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Musings (30 Jan)

- The Dutch champion had had a very good year again. Many good racers and many good breeders? Hmm. ‘Will you not get too many babies?’ I asked him. ‘This maybe a problem indeed’, he said.

- A young fancier in Belgium had a very bad year. He takes good care of the birds but still no results at all.

I went there, found the lofts ok and the birds in good shape and told him that he had no other choice than to get rid of all his youngsters. They had no reason to be late every race. He did as I advised him and now he has a nice loft without pigeons. But this will not last long. I brought both men together and pretty soon a round of Dutch birds will be transferred to Belgium.

This is an example of a win win situation. For both men there is nothing to lose, only to win. To-day more good racers put a round of babies in another loft where they are raced. A nice opportunity for the champion to check out the quality of children of new matings. At the same time his lofts will nog be over-crowded. Moreover he can enjoy two races at two locations every weekend. And the fancier who got rid of his youngsters has new hope.

To-day more and more fanciers with exotic names race pigeons in Belgium. Or they form a partnership. And they are not only Chinese, Dutch Jan Hooymans for example will also race in Belgium next year. And soon some Mexicans will ship birds to Belgium to participate in the races there. A nice challenge for them.

An American once did the same. 100 Babies that were bred in America were raced here but it was a failure. I find 100 birds too much but still I am confident the Mexicans will do better. Over there (in Guadalajara) they race against up to 50,000 pigeons and birds that perform in such a competition cannot possibly be of poor quality.

Furthermore I know a Rumanian, a guy from Ukraine and two Chinese who plan to buy some ground here to build a loft.

What those people have in common is that they search a new challenge. They find it here the mecca of our sport. Here fanciers are supposed to have the best birds. A fancier in Eastern Europe, South America (or wherever) may have the most fairy-tale results, no Belgian will even consider to take a plane to go and buy pigeons there. Belgians and Dutch are not the buyers of this world, they are the sellers. Because of better birds? The results in One Loft Races all over the world give another idea, but ‘we’ still have the name and… the pedigrees.

Those foreign fanciers that race pigeons here do not just want to race in Belgium, they have a special area in mind: Antwerp. Can you believe that some foreigners only want Belgian birds with a ring that starts with a ‘6’? (6 refers to Antwerp). Antwerp they find the biggest challenge, because there they think is the keenest competition. And beating the strongest opponents is what they dream about. Are Antwerp birds really better? Fanciers in other provinces will not agree. But pigeon fanciers are special people. I have never heard a fancier say ‘I race so well because of poor competition’. On the contrary. They all claim to race in a strong area. When a fancier in another area is doing real well you can often hear ‘he should come and race here!’.

Probably the fame of Antwerp pigeons is due to ‘pigeon writers’ in the past. They all came from Antwerp and they mainly wrote about Antwerp fanciers and pigeons. And people tend to think that what is written is true. When Germans and Dutchmen bought Belgian pigeons after WW 2 it was mostly Antwerp pigeons for geographical reasons. And if any of those birds were good, then again Antwerp was in the spotlights. Take Leo Heremans for arguments’ sake. He would never have become so well-known without the Dutch who bought his birds.

Pigeonsport is getting down, but oddly enough more and more money is involved. When in the 90-ies 60,000 guilders (25,000 euros) was paid for a National winner from Sint Vincent people said: ‘Just crazy. This is the limit.’ How wrong they were. To-day this amount (25,000 € maybe the commission that is paid to a middleman for just one bird.      

Fellow fanciers sometimes ask me how I see the future of this sport. My opinion:

- The number of fanciers will still reduce.

- But there will be more what we call ‘mega lofts’. In other words: Professionals.

- And even more money will be involved.

Pigeon sport will never be like it had been for so many years; a sport for the common man. How to delay this decline? Here the media have a responsibility. They should pay more attention to the man with few pigeons that perform well.

How is the situation to-day? The guy that wins 40 prizes from 100 birds gets all the attention, the guy who wins 8 prizes from 8 birds is ignored. And institutes such as Pipa do not help.

Recently there was some outrage about a publication on a One Loft Race. They drew the attention to a Dutchman that had 5 birds in the top 100. They ‘forgot’ to mention that the same man had entered over 100 birds. A fellow sportsman that won 2 prizes in the first 100 with only 3 birds in the race was ignored. The point is that Pipa is an auction site. Nothing wrong with that, but many foreigners think Pipa is a kind of news site. They sometimes bring the news indeed, provided….   (you can fill in yourself).