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Fancy pigeons (July 16)


Let there be no doubt, Belgium is the cradle of the pigeon racing sport. Pigeon racing in Belgium began early in the last century, up to the middle of the 1930’s and immediately after the war, the pigeon racing sport exploded there. Would you believe that in the early days of television, during the racing season, they had a pigeon talk show every Friday night hosted by Pol Jacquemyns?.


It couldn’t be stopped, the pigeon fervor raged over the Netherlands. It seemed, we also developed a taste for this new hobby. In certain areas, the influx of new fanciers was so great, that clubs had to place a limit on new members. You couldn’t become a member until someone either stopped racing or passed away. From, what was a national sport, anno 2017 there isn’t much left. Especially in Belgium, pigeon lofts were part of the landscape, now in some areas people talk about the sport as folklore.

Yet for pigeon fanciers around the world our countries are still viewed as the leaders of the sport. A wonder pigeon in Scotland isn’t noticed in China. But a pigeon flying a single prize here, can be enough for some to count out a goodly sum of money. Of course, it must be a first prize from a race station such as Barcelona or Bourges.  


Around the world where pigeons are raced they know the names of the old Belgian strains and the names of the new champions and their pigeons. Open a Chinese pigeon magazine (they are often as thick as a book) you can see that the content is made up of pictures of Belgians and Dutchmen and their pigeons. Not always the biggest champions, but that aside. You know what I mean. Pigeon flyers from the low lands don’t fly around the globe to purchase pigeons, but “half the world” comes here. More than ever, or so it seems. But, are our pigeons really that superior?


Times change, and that is the same when we see this completely different type of racing, One Loft Races. Americans were the ones who came up with them and now in China alone there are hundreds of them. The most famous is the One Million Dollar race in South Africa.

Pigeons from anywhere and everywhere in ONE loft? All the pigeons get the same care, at the same location, race under the same conditions and the “location” factor becomes immaterial. It gives a new dimension to the sport. How can you make it fairer?

Yet there was a big “but”. How could these people from all those countries, where the sport is still in its infancy, compete with the Dutch and Belgian pigeons? By rights, they shouldn’t have a chance!


Not so. Especially in recent years, particularly when the race conditions were tough, it was not our pigeons that dominated, rather the contrary was true. Often the pigeons from Germany, America and even countries such as Kuwait, made our pigeons sit up and take notice. Sometimes, pigeons from completely unknown foreigners, are the people who “beat” the “who’s who” of the top lofts from the Netherlands and Belgium. It happens to often to be just chance.

Simply, ours are beat because they are not good enough and many will like to hear this. We only have ourselves to blame. Although we have made our pigeon “faster”, that is when the weather is good, the races are of shorter duration, but we have also made them more “fragile”. Or should we say more “susceptible”? They can take less and have less resistance.


One of the reasons is science. More and better drugs and medications were developed, but with the medications came the diseases. I still remember the fanciers and their pigeons of half a century ago. They, that is their pigeons seemed naturally healthier. They seemed tighter and smoother and losing masses of youngsters from short tosses was unheard of. To say nothing about Adeno.

Speaking of training, no one trained very much, as many didn’t even have a car! Keeping pigeons healthy seems to be much more difficult than “in old days”, when one didn’t have the medications of to-day or the veterinarians. And there is something else.


Today we have the resources that show us each and every cloud on the line of flight. Under pressure from the greens and other animal welfare activists we became more and more careful when releasing. Does this sound cynical? You become cynical when to construction of a new highway is stopped because of a rare type of moss. Costs can be hundreds of thousands. It used to be, that if the weather was good at the release point and not too bad on the line of flight they were let up.

On a Dutch TV channel, on race day, you are informed about the weather on the line of flight. That’s fine. But, it is incredible, reading all the possible obstacles our pigeons may encounter.

We are warned of a furrow, a trough, occlusions, low echoes, a trailing front, a convergence line and the inevitable inversion. As a result, sometimes even in nice weather, releases are delayed. Those are now former times, as fortunately fancies this year had to listen to less of the terminology, which one needed an academic degree to understand. Now it’s only an inversion we hear of and that’s enough. In that regard, the Belgians are more down-to-earth. What an inversion? There is almost always an inversion on a clear day! It’s been that way since the beginning of time. Years ago, we didn’t know they existed and we didn’t lose any pigeons.


In the Netherlands we know how easily the Poles release their pigeons. Often, all their pigeons are released (in the Netherlands) while we haven’t opened a basket yet. Questioning them, we learn that those races usually turn out well. A Pole named Daniel, told me:

“We do lose pigeons in difficult weather conditions but they are mainly descendants of pigeons that were recently imported from the Netherlands and Belgium. Those pigeons are indeed faster, but they let us down under difficult conditions.”

My thoughts are that fanciers in other countries have developed stronger pigeons because they didn’t have the medications we had, that is the uncontrolled use of antibiotics as many here do and they are less faint-hearted when releasing pigeons.


The sad news, there is no road back. You can’t suddenly begin releasing regardless of conditions. We are now paying the price for decades of pampering. As for mollycoddling, let’s talk about those detesting separate releases. Releasing ten separate groups in Momignies? Almost village by village? Man-oh-man. That is almost at the level of being ridiculous. Soon all we will have left are fancy pigeons, pigeons only suited for indoor sports, an exaggeration of course.

 Thanks to Mr Rick Oud from Canada !