We at PIPA have visited quite a few pigeon racing countries over the years: China, Taiwan, Morocco, The Filippines, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa, Turkey, the USA, Romania,... and we have just added an additional two countries to that list.
India and Bangladesh are two neighbouring countries but they do not have a lot in common in terms of pigeon racing. One of the major differences is the distance: pigeon races in Bangladesh are no longer than 350km, whereas India organises races of up to 1,850km. This is a substantial difference that leads to an entirely different approach in the two countries. Bangladesh can only organise shorter distance races simply because they are not allowed to release pigeons in neighbouring countries. This is not much of an issue for India, as you can tell from the map below.
India - Chennai
The first part of our trip started in Chennai, the fifth largest city in India with almost 7 million inhabitants. It is for sure the city with the most pigeon fanciers: there are currently about 2,000 pigeon fanciers in Chennai, adding to a total of 9,000 in the whole of India. The number of fanciers is estimated to have increased by about 20% in 2014 and that number continues to rise. Upon arrival in the airport I was welcomed by Ivan Philips, our PIPA agent for India and member of the FCI board. He made sure our three day visit was perfectly arranged. Many thanks, Ivan!
One of the peculiarities of pigeon racing in India, is that many fanciers have been keeping pigeons without actually competing in races. Fanciers were keeping pigeons just for pleasure until a few years ago. It was only in recent years that actual pigeon races have started to become popular in India and apparently, most fanciers were drawn to the longer distance competition. In fact many Indian fanciers are really fond of the extreme long distance. During our visit we heard fanciers talk passionately about pigeons covering more than 1000km in the country's difficult climatological conditions. Some fanciers would actually basket their pigeons for a distance of up to 1850km. The shortest period of time for a pigeon to cover that distance in India was no less than 40 days, which to us sounds like a suffering rather than a victory parade. During our time in India we tried to explain to fanciers that this has little to do with pigeon racing. We were glad to see an increasing number of people in favour of a maximum distance of 900 to 1000km, which is more than enough of a challenge for their pigeons, especially in tough conditions.
It is clear that pigeon racing in India is still in the early stages of development. Such terms as motivation, medication and training have been introduced in the sport only just a few years ago but they are likely to shape the further development of pigeon racing in India very quickly. The fanciers we met during our trip were very motivated and eager about bringing their sport to a higher level.
Bangladesh - Dhaka
The second part of our trip brought us to Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, one of the world’s most highly populated cities with 15 million inhabitants and an incredible 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometre. It took us no less than one and a half hour to get from the airport to our hotel, which was just 15km away. Apparently this is quite normal for a city like Dhaka.
Traffic was the only big issue during our visit, because our PIPA team was also warmly welcomed in Bangladesh. Pigeon racing has evolved considerably over the last seven to eight years, and a lot more progress has been made here compared to India. After visit Mostaque Ahmed pigeon loft we were invited by Bangladesh Racing Pigeon Fanciers Club (www.brpfc.org) to visit them, a club that has been significantly professionalised under Mostaque Ahmed (Galaxy Loft). For instance, video recordings are made of the basketing, transport and release phase of every individual race, to provide full transparency for all the competing fanciers. Besides the BRPFC there are two other major clubs in Dhaka, which have an additional 600 fanciers together. At the moment no joint races are being organised but more and more fanciers are asking for a joint release involving each of the three clubs. This would definitely bring a boost to the sport in Bangladesh.
Shortly before our trip back home PIPA and our agent Mynuddin Ahamed organised a public auction with 18 different pigeons. It turned out to be the most successful public auction ever in Bangladesh. Mynuddin did everything he could to make this a highly professional auction, for instance by publishing an auction catalogue that was sent to nearly every fancier in Dhaka.
The pictures and captions in the gallery below should give you a better idea of what pigeon racing looks like in India and Bangladesh.