Why Is Mike Tyson Obsessed With Pigeons? Here’s A Closer Look At His Unexpected Hobby

Mike Tyson kissing a pigeon

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Mike Tyson is as big as it gets; a fighter who transcended boxing and arguably became bigger than the sport itself. He’ll always be known for what he was able to achieve in the ring, but he’s also pursued some interesting side hustles—including a few stemming from his love of pigeons.

Tyson is one of those iconic athletes whose achievements don’t really need to be summarized thanks to just how famous he managed to become after cementing himself as one of the most dominant fighters in boxing history in the 1980s and ’90s.

He was equal parts electric, unpredictable, and controversial in his prime, and while he eventually cooled down a bit after transitioning out of the spotlight, he’s kept pretty busy since he brought his professional career to an end in the mid-2000s.

He’s kept pretty busy in retirement by taking on a number of acting roles, hosting a podcast, and overseeing a marijuana empire that includes a massive ranch he’s constructing in California and a line of ear-shaped gummies inspired by his infamous incident with Evander Holyfield.

Oh, Tyson is also a big fan of pigeons, and his lifelong obsession with the birds many people refer to as “flying rats” is worth a closer look based on the pretty unexpected nature of a hobby he’s surprisingly passionate about.

What’s up with Mike Tyson and his love of pigeons?

Mike Tyson throws a punch in the ring

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Mike Tyson’s introduction to fighting came on the streets of Brooklyn. He had a rough upbringing that forced him to figure out ways to fend for himself, and he was essentially required to learn how to throw a punch and defend himself well before he stepped into the ring for the first time.

Tyson says he’s loved pigeons since he was nine years old and credits them with helping him escape the bullying he had to deal with when he was a child. He actually claims the first time he ever threw a punch was the result of one of those bullies killing one of his pigeons with his bare hands, and he’s said he knocked out a garbageman when he was 10 for disposing of a bird when it was already dead.

Tyson’s affinity for pigeons also (somewhat understandably) resulted in him calling off a relationship with a former girlfriend who pulled a very questionable move, saying, “She happened to grab one and she cooked one and proceeded to eat it. And I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t the right thing to do it. That’s why she’s not my woman anymore.”

Can we credit pigeons for the greatness we all got to witness? It honestly doesn’t seem too far-fetched to suggest that’s the case.

Mike Tyson loves pigeons so much to the point where he keeps them as pets. He has raised and bred them since he was a child and it became such a thing in Tyson’s life that he was actually given a show on Animal Planet called Taking on Tyson where he got into the world of competitive pigeon racing.

The show only lasted one episode, but this says enough about Mike and just how much he cares about these birds.

He also had a show on Adult Swim called Mike Tyson Mysteries where a pigeon (voiced by Norm Macdonald) was one of the main characters on a program that lasted for four seasons.

Tyson recently reflected on his passion for pigeons in an Instagram post where he revealed they’d served as the inspiration for one of his newest entrepreneurial efforts: Iron Pigeons, a trading card game based around his love for the birds and his iconic boxing career.

The man cannot get away from business ventures revolving around pigeons!

Tyson is known for boxing and (more recently) his business acumen, but his love of the birds is just as interesting; it’s believed he has a collection of over 1,000 pigeons and continues to love and care for each of them as if they are his own children.

Mike Tyson is one of the best boxers of all time. The man stuck fear into his opponents just by being on the card. His knockout punch was so devastating to the point where anyone who stepped into the ring with him had to view “not walking away with a traumatic injury” as a win.

However, his love of pigeons really casts him in a new light. Sure, he was someone who would literally bite your ear off, but the fact that he’s also a guy who would probably kill to defend the animals he cares for adds yet another layer to an already complex individual.

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Tj Francis is an NYC-based writer and comedian who covers weird sports stories and largely forgotten tales involving your favorite athletes, teams, and personalities.