|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 6, Issue 24, Tuesday, June 14, 2011|
an avian love-affair
Synonymous to peace and tranquillity, pigeons share an affinity with man that has transcended time. Seen in flocks near religious shrines, they are widely believed to be spiritual creatures.
The Mughal emperor Shahjahan is widely considered to have used the bird to send notes of love to his beloved. Legend as it may be, the great Mughals indeed maintained a well-organised pigeon post to facilitate the transmission of secret messages.
Although sending aerial messages via pigeons may be a thing of the past, these beautiful birds still enjoy popularity and human affection.
See page 6 and 7 for related stories.
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
an avian love-affair
Mahfuzur Rahman Shuvo, 30, a radio frequency engineer by profession, has kept pigeons as pets since he was five years old.
"One of my elder brothers gave me a pair of white tipplers and this was the starting point of a lifetime's passion. Initially, I kept tippler pigeons for flying but gradually took up rearing them, collecting only the best of breeds," said Shuvo who is also the Joint Secretary, Bangladesh Fancy Pigeons Breeders' Association.
For laymen, tippler is a small pigeon that people keep for flying. This species of the bird is known for its knack for flying and can cover vast distances every day. They start their flight early in the morning and remain airborne for 4-5 hours.
People fascinated with flying have been obsessed with this breed of pigeons since time immemorial and their appeal is not lost even today.
Other pigeon breeds that are popular in Bangladesh are -- homer and fancy pigeons.
Fancy pigeons are popular for their beautiful colour, size and their ornate feathers. Although fancy pigeons are available in innumerable species around the world, around 150 varieties are found in Bangladesh, of which 10 are indigenous breeds.
"I have Bokhara, Reversewing Pouter, Jacobin, Uzbek Tumbler, American Fantail, Berlin Short Face and other fancy breeds in my loft. Recently I have collected a few pairs of Bangladeshi breeds -- Krishno, Parvin, Gola and Noton. I'm trying to push their popularity among breeders and hope that our efforts will prevent them from vanishing from the local scene," said Shuvo.
Krishno, Coco, Goli, Parvin, Charal, Noton are common sights at the countryside and have their own specialties. Coco is a small bird that calls like a trumpet. Noton is a roller -- it rolls on the ground if anybody shakes its head.
In Bangladesh, people sharing a common love for pigeons, bring themselves closer through forming three different societies where they can share their passion for the birds and hone their technical know-how in breeding them. Members are active in all the three clubs -- Racing Pigeon Association, Bukhara Club and Bangladesh Fancy Pigeon Breeders' Association.
Bangladesh Fancy Pigeon Breeders' Association started back in 2000 with an objective to provide help to fellow pigeon lovers. It was learnt that the organised form of pigeon rearing in Bangladesh began in 1997, although the passion for the birds dates back long before that. Those who used to breed fancy pigeons as amateurs now reconsider the commercial aspect of the hobby and the society acts to serve this purpose.
"…we have collected lots of quality fancy pigeons in many varieties like Nicobar, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, and Crested Pigeon, some of which are rare breeds," says Tanvir Hasan, Secretary, Bangladesh Fancy Pigeon Breeders' Association.
He continues, "The environment of our country is favourable for breeding pigeons.
Just to make our point clear, a cow gives birth to one calf, whereas a pair of pigeons lays 6 to 12 pairs of eggs. Sometimes a pair of squabs sells for more than a calf. This makes dealing in fancy pigeons economically viable in agro-based Bangladesh.
"One important characteristic of breeding fancy pigeons is that it can provide higher earning taking up comparatively less space."
The association organised a fair, titled as "Exotic Pigeon Fair 2011" in March to attract more people to rearing and breeding pigeons. A wide variety of fancy pigeons were on display at the fair.
With a great potential for economic salvation for the people, pigeon aficionados wait in patience to welcome new breeds of breeders and pigeon lovers to share their love and passion for the bird.
By Farizaa Sabreen
A passionate trade…
where the sky is the limit
Would you buy a pigeon for $205,000? That's approximately Tk14,555,000. Well, probably not; but one Chinese buyer actually did pay that princely sum. Blue Prince, arguably the best racing pigeon in the world, was sold in an auction earlier this year.
Such is the infatuation with pigeons. And we have that in Bangladesh too. That's why the pigeon industry here is also flying high.
Pigeons are sold in various bazaars, such as Tongi Bazaar on Sundays, Kaptan Bazaar on Fridays and at Jinjira on Mondays.
Tongi Bazaar, for example, boasts a plethora of pigeon breeds, among other birds. The numerous species of pigeons, and not to forget the results of cross-breeding between species, make the number of types of pigeons enormous.
Among them, Giribhaj and Homers (again, two broad types) are the most popular.
But Tongi Bazaar also sells other birds and animals too. Not all are even legal!
Towhid, a bird enthusiast, visits this bazaar regularly. “I've seen people selling foxes, monkeys, eagles, etc. a few times.”
Kaptan Bazaar also has an adequate supply of pigeons. Although a lot of sellers go there and settle down on the road only on Fridays, there are several pigeon stores inside the building that operate 365 days a year.
In these bazaars, an extremely thin line exists between buyers and sellers. Rofique is a college student from Azimpur. He takes part in both sides of the trade at the bazaar. “Last Friday, I sold two. Today, I'm here to buy.”
If doing it yourself is inconvenient, you can always give it to the sellers in those bazaars who'll be happy to sell it for a commission.
These bazaars, no matter how thrilling they are, do not provide the whole picture. “You'll never find the best pigeons in the bazaar!” informed a breeder.
Like all industries, pigeon trade also requires contacts, networks and associations. “I bought a fancy pigeon from a fellow pigeon breeder for Tk 25,000. He never sells in the marketplace, he doesn't need to. He's been around for a long time and has built a good reputation. They visit him at his home”, he said.
There are a few pigeon clubs in our country. Bangladesh Fancy Pigeon Breeders' Association, as the name suggests, is a cluster of pigeon lovers who can trade among themselves as well as hold fairs and share knowledge on pigeon's health care, etc.
Bangladesh Racing Pigeon Owners' Association, on the other hand, specialises in racing pigeons. Kamrul, a member of this society, who also has a shop in Kaptan Bazaar, said, “We organise pigeon races. We also trade. We have many from Belgium, where the best racing pigeons are produced. We sell their offspring for large amounts money.”
The pricing of a pigeon is very difficult to understand. And that is also why amateurs can be conned easily, especially in the bazaars.
When it comes to pigeons, suggesting a price range is almost impossible: prices vary wildly. A pair of Giribhaj can cost anywhere between, say, Tk 300 to Tk 30,000, even more than that! It depends on what type of pigeon we are dealing with, and also its colour, age, country of origin, etc.
Another factor that determines the price is the bloodline of the pigeon. You cross-breed one type of pigeon with another and you have something different. Throughout the decades, cross-breeding has led to innumerable varieties.
Breeders who buy for racing purposes are very concerned about the bloodline of pigeons. You have to know who its parents and grandparents were. Have they won any races? From which country did its ancestors hail?
Going back to Blue Prince, the million dollar racer, it would be wrong to assume that the buyer bought it for racing. This pigeon will be used for producing children, and then the offspring will be used for racing as well as selling! It won't make money itself; its offspring will.
“Racing pigeons can have an official biodata for authenticity. If it or its parents or grandparents have won races, the price automatically moves up,” says a pigeon racer.
When asked for a price range, he shrugged. “Prices can be anything; Tk 3,000, Tk 20,000, Tk 80,000. We have more than that as well; like Tk 100,000, Tk 500,000, etc.”
How high can it go? He replied, “Your readers will not believe me but some time back, we sold a racing homer for Tk1 crore 60 lakhs.”
This is a highly lucrative source of making some good money.
Now don't start picturing money flying in the sky! Breeding requires extreme commitment and passion, along with time, hard work and good knowledge.
You can, however, start small. Arif, a member of a pigeon club informed, “Business is now booming. If you can manage a few thousand takas and a small place in your terrace, you can start with a pair of fancy pigeons. Bangladesh has excellent weather conditions for pigeon breeding.”
Arif adds, “We need government support. Banks and governments always help the chicken industry. Why not pigeons? This business is now very viable.”
By M H Haider
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