The difference between cheap homing pigeons and racing pigeons is mostly to be found in their training and conditioning. Homing pigeons are specially bred and domesticated pigeons that are able to find their way home from extraordinarily long distances.
Pigeons naturally return to their nest to mate, so it is fairly easy to selectively breed and train these pigeons. Racing pigeons are homing pigeons that have been more extensively trained to get from their release point to a destination point as quickly as possible. Pigeon racing can be both a hobby and a sport, with races ranging from 100 to 600 miles or more.