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When Racing Pigeons are a Matter of Life and Death

Pigeon racing is a fascinating pastime and fanciers are extremely dedicated to their sport. Whilst owning pigeons does involve considerable commitment, it is rarely a matter of life and death, at least in the UK. However, things are very different in Syria.

Pigeon racing and breeding has always been extremely popular in Syria but the war has now meant that many pigeon owners are having to sell their prize birds so that they can buy food for their families.

Before the Hostilities

Syrian breeders have long been renowned for producing the finest birds. The finest specimens can be worth a small fortune and before the war, beautifully appointed lofts housed a wonderful array of birds. No expense was spared and the birds benefitted from the best of everything including premium food and racing pigeon supplements.

Casualties of War

Since the fighting started, many pigeons have been destroyed in bombings. Desperate owners have been forced to smuggle birds into neighbouring Lebanon either to save them or to sell them to wealthy buyers in order to raise funds for food. Some private collections in the Middle East .

One Lebanese collector, Nasser al-Hindi, is buying as many of the Syrian birds as he can so that the prize specimens remain in the region and do not get exported elsewhere. These birds are destined for a luxurious life in his amazing air conditioned lofts. They and foods and the loft even benefits from a veterinary wing and private cages for the best birds.

The pigeons are smuggled across the border in muslin bags but crossing the border is a hazardous enterprise as both the birds and their owners can get caught in the crossfire. There have been reports that a shipment of 70 pigeons all perished in a single incident as smugglers attempted to cross the Hezbollah held territory.

To make matters worse, ISIS have banned the keeping of pigeons and have imposed a penalty of death on anyone who is caught with the birds. Pigeon keeping is no longer an option in ISIS held territories. Evidently pigeons are an interest which distracts people from religion. Boys have allegedly been killed just for feeding the pigeons.


There are strict quarantine laws in Lebanon but these are rarely observed. If the authorities capture any of the smuggled birds then they are generally destroyed after they cross the border.

Pigeon breeding was once a popular and lucrative hobby in Syria but the terrible five year war has all but put an end to pigeon keeping in the country. Whilst many wealthy fanciers in the Gulf States would be only too happy to purchase the Syrian birds, many specimens have perished in bombings and on their way to the border whilst large numbers have been seized and destroyed.


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