Unfortunately, the pigeons weren’t made of clay at the Paris Games in 1900—those birds had real feathers.
In its only appearance as an Olympic event, live pigeon shooting proved to be an unsettling spectacle as hundreds of the birds were released as targets for gun-wielding competitors.
Nearly 300 pigeons were killed or wounded, leaving the ground littered with feathers and blood. Not surprisingly, this “sport” was subsequently discontinued.
“The idea to use live birds for the pigeon shooting turned out to be a rather unpleasant choice,” American sports historian Andrew Strunk wrote dryly in a 1988 article on the 1900 Paris Olympics. “Maimed birds were writhing on the ground, blood and feathers were swirling in the air and women with parasols were weeping in the chairs set up nearby.”