John and Anja Aarts live in Baarle-Nassau, one of the best known pigeon villages in the Netherlands. Together, they enjoy the pigeon sport to the full, entering races under the name Combination Aarts. And we may certainly say that they are a true combination!
In every day life, they manage a thriving audio and video shop together. And in addition to the long hours John spends in the business, he aims for top performances in the pigeon sport as well, and for that the helping hand of Anja is essential. John involves her in all aspects of the sport which she too enjoys enormously.
About ten years ago, John started with the pigeon sport by himself. Traditionally, he used to take part in the sport with his father who tragically died much too young. After having stopped with the pigeon sport for a few years, he started again in 1998 with Erwin Hoefnagels. In 2000 he began his own business, and since 2002 he races privately.
His absolute preference are for the overnight races (with an afternoon release) and the race from Barcelona. But the last few years he has also entered the one-day races because he believes that participating in the club is very important as well.

‘Smart Lady’, a real top hen..

The leading lady in this story is the two-year old hen ‘Smart Lady’ (NL09-3931389). She succeeded in winning three absolute top prizes: 7th Bordeaux against 3,855 pigeons, 14th Bergerac against 4,133 pigeons and 14th Cahors against 4,939 pigeons. With these fantastic prizes she became 1st Ace Pigeon Brabant 2000, 1st Asduif in the competition ‘The best of the Best’ and 1st Ace Pigeon Overnight in the National WHZB competition.
The father of this top hen is the ‘04-535‘. He comes from the van der Matten brothers and is a pure breed from Cor de Heijde.
Her mother is the ‘06-993‘. She is what John calls a 50/50 pigeon. Half overnight blood from the Sint Vincent line and half long-distance blood by way of a daughter from the ‘Carolus Couple‘, both acquired through Cees van Bijsterveldt.
Not only is this dark checker hen a brilliant flyer, she is also a magnificent bird in the hand. According to many specialists, she is of a perfect build with enormously supple muscles, ideal for the overnight races. She also has a wonderfully strong eye.
However, although it pleases John to hear all this, it is not really very useful to him. He doesn’t set too much store by such theories anymore. His advisor, Cees van Bijsterveldt from Chaam, Holland, has opened his eyes in this respect. The most important thing in the pigeon sport is simply good and smart pigeons. The basket determines which pigeons are best and these are the pigeons that know the shortest and fastest route home. And to know that they have to be clever.
This certainly applies to the ‘389‘, hence the name ‘Smart Lady’.


Every year, the pigeons are raced to the nest in the overnight races. The young pigeons have a stringent training regime and are raced from Orleans twice in their year of birth. The pigeons that pass the test, are retained as yearlings.
Yearlings are trained severely on the one-day races and participate once or twice in the short overnight races.
Two year old pigeons are basketed three times for the short overnight races, and the older pigeons three times for the long overnight races.
John used to basket the pigeons when their young were about seven days old but he never does that anymore. The disadvantage with this system was that the pigeons didn’t exercise well around home and they just flew straight back to land in front of his house. Besides the fact that this made it necessary for him to take the birds out by car to let them fly more distance, he also lost his Olympiad pigeon ‘Aurea’, Olympiade Dortmund 2009 this way. All in all it cost him a lot of sleepless nights.
John has now devised another system, with the result that he doesn’t have any more pigeons landing too soon.

This new system is coupling early.The pigeons are exercised on double widowhood and are coupled three weeks before the first overnight race, which means that they are on eggs when they are basketed. This is repeated before every following basketing.

John is someone who has been using less medication over the years and who believes more in supporting the pigeons with natural products that increase their resistance. Products that he uses include SGR and ‘Basiskern’ from Dr. Boskamp.
Before the start of the season and before the first overnight race, the pigeons are checked by a vet to ensure that all is well. If necessary, treatment for canker or a tablet is given.
Ventilation in the loft is perfect since the installation of a chicken roof-ridge and there is almost never any need to treat against head illnesses.

Feeding system

For many years now John has used the Matador feeding system and is very satisfied with it. It comprises of several different mixtures.
The start mixture has a lot of fibre in it, to restore the bowels after a race. The racing mixture, Premium Fond, has lots of natural proteins. And at the end of the week a high-fat mixture, Turbo, is given to boost the energy levels during the race. Especially before the overnight races, this mixture is given regularly.
And if he has any questions or needs confirmation, he can always count on Willem Mulder from the company Matador. This suits him perfectly.

The pigeons

The core group of overnight pigeons are a mix of pigeons from Cees van Bijsterveldt from Chaam, Holland, and from van der Matten brothers from Andel, Holland. Almost all of these pigeons are the breed from Cor de Heijde from Made, Holland.
Some years ago, John started learning from Cees van Bijsterveldt. Cees was then almost entirely racing the overnight races and it was there that John learned how easy the pigeon sport can be. Taking excellent and meticulous care of the pigeons is an absolute must and not much else is needed. We often make it much too complicated. Keep it simple. That is John’s motto.

To be able to compete on the shorter distances, every year John buys pigeons from the Simons brothers from Ransdaal, Holland. One of these pigeons, ‘Blue Rain’, won 2nd NPO Orleans Rayon 2 against 10,617 pigeons.
Another of John’s dreams is Barcelona. He already had a top pigeon that won four good prizes in this race. This bird is now used for breeding and John aims to breed another champion like that. For this goal he has acquired pigeons out of absolute top champions on this race, among others from Solange de Cuyper, Peet Solleveld, Ad Kuypers and the Desbuquois brothers. Hopefully this will bring him glory in this race.
The present-day long-distance pigeon should also have enough speed, according to John. That is why he tries to include 12.5 or even 25 percent of long-distance blood in his overnight pigeons. He is convinced that this will produce results. For this purpose he has bought two sons of the super pigeon ‘Home Alone’ from the Combination Braad-de Joode, and pigeons from the bloodline of the renowned ‘Carolus Couple’ of Cees van Bijsterveldt.
In ‘Smart Lady’ we also find 12.5 percent speed bloodline.


We may count John and Anja among the young and ambitious fanciers of the pigeon sport. John has a specific aim in mind and he will do everything he can to achieve this. Not with a lot of ‘bla bla bla’ and fanfare. No, he is not the type for that. He is a man of common sense, unbridled commitment, specific acquisitions where needed, a well thought-out system and above all good pigeons.
And all this will hopefully result in the realization of his ambitions.