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A winner need not be the best so buying is an art

In the Dutch press you often see adverts such as the following:
- 'Want to buy 1st prize winners against many birds. Preferably winners from long distance races. Send me photo of the pigeon and pedigree.' Or - 'Want to buy 1st prize winners and Aces. First prizes winners must have other record. Send me photo of the pigeon and pedigree.'

These ads were made up by middle men who want to export these birds to countries like Japan and Taiwan and in a less degree to the USA and Arab countries.
Also in Poland, England, Portugal, Hungry and so on is a great interest for Dutch and Belgian pigeons but unfortunately few fanciers over there can afford record birds.
This seems more regrettable than it is as winners, Aces, expensive birds and 'name birds' need not necessarily be good birds.
Some years ago winners from Holland and Belgium were a kind of hype in Japan. For Japanese fanciers a bird was good enough if it had won a 1st prize.
It stands to reason that fanciers in Holland and Belgium were not unhappy with this but they could not understand. Why not?
Because they realise too well that a bird that beat many others did a good job but this alone does not make it a good bird.
The reason is that (weather) conditions may put birds in such a good position that winning is less hard. The opposite is also true of course.
That's why the second ad ('referring to winners which must have other record) is a more serious and realistic one. Probably made up for Taiwanese market and not Japanese.

August 24th we had our National Race from Orleans which caused quite some commotion. Not only because of the terrible heat (34 degrees) it was the results that surprised fanciers.
I myself had entered 23 birds and won in the club (about 350 birds) 7th prize, speed 1250 mpm. 7th Prize was not good for me (IN FACT I NEVER DID SO BAD) but a study of other regional and the National result of the same race is interesting.
Nearby where I live races a fellow fancier who won in the same Orleansrace 1st prize Provincial against about 6,000 birds.
And now the surprise: His bird made 1242 mpm, so 8 mpm slower than mine.
The fact that we race in different provinces explains how it is possible that his bird (slower than mine) was a winner against 6,000 pigeons and mine was only 7th in the club. Business wise this fact is also interesting.
As I said it was a National race for which we both entered our birds.
Mine won 18th National (over 11,000 birds so that was good whereas the prize in the same race of the same bird in the club was not) the bird of my neighbour that won 1st provincial of about 6.000 birds won 23rd national !!!
Now suppose we both wanted to sell our birds.
For mine there would not be much interest, the bird of my neighbour however that was 5 minutes slower than mine would be a 'good business bird' as it was the provincial winner against 6,000 pigeons.
So the bird that won 23rd National would be far more valuble than the bird that beat him though the race was the same, the conditions were the same and the location almost the same.

On a windy day we often know even before the race in what location the winner has to be found and which birds have no chance, not even at long distance.
- When there is a strong wind from the west the winner is bound to be a German.
- When there is a strong East wind the winner will be a man who lives in Flanders
(the western part of Belgium) or in the western part of Holland.
- When there is a strong South West wind a Dutch bird will win.

As for real long distance (2 day races) it should be mentioned that Dutch birds have proven to be superior in recent years, they ALWAYS perform.
As mentioned before Japanese like winners and this is not strange.
Who does not like them? But what Japanese and other foreigners do not realise is that circumstances for all birds in a race are seldom the same.
So we get a kind of funny situation. Business wise a 2nd prize National is only worth a fraction of the winner but his performance may be far better due to circumstances.
I daresay in our windy countries there are not many races with equal chances for all birds as there are few races with 'neutral weather'.
'Neutral weather' means no winds or calm headwinds.
That makes pigeon sport so much different from other sports. Athletes, cyclists, swimmers, horses and so on compete on the same course under the same circumstances. Pigeons however do not.

We had another Semi National race for youngsters.
Seven of the 10 first prizes were won by fanciers who live in the same little town, quite in the north. As we race from South to North they raced at the greatest distance. Nobody was surprised, on the contrary.
You must know there was no wind in France after the birds were released but when the birds were on their way home the wind came up, right from the south west.
So what happened?
The first part of their course the pigeons flew at a pretty low speed but at the end the speed became higher and higher because of the increasing tailwind.
It was for that reason that the fanciers who raced from the greatest distance were privileged and won everything.
From Orleans the same guys were the great losers.
Fortunes are paid for the bird that wins Barcelona International, that is a well known fact. But when Barcelona is held with west wind a bird whose loft is located in the west (near the North Sea) who won from that race say the 20th prize did a better job than all those birds in the East by whom she was beaten.

Buying a winner is fine but smart fanciers consider the conditions of the race and… something more !!

