Oklahomans Practice Art Of Pigeon Racing

Monday, April 25th 2016, 10:54 pm
By: News 9

Thousands of people worldwide train and race pigeons, including here in Oklahoma. We're also home to the American Pigeon Museum, the only one of its kind in the world.

Bob Roberson, or Pigeon Bob to those who know him well, got into the hobby as a kid.

"I found out there was a racing pigeon club in Oklahoma City where you could actually compete, and I started competing when I was 17," he said. "It's probably one of the most unknown hobbies there is, it's done all over the world."

More than 50 years later, he has a full-time pigeon operation in Chandler, where he breeds and trains pigeons. He's training about 30 birds right now for the upcoming race season. He lets them out of their lofts where they fly and circle around, typically for up to an hour.

"You're basically conditioning their body and also teaching them to use their brain to come home," he said.

Come racing season, these highly trained pigeons are taken hundreds of miles from their lofts then released to race back home. Deone Roberts with the American Racing Pigeon Union headquartered here in Oklahoma City, said pigeon racing has existed since the late 1800s.

"It was so large before, tens of thousands of members and we're probably more like 10,000 members right now," Roberts said.

Trainers worldwide carry on the tradition.

"They'll come home from 300 miles in five hours so they're not wasting any time," Roberson said. "We try to be as humane as we can on them because they're working athletes just like a race horse would be."

Before modern day racing, pigeons were bred to carry important messages.

"They could go up to 700 miles in a day, they could fly about 90 miles an hour so it really was the top form of communication in World War I and World War II," said Jessica Nguyen, curator of the American Pigeon Museum.

This history of the pigeon is brought to life inside the American Pigeon Museum, located right here in Oklahoma City, the only one of its kind in the entire world.

"It's an asset to Oklahoma, it's something a little bit different," said Nguyen. "You don't think of a museum dedicated to pigeons but when you come here and you see the birds and you learn about the history it's fascinating, it really is."

Today - the birds bring enjoyment to thousands of breeders and racers like Bob - while doing what they do best.

"They like to fly, if you let them out, they're gonna fly and they love home," he said.

Race season begins in the fall and they range from 100 to 350 miles. Club races are typically just for fun, but some races offer prize money up $150,000.

Click here to learn more about the American Pigeon Museum

Click here to learn more about the American Pigeon Racing Union.