In between the serious task of judging Waikato’s best pigeons, Kelly Bray found time to rewrite history.

“The Bible talks about Noah throwing out a dove, but a dove would have buggered off,” Bray reckons.

“It would have been a homing pigeon.”

Hours before the doors opened on the Waikato Poultry & Pigeon Club’s 116th annual show, Bray and fellow judges were busy attaching labels to the winning birds’ cages.

While judging prized poultry and pigeons is all about how the birds look and present, the show itself is a smorgasbord of sounds – and smells.

For anyone unaccustomed to being surrounded by hundreds of birds in one space, it can be quite an experience.

Bray travelled from Queenstown to help judge this year’s pigeon line-up at the Hamilton Gardens Pavilion.

Spend a few minutes talking to any of the show’s judges, however, and you soon realise the job is anything but a chore.

“I entered my first show as a 12 year old in 1971 and I’ve been hooked ever since. As a kid, I always loved birds, but there was something about pigeons that just drew me to them. Breeding pigeons is a very tactile experience. You’re always holding them.”

About 100 fanciers entered chickens, ducks and pigeons into this year’s show.

Poultry and pigeon breeding is also subject to trends.

A popular breed at the moment is the Silkie chicken, due to its friendly, placid nature and expert mothering skills, club president Fiona Taylor said.

Among the dazzling array of pigeon breeds on display, the majestic Jacobin threatened to steal the show.

The breed, which originates from Asia, is notable for the feathered hood over its head. It was a personal favourite of Queen Victoria.

Taylor keeps Jacobin pigeons and said the breed’s numbers were on the increase after nosediving about a decade ago.

“Shows like this are our shopfront and we do a lot of work promoting breeds and the hobby to the general public,” Taylor said.

“We’re no longer allowed to bring new birds into the country, so if a breed falls into the hands of too few, we risk losing them forever. All these birds are essentially heritage breeds and it’s up to us to encourage and inspire people to own and breed them.”

With the show’s judging complete, a male black-splashed Jacobin was deemed the best in his class.

Bray said the young bird’s feathered hood was especially impressive.

“The feathers are thick and uniform. The bird also has a presence and shows itself well. Often when you’re judging pigeons, you’re trading off faults between birds. This is a beautiful bird and clearly it’s quite happy to hold it all together.”

Taylor said the annual show was moved to the Hamilton Gardens in an effort to attract a wider range of visitors.

The show had also been shifted to July to coincide with the school holidays.

The show runs from 9am to noon on Sunday.


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