Champions have the circle round
It is about 15 years ago that clubs and combines in Europe and America started to organise seminars.
In wintertime when there are no races champions are invited to talk pigeons.
They tell what they do and not do to be successful and they answer questions.
People do have questions as especially in young bird racing some Dutch and Belgians perform so destructively that many eyebrows are raised.
I myself was a so-called guest speaker more often too and whereas the audience was supposed to learn from me I also learnt from them.
One thing I found was that the interests of fanciers differ much from one country to the other.
Unlike Belgian and Dutch fanciers the Germans have a great interest in strains and medication. I do not know of any country in the world where pigeons get so many medicine and vitamins than Germany.
Sometimes I wonder: ‘how strong pigeons must be to survive all that useless stuff they have to swallow. Do smart people like Germans not realise that medicine are developed to cure pigeons and not to make them fly faster?’
A remarkable thing is that it is Germany of all countries where people have most problems to keep pigeons healthy, especially young ones.
There is hardly any issue of the National magazine Die Brieftaube in which the so-called ‘young bird disease’ is NOT discussed.
‘What is the reason and what can we do about it?’ the Germans wonder.
I think that it is not impossible that the problems they face are due to the abuse of medicine for so many years.
The birds’ immunity has been undermined.
A favourite subject of English fanciers is tossing.
From what distances?
From what direction?
Single tossing or group tossing?
In America it is always the same song: People talk about strains (‘bull’ according to Belgians and Dutchmen) and of course the inevitable eye-sign.
It is unbelievable how strongly they believe in something that is completely irrelevant to Europeans. There is not even a Dutch word for ‘eye sign’.
On a Belgian discussion site on the Internet an American fancier brought up the subject ‘pairing by the eye’. The reactions were overwhelming but only Americans and Englishmen joined the forum till a Belgian begged them to stop that shit.
- Holland and Belgium.
Strains are never an item at seminars in Holland and Belgium. In ‘the Mecca’ of our sport fanciers unanimously agree that strains are good for the business of the sellers but not to win races.
It is the Adeno/coli problem and even more the lofts that intrigue them.
In this article I will explain why the lofts are considered to be so important.
I always say ‘champions have the circle round’.
The quality of the birds, medication, training, feeding, motivation and the environment (lofts) are parts of the circle.
If one element is missing the circle is not round.
You can compare this with a chain of which the items I mentioned are the links and a fancier is as good as the strength of the weakest link.
A very important part of the circle is the loft, which can be seen in loft reports in Dutch and Belgian pigeon magazines: In all of them much attention is paid to the loft.
The loft was also a reason that made me decide to be a ‘writer’ in my younger days.
The champions think the loft is the base for a good condition and how important a good condition is we know.
I had heard the champions so often ‘I would rather have average birds in a good loft than super birds in a bad loft’ that it made me curious.
Throughout the years I learnt indeed you’d better pool money on an average bird in super shape than on a super bird in poor shape.
Some people cannot stop buying pigeons but successes never follow. It is very unlikely they only bought bad pigeons or were always cheated.
But quality becomes irrelevant if birds are put in lofts that are no good.
You can compare this with humans.
If we work in a place where we do not feel uncomfortable we do not function well.
Once I had a seminar in Las Vegas.
My plane landed in the night and the last thing I expected there was the cold I met with. There was something hot in Vegas indeed but not the temperatures at night.
Over there I visited lofts and saw birds. One of my hosts wanted to know my opinion about the birds he showed me.
I said I could not see if birds were any good, no body can see that, but condition is another story.
Whether birds are in good shape or not the experienced fancier will see at a glance and his birds were not in good shape.
He could not understand.
‘I often train the birds, they get the best food, they are tested by a vet regularly and I spent much money on the loft’ he said. .
But the loft was his problem though with the front wide open and a kind of grate that was the floor.
I could understand why the loft was open in this heat but remembered the icy cold wind when I arrived.
Lofts that are exposed to the changing circumstances so much must have a negative effect on the condition.
The result of the race that followed was poor, just as I had predicted.
‘The reason is you have a loft problem like most people here’ I said.
He looked at me questioningly. ‘A loft problem?’
He had never heard about a thing like that.
When he told me that he thought only good pigeons, good medicine and good training mattered I told him about the circle.
I also was in Taiwan and China. Not to have a seminar but what an experience it was.
- I was impressed by the hospitality of my hosts and the politeness of the people.
- The beauty of Taiwan was a surprise, not ‘only pollution’ as I was told.
- My eyes were popping out when I saw the traffic. Never seen such a mess both in Taiwan and China but nevertheless few accidents happened.
- The police were not too friendly but I felt safe even in big cities. Back home the police are friendly and helpful but nevertheless you do NOT feel safe in big cities.
- A visit to the home of the late Mrs Soong Ching Ling in Beying was a once in a lifetime experience also as pigeons were the great love for this outstanding woman.
- Though I did not have a seminar I did talk to fanciers and I saw some lofts. As the climate in Taiwan differs much from that of China I had expected different lofts for reasons I described but much to my surprise that was not the case.
THE EAST AND THE WEST
Mr Lai and Mr Lai are two great champions in Taiwan I learnt.
I was privileged as to meet those champions but unfortunately we were not able to communicate due to the language barrier.
But even though I did not see their pigeons or their lofts I can tell you this.
a. They must have better birds than the majority.
b. They must be good handlers, and…
c. Their birds must be housed in better lofts than those of the majority.
Why I dare say so?
These are characteristics of any champion wherever he lives.
As the climate influences the environment in the loft so much it stands to reason that what is a good loft in say Holland or China need not be a good loft in Taiwan and vice versa.
But a pigeon is a pigeon and it needs to live in a good environment to get into good shape everywhere.
Some fanciers even mean that the winners are not those who have the best birds but those who have the best lofts.
It may be a bit exaggerated but there is much truth in it.
I noticed that unlike European champions (some) fanciers in China and also in Japan) did not have things (changing weather conditions) under control.
When it is windy or cold European champions can shut ventilation openings.
In hot weather they can open the lofts or ventilate them.
They take action when the humidity is too high.
In short they do whatever they can NOT to expose the birds to unfavourable influences from outside that would down the condition.
Also the interior and the materials lofts are made of should be carefully considered.
Most lofts are made of wood in most countries; wood is good but not any wood.
Real hard wood in which it is hard to drive a nail looks nice as it is shiny but that is not the wood you should build a pigeon loft from.
Such wood does not absorb humidity, you see tiny drops on it in humid weather.
Do you know why Janssen Brothers never dared to paint the loft?
They were scared the wood would be less absorbent.
Some characteristics of a good loft are the following.
- It is dry but not too dry. When the degree of humidity is lower than 60 you may be sure the birds will get respiratory problems.
- It is not warm but not too warm.
- It is not draughty but there is sufficient oxygen.
- It is not too light (that is bad for the eyes).
- Both in the daytime and at night the circumstances are much the same.
But the problem we face is that these things may ‘fight’.
When it is windy and lofts are closed to keep the draught out the birds may lack oxygen.
When it is hot and you open the loft you may allow the draught to come in.
Finding the balance is the art of a champion.
It is a responsibility for both the champions and the press to help others out.
We want a sport to be fair don’t we?
But a sport is only fair if circumstances are the same for all participators.
Champions who invite others to have a look at their lofts set a good example.
I also mentioned the importance of the interior.
Many lofts look good for the fancier: Perches and cells neatly under each other or next to each other but… do pigeons like that?
They like a mess and dark corners to build a nest. Remember they descend from birds that used to live in holes in the rocks.
Birds must also have lots of opportunities to find a place.
In a loft there must be far more perches and roosts than birds.
40 Perches with on each one a bird looks nice indeed but such lofts are no good.
In Europe many babies get lost from the loft.
Some fanciers think that is because they are stupid but they are wrong.
Many birds fly away as they do not feel at home in their lofts.
There is this example of a baby of a fellow fancier who lived 5 kilometres south from me. It came into my loft when it was about 2 months old.
I let her free about 40 kilometres from my place, also south. I hoped it would make it back home but much to my surprise it came back to my loft again while she must have passed her home loft.
Getting back in my loft as a 2 months old without any training from 40 kilometres suggests a smart bird but… why did it get lost then?
She did not feel comfortable in her loft.
As it seems that good birds, good feeding, good medicine, good training and so on are of no use if the lofts are no good the lofts should be the first concern of any pigeon fancier.
One of the greatest champions ever was the late doctor Linssen.
As he was a close friend of Klak he got youngsters of all Klaks best birds and put them in a loft that had all the ingredients to be a good loft.
He could not win a decent prize though.
The vets that were consulted all concluded the birds were not sick but not in good shape either.
‘Something must be wrong with the loft’ Klak said.
The doctor then decided to give it one more try and moved the loft about 30 metres where the front faced another direction and it was not surrounded by trees.
The condition changed dramatically, the birds turned into winners and doctor Linssen became a great champion.
The loft remained the same but its environment became better.
Another location alone made the circle round. Food for thought!