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What everybody should know

'Why is one fancier often successful when importing birds and why are others not?’ some people wonder and keep on asking me. The answer is simple: They are just a bit smarter; they know where to go and what to buy. The problem is you cannot always rely on the press and you cannot rely on what people say about each other either. Result sheets are the only truth to see how good or how bad a fancier’s birds are but not everybody is capable of interpreting such sheets properly. Furthermore it is only the fanciers that participate in the races that get the complete results and it is COMPLETE results you need to be well informed.

Some foreigners have subscribed to Dutch and Belgian pigeon magazines to be better informed or try to find results on the Internet. But those magazines cannot possibly be COMPLETE as thousands of races are held weekly; so they mostly publish the first 5 or 10 prizes. So if 2,000 birds were entered in a certain race and the first 10 prizes are published you will not find the name of the fancier that won 13th, 15th and 20th prizes. But he was the hero of the day if he only entered 3 birds! Furthermore the winner gets all the attention how poor his over all result may be apart from his victory. That is the case if he only won say 10 prizes of 90 birds he entered. What matters are early prizes but ALSO a great prize percentage. In loft reports in Dutch and Belgian magazines the entry is mostly mentioned and also how many prizes were won. But not in all! As for this one should know that it is sometimes friends that make reports about friends, some ‘sellers’ make dance passes with pressmen to have their names published. They pay for it, give the reporter birds free, or they give him commission in case they can sell. So it is not true that it is the best racers that get the attention in the press. On the many sites on the Internet you face the same problem when race results are published; very rarely you can find how many birds a fancier entered which is, once again, of the utmost importance to see how good or bad he is. Championships do not mean much either, as some owe their title to poor competition, others because of unfair calculations.

Unfortunately there is also much jealousy in our sport and people do not always give champions the credits they deserve. In the Arendonk area it is a well-known fact that Janssen Brothers were not on good terms with strong regional opponents such as van Loon, Meulemans and so on. There is the anecdote about this German who planned to visit Meulemans and asked Louis the address, as Meulemans lived in the same place he should know. Louis said: ‘Meulemans? Never heard about him. Does he play soccer?’ May be it is just an anecdote but it is typical for our sport. Too many people do not respect others or, even worse, talk bad about others.

When I show race results to foreigners they are often shocked. They think some fanciers did good in a certain race but when I tell them how to read the result sheet (about entry for example) they find those fanciers were far less good than they thought. Take that result of a National Bourges race in Belgium.
The entry was 20,000 plus birds and if you look at the names of the top 200, so those that won in the first one percent you see that:
- World famous A won 4 prizes. That looked like impressing but… he had entered 47 birds and only 9 of them won a prize. So he was not good at all.
- The result of B, another great name, looked also breath taking, at least at first sight. He won 6 prizes in the first 200, but this ‘Champion’ had entered 73 birds of which 11 won a prize, so 62 birds failed to be on time.

Fancier C on the other hand had a super result but… few people noticed that. He won ‘only’ 2 prizes in the top 200 but… he had only entered 2 birds. So when ALL HIS BIRDS were home the ‘great’ A and B were still waiting for most of their pigeons. There are many REAL CHAMPIONS such as C and it is from them that smart guys want birds when they want to improve their family. Now it may be clear why some great names race so many birds and do all that work that is involved. They hope for some (lucky) birds that win a top prize, as they know too well only top prizes will be published and potential buyers will only notice them. But after this dear reader, you may realise that winning top prizes is one thing but having a top result is another piece of cake.

Like all competitive and ambitious fanciers I am also looking for better birds always. In 2001 I was so lucky as to lay hands on a real good hen. I got it from Gust, he is very famous, but… ONLY IN HIS OWN AREA. He will never get international fame, as he hates publicity and races short distance only and as we know short distance racers do not get the credits they deserve. He races in a competition that is supposed to be the strongest in Belgium, that is the area where Hofkens, Janssens, Meulemans, van Loon and others raced or still race. Whereas in other areas one fancier enters up to 200 pigeons, in ‘Gust’s combine’ 200 birds is the amount that is sometimes entered by 70 fanciers together. That is what I call strong competition. I will give you some examples:
- June 6th 2003:
136 fanciers in Gusts combine entered 449 birds only. The same day in another combine 23 fanciers entered as many as 1,100 birds.
- June 13th:
138 fanciers in Gusts combine entered 464 birds only.
June 21st
274 fanciers entered 2.042 birds whereas over 2,000 birds were entered by 39 fanciers in a club nearby.
So where Gust races the best compete the best. If you want to import good birds you cannot afford to be stupid. If I would play tennis against professionals I would lose all my matches but… if I would play against grand moms only I would beat them all, even if there were 100s of them. After this you may understand that it was NOT luck that I got that good breeding hen. I went to the right place at the right time which was proven in 2003.

Then Gust had a team of 11 birds. People called it the ‘Dream Team’ and that was not exaggerated. His worst result was 8 prizes of 11 birds he entered, 11 Prizes of 11 birds was kind of normal. How good he was is shown by that one race in which no less than 274 fanciers had entered 2.042 birds, Gust had entered 11(his whole team) and won: 1, 4, 9, 11, 15, 20, 30, 39, 43, 80 and 93. So ALL HIS BIRDS won 1 per 20. Imagine that. When not even 5 percent of all the birds were home his whole team was home in what I daresay perhaps the strongest competition of Belgium. How it can be that a man that is a nightmare for his fellow sportsmen is not famous I explained before.

I myself race middle distance. Why I imported short distance birds to cross with mine? It was the late Grondelaers and Hofkens who taught me always to buy sprint birds as they have the main quality a pigeon should have (orienteering). It turned out they were right, as I was pleased to find that the descendants of that ‘sprinthen’ can easily handle 400 kilometres which is good enough for me. Numerous fellow sportsmen as well found themselves better Middle Distance racers after they had crossed sprint birds with theirs. One of Gusts basic birds came from v d Veken, that is another unknown name abroad but in my opinion he had the best bird ever, his so called ‘Olieman’. ‘Olieman’ was raced in the days that Janssen Bros raced their ‘019’. V d Veken and Janssen Bros live close but raced in different clubs. It is a well known fact that ‘019’ was a multiple first prize winner but… if ‘Olieman’ was raced in the same club as ‘019’ the latter would never have become famous, as the velocity of ‘De Olieman’ was higher almost every race. ‘Fieneke’ the legendary hen of Vervoort that was sold for a record prize in 2003, was one of the many famous descendants of ‘Olieman’. About Gust one more thing: I went there to buy babies off of his top breeders and got one free. As happens so often THIS PRESENT turned out to be the Golden bird and… it was NOT bred off of his favorite breeders.

Buying good birds is a kind of art. The art is not to fall for reports and not to fall for names, strains or pedigrees. When somebody has a great name you are often too late (the good birds are gone) and furthermore you will pay for the name.

Fancy pedigrees with fancy names on fancy paper are often made up to compensate lack of quality.

I only mentioned Gusts first name, but is not it the task of the press to be open? Yes it is, but as I said this is a special case. For those who are curious there is good news though. Both in Holland and Belgium are lots of fanciers like him, people whose birds are far superior to those of many famous names. It is the art of a champion to find them. As for buying birds do you know what I found after all those years? The greater the name the poorer the quality in most cases.

Let’s finish with some stories that truly happened.
Once a Japanese wanted to buy birds from a great name. As I liked the man I wanted to help. ‘Ask the guy from whom you want to buy to fax you his results’ I advised him. That is what he did but the Japanese is still waiting for the fax. Getting back to Gust.
There was an Arab guy that wanted good birds. I advised him to buy from Gust but he did not want the birds, as… they were too cheap. In his mind cheap birds could not be good birds. I advised a Dutchman that had wasted fortunes on bad birds to take them. He is destroying the races now. Of course I realise quite well it is often the same items I emphasize in many of my articles but that is just a proof how important they are! Unfortunately so many people seem to be blind and just do not want to accept good advice.