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Holland versus Belgium (part 1 of 2)

‘Does pigeon sport in Holland differ much from that in Belgium and what ARE the differences?’ not only foreigners ask me but also Belgian and Dutch fanciers.
The reason they ask ME is that I live on the border of both countries.
In my little hometown some fanciers race in Holland, others in Belgium, I get many race results of both countries and I am familiar with most champions.
So indeed I know a little bit what I am talking about when comparing our sport in both little countries on the North Sea.
I wrote about it before but the subject seems to intrigue so many that I will go into more details now but first I would like to discuss something else.

In pigeon sport competition is seldom fair, the winner is not always the best and that is why it is often hard to tell what a first prizewinner or an Ace pigeon are worth.
There was this Belgian guy that had won a 1st prize from Barcelona. He clocked the bird at 10.45 a.m. I remember.
That time was good enough to win in his area but… if he would have lived 20 kilometres more North (in Holland) 10.45 would not have been good enough to be on the prize list.
It may be clear that this man races in an area where competition is poor.
Apart from the strength of the competition there is more though.
Birds in the same race fly different routes and therefore they may have to make it home under different weather conditions.
With cycling, athletics and horse racing this is different.
Both humans and horses compete at the same time and race the same course.
In Holland and Belgium fanciers race from the South, so a sportsman that lives 20 kilometres east from his colleague is advantaged when the wind is west.
The wind is a decisive factor in many races.
Fanciers know this and that’s why they closely watch the weather forecast days before a race is held.
But that is not all.
Normally the wind will blow harder during the day so with tailwinds the greatest distances are advantaged, with headwinds it is the opposite.
Now one may understand that many in Holland and Belgium do not understand people that spend fortunes for birds that won a race.
A winner is a winner but such a bird need not be the best.
When the wind is east a bird that won the 10th price in the eastern part of the country did better than the winner who lives west.
The painful truth in our sport is that when the wind is East the winner lives west, and vice versa, regardless the quality of the birds.
But other circumstances than the weather conditions play a part when we consider quality. And ‘other circumstances’ differ in Holland and Belgium.

a. The average Dutch fancier generally enters far more birds than the Belgians and consequently in Holland there are races with an immense entry.
b. The Belgians have far more opportunities to race.
c. In recent years the Dutch did so much better from 2 day races such as Barcelona that it is almost embarrassing for the Belgians.
d. In Holland Janssenbirds are far more popular than in Belgium.
e. Winning the first 5 to 10 prizes in a race like some Dutch do is impossible in Belgium.
f. In Belgium the sport is in many ways far more old fashioned than in Holland.
g. Far more Dutchmen specialise on the 2 day races than Belgians do.
h. The entry cost for a race is far higher in Belgium.
i. Whereas the Dutch seem to have better long distance birds the Belgians are supposed to have better sprint birds.
j. The way championships can be won differs a lot in both countries.

We will discuss these points one by one and you will notice that they are related.

As mentioned under ‘a’ the Dutch enter far more birds in a race than the Belgians do. In Holland regional races of about 10.000 birds are normal. The Belgians are happy with regional races of say 1,000 birds.
The Dutch keep more birds but that alone does not explain the great entry; the freight prices are cheaper and very often the Dutch only have one race per weekend whereas the Belgians may have 4 or more.
They can have 2 short distance races, one Middle Distance, one Long Distance all in the same weekend.
Furthermore Belgians can enter birds just to train, whereas all Dutch birds that are entered are also in the competition.
Finally in Belgium yearlings and hens fly in different competitions whereas in Holland an old bird is an old bird and is raced as such in one race. If it is a yearling or a hen does not matter.

It is said that in Belgium no less than 70 percent of the fanciers never race further than from Quievrain (appr. 50 to 140 kms).
It is a bit exaggerated but a fact is that Quievrain has always been immensely popular and still is.
Up to 200.000 birds (that used to be 300.000) are released in Quievrain every Sunday.
As in June the young bird races start you can imagine how hectic pigeon sport can be for those who cannot restrict themselves.
It is not exceptional to get 10 or more result sheets from races held on the same day.
That means Quievrain young birds, Quievrain yearlings, Quievrain old birds and another short distance race (Noyon in most cases) young birds, yearlings, old birds plus a Middle Distance race young birds, yearlings, old birds, hens and so on.
All these result sheets have to be paid and think about all the work it involves like basketing, taking the clocks the clubhouse and so on.
The many possibilities to race are responsible for the high cost and the low entry.
How different this is in Holland!
Till the end of May when long distance starts there is only one race per weekend and shipping 10,000 birds to a release station is far cheaper than shipping say 2,000 birds.

From 2 day races such as Barcelona and Pau the Dutch have been so dominating in recent years that it is kind of embarrassing for Belgians.
The Dutch do so much better as they have birds that are better fit for those 1,000 kilometre races and the question is interesting why that is so.
The explanation may be surprising:
The Dutch have got better long distance birds as the entry cost is much cheaper.
They have their own pigeon trucks (the Belgians still transport the birds by train as they have been doing for over a century now) and shipping birds by truck is cheaper.
Because of the low cost the Dutch started to race many birds for the 2 day races some decades ago.
Because of that they learnt which birds could handle the long distances and which not, so a natural selection took place; bad birds got lost, only from the good ones babies were raised and in this way they created a type of long distance bird throughout the years that is superior to others.
One should also know that for 1,000 kilometre races Dutch birds are released at noon so that they cannot make it on the day, Belgians birds however are released early in the morning and get home on the day.
So these birds just are not used to stay over during the night.
Furthermore the Dutch have about five two day races per year, the Belgians only one: Barcelona.
So the Dutch birds have more experience staying the night over.

In Belgium Janssenbirds are history since long whereas many Dutch still show off with Janssens.
‘That is because they are good businessmen’ Belgians say.
Janssenbirds are popular all over the world and birds are worth more if they are of Janssen origin.
The Belgians have never cared much about names. strains or pedigrees.
For them it is the money to be won in the races that matters in the first place and for that you need good birds, not good pedigrees.
One may wonder if it is true that so many Holland guys have Janssenbirds.
I do not think they are all liars but many exaggerate for sure.
If their birds carry say 12,5 percent Janssenblood, they are called ‘Janssen’ and they ‘forget’ the 75 percent of the bloodline of the unknown name.
It must also be said that in their glory days Janssen brothers had more friends in Holland than in Belgium and consequently the greater part of their birds went to Holland then.
Maybe the Dutch exaggerate but this is nothing compared by what (some) Americans do.
In their pigeon magazines you can read about Mexico Janssens, you can see photos of black Janssenbirds as well as white ones.
Concerning Belgium I would not know of any fancier who has been racing well with Janssenbirds in recent years.
That means as far as I know.
The last sentence is added in order not to find another bomb under my bed if you know what I mean.

a. Especially in Belgium there are super champions that never sell birds. They never sell as they are not famous. They are not famous, as they do not get publicity. They do not get publicity as they do not want it. Generally speaking Belgians are more modest than Dutch people. It is to those fanciers the big shots often go to to buy pigeons. And those big shots know how to make propaganda. Maybe even more in Belgium than in Holland.
b. There are real champions with a great name that sell birds. These duiven are mostly expensive, as you pay for the name.
c. There are people with poor results that sell birds because they managed to build up a name by smart propaganda.
d. Finally there are fanciers that do not even race, who for example have a breeding station. These ‘paper tigers’ you better skip from your list if you want to improve your loft.
(concluding part follows)