Enterprise and Daleville business owner Kiko Arana spoke about his love for racing pigeons at the Lions Club meeting on Sept 12.

He races pigeons in the homing pigeon family, which can instinctively find their way home from great distances. They are different from the normal pigeons you’ll see on the sidewalk.

Due to that instinctive ability, these pigeons have a history of being used to deliver messages for both military and civilian use, according to Arana.

According to a New York Times article, the “first message-bearing pigeon was loosed by Noah. The ancient Romans used pigeons for chariot races, to tell owners how their entries had placed. Genghis Khan established pigeon relay posts across Asia and much of Eastern Europe. Charlemagne made pigeon-raising the exclusive privilege of nobility. The Rothschild fortune is said to have been seriously augmented by a pigeon bearing news of the British victory at Waterloo.”

These pigeons were widely used throughout World War I and according a Wall Street Journal article, the French military was seeking to return its pigeons to active duty in case of an electromagnetic attack.

Arana’s biggest interest in the birds, however, is their ability to imprint the location of their home. Arana said that no one really knows for sure how homing pigeons find their way home, but he has a theory.

“I’m a believer that—more than anything else—the smell is what brings them home,” Arana said. “They’ve done a lot of experiments but when they block the sensors in the nose, they (the pigeons) cannot make it home.”

It’s also this sense that allows people to race homing pigeons.

The pigeons are released at set location and use this ability to navigate back to the club house. The pigeon that makes it back to the club house the fastest is the victor.

The races in the area are in 75, 150, 200, 300, 400 and 600 mile lengths with the longer races taking multiple days for the pigeons to return.

Pigeons average about 50 miles per hour during the races, according to Arana.

He entered his first race in 1977 in Puerto Rico and has been racing ever since.

Though his birds still race in other parts of the country, Arana said the club he used to race for here, the Wiregrass Racing Pigeon Club, is inactive. He said he hoped that teaching people about racing pigeons would help create newcomers to bring the club back to life.

He brought one of his pigeons to the meeting and showed it to all the members of the Lions Club.

“I wanted to release the pigeon but then I remembered it was hunting season,” Arana said.


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