Raising and showing various breeds of show type pigeons for show competition is a wonderful hobby enjoyed by thousands of people around the world. When you raise pigeons for show, you are in the ‘fancy’. The fancy was being developed in various parts of Europe even before the United States became a country.
The first domestic pigeons were used for utility. Utility pigeons were raised in dove cotes (tall, rounded pigeon lofts with an open center), often for the single purpose of providing fertilizer high in nitrogen, utilized for farming and gardening. Squab and egg production came later.
The dove cotes gave utility pigeons the shelter, protection and nesting space they required. Water was provided. But the flock would need to ‘fly-out’ each day in search of food, scavenging the local countryside.
The next stage of development in utility pigeons was to breed for fast growth and size of squabs for food consumption. Commercial value of the birds was based upon how fast and how large a squab could be raised for market. Good breeding stock was the goal, driven by the value to the market place.
It was during this time that some pigeon breeders began experimenting with ‘show’ type characteristics, developing for physical appearance instead of utility. These first birds were called ‘fancy pigeons’. They were developed as exhibition birds.
Today [note: at time of writing] there are over 190 fancy show type varieties, each with a standard for appearance and color variation. Pigeon clubs group together to sponsor various types of show pigeon competitions. Some of the larger pigeon shows in Europe will have up to 10,000 birds; the United States shows are somewhat smaller, up to 5000 birds.
Links to breeds information: