A flock of racing pigeons take to the sky from Du Toitskloof for a gruelling training session. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
A flock of racing pigeons take to the sky from Du Toitskloof for a gruelling training session. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Several pigeons already tagged and caged for another road trip, before being let loose on race day.PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Several pigeons already tagged and caged for another road trip, before being let loose on race day.PICTURE: SUPPLIED
A fancier carefully packs up a racing pigeon before the birds are carted off to the starting point.PICTURE: SUPPLIED
A fancier carefully packs up a racing pigeon before the birds are carted off to the starting point.PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Pigeon fancier Irma Klue at her loft in Stellenberg.
Pigeon fancier Irma Klue at her loft in Stellenberg.
Pigeon racing is serious business in the Cape. Hundreds of competitors from various homing unions are currently competing for a share of R450 000 and prizes.

Championship birds are flying here from Britstown in the Northern Cape.

Under the auspices of the Federated Board of Homing Unions, it is the eighth of 23 races this season. As well as winning points towards the overall standings, the winner of this leg will move closer towards the grand prize of a new car.

Pigeon racers, or fanciers as they are known, are interesting. Each has a unique story about their experiences in the sport.

Ten years ago, Pearl Butler, 32, from Atlantis began supporting her husband, who competed. “When you are newly married, you want to spend time with your husband,” she said. “I started feeding the birds and cleaning the lofts. And so I fell in love with the pigeons and the sport.”

It’s become a family affair for the Butlers, who have won more than R30 000 in the past few years, as well as several trophies.

“It’s a family sport. I get the chance to be with my husband and my children. The kids really enjoy it because it involves animals that they can work with,” said Butler, who belongs to the Blaauwberg Homing Union. “And I also love animals, so,I really enjoy this.”

Irma Klue, from Stellenberg Racing Club, said: “My dad was a pigeon fancier. It is very seldom that someone new enters the sport. It is usually from generation to generation. At the moment I am fifth on the track.

“I was our club champion for two years,” she added. “Our races so far this year have really been exceptionally hard.

“I put a lot into my pigeons. You know, it’s like you are the trainer of an athlete. You have to feed it correctly, you have to train it correctly, and you have to make sure that it is 100%.”

The who’s who of pigeon racing in the Cape gathered in Strandfontein this week. Their pigeons were tagged, scanned, placed in baskets, loaded onto trucks and taken to Britstown. The race back is expected to take seven-and-a-half hours.

Yusuf Moerat, 88, is a well-respected fancier. He ran the local pigeon racing board for 20 years and still races. “I was champion of Paarl East Club for two years in a row. I ended third last year,” he said.

Moerat started competing as a child. He is third in the Cape standings so far. “I always tell people at the Federated Board, you must have good pigeons, that is the main thing,” he said.

The organisation is one of three in the Western Cape and has 517 members.

Grechard Petersen, from Pniel, said: “It is still early days in the competition. I am currently in the top three. I am not worried.”

The pigeon racing season started on June 1, and ends mid-October.