800 kilometres or more. This year, within the Slovakia Grand Prix, the pigeons started from Ostend in Belgium.
Kurek, based in Nitra, said that this means his pigeons had to fly about 1,045 kilometres to return home.
“They can fly this distance within 12 to 14 hours when conditions are good,” Kurek told STV.