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Breed smarter (03-02-20200)

Breed Smarter

At this time of year, a million or more youngsters will soon be banded in the Netherlands and Belgium. How many of them will be lost before the young bird season begins? Tens of thousands? A hundred thousand? This makes us question whether we are at fault to some extent.

More Aware

I have a pretty good record-keeping system and, what do I notice each year? After several training races, it is often the pigeons ith successive ring numbers that are missing. That is youngsters out of the same nest, having the same parents, who were lost. From other pairs, there are hardly any losses. This does not necessarily mean a lack of quality. How many times have we heard or read about aces that were lost as a young bird, reported and retrieved? We will never know the quality of those not picked up, but the fact is we would be better of to select pigeons from which the youngsters are less easily lost. “One of the causes of these losses is cheap poor quality feed.” I once wrote.

After all, pigeon feed is much cheaper proportionally than in the past, resulting in more pigeons bred, due to the cheapness of feed. What’s also curious? Both Istvan (Hungary) and Wiesiek (Poland)claim that a lot of youngsters are also lost over there, but these were mainly bred from pigeons that they had purchased here.

The Racers

I had a Germany fancier on the phone: He wanted to know how much the youngster out of my breeders would cost. I gave him a price, but apparently, it was too high because his next question was, “And out of the racers?” “They are twice as much,” I replied. I could almost hear him to a deep breath. “You mean the other way around, don’t you?” “As sure as I know, I’m going to die,” I said in my best German.

It Could Have Happened

The above didn’t really happen, but it could have happened. What I meant to say was that we should all take breeding out of our racers more seriously. For example, pigeons that have made a deep impression on me in recent years were “Di Caprio,” “Wonder Aske,” and “Eenoogske” (Leo Heremans), the National Ace Pigeon flown by Boeckmans (now residing at D. van Dijck), the top hen (her name escapes me) from Gevaert Lannoo, the Heremans cock at P. Embrechts, “New Harry” of C. v Wetering (now at Hooymans) and “Robina” of Luc van Mechelen. It can’t be a coincidence, they were all superior racers and later became fantastic breeders. Like not long ago, my “Crielman,” “Ace Four,” and “Home Alone.”

Good Advice

Therefore, before they get lost, breed out of your best racers, dear fanciers. Pair the youngsters who have flown fantastically with each other, and produce out of them rather than focus on those “pedigreed pigeons” out of famous parents or from a fashionable loft. Christian van de Wetering, Martin Huijsmans and Verkerk, although he is no longer a squeaker, are all talented fanciers in the Dutch pigeon sport, who have set the example.


What top class pigeons Verkerk has in his loft Vercammen and Leo Heremans have found out. Jos and Lars bred from a direct Verkerk, a bird that flew 9 minutes ahead on a hot wind with headwinds. How do you get these class pigeons? “Don’t sell your best racers,” says Bas. Marin Huijmans recently sought out a top loft to buy 10 to 20 youngsters. Isn’t that too many, if you already have so many proven pigeons? Indeed, but he wanted to race them with the hope of keeping one or two good ones out of them. Only proven fliers would be considered good enough to breed out of. When I asked the young man, barely 30, if he had any advice which the average fancier could benefit from, he said, “Only breed out of the supers.” I’ve modified it to “only out of the best,” otherwise most wouldn’t be breeding at all.

Another Example

Sometime in the 90’s Eddy Leutenez, mentioned Gilbert Meire to me. Gilbert is a “small one” with Super pigeons. Later, when speaking to Willem de Bruijn. Both of us are always on the lookout for better, and we were off to see him. Willem went home with 14 youngsters. He went on to race them, they weren’t all that expensive! Thirteen of them couldn't keep up, but there was one that showed why Leutenez had been so positive about these pigeons. Willem named this pigeon “Gilbert,” he could fly at the top of the result sheet form 150 to 500 km. And this pigeon after showing he could race was found to be good enough to go to the breeding loft. What a breeder it turned out to be!

But we don’t want to think what the result would have been if he had placed the all 14 on the breeding loft. Instead of 13 worthless birds, he would quickly have had multiple. Possibly out of “Gilbert,” too, as he may not have been paired to the hen he deserved. Is one good one out of 13 not too good? I used to think so, also.


As far as breeding is concerned, there is only one certainty, you need a good dose of luck. That’s why I’m in favour out of your best racers, of crossing, but also of free pairing, you just never know. Which turns out to be what happened to me years ago. Of the 16 pairs of racers, there were two pigeons I didn’t want to pair together. “Too much inbreeding.”And it was those two you couldn’t pull apart with horses. I got frustrated and gave up trying. I could always toss the eggs. I forgot all about them and out of one of those eggs, crawled my “Home Alone,” and what a pigeon he was.

And what about outer appearance. Shouldn’t we breed out of only perfectly built pigeons? Ach correctly built pigeons. The icon Eric Limbourg handed us a pigeon, which (so we thought) couldn’t be a good one. Was Eric trying to test us? I still don’t know. It was one of his best-breeding hens.

And This Too

I dare to call our 18-732 a good one. In 2019 she placed in the ZAV 1st. 1st, 1st, 3rd. 3rd, and so on. Possibly this has never happened before. Because she also became 3rd National Ace Pigeon KBDB, someone asked about her lineage. I hadn’t finished all my record keeping yet and showed the man her brother’s, the 18-086 breeding. After all, he was bred the same. “You’ve forgotten the performances,” the man said. I hadn’t forgotten anything. That 086 couldn’t win a single prize.


Many will soon go and collect a youngster in return for a purchased voucher. If you can choose, take a youngster from a proven racer.

 Breeding pairs don’t make the excellent pigeon, but the exceptional pigeon makes the breeding pair.

Of course, you don’t have to agree with me. I’m just a simple flatlander who dares to speak my mind, but I dare to lay my/our results next to anyone’s.

(And Mr Nick from Canada, thanks again).