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A release dove refers to a breed of Rock Dove (domestic pigeon) used for ceremonial release. Release doves are often used to commemorate important milestones of life and offerings of hope at weddings and birthdays and as representing the soul's final journey at funerals. They are also released at grand openings, sporting events, and many outdoor gatherings.
The preferred type of release doves are homing pigeons, a member of the rock dove species, and some strains are specifically bred for ceremonial release. White homing pigeons are preferable to ringneck doves for ceremonial release because ringneck doves lack homing ability and may not survive in the wild.
Release dove handlers each offer their own unique list of release ceremonies to choose from. Some companies will offer either untrained homers, ringnecks, or other types of pigeon or dove. Those types of birds are likely to end up in the claws of a hawk, owl or cat, since they are unable to survive on their own in the wild.
Many birds have been used for ceremonial releases. But only the Rock Dove has been use traditionally as a messenger of the event that they are released at.
There are many breeds of homing pigeons, often called "Thoroughbreds of the Sky". Colored homing pigeons are often used for ceremonial release when pure white homing pigeons are not needed or not available. The most common breed of homing pigeon is bred for racing, and typically flies 480 km (300 miles) to 970 km (600 miles) in a race. The earliest homing pigeons were not used for racing, but to carry messages over long distances in a short amount of time. Today, long-distance homing pigeons fly 1,600 km (1,000 miles) or more. All racers are judged and selected for how quickly they return home.
White racing pigeons are most often used for ceremonial release. The pure white pigeon or Rock Dove is associated with all good traits: peace, hope, love, goodwill and family to name a few. They are typically bigger and can be heavier than other Racing Homers as their primary breeding focus has been their ability to fly from many different locations and their looks rather than flight from a few select locations at a high rate of speed. A breed of white Racing Homer called the Belgian Pletinckx can be used for white dove release ceremonies and they make good racers.
Although many people refer to the white homing pigeon as "racing pigeons", not all white ceremonial release pigeons are used for racing. A racing pigeon is different only in that it is bred for the sport of pigeon racing and breeders select for speed, as well as homing ability; they are in fact the same type of bird.
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