Release dove

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White release dove.

A release dove, also called a white pigeon, is a domestic rock dove (Columba livia domestica) bred for small size and white coloration that is released during events, such as public ceremonies, weddings and funerals. They can be used as symbols at these places.

Most white doves are domesticated barbary doves (Streptopelia risoria). Albinism or other genetic anomalies that produce an entirely white dove occur very rarely in the wild since an all-white coloration would make these birds stand out in their natural habitats, leaving them highly vulnerable to predators.[1]

Although dove release businesses advertise that their birds will be able to safely return home, released doves are frequently killed in accidents or by predators before they can return home.[2] Trained white homing pigeons, also known as rock doves, properly released by a trained release coordinator can fly back to their homes if within a distance of 600 miles. Ring neck doves that are released into the wild and survive will likely starve to death.[3]

The pigeons bred for dove release services are bred for their color and small size, not for their homing abilities or flight speed, as a result, some birds are attacked by predators moments after they are released. Some released birds become confused and are found injured or dead nearby their original release site. Since these are domesticated birds, they do not possess the instincts or skills to survive in the wild.[4]

Increased public awareness about animal cruelty, and the influx of injured or lost release doves in animal shelters is decreasing the demand for release dove services.[2]


The release of doves is associated with the Genesis flood narrative; where a dove is sent out three times as the flood waters are receding. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, a similar flood narrative is present, where Utnapishtim sends out a dove that returns to his ship.[5]

The ritual of releasing doves in the Olympics originated in 1896.[6] The doves in the 1896 Olympics were released as part of the closing ceremony; the ritual became an official part of the opening ceremony in the 1920 Antwerp games. The ritual was altered to be purely symbolic after the doves released in the 1988 Seoul Olympics landed on the Olympic Torch and were burnt alive when it was lit.[7]

Dove release incidents[edit]

The Vatican no longer engages in the releasing of doves after multiple occasions where released doves were attacked by predatory birds as onlookers watched. The notoriety of this event generated a public outcry for the Vatican to halt this practice.[8] The last occasion where doves were released by the Vatican occurred in 2014. Pope Francis released two birds that would not fly out of the window of the papal apartment and required several attempts to get the birds to fly out over a crowd of spectators. Immediately, the two birds were attacked by a seagull and a crow as spectators watched.[9][10]

A similar incident occurred a year earlier at an event where Pope Benedict XVI released doves during a Holocaust remembrance event. The doves were attacked by a seagull, with one dove being singled out and injured.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borgia, Gregorio. "Why Birds Attacked the Peace Doves in Rome". National Geographic. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  2. ^ a b Schweig, Sarah (2018-12-07). "What Can Really Happen To 'Wedding Doves' After They Fly Away". The Dodo. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
  3. ^ Engber, Daniel. "When Doves Fly Away". Slate. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Why dove releases are cruel".
  5. ^ Willette, Dorothy. "The Enduring Symbolism of Doves". Biblical Archeology Society. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  6. ^ Robinson, Simon (2014). The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1472905390. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  7. ^ Herald, Deccan. "When messengers of peace were burnt alive". Olympics 2004. Archived from the original on 29 August 2004. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  8. ^ Bever, Lindsey. "How killer birds forced Pope Francis to change a Vatican tradition: Releasing doves for peace". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-23.
  9. ^ "Pope's peace doves attacked by crow and seagull". The Guardian.
  10. ^ D'emilio, Frances. "Pro-animal rights groups appeal to pope after dove attack". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  11. ^ Chandler, Adam. "The Recent and Troubled History of Papal Peace Doves". The Atlantic.

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