Release dove

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A white dove being released at a wedding

A release dove is usually a small white domestic rock dove used for events such as public ceremonies, weddings and funerals. They typically have a symbolic meaning for the event.

Subspecies and types[edit]

White release dove

Typically one or more white doves are released. Sometimes doves are called pigeons, there is no distinction.[1] Usually domestic rock doves (Columba livia domestica) bred for small size and white coloration are released due to their homing ability.[2][3][4]

Barbary doves (Streptopelia risoria), also known as ringneck doves, carry a mutation that makes them completely white. These white Barbary doves are most commonly used in stage magic acts. White Barbary doves are sometimes released in large public ceremonies as a peace symbol, and at weddings and funerals. However, releases usually use homing pigeons, as Barbary doves lack the homing instinct and will die if released into the wild.

White pigeon in Chandigarh

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.[5]


Pigeon breeds used for dove release services are chosen for their color and small size, not for their homing abilities or flight speed. 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.[6] Trained white homing pigeons, domesticated forms of the rock dove, stand a better chance of returning home if vigorously trained prior to release by a trainer and within a distance of 600 miles from the loft. Ringneck doves that are released into the wild and survive will likely starve to death.[7]

Dove-shaped balloons released at an event in Incheon, South Korea

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.[6]

Symbolic use[edit]


In The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, a flood narrative is present, where the character Utnapishtim sends out a dove in the hope it will find land. However, the dove returns to his ship and he assumes it did not find land.

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.[8]

The use of a dove and olive branch as a symbol of peace originated with the early Christians, who portrayed the act of baptism accompanied by a dove holding an olive branch in its beak and also used the image on their sepulchres.

Olympic games[edit]

The ritual of releasing doves in the Olympic games originated in 1896.[9] 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.[10] At the Olympics 2021, in Tokyo, a thousand paper doves were used instead of real birds.[11]

The Vatican[edit]

In 2004, Pope John Paul II released doves, with children, to promote Christian unity and world peace.[12]

In 2005, Pope John Paul II started a yearly January tradition of children releasing doves from a window to promote world peace.[13][14] The practice was problematic due to the birds not flying away and returning to the window 2005,[13] 2012.[13] At some releases the doves were attacked by other birds, a seagull in 2013,[15][16] and a seagull and a crow in 2014.[17][14][18]

In December 2013, at an event where Pope Benedict XVI released doves during a Holocaust remembrance event the birds were attacked by a seagull.[19][20]

Since 2015, The Vatican no longer engages in the releasing doves due to the problems of birds not flying away and being attacked by other birds. The notoriety of this event generated a public outcry for the Vatican to halt this practice. A balloon release has been used instead in 2015[15] and 2018.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bereford, Denise. "White Pigeon / Release Dove: Breed Guide". Pigeonpedia. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  2. ^ Stringham, Sydney A.; Mulroy, Elisabeth E.; Xing, Jinchuan; Record, David; Guernsey, Michael W.; Aldenhoven, Jaclyn T.; Osborne, Edward J.; Shapiro, Michael D. (2012-02-21). "Divergence, convergence, and the ancestry of feral populations in the domestic rock pigeon". Current Biology. 22 (4): 302–308. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.12.045. ISSN 0960-9822. PMC 3288640. PMID 22264611.
  3. ^ "The Doves - National Association of White Dove Release Professionals". Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  4. ^ "Where do doves released after weddings go".
  5. ^ Borgia, Gregorio (29 January 2014). "Why Birds Attacked the Peace Doves in Rome". National Geographic. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  6. ^ a b Schweig, Sarah (2018-12-07). "What Can Really Happen To 'Wedding Doves' After They Fly Away". The Dodo. Retrieved 2019-10-27.
  7. ^ Engber, Daniel (8 August 2005). "When Doves Fly Away". Slate. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  8. ^ Willette, Dorothy. "The Enduring Symbolism of Doves". Biblical Archeology Society. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  9. ^ Robinson, Simon (2014). The Bloomsbury Companion to the Philosophy of Sport. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1472905390. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  10. ^ Herald, Deccan. "When messengers of peace were burnt alive". Olympics 2004. Archived from the original on 29 August 2004. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  11. ^ Pigeonpedia. "Dove Releases: Are They Cruel? Is It Ethical?". Pigeonpedia. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  12. ^ CNA. "Pope again calls for Christian Unity, releases doves for peace". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  13. ^ a b c America, Because without; World, There Is No Free. "Vatican Doves Attacked by Seagull Happened Same Time Last Year". Canada Free Press. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  14. ^ a b D'emilio, Frances (27 January 2014). "Pro-animal rights groups appeal to pope after dove attack". The Washington Examiner. Retrieved 27 October 2019.
  15. ^ a b Bever, Lindsey. "How killer birds forced Pope Francis to change a Vatican tradition: Releasing doves for peace". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-07-23.
  16. ^ Pollak, Sorcha (2013-01-29). "Pope's Dove of Peace Attacked by Seagull of Irony". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  17. ^ "Pope's peace doves attacked by crow and seagull". The Guardian. 26 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Fact or Fiction? Pope Francis's peace doves attacked by birds of prey story". iMediaEthics. 2014-01-31. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  19. ^ Chandler, Adam (26 January 2014). "The Recent and Troubled History of Papal Peace Doves". The Atlantic.
  20. ^ "Look: Seagull Attacks Dove Of Peace Released By Pope". HuffPost UK. 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2022-03-10.
  21. ^ "Youth of Catholic action pray for peace at Sunday Angelus". Vatican News. 2018-01-28. Retrieved 2022-06-11.

External links[edit]