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What a year (Nov 2nd)

What a tumultuous year 2016 was. Especially in that one weekend with hot weather. Temperatures would rise to up to 30 Celsius. Too warm to race pigeons both the NPO in Holland and KBDB in Belgium decided.


The Belgians (KBDB) decided that not one race could take place. Not even from the popular station from Quievrain, hardly 100 kilometres for most fanciers. Fanciers were furious when they heard this. Internet sites nearly exploded by the many protest letters they got. Pipa even decided not to publish any more letters, since they became too unfriendly and hateful. Fanciers could live with races from 500 kms instead of 800 kilometres.

They found it reasonable that races for which the birds had to be in the baskets for two nights were cancelled. But cancel short distance races as well?

‘How could they be so stupid? Had they forgotten Barcelona 2015. Then it was equally hot but it was a normal race. And those with a good memory or bookkeeping referred to other races in the past, also held in such a heat, without losses. When the Belgians heard that the Dutch were allowed to race in that weekend, provided the distance was not more than 300 kilometres they became even more upset. The KBDB was put under so much pressure that they did something that they had never done before. They ‘surrendered’. Short distance races, and short distance only, could go on. Then came that warm weekend with short distance races only. The birds got home real fast without any losses.


Again it turned out that the heat is not a real problem for birds. The real problem is the trip to the release station in the trucks, not the way back home. The heat inside the trucks are killing. It looks like we will have more summers with extremely warm days. But I guess NPO and KBDB have learnt their lessons and will never again forbid short distance races because of the heat. Long distance is another story. At the time I got a letter from the Algarve (South Portugal). ‘If we could not race with 30 Celsius we could as well quit’ it said.


Of course this commotion was all due to the massive losses of young birds in recent years. 2016 was again a tragic year. Some fanciers lost 80% of their young birds, among them great champions, and no one has an explanation. In a leading pigeon magazine I wrote:

‘One reason is that the pigeon food is too cheap’. What I meant to say was that fanciers breed too many babies and do not select strongly enough. They should only breed from their very best and pigeons that are not in good shape should be eliminated instead of being treated with antibiotics. When the whole loft is sick you have no choice. But when you have say 50 babies and 5 of them get sick it is a big mistake to cure all 50 birds in order to heal 5. Get rid of those 5. Stay away with medicine from healthy birds.  


Poor health is definitely one reasons of those losses. It seems to have more impact than quality. Take van Wanrooy, by far the best racer in his province. He destroyed a provincial race from Gien. He doubted the condition one week later when there was a provincial race from Sens. This race ended up in a smash, he lost nearly all the birds that did so won from Gien. Leytens is another champion. When he started tossing his 2016 babies their condition was ‘average’. But today ‘average’ is not good enough. It happened that from 10 kilometres only 42 birds from 100 did not make it home on the day. He lost nearly 50%, but then, halfway the season, the birds seemed to shape up spectacularly. From ‘the smash’ (mentioned before) about 50% of the birds got lost. Leytens did not lose even one baby! Take also A de Dooy. From the first young bird races he also lost several. Some were reported from 200 kilometres more North. He had them picked up by a courier and the same birds would win races against 3.000 plus birds later on when they were in super shape. The quality of the birds did not change, the condition did.


I discussed this matter with a biologist who is interested in pigeons. This is what he said: It has scientifically been proven that the odor (smell) helps pigeons to orientate. After tests, the olfactory organs from pigeons were cut off, they could not orientate at all any more.

To-day the air is different from some decades ago. It is much more polluted which has a big impact on the sense of smell of pigeons. Therefore it is extremely important to only toss and race youngsters whose throats are 100% clear. The least respiratory problem may cause heavy losses.’    


The latest commotion is about doping. In fall no less than nine fanciers’ birds were found positive. It became the talk of the day, especially since three famous names were among those nine. Fanciers who made pigeons their living by selling birds. Why do we not know about those names, you may think. It is a very complicated story. The stuff that was found in the droppings of some are on the list of forbidden products indeed but… that stuff is ‘natural’. It can be picked up by eating from some plants and it may even be in the seeds that is sold by firms that sell pigeon feed. Now ‘the common men’ are suspicious. Does the KBDB keep silent because they are afraid? Lawyers are the only winners so far.    


Some decades ago it was mostly the same fancier who had the best youngsters of Holland. This was nog because he had better birds, but he could race his babies 18 times, while in other areas they had no more than 8 races. To-day the situation is not much different. In some provinces they plan to only have 7 races in 2017, in other provinces there will be 12. So already before the season many people know they simply will not have a chance to have a national ace. No wonder ‘the outer world’ does not take this sport serious.