A release dove is 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.
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.
Like other species of bird, many people keep doves as pets. As pets they require proper cages and food. Along with fresh water for drinking and bathing, there are many types of good quality dove seed mixes that make great food for doves. Doves also enjoy meal worms, fresh chopped vegetables, and hard boiled eggs with the removed shell.