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Double Widowhood (Part one of three)

In January 2006 a peculiar measure was taken by KBDB (Belgian Homing Union).

From 2006 on it was not allowed to race (old) hens in a separate competition.

That meant a big change in the history of pigeon sport, since the Belgians had raced their birds in the following categories as long as this sport exists:

- Cocks

- Yearlings

- Hens

- Youngsters and… up till now there is even another category: 2-year-olds.

‘Why all these separate competitions?’ you may wonder.

Everything has a reason and this one is simple:

Old birds were supposed to be superior to yearlings and cocks were thought to be better racers than hens.

People thought that racing would be fairer for hens and yearlings if they did not have to compete old birds but had their own competition.

And if some one had an excellent hen or yearling this was interesting.

They could ‘double’ such a bird, which means: They let it also race in the competition for old birds. 

By doing this ‘doubling’ it could win 2 (first) prizes in the same race and… such a hen or yearling could win money in both competitions.

A yearling hen could even be entered for 3 competitions: For hens, yearlings and old birds.

Two-day races (from 900 kilometres and further) is another story, hens often won theseraces.

Do not ask me why, I do not know, no body can explain, it is just a fact.


This so called ‘doubling’ had its disadvantages for the average fancier though.

- Extra papers had to be filled in.

- Extra entry fee for each competition had to be paid as well as extra money for additional result sheets. 

- Furthermore those ‘doublings’ were often abused when making publicity. Fanciers  showed off with birds that won 2 or 3 first prizes, whereas in fact it only won one. The other so-called firsts were won in the same race on the same day.


In Holland they never knew this division.

There they only race 2 kinds of birds: Young birds and old ones.

So a yearling is an old bird in Holland and so is a (yearling) hen.

This sometimes led to comic situations.

Once I overheard a conversation between a Dutch fancier and a Belgian fellow sportsman.

‘How many old birds will you race next year?’ the Dutch asked.

‘Four’ was the reaction.

The Dutch fancier was surprised.

Did he have four old birds only?

What the Belgian ‘forgot’ to say was that his loft was also filled with 30 yearlings that he could race.


The ban on separate competitions for hens in 2006 had a reason of course.

It all started around the year 2000.

In many reports on provincial or national races one could read the winner was a hen.

(See my other article ‘return of the hens’ part 42).

Furthermore one could read about outstanding hens in loft reports.

Then Vanlint showed up.

He had lived in Taiwan for 21 years, returned to Belgium and started to race pigeons.

He followed the advice of his Dutch friend de Bruyn to race both hens and cocks and much to the surprise of a whole nation his hens performed incredibly.

Of course there were superior hens before, think about ‘Fieneke’ from Vervoort and world famous ‘Paula’ from Remi de Mey, but they were exceptions people thought.

But it was not only Vanlint that made people frown.

Also fanciers such as Jos Vercammen, Van Elsacker, Luc van Mechelen, Van Winkel, Broeckx and others performed extremely well with hens.

When later on, in the fall of 2005, young Eric Berckmoes was Belgians best in the Nationals and his winning birds turned out to be hens as well people and KBDB in particular had stuff to discuss.

'Vichy I, one of the tophens of Jos Vercammen'


It is a well known fact that Klak also raced hens but that is another story.

He raced natural, like the Janssens, but the difference with others who race natural was that he forced the hens to train twice a day with a flag hanging out.

As for racing hens not natural there are two methods.

- Some race them successfully on widowhood (like Vercammen, van Winkel, Van Mechelen) and so on. They do not race the partner (cocks).

- Others like Van Elsacker. Verkerk, Vanlint, De Bruyn practise ‘double widowhood’, the so-called ‘Dutch system’ which implies that both hens and cocks are raced. 

I myself practised ‘double widowhood’ for the first time in 2005 and never regretted it. From the very beginning it was mostly the hens that were the birds to be beaten.

For an up date on these 2005 and 2006 results see (results and ‘Latest news).

In the next issue I will get into detail about ‘double widowhood’.

(Will be continued)