Our group’s aim is to raise awareness [of] fancy pigeons, which [are] primarily for show, not for racing,” Edison Lao explains. The 32-year old native of Pangasinan is one of the directors of the Philippine National Pigeon Association Inc., founded in 2010. The amiable information technology graduate proudly shows off his trophy, “I won this Best in Show or the President’s cup in the annual show held in Pampanga,” he says.
Fancy pigeons are bred for various traits relating to size, shape, color, and behavior. Edison rattles off the criteria of the competition and how he bagged the coveted trophy of pigeon fanciers: “The body of this Modena pigeon is rounded, consistent na nakatayo (stands consistently), [has] good posture which can be attained by cage training; the feathers’ quality is important, it must be well groomed. I give the pigeon [a] bath with rough wash shampoo two weeks before the show; also a 30-minute bath with salted water two times a week.” The fifteen thousand peso Modena pigeon stands proud in the cage nearby.
Incidentally, Edison, while a pigeon fancier, also loves other animals. “I have five cats, one aspin, and a Sun Conure parrot named Takgu, after a character in a Korean TV series. It can say ‘hi’ and ‘hello’,” he laughs. “[My] passion for pigeons [started] with an Indian fantail, introduced by a friend, and then I was hooked. Then I switched to Bokhara Trumpeters. These fancy pigeons have varied colors, fifty varieties, and have this unique drumming voice. Its form and voice are quite distinct.”
According to Wikipedia, the fantail and trumpeter belong to the Asian feather and voice pigeons. This group includes breeds developed for extensive feathering that originated in the Asian region, as well as breeds cultivated for their trumpeting or laughing voice. Other breeds include the frillback, Jacobin, and Lahore.
“I call my prized Modena pigeon ‘Mighty Eagle’, which was entered in the utility group category among the ten other groups in the competition,” Edison explains. When not busy with his pet pigeons, he regularly works as a secretary at an entertainment agency that sends musical bands to Qatar, Bahrain, and other Middle East countries.
There are about 800 pigeon breeds; considering all regional varieties all over the world, there may be 1,100 breeds. No other domestic animal has branched out into such a variety of forms and colors.
Edison’s winning Modena pigeon is a breed of domestic fancy pigeon from Italy. “May lahing Italyano ito (This has an Italian strain),” he laughs. It derives its name from the city of Modena in Italy, where it was first bred centuries ago. The breed was actually developed over many years of selective breeding. Many people consider this breed to be the world’s top show pigeon. It is an old breed, and story of this breed begins in the early 1300s. These birds were actually slim and small performing birds at that time. Modena, along with other varieties of domesticated pigeons, are all descendants of the rock dove.
The Modena pigeon is mainly bred to present a striking curvy shape with a prominent chest, uplifted wings, and tail carried high. Generally, the overall impression of this bird is that it is “round and proud.” Most of the birds of this breed are calm and gentle, which make them excellent for show. Although some males can be aggressive as a stockier variety of domesticated pigeon, the pairs sometimes have fertility problems. Along with raising for show purposes, the breed is also very good for raising as pets. The average lifespan of these birds is about 7-10 years.
Edison gives some tips for a would-be pigeon fancier: “You have to join a club. You will gain more friends and learn a lot from them as you share knowledge about fancy pigeons. It’s easier to do business with fellow club members, the buying and selling part. And they are there to console you when your pet pigeons pass away.”
As Edison the famous inventor says, “Success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” Edison the successful pigeon fancier gives 100% to his hobby cum business.
“I wake up at 5:30 a.m.; drink coffee and see…that all my pets are well fed. The sacrifice, hard work in caring for them, maintaining, and upgrading of breed are all worth it. It’s a stress reliever,” he says.
He ends our interview on a bright note, “I started buying Animal Scene Magazine way back in 2006 when it featured the fancy pigeons of Johnson Ko. And whenever I see photos of exotic animals on the cover, I always buy Animal Scene!”
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March 2018 issue.