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Choosing Breeders: What to Look For

Here is a short clip from John Halsteads ‘Breeding, Feeding and Tactics to Win Races’. John talks about the physical aspects he looks for in a breeding pigeon.

Below are a few of the most basic things to look at when choosing breeders, it’s important to note there are many other contributing factors involved in producing a winner but this should serve as a solid starting point as you get your bearings.

  • Size of the bird – medium size may be preferable
  • The body of the bird:
    • the back
    • pectoral muscles
    • tail orientation (neither left nor right leaning)
    • the body shape
    • underbelly, pink skin?
  • The wings – primary flights shouldn’t be too wide
  • Feather quality – silky and smooth
  • Eye should be strong – though be careful when judging eyes as they can often be misleading
  • The balance of the pigeon

The list above pops up quite a lot when searching for pigeon breeding tips on the internet and many fanciers use it as a foundation for judging birds before they buy. Even the world-famous Janssen Brothers used the above qualities (among other factors) as benchmarks for choosing breeders and identifying quality.

Sprint pigeons vs long-distance

As you gain more experience you will likely want to specialize at a certain distance, i.e. sprint or long distance.

And while the above list gives some excellent overall, general points to take into account.

When attempting to judge the performance capabilities of a pigeon based on its physical attributes, it would be incorrect to use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Just as a long-distance sprinter would have a very different build to that of a marathon runner, so too are sprint pigeons different from long distance birds.

Therefore we must modify our criteria slightly.

Selecting long-distance pigeons

The following factors as observed by John Murray (Murray & Mills) are worth noting.

Sprint pigeons

  • Long and thin flights
  • Don’t handle that well
  • Broader shoulders

Long-distance pigeons

  • Handle well and have good balance
  • The tail is straight or if anything slightly down indicating a strong back
  • Step-up on the wing may be preferable
  • Shorter back wings
  • Feathers tend to be wider
swifty - 01/01/2019

i have 4 pigeons 3 cocks one hen i cant get any other birds where im from in the isle of man , is it ok to trap ferral pigeons just to bread from once ive selected the best of the bunch ive trapped thankyou

    Racing Pigeon Sport - 14/01/2019

    Hey thanks for the comment. Wouldn’t recommend breeding from feral birds. They’re just not of the some calibre and quality is thorough-bred racing pigeons. It would be a bad foundation for your family of birds going forward. There’s a few websites with pigeons for sale on, can no one get birds transported to Isle of Man?

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