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Holland versus Belgium (part 2 of 2)

A controversial subject in recent years is the sensational results achieved by some Dutchmen against immense amounts of birds.
Fanciers winning prizes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 against say 10,000 or more birds are not exceptional.
In Belgium you will never see results like these, which makes eyebrows rise in that country.
‘Such results are only possible if competition is poor’ some claim adding that even in small combines against limited amounts of birds it is hard to win 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize in Belgium.
But I think that is too simple an explanation.
Even a fool understands that those 10 winning birds from one loft cannot be better than thousands others though the race result may suggest so.
Shortly after World War 2 the Belgians might have the better birds indeed but times have changed.
As I said in a previous article Dutch long distance birds are undoubtedly better than Belgians nowadays, as for Middle Distance there is not much difference I think.
Too many Belgians race well with Dutch birds nowadays.
Take Michel van Lint.
He used to live in Taiwan moved over to Belgium in 2003 where he started racing young birds.
As he is familiar with many champions it stands to reason that soon birds of great origin populated his lofts.
His first season in Belgium was a real good season but it was the birds from his Dutch friend Willem de Bruyn though that proved to be far superior to those he got from the Belgian counterparts.
So we face the following problem:
How come that Holland fanciers sometimes manage to destroy a race against an immense entry and how come such a thing is not possible in Belgium.

I already referred to the fact that the Dutch enter many birds in each race. But it is important to know that they live close to each other.
In Holland provinces are divided into sections and they all have their own race.
That is a race from the same station in many cases but the birds are released separately with intervals of 10 minutes or more.
This is quite different from the situation in Belgium.
There the birds of a whole province or even more provinces are released together.
So Dutch birds have their ‘home’ in a small area with a radius of say 30 kilometres whereas the homes of Belgian birds may be located 100 kilometres apart.
So what happens after the release?
Dutch birds fly home together in enormous clouds, as they have to fly about the same course, Belgian birds though fly home alone.
Directly after the release they spread in all directions, like a pair of scissors that opens.
What is going on can clearly be seen on a racing day.
Belgian birds that are on their way home you see in small groups or even alone.
Dutch birds can be seen flying home in big flocks.

Another difference is that time seemed to have stood still in Belgium.
The pigeon clocks many Belgians use are so old and out dated that such ones can only be found in museums in Holland.
Furthermore clubs in Belgium mostly have their home in cafes whereas in Holland most clubs have their own clubhouse with an own parking and so on.
There is also a world of difference after a National (long distance) race.
In Holland the result can be seen on television the very day, in Belgium they have to wait till the pigeon magazines come out.
The way the birds are conveyed to the race station cannot be compared either.
The Dutch have modern trucks, especially devised for pigeons; the birds are put in aluminium baskets.
This offers the opportunity to move to another station in case of bad weather.
The Belgians have old wire baskets and transport them in regular trucks for short distance. For long distance they are shipped by rail and that may have bad consequences.
Maybe you know what happened to the National La Souterraine race in 2002.
The birds stood at the station of La Souterraine for a full week due to bad weather.
In 2003 it was the release from National Bourges that was much criticised. Due to bad weather again the birds were not released until 11.45 a.m. and the race resulted in a smash.
The Dutch raced from Bourges that very day, they did not let the birds go until the day after when the weather was nice and thus was the race.
Angry Belgians claimed they let the birds go so late in bad weather as they had unloaded 4,000 baskets (70,000 birds) from the trains and the transporters did not feel like loading all these baskets into the train again.
The Dutch with their modern truck just have to draw a handle to let the pigeons go.

We said before that the majority of the Belgians prefer short distance, more specifically races from Quievrain.
There are no fanciers that aim at the two-day races (birds released at noon) for the simple reason that they only have one such a race.
In the old days there were only 2 two-day races (from Dax and Sint Vincent) in Holland too and then it was not worth taking care of birds a whole year just to race them two times.
Nowadays the Dutch have up to 8 two-day races on their program.
By racing from 1,000 kilometres again and again year after year the Dutch managed to create a typical long distance bird that is slow at short distance but that has stamina and do not easily give up.
How this could happen is simple: the birds that could not handle the long distances were eliminated, from the winners they built up a family.
These long distance birds are known to be poor racers as young birds and that’s why many Belgians do not understand why Taiwanese for example buy long distance Aces as in Taiwan young bird racing is the game.

Belgian pigeons are supposed to be best sprint birds of the world and may be that is a fact. How come nothing changed after all those years?
You can compare this with long distance birds in Holland.
The Dutch often race long distance and consequently ended up having better birds.
Many Belgians only race short distance; they breed from the winners, the others are eliminated and thus they created a faster bird.
This is shown by the results as well.
When the Dutch race from say 150 kilometres it mostly takes about 10 minutes before the race is over which means that 25 percent of the birds have got home.
In Belgium on the other hand 25 percent of the birds is home in a couple of minutes under normal circumstances.
The average speed (on the same racing day of course) is also higher in Belgium.
Some sceptics in Holland though think that higher quality is not the reason that Belgian birds do better at short distance.
They claim that racing from the same station (Quievrain) the whole year round does make birds fly faster.
The Dutch and Germans cannot race from the same station every week.
They start at short distance and then the distance of the races will increase week after week.
Who is right and who is wrong?
I think there is some truth in both opinions.
Racing from the same station every week does make pigeons faster indeed but I think as well the Belgians created better sprint birds like the Dutch created better long distance birds or ‘fond’ birds as they say.

Talking about ‘higher speed’ it is interesting to notice that at Middle Distance Dutch birds mostly develop a higher speed than Belgian birds.
I do not think this is a matter of quality.
As mentioned before Dutch birds fly home ‘en group’ whereas Belgian birds have to make it alone and it is a proven fact that birds that fly alone fly slower.
Moreover Dutch birds are transported under better circumstances as said before so that they will be more fit when released.
That it is not quality that is responsible for the higher speed of Dutch birds at Middle Distance was proven in 1999.
Both the Belgians and the Dutch raced from Dourdan (from 370 to 450 kilometres) and conditions were hard; hot and headwinds.
As usual the Dutch birds flew faster despite the greater distance.
‘See’ some Dutch said, ‘our birds are better’.
But what they did not know and I did know was the following thing:
Mr Straver had the fastest bird in Holland, no Belgian bird had the speed of his winner but… Straver bred it from birds he had purchased in Belgium.

What many foreigners do not know is that most Belgian champions hate to spend money on pigeons; they like to sell!
When they want ‘fresh blood’ they trade with closed purses.
That is the explanation for the fact that Verbruggen, Houben, Engels, Van Hove Uytterhoeven, Hufkens and so on have each others birds.
Of course no one paid.
‘Breed me some babies off of your best and I will do the same for you’ they say to each other.
Finally Belgians are no readers.
The pigeon magazines have far less subscribers than those in Holland and Germany and Belgians do not buy books on pigeons either.
Once I wrote a book on Janssen Brothers; never ever so many books on pigeons were sold than this one.
The strange thing was though that I sold at least 20 times more books in Germany than in Belgium.
German fanciers want to read about our sport as much as they can.
Many of them are subscribed to several pigeon papers, even Dutch and Belgian that they can hardly read.
Many Belgians are not subscribed to even one paper.
So Holland and Belgium, two small countries near the North Sea and neighbours but what a world of difference as far as pigeon sport is concerned.