If you still don’t know what exactly colombiculture is, you are in the right place. Pigeon breeding or colombiculture (from the Latin columba, pigeon and from the Greek φιλία, filia) consists of the breeding and training of pigeons to turn them into carrier birds, capable of returning to their loft after finishing the flight. Today, this cultural tradition of many countries is not intended to carry messages, but to travel a journey at the highest possible speed using special watches.
History of colombiculture
The first known contest with pigeons is dated June 15, 1820. At that time it is also when different armies in Europe establish the military application of homing pigeons, known as military pigeon racing, which had its peak during the First World War. At the end of the Second World War the use of homing pigeons was almost completely abandoned in favor of modern telecommunications.
In a more artistic context, pigeon racing had its heyday during the 19th century, being used as a theme in the costumbrista painting of many painters and as an image on stamps for sending letters. Pigeon racing is currently a minority within philately (the collection of stamps and envelopes), but in some places a few letters and documents are still sent through this medium.
Today the longest competitions are held from the city of Barcelona to the north of Holland, which is approximately 1100 km of race.
As a sport, the country with the highest number of licenses is China, followed by Germany, Belgium, Poland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Outside of Europe you can also find other countries where pigeon racing is practiced, although on a smaller scale, such as in Mexico and parts of South America.
And as if that were not enough, there is also a Colombófila Olympiad, in which Spain has historically held the tenth place worldwide.
Colombiculture in Spain
In Spain, the first military loft found dates from 1879, and at present, military lofts are within the Military Pigeon Service (SCM), in charge of regulating the possession and use of homing pigeons within Spanish territory.
The number of licenses in Spain in 1999 was approximately 4,200, with 320,000 pigeons, taking into account that the SCM owned five lofts with more than six hundred pigeons. Also in Spanish territory, the Canary Islands are one of the main focuses for pigeon fans, exceeding 40% of the country’s total licenses, followed by the Balearic Islands with 25%. In the Canary Islands the abundance of practitioners is due to the strong influence that the United Kingdom exerted on the territory during the 19th century.
There are different types of racing pigeons that are known as “races” and that generally bear the name of the breeder who has developed them, managing to maintain the characteristics of the breed through the generations.
It is possible to distinguish races suitable for short distance races, called “speed pigeons” (from 100 to 250 km approximately), others called “medium distance pigeons” (from 300 to 450 km) others as “cross country pigeons” (from 500 to 800 km) and finally races suitable to fly in races with great distances, known as “long distance pigeons” (700 to 1200 km).