People wonder why I was so often lucky when importing pigeons.
First of all this is not true.
I also bought bad pigeons, it was not all gold that glittered, but sometimes I indeed did the right thing. Maybe I was kind of lucky, maybe there was more as there is also such a thing as the art of reading results.
Quality birds are the main thing in our sport but a thorough study of results throughout the years made it clear to me that quality differs very much from one area to another. So I do not only want to know the weather conditions, I also want to know against whom races were won.

'Tell me who you beat and I will tell you how good your birds are.'

In Holland and Belgium every town, how little it may be, has his pigeon club or even more than one. The results of the races are on regional Television Stations including the speed of the birds.
We race 1 per 3, which means 600 birds in the race: 200 prizes, 1800 birds in the race: 600 prizes. When the results are on the telly I always watch the speed of the last prize winners in each club, so when one third of the birds was home. This says something about the quality.

If in club A the last prize winner made 1200 mpm and in club B 1100 mpm that means that in club A are the better pigeons. At least if these clubs are in the same town so that the wind does not influence the result.
So birds which are not good enough in club A can win a prize in club B.
This is not theory but reality.
There is this town with 2 pigeon clubs. Every race it is the same old song:
The speed of the 1st prize winner in one club is not good enough to win a decent prize in the other. Still in the other club there is a 1st prize winner despite the fact that neighbouring fanciers may have clocked many birds before this winner.
Now you may understand why even a winner may not be good enough for me.
The lesson?
Fanciers should learn to interprete results better. A lot of sand would be washed out of their eyes.
How good a result is cannot be judged from the result sheet of a club because you cannot compare. You CAN compare if you study the result sheet of the combine or the Province as birds of more clubs participate.
So what is important when judging results?
1.The weather conditions.
2. The strength of the competition.

Concerning this I remember a Barcelona race some years ago. A man in the Belgian province of Antwerp won 1st prize Provincial. His name was mentioned in all magazines and the bird was sold for good money to Taiwan.
'For good money' as it was a provincial winner and who does not like provincial winners from Barcelona?
He clocked the bird Sunday morning. However…There was a Dutch guy who alone got 8 birds home on Saturday despite the greater distance.
What I want to say is that you must also watch out when reading reports. In Europe a report is often made to promote a loft. And when birds are sold the fanciers 'friend the author' gets his commission.
If I see a report I always look at the name of the author.

When a report is published it is always good to ask yourself 2 questions. Why was it written and by whom was it written?

Sometimes you can read about what we call 'impossible results'.
For example a fancier who won 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and so on in a competition of say, for argument's sake, 3,000 pigeons.
If I hear about such a result I like to see the sheet as I want to know the timings of the arrivals of the birds.
Some years ago a fellow fancier sent me such an 'impossible result'.
He won the first 20 prizes from 4,000 pigeons. Unbelievable indeed.
I looked at what time the first pigeon was clocked and at what time the bird was clocked that won the 20th prize. There were no less than 7 minutes in between, whereas in another area the same race did last for even 7 minutes!
That means that there in 7 minutes one third of the birds were home whereas in the area where the man lives who sent me his result in 7 minutes only twenty of 4.000 pigeons were home.
Winning the first 20 prizes would be a super result indeed if these birds would have arrived home together. Now this man could show off with this 'impossible result' because the birds against whom was raced were birds of poor quality.
After this you can imagine that even the amount of birds does not mean that much.
10.000 birds in the race or 300 makes a big difference indeed, but occasionally I might prefer the winner of 300 birds.

This hen won National Orleans for Ad Schaerlaeckens but this alone does not make it a superbird.

When 1st prizes are won fanciers rightly want to know how many birds were in the race. But what is just as important is the number of fanciers who participated!
There are people who enter 200 or more birds. They basket 'everything that can fly.
There are also people who enter only 3 or 4 birds, their very best.
So you might get the following situation:

  • In area A was a race for which 50 fanciers entered 160 birds altogether.
  • In area B was a race for which 50 fanciers entered 4.000 birds altogether.

It stands to reason that competition is stronger in 'area A' as fanciers only entered their best birds. There is this golden rule to remember for Europe:

Where many fanciers enter few birds total there is strong competition.
Where few fanciers enter many birds total there is poor competition.

Or more concrete:
200 Fanciers who entered together 500 birds?
Strong competition.
25 Fanciers who entered 1.300 birds together?
Poor competition.
These things happen.
Now you may understand why so often National Aces belong to fanciers who race in an area where competition is poor. There it is far more easy to win.
And now you may understand too why so many winners of national races and Aces are sold to foreign countries.
Both in Holland and Belgium are people who can also afford the prices for such birds.
The reason they do not buy them is they know too well winning a race alone does not make a bird a good bird.