Eyesign… Only in Pigeon Racing

Pigeon EyesignAt 57 years of age, I have been very fortunate in my life to be successfully involved in various competitive sports – HUMAN AND ANIMAL.  Only in the pigeon sport have I ever heard of evaluating athletes by “EYE SIGN”.  I have never witnessed nor heard of coaches, owners, general mangers or parents looking into the eyes of their players, young children or livestock with a “jeweler’s loupe” to see if they were going to be a good performer, top breeder, sprinter, long distance athlete, etc.

I have owned, raced and bred horses.  I have gone to several top sales and auctions, and I have never heard or witnessed an eye sign theory to select racing or breeding stock in horses.

The same applies in dog racing, fighting chickens, dog fighting or other types of animal competition that is legal or illegal.  Nobody has any theories or evaluation procedures with eye sign.  WHY? Because they would be laughed out of the sport for such a theory.  It is ridiculous for those sports or competitions, and it is just as silly to believe they can be used in the pigeon sport to help with success.

I read advertisements about eye sign specialists, racing eyes, sprinting eyes, distance eyes, eye sign pairing and mating, graders, teachers and scientific research about eye sign. Only in the pigeon sport do some fanciers believe and practice these methods.  Of course, there are other methods we also use in the pigeon sport for evaluation and culling that many have faith in, such as wing formation, strong or weak back, soft or hard muscle, throat configuration, color of toe nails, short or long keel, and maybe 20 more physical characteristics that are used as methods of selecting breeding or flying stock.

In all of these theories never do I hear mention the one major requirement necessary for the racing pigeon to be successful:  The ability to find his way home, “HOMING ABILITY”.  The intelligence and navigation skills to be 100-600 miles from home and race and navigate to return home to his loft the same day.  Without this ability to home and navigate, all the other qualities mean nothing.  Yet the graders, teachers, master breeders, specialists, etc. never seem to be concerned about this one aspect of our sport.

Can they grade intelligence, heart, determination, motivation or desire just by handling a bird, opening his wing, looking at the throat or looking into the eyes?  PLEASE GIVE ME A BREAK!  YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS AND REALLY BELIEVE THIS IS POSSIBLE!  To spend your money and time applying these methods to achieve success is foolish.

Like I said before, only in the pigeon sport do these experts exist (self proclaimed experts). WHY? Because we in the sport look for any short cut to success.  There is none.  The only way to be successful in this sport is the old fashioned way, to work for it, and earn it.

The sad thing about these so called experts graders and eye sign experts is that I truly believe they think they have the ability to select birds by their methods.

Only in the pigeon sport can they find individuals gullible and naive enough to listen and sometimes practice their methods.  No other sport or competition would consider such theories with a straight face.

We talk about our sport being on the decline, and there are many reasons for it.  What a shame if a new flyer gets involved with one of our eye sign experts, and spends his time and money on their methods.  After a few years, if he stays that long, with little or no positive results, we lose another potential fancier and maybe a few of his friends.

Yes, I am being hard on these individuals because I TRULY BELIEVE THEY ARE HURTING OUR SPORT for some small financial gain or a personal ego trip, or both.

As I have said in many other articles, you have the best graders in the world, the training basket and race day.  By training and racing your birds you will be evaluating yourself as well as evaluating and culling your birds.

You as a trainer may need some improvement in different aspects of the sport:  feeding, training, medication, trapping and loft management.  It is hard for us to accept the blame for poor results or heavy loses.  We much rather blame the birds, the weather, the transport company, or some other area, but not our own abilities or methods.

To select breeders and flyers is a very simple procedure.  PERFORMANCE should be your only criteria. Does the bird come from a winning family, generation after generation of excellent race results?  If the answer is yes, then the bird is worth taking a chance on in the breeding or flying loft.

Performance means the type of results necessary to compete in your area:  speeds, distances, weather and land conditions.  If the bird’s family has shown that it can be competitive, that is all you need to know. Forget about his eyes, wings, back, muscles, throat or keel.

Occasionally I will go to a auction, especially if it is sponsored by an excellent flyer and offers birds with race records.  I see these domestic birds, some with multiple diplomas, sell for much less then birds with foreign bands and no race results.  The excuses are that he is to long, has no chest, has a weak back, has no breeding eye, etc.  FORGET THOSE THEORIES!  The bird has already proven itself in race competition with multiple diplomas.  He has the ability, and he has already proven it.  You would have no problem taking a chance on breeding this bird with another performance bird with the same ability.

“SAME ABILITY” means proper breeding:  speed to speed and distance to distance.   If the bird has multiple diplomas at various speeds and distances that is even better.  You really should not care about eye sign, or how the bird handles.

The sport is changing everyday.  New ideas and theories are advertised, sold and practiced.  However, the basic principle still applies:  no homing ability and navigating skills, no positive results.  You cannot find these abilities by looking into the eyes.  Regular training and racing and selecting breeding and flying stock for performance results and bloodlines is the only path to success.

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Article Written by: Bob Prisco

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125 thoughts on “Eyesign… Only in Pigeon Racing

  1. In my humble opinion you couldn’t have said it better, best to best and forget the rest, I have only one theory and that is the basket theory. If l am asked to show my pigeon with the best racing eye in my loft I will go and catch my 5 x winner, of course not even knowing what its eye looks like. Bruce Fordyce’s kids do stand a better chance than Os Durandts than being long distance runners, but I don’t have to look in their eyes to see if this might happen, I will merely let them race against each in a marathon to see who are better runners.

  2. Wow this article has opened up a can of worms, I guess like in life what works for one person does not necessary work for another.

    For many years I have gone into my flying loft after the racing season and pay close attention to the birds left in the loft. One always gets the exception to the rule BUT all the birds seem to have a similar build, certain back type, certain wings, vents etc etc and they all seem to have above ave to good eye sign.

    I’m a stats and percentage person and taking the above into consideration I asked myself why keep (or breed birds) without those characteristics, inclusive of above ave eye sign, as I will just be reducing my chances of performance.

    I would like to think I know a little about eyes – definately not everything as there is so much to learn about the eye. There are 3 comments I would like to make which would be food for thought:-
    (1) I have yet to see a good racer that wins over 400km that has not got a good eye,
    (2) I have also found that at least one breeder (preferably both) must have good eye sign to breed good racers,
    (3) I have managed to walk into a complete stranger’s loft and selected his best 2 race hens and stock cocks on their eyes.

    Taking all the above into account one must bare in mind that I also look at their wings, backs, vents, body etc. I mean to select a person like Os du Randt or Jannie du Plessis to run and win the comrades would be as stupid as asking and expecting Bruce Fordyce to be a top quality prop. That being said I would think Bruce’s kids would have a better chance at being long distance athletes than props and visa versa.

    Another point of interest is that I select most of my stock birds as babies before they are even weaned.

      1. Flylong: The basket! What happens when you get a smash toss. Do you think only the good ones get home?
        What happens when the birds have underlying diseases. Do you think the best get home?
        Pigeon racing in Hawaii (unlike Florida which is a blow home capital of the world.) If you only rely on the basket then you will have to buy new breeders every year. A fancier can get wiped out at 50 miles because it is over real ocean. At 220 miles most birds have been lost and on any given race you can loose any given bird due to the ocean crossings. But if you are in Florida then you can use the basket because they have clubs like Unit 10 who flies about 20 races a season under 150 miles and only on fair weather days. Those that do well in the races are sold to __________they sell them to because they do not want to loose them. So your basket test is 150 mile races 20 times a season till they sell the bird. But if you look at the results their participation is a low as 3 lofts competing, as soon as 400 miles comes up they are down to very few pigeons. There is more to pigeon racing then having a truck, birds and a screened cage. We have lost and will never regain the knowledge that the great strain makers strived to achieve by racing long distance races. And that is no B.S.

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