Teams use tech to track race stats

Annual racing competition for homing pigeons kicks off in Kut

KUT, January 2 — Four pigeon breeding clubs in Kut are gearing up for their annual competition starting Tuesday, featuring a series races and various stages with gradually increasing distances. Competing teams rely on software that determine each race’s results, ensuring transparency.

European travelers have documented the widespread use of homing pigeons in Iraq since the Middle Ages, noting their role in sending merchants’ messages each day between the port of Basra and markets in Baghdad and Mosul, a practice unfamiliar in Europe at that time.

Tuesday’s competition begins in the Rafai area in Dhi Qar and concludes in Kut, later resuming towards Basra. A device attached to the pigeon’s leg calculates speed and direction accurately.

Aqeel Suwadi, the competition’s supervisor, told 964:

The race will start from the Rafai area, which is 120 km by air from Kut, with the participation of four clubs in Kut: Al-Ahbab Club, Najm Al-Kut Club, Al-Jihad Club, and Al-Hayy Club.

The race is progressive in terms of distances, starting at 120 kilometers but ending at Basra Airport, with return races from the same stations interspersed.

Results are calculated electronically without any intervention, relying on a Belgian device that operates on a global system, measuring time in fractions of a second, and automatically displaying the results.

Homing pigeons are unique as they have a strong attachment to their accustomed location, returning to it on the same day, regardless of the distance traveled. Pigeon breeders believe that the bird’s head contains a biologically advanced GPS system or that its eyes can perceive magnetic fields, playing a role in determining its breed and value.

Efforts have been made to preserve the breed of this bird as much as possible. However, it is worth noting that modern homing pigeons are hybrid birds imported from outside Iraq, specifically from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, as well as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.