The domestic pigeon we find nesting on our balconies is not quite what it seems. So stunning are its flight span and acrobatic skills that riding on the bird is big fat prize money for a sport that is turning into a rage among a section of Bengalureans.
If big betting ties take place with tumbler and tippler pigeons in various pockets of Bengaluru, the racing of homing pigeons by organised clubs is not far behind.
Y. Suresh, president of the State’s oldest pigeon club, Karnataka Racing Pigeon Club (KRPC), says pigeon racing is a hobby. A niche group has been genuinely involved in the sport for decades. “There are nearly 600 birds competing every year on homing races that are held from December to March,” says the veteran who has been competing for 14 years now.
Races are generally held during winter considering the wellbeing of the birds.
The KRPC has completed its long-distance races for 2014–15, and is scheduled to give away prizes to winners in October before the start of the new pigeon racing season.
However, there is a notorious side to pigeon racing in Bengaluru. Betting is known to be rampant for tumbler and tippler pigeon competitions. According to those involved, it is a sport where you can make a quick buck.
“Tumbler pigeon races are the betting players’ delight as people bid big. They keenly watch the pigeon performing flips in the air and the bird that lands the last is declared the winner. The race is carried out from terraces, and it sometimes ends up in fistfights among the players,” says a youngster from Malleswaram, who refused to divulge his identity.
Pigeon racers call this time of the year the preparation period, when the birds breed for the next season scheduled to commence in December. It is the gestation period for some who are passionate about the sport, but for the others it’s the long wait for the big prize.