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The legendary Jos Klak

It is unbelievable how surprised Dutch and Belgian fanciers can be about questions that they are asked by foreigners, especially Americans.
But it is not only Americans that ask naïve questions.
An English importer recently asked where he could buy the pure Hofkens birds. I told him there are no pure Hofkens birds and that they have never existed either.
Hofkens did not have a so-called strain and did not believe in it either.
According to this champion nearly all super birds are products of crossings that’s why he bought pigeons everywhere.
Someone else asked me the address of Schellens whose pigeons are the most popular birds in Germany nowadays.
Schellens (in his 90-ies now) quit the sport about 15 years ago.
And believe it or not, once I was even asked (again by an American) if I would know about a man who had the Wegge strain.
He wanted Wegge birds as he his fellow sportsmen won everything with them.
I told him Wegge died in 1903, shrugged my shoulders and changed the subject. I would rather talk about the weather than listen to shit like that.
There are also many misunderstandings about Jos van Limpt, nick named Klak.

Many a foreigner looked at me questioningly when I told him Klak’s results had been outstanding in recent years.
‘Klak’s results outstanding? I thought Klak was history’ I have often heard.
Fortunately Klak himself did not hear this I sometimes think.
How frustrating it must be to race so good whereas others think you ‘are history’.
And why do so many foreigners think so?
- Klak does not seek publicity and has never done.
- The demand for his birds has always been greater than the supply and as Klak cannot handle so many strangers in his house he only sells to friends. Of course this irritates many middlemen, as they cannot make any money with birds from Klak so why should they talk positive about him or his results?
- Furthermore Klak does not race long distance and it is the long distance results that get the attention in the press and on the Internet nowadays.
A middle distance racer has to be a champion for decades to get famous abroad.
As for long distance one good result from Barcelona is enough to become a name.

But as I said Klak is not only racing still, he was the Champion in his combine in 2002. This achievement is especially great, as he cannot take care of the pigeons himself any more due to his bad health.
In 2002 Klak has been in his loft only once the whole year round.
Klak: ‘I myself am getting worse whereas my pigeons seem to get better.’
And unfortunately the future does not look good as the hospital has become his second home.
Hopefully I am wrong but it would be a miracle if Klak would be able to race for another year. He is already discussing an auction of all his birds and if this auction will take place the auctioneers will need a football stadium.
Too many people that cannot buy his birds now will take their chances and go for it.

As for Klak he is the only fancier who is still successful with the old Janssen birds as far as I know.
In Belgium the Janssens strain is outdated since long.
It is mainly the ‘sellers’ who promote them especially abroad.
I have often seen such people at Janssens.
They did not want to see the birds but were only interested in that little piece of paper called pedigree.
Klak bought his first Janssens in the 40-ies with only one reason: to win the races.
About 10 years ago he stopped buying.
I myself live close to Janssen and it must be said in the past their birds were far superior to others.
From my childhood I remember that one egg from Janssen brothers was good enough for many a fancier to become a champion later on.
In the 80-ies I wrote a book about the brothers as they deserved it and I wanted to preserve their results, their ideas and their methods for our sport.
It was then that I noticed that many super birds descended from ‘Young Merckx’.
I got a son of him and the first baby he gave me won National Orleans. Later on I sold it to Japan, which turned out to be one of the greatest mistakes I ever made.
It is well known that Janssen Brothers seldom raced further than 250 kilometres but others won first prizes National at long distance with their strain.
Klak raced long distance only once. He won 2nd National and was only beaten by a bird that he had given to his nephews (Borgman Brothers).
In the old days Klak knew the birds of Janssen better than any body else but the strange thing is he never wanted a red one.
It is true that nowadays very few Belgian champions race Janssenbirds, maybe they are out dated indeed but no one can deny their greatness in the past.
Just the best birds ever.
Let’s go back to Klak.

Due to his poor health I have assisted clocking his birds that came from the races for three years and it was then that I found what a great handler he was.
When a race was on we sat on the terrace and whenever a bird arrived I went into the loft to clock it.
Of course it happened that more birds arrived together and what happened then was unbelievable.
When I was in the loft I heard Klak outside instruct me where to grab the bird that had just arrived.
‘Box 4, Box 7, Box 11’ and so on he cried.
Imagine that!
Even before it had landed he knew which bird it was!
What also distinguishes Klak from others is that he has always raced natural.
As far as I know he is the only Middle Distance champion who does.
Klak thinks training is the key to his successes with birds raced on the nest.
Every morning and every evening a flag is out that keeps the birds flying, those that have eggs or little babies included.
You would think it is a lot of work to grab all those breeding birds from their nests but not for Klak though as his birds are conditioned.
When entering the loft he (nowadays his manager) will knock on the floor with a stick and all birds leave their nests like hell and fly outside. Then the flag does the rest for about 45 minutes.
A longer training would be risky, as eggs would get cold and little babies die.

The following thing is special for Klak as well.
Whereas fellow sportsmen have complicated methods feeding the birds (diet early in the week, grains that contain fat later on) Klaks birds get the same mixture the whole year round no matter if it is racers, breeders or youngsters.
Also birds on eggs and on babies get the same composition.
‘Fanciers switch over from one mixture to the other too sudden’ he says adding ’if you always give the same food birds are less vulnerable to Coli’.
Concerning this he likes to refer to people.
‘ Would switching from rice to French fries and rump steak again and again be good for a man’s stomach?’

The fact that Klak could sell his birds anyway may be the reason that the pigeon business has never interested him very much.
But he has learned his lesson though.
When a middleman once visited Klak and asked him to buy birds for a Taiwanese client his reaction was as usual: ‘I do not have any, they have all been ordered already.’
The middleman sneeringly reacted ‘do you know I have exported more of your birds than you have ever had in your loft yourself?’
Klak knew what he meant and said:
‘I believe you but I can tell you that NEVER EVER you have exported even one single good bird of mine and there is the door.’
What he wanted to say is this:
Klak sold many birds to fellow fanciers and naturally they were not all good. So what did those people do?
If they bought, say for arguments sake, 8 birds and 2 of them were good they sold the 6 bad ones to middlemen and they exported them.
The client of the middleman thinks he has birds direct from Klak’s loft as he has a correct pedigree. He does not realise he is buying birds that have proven to be no good in other lofts.

So what did Klak do in recent years to keep up his reputation?
He wrote the date and the name of the buyer on the pedigrees.
Only a fool would buy Klakbirds in 2003 with a pedigree that says: ‘Sold to Mr X in June 1999’.
When importing birds you always need luck as even the greatest Champion breeds bad pigeons, Klak included, but… if you buy birds from a great champion from another loft you have a bad bird for sure.
Klak is also known for his common sense.
When I was at his place once there was also a real rich guy.
He said he would pay good money if he could have birds off of Klaks best.
That is kind of normal.
Most champions charge more for youngsters off of their favourites, but not Klak.
He has a fixed price for all his birds regardless the origin.
Furthermore it is impossible to order from certain birds. Potential buyers will have to wait till youngsters are ready and then they have to accept what Klak has available.
‘One of the best racers I ever had was my ‘613’ and it stands to reason everybody wanted his babies, even for a very high price. But do you know this ‘613’ has never given a good racer nor have his parents?
When you are a champion all your birds must have the potency to give good babies and of course all your birds, the best included, may give bad ones.
Moreover people should realise no champion would ever sell a baby if he were sure it would be a champion but is not that uncertainty a nice thing about our sport?’
So far Klak.

As for the champions in our sport I would advise never to buy pigeons that do not come DIRECTLY from their loft.
You cannot imagine how many direct Janssenbirds were in numerous lofts before they were transferred to the Far East.
As they were no good they were sold and resold.
And nobody lost any money on Janssenbirds.
One might also wonder who ever have ever culled a direct Janssenbird as it was no good. I only know one such guy: Klak.
But I must add he never told his wife about this as also Klak has always paid what the Janssens charged him. And believe me, the late Adriaan was a good fancier but Louis was a good businessman.
Let’s finish this article with some food for thought.
In Dutch National pigeon magazine NPO I once described a series of birds that are supposed to be the best in history.
Very few of them were good breeders!!!!
Now you may understand why Klak has a fixed price for all his birds regardless the origin.