Breeds and Types of Pigeons: From Rollers to Racers
Pigeon Breeds for Utility and Sport
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Recognized as a Master Breeder of Old Dutch Capuchines and Bavarian Pouters, Layne Gardner has had the good fortune of traveling the world photographing various types of pigeons. In her 50 years of raising pigeons (she started early!) she has developed a passion for quality and enjoys seeing excellent specimens in various breeds. She may have chosen Capuchines for their elegant Cruella de Vil neck feathers and possibly the Bavarian Pouters for their attractive balloon-like crop. But what characteristics and breed will you choose?
Black German Nun
With hundreds of types of pigeons to pick from, selecting a breed or variety can be overwhelming. Popular pigeon facts include their ability to adapt to various conditions and their inexpensive maintenance costs, which doesn’t help narrow down the choices. One of the best ways to choose a breed is by focusing on the flock’s purpose. Types of pigeons may be grouped into three classes: utility, fancy, and flying or homing breeds.
Pigeon Breeds by Class
These birds are used mostly for squab production. The largest types of pigeons in this category include the White Kings, Red Carneau, French Mondaine, Giant Homers, and the ironically named Runts.
Michael Kolodziej, owner of Ruffled Feather Farm, has been raising pigeons for 30 years. Currently, he raises one of the largest pigeon breeds and one of the smallest.
“The giant runt is the largest breed of pigeon, and their size alone makes them regal,” he says. “They are truly a gentle giant. They are not the easiest breed to work with; because of their size, they break their eggs and even crush their young.”
He tells me that they are best left undisturbed. When the squabs hatch, it’s amazing to watch this tiny chick develop into a giant.
“I very seldom advertise my runts; they sell themselves,” Kolodziej adds. “When people see them, they just have to have them. Their mass and impressive size win you over.”
Opal French Mondain
These pigeons are kept for their gorgeous color, form, and texture. I remember fondly going to the New York State fair, annually and visiting the poultry building. I would spend hours on the second floor which was dedicated to the whimsical types of pigeons New York fanciers had to offer. These exhibition breeds included Fantails, Jacobins, Owls, Pouters, Tumblers, and Modenas.
What do pigeons eat? Knowing what to feed pigeons depends on the breed. Some types of pigeons, because of their beak and head size, may require only the smallest of seed and grain.
Flying or Homing Breeds
Possibly the most famous, this category includes racing pigeons that are used for endurance flying (distance or height) and their homing instinct. Breeds include Racing Homers and Rollers.
Kolodziej says that Portuguese tumblers are one of the smallest breeds of pigeons. “They are extremely fast flyers and they perform well.”
Their small size is intriguing as well as the way they carry themselves. They have an erect stance, powerful chest, and a small beak which makes their appearance pleasing.
“When the males court, they walk on tip-toe and almost inhale to make themselves appear more impressive,” Kolodziej has noticed. “Another interesting factor is the wide variety of colors and unique patterns. It is always exciting to watch the young birds feather out to see what you produced. My biggest enjoyment is watching them fly. I sit for hours and just watch.”
Dark Check Show Roller
German Long Face Tumbler
Flying Baldhead Kite Pigeon
Exhibition Blue Bar Homer
Domestic Show Flight Pigeon
Berlin Short-Faced Tumbler
American Show Racer
Do you have a type of pigeon that’s your favorite? What types of pigeons are you considering? Let us know in the comments below.