Breeds and Types of Pigeons: From Rollers to Racers

Pigeon Breeds for Utility and Sport

Recognized as a Master Breeder of Old Dutch Capuchines and Bavarian Pouters, Layne Gardner has had the good fortune of traveling the world photographing various types of pigeons. In her 50 years of raising pigeons (she started early!) she has developed a passion for quality and enjoys seeing excellent specimens in various breeds. She may have chosen Capuchines for their elegant Cruella de Vil neck feathers and possibly the Bavarian Pouters for their attractive balloon-like crop. But what characteristics and breed will you choose?

Black German Nun

Black German Nun Pigeon

With hundreds of types of pigeons to pick from, selecting a breed or variety can be overwhelming. Popular pigeon facts include their ability to adapt to various conditions and their inexpensive maintenance costs, which doesn’t help narrow down the choices. One of the best ways to choose a breed is by focusing on the flock’s purpose. Types of pigeons may be grouped into three classes: utility, fancy, and flying or homing breeds.

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Pigeon Breeds by Class

Utility Breeds

These birds are used mostly for squab production. The largest types of pigeons in this category include the White Kinds, Red Carneau, French Mondain, Giant Homers, and the ironically named Runts.

Michael Kolodziej, owner of Ruffled Feather Farm, has been raising pigeons for 30 years. Currently, he raises one of the largest pigeon breeds and one of the smallest.

“The giant runt is the largest breed of pigeon, and their size alone makes them regal,” he says. “They are truly a gentle giant. They are not the easiest breed to work with; because of their size, they break their eggs and even crush their young.”

He tells me that they are best left undisturbed. When the squabs hatch, it’s amazing to watch this tiny chick develop into a giant.

“I very seldom advertise my runts; they sell themselves,” Kolodziej adds. “When people see them, they just have to have them. Their mass and impressive size win you over.”

Runt Pigeon
Runt pigeon. Photo by Michael Kolodziej.

Photo by Michael Kolodziej.

 Red Carneau
Carneau originated in northern France and southern Belgium. Their size makes them suitable for squab production. Photo Red Carneau by Layne Gardner

Carneau originated in northern France and southern Belgium. Their size makes them suitable for squab production. Photo Red Carneau by Layne Gardner.

French Mondain
The French Mondain is valued for its beauty and food source. Photo by Layne Gardner

The French Mondain is valued for its beauty and food source. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Opal French Mondain
Here is a beautiful example of a opal French Mondain, compared to the typical blue. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Here is a beautiful example of an opal French Mondain, compared to the typical blue. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Fancy Breeds

These pigeons are kept for their gorgeous color, form, and texture. I remember fondly going to the New York State fair, annually and visiting the poultry building. I would spend hours on the second floor which was dedicated to the whimsical types of pigeons New York fanciers had to offer. These exhibition breeds included Fantails, Jacobins, Owls, Pouters, Tumblers, and Modenas.

What do pigeons eat? Knowing what to feed pigeons depends on the breed. Some types of pigeons, because of their beak and head size, may require only the smallest of seed and grain.

Fantail
Too little space for peafowl? Add a flock of Fantail pigeons to your yard for a fraction of the space. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Too little space for peafowl? Add a flock of Fantail pigeons to your yard for a fraction of the space. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Jacobin
This red splash Jacobin radiates elegance. Photo by Layne Gardner.

This red splash Jacobin radiates elegance. Photo by Layne Gardner.

African Owl
Orginating in Tunisia, African owl pigeons have short and stout beaks, requiring small seed. This khaki pied individual is an amazing example of artificial selection. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Originating in Tunisia, African owl pigeons have short and stout beaks, requiring small seed. This khaki pied individual is an amazing example of artificial selection. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Chinese Owl
Looking for a blown-out feather look? Look no further than this Chinese Owl whose variety is blue bar. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Looking for a blown-out feather look? Look no further than this Chinese Owl whose variety is blue bar. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Modena
Looking for a bird with curves? Try a bronze tri gazzi Modena. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Looking for a bird with curves? Try a bronze tri gazzi Modena. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Magpie
Originially part of the tumbler group, this black Magpie pigeon is predominately used as an show bird in the U.S. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Originally part of the tumbler group, this black Magpie pigeon is predominately used as a show bird in the U.S. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Flying or Homing Breeds

Possibly the most famous, this category includes racing pigeons that are used for endurance flying (distance or height) and their homing instinct. Breeds include Racing Homers and Rollers.

Kolodziej says that Portuguese tumblers are one of the smallest breeds of pigeons. “They are extremely fast flyers and they perform well.”

Their small size is intriguing as well as the way they carry themselves. They have an erect stance, powerful chest and a small beak which makes their appearance pleasing.

“When the males court, they walk on tip-toe and almost inhale to make themselves appear more impressive,” Kolodziej has noticed. “Another interesting factor is the wide variety of colors and unique patterns. It is always exciting to watch the young birds feather out to see what you produced. My biggest enjoyment is watching them fly. I sit for hours and just watch.”

Portuguese Tumblers
A portion of M flock of Portguese tumblers.

A variety of Kolodziej’s flock of Portuguese tumblers.

Dark Check Show Roller
A dark check show roller pigeon. Photo by Layne Gardner.

A dark check show roller pigeon. Photo by Layne Gardner.

German Long Face Tumbler
German long face tumbler is a slender upright breed. Photo by Layne Gardner.

German long face tumbler is a slender upright breed. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Flying Baldhead Kite Pigeon
Flying baldhead kite pigeon. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Photo by Layne Gardner.

Exhibition Blue Bar Homer
Exhibition blue bar homer. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Photo by Layne Gardner.

Domestic Show Flight Pigeon
The Domestic Show Flight pigeon orginated in New York state. This variety is a red plainhead. Photo by Layne Gardner.

The Domestic Show Flight pigeon originated in New York state. This variety is a red plainhead. Photo by Layne Gardner.

Berlin Short-Faced Tumbler
Berlin Short-Faced Tumbler were developed in the mid 19th century by crossing the Ancient Tumbler, Kazaner Tumbler and other breeds in Berlin. Photo by Layne Gardner

Berlin Short-Faced Tumblers were developed in the mid 19th century by crossing the Ancient Tumbler, Kazaner Tumbler and other breeds in Berlin. Photo by Layne Gardner.

American Show Racer
American show racer. Photo by Layne Gardner

Photo by Layne Gardner

Do you have a type of pigeon that’s your favorite? What types of pigeons are you considering? Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments
  • I am especially fond of English Trumpeters, with the feathered feet, crest on the head and the loud (for a pigeon) calls.
    Pigeons are so much fun!!

    Reply
  • I raise Indian Fantails and Old German Owls. I love the people in both clubs. They have been so helpful to me in learning to care and show them. I started my hobby when I was 75 years old. You are never to old to have pigeons.

    Reply
  • I live in the Czech Republic and I just started with Rakovník Kotrlak. A Czech roller type. It is fun watching them do somersaults in the air. I have a pair sitting on eggs now. I hope something will happen.

    Reply
  • Flying flights a true American pigeon breed a real native new yorker. Especially In NYC

    Reply
  • I have pakistani high flyers, swift pigeons, iranian high flyers, rollers, tumblers anyone intrested

    Reply

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Breeds and Types of Pigeons: From Rollers to Racers

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