With big money invading pigeon-racing, hobbyists wonder about the future of their time-honored sport
Since the early afternoon, Hou Yong (pseudonym) has been watching the sky for the return of one of his 50 racing pigeons as it finds its way home from nearly 700 kilometers away in a pigeon race on April 29.
The previous morning, the 60-year-old Beijing resident had brought the 2-year-old bird to the Guang’an Gymnasium as his sole entry to the Beijing Xicheng District Racing Pigeon Association (BXDRPA). There, the bird and 1,181 of its fellow racers were loaded into nine-layered metal cages on a truck and transported to a parking lot in Zhoukou, Henan province, where they were released at precisely 6:08 a.m. the following day to fly back to their respective homes in Beijing.
As soon as each racing pigeon lands on the electronic pad at the door of its home, a chip embedded in its foot ring automatically sends its time of arrival and its owner’s address to the race organizer, down to the exact millisecond. When TWOC spoke to Hou at 4:30 p.m., over 100 birds had already returned home, with the fastest arriving at 3:08 p.m.—having taken exactly nine hours to complete the trip at an average speed of 71.3 kilometers per hour.
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The Sky-High Stakes of Chinese Pigeon Racing is a story from our issue, “Something Old Something New.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.