When you race well and write articles for several pigeon sport magazines people tend to think that you know about pigeons.
Not so in my case.
The longer I participate in the pigeon sport, the more questions I have and the less answers I know.
Read with me.
Fanciers wonder why they lose so many young birds these days, while in the old days they never did.
In those days not many people had a car and if the youngsters were taken out for a training flight it was by bicycle.
Losing? That was a word used for losing money with pooling (there still was a lot of pooling then), not for losing pigeons.
Compare then to now.
We train youngsters intensively and even so they get lost in large numbers.
Why now and not earlier?
I have no idea.
A few years ago I had an argument with the NPO. According to them the pigeons got lost because the distances had become too long. The consequence was that long-distance races for youngsters was forbidden in Holland.
What a lot of nonsense.
In Antwerp youngsters are raced more than 600 km and during these races there are less birds lost than in a 60 km race in June.
Even for champions the pigeon sport is full of mysteries
June and August
I and many others with me used to think that these losses were the result of factors that were not there previously. Factors like the Internet, mobile phones, navigation systems, air pollution and so on.
But I had to let go of that notion.
In August and September even youngsters with hardly any training manage to return home without difficulty.
During these months people also use their mobile phones, don't they? And the Internet is used and the navigation systems.
I don't understand it.
In Holland some fanciers have given up racing with youngsters. They only train them in the Autumn, to give them a bit of experience and to prevent any losses.
In Belgium some fanciers, after decades, are considering to stop breeding during the winter months.
And all for the same reason. Too many of the youngsters bred during the winter are lost in May and June.
You know another thing I cannot understand?
The behaviour of many 'strays'.
The pigeons have been taken for training flights by their owner dozens of times, then suddenly they lose their way during a 25 km flight, end up in someone elses loft and nothing will make them leave there again.
Sometimes the owner comes to collect them, but released again they return to the other loft once more, often flying many km.
Too stupid to return to their own loft from a 25 km training flight ?... they know their way to the loft they stayed in for only two days maybe 40 km away.
Some fanciers release such a 'stray' far from home in the hope that it will return to its own loft. But often the same thing happens again... the bird is back in the other loft before the fancier gets home.
Honestly, this happened to me with pigeons that had ONLY BEEN IN MY LOFT FOR TWO DAYS, and not even in the loft itself but in the dogs kennel with hardly any outside view. I wouldnot even dare taking my own OLD pigeons 50 km from home in spring time without a few shorter training flights first.
Where have they gone?
In old books on the pigeon sport with photos of good pigeons you often come across red coloured birds, some champions had almost exclusively red pigeons.
There were also many good mealies, grizzles, schalies (slaties) and black ones.
Where have these pigeons gone?
They still exist but they are becoming rarer. Disappeared through a selection based on results?
That would suggest that colour and quality are related to each other.
I say 'would suggest' because I am just a humble country man without much knowledge of genetics.
Remarkable as well
We see something similar in those typical Dutch long-distance pigeons in races fromBarcelona, Pau, Sint Vincent and so on.
Among the good long distance ones are many dark pigeons (chequers) but there are not so many in the middle-distance and speed races. In those races blue pigeons are generally the best performers.
Furthermore I do notice that there are more yellow-eyed pigeons among the good ones than before.
American and German fanciers especially like white-eyed pigeons.
And now fanciers in Taiwan are switching more to yellow-eyed birds.
It is nonsense of course that white-eyed pigeons are better for bright weather and that pigeons with dark eyes fly better during cloudy sky races. As it is nonsense that dark eyed pigeons would be better breeders.
Besides, breeding eyes? I do not believe in those.
As I do not believe in fanciers who claim to recognize a breeder or a good racer just by looking at the bird.
Sometimes such a fancier will tell you about a nest with two youngsters: "this one is the racer, the other one is the breeder".
There is only ONE way to tell the quality of a pigeon: by the results.
The same parents
I once wrote that a couple that produces good youngsters will breed less and less good pigeons over time.
All the great champions have that same experience. And they all wonder why a pair stops giving their offspring their own good genetic qualities.
I do not understand it either but I never leave a couple together for too long, no matter how good the youngsters are.
Just because of bad experiences.
A fancier from Turnhout once asked me how it could be that he did not have any results from two Quievrain races. Once with 29 pigeons and once with 26 pigeons.
Well, I did know what answer to give him.
No fancier nowadays has such bad pigeons that not a single bird is capable of winning anything or that all will arrive home half an hour after the closure of the race.
It was obvious that this fancier should take his pigeons to the vet.
Then there was this fancier who could not sell a single one of his pigeons.
He only raced with 2 to 4 pigeons but he was so good that nobody dared to pool against him. Not even his famous fellow club member who regularly had visits from Chinese fanciers.
I told him the sad truth that in the pigeon sport fame has little to do with results or quality.
You only become a celebrity when you race with a lot of pigeons and ... have good pedigrees and nowadays a flashy Internet site.
When you have only 4 pigeons in a race , another fancier has more chance to finish 1st National with an entry of 30 or 60 or 90 pigeons. But such a 1st National will still make him famous.
I know, I have told the same story before.
Does that mean I am frustrated?
Well, maybe a little.
But pseudo champions who win 30 prizes with 90 pigeons that get all the attention and the real champions who win 4 prizes with 4 pigeons that are neglected?
I will continue to dislike that.