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    HOMER: Horsham’s John Muszkieta, 68, is pictured with one of his racing pigeons. Mr Muszkieta has been racing pigeons since he was 16, winning his club aggregate 12 times and finishing runner-up about 11 times. He said you could tell when handling a bird if it had racing potential. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

Bill Lawry documentary shows he is passionate about pigeons


For readers who think of pigeons as ‘ferals’ or ‘rats with wings’, Channel Nine’s documentary featuring former Australian test cricket captain Bill Lawry on Monday might have helped them grasp the passion of Horsham’s back-yard racing-pigeon enthusiasts.

Pigeon racing has long been a niche sport enjoyed by generations and the passion has often passed from one generation to the next.

The sport piqued after both world wars in the 20th century, and was a popular pastime for many in the pre-computer era when bikes, football, tennis and cricket were other weekend interests.

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Youngsters attracted to the sport of pigeon racing in the 1950s through to the 1980s now form the majority of present-day enthusiasts.

Pigeon racing clubs in Melbourne and Adelaide have also welcomed immigrants who had enjoyed this hobby in Europe before they settled in Australia.

Europe and Great Britain, where the world’s best and most expensive racing pigeons are found, are the source of Australian racing pigeon.

The passion continues in Horsham because pigeon racing is one of only a few weekend sporting activities able to continue, subject to adhering to COVID-19 protocols.

It is a sport that happens in members’ back yards where racing pigeons perform their amazing feat – their homing ability. 

On the Horsham club’s most recent weekend, 704 racing pigeons entered by 16 Horsham club members were released from Tempy, 150 kilometres north of Horsham.

These pigeons had not been to, nor seen Tempy before, however, they knew their home lofts were due south, but not exactly how many kilometres.

They have an inbuilt compass in their heads that give them their homing instinct.

John Muszkieta's pigeons.

Even more fascinating is that they for some unknown reason took double the time members expected them to take to return to Horsham.

After four races, 2019 club champion John Muszkieta was reined in by Leigh Arnott, who had his first win for the 2020 season.

Muszkieta had a dream start to the season with his pigeons in great form, winning the first three races on the program across the previous three weekends.

The Tempy race was originally planned to be from Ouyen, 28 kilometres further north, but heavy rain at Ouyen resulted in a last-minute change.

The leading pigeons arrived at their Horsham lofts in four hours, 25 minutes for a flight expected to take only two hours. Whether it be peregrine falcons, an unexplained weather event, or a clash with race pigeons heading elsewhere, no one knows.

Results: Leigh Arnott, in a flying time of 4 hours, 25 minutes, 42 seconds, at a velocity of 599.67 metres a minute, 1; John Aisbett, by 1.40 minutes, 595.97 2; Brian Watts, a further 1.21 minutes later at 592.82.

The club’s race this weekend will be from Mildura.

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!