*With grateful thanks to Henk Simonsz  www.pigeonfever.nl

Hans-Jörg Hallmann with one of his favorites from the Romario line.

A few years ago I wrote a 13-part series called “Ace Four Ever” about the world famous base pigeon Ace Four and his close family , how this super breeding line of Ad Schaerlaeckens was built up and how many top pigeons it had produced in the meantime …

Usually you write such a series about successful lines from the past, but it still appears to produce recent top breeders and racers. Even in the toughest One Loft Races where you have to compete against the best lofts and pigeons in the world, this line can still dominate. And not only by winning the 1st but with the remarkably special feature that they can really race ahead. Even in 2018 and 2019 the bloodline still provided high-profile performances, which showed that if it is a testing race the pigeons from this line are at their best and if they are motivated, they can win with a good lead in hand.

At the time I had completed the series on Ace Four as a tribute to the breeder of these pigeons and did not expect that I would feel I would be required to return to it. However I feel morally obliged to write again because even in the last two seasons, performances deemed impossible had once again been performed by these pigeons in races that I am mainly focused on, namely the one loft races. So how up to date do you want it? Not that I mind writing about it, because these kind of pigeons fascinate me immensely. Just as much as other world lines such as the Kannibaal and the line that I think is very underestimated the Olympiad 03. If I had the time I would like to delve deeper into this. Who knows? Maybe it will require that I write again about these bloodlines, because I think not only these pigeons, but also the fanciers that bred them, deserve that.

With increasing amazement I saw in the last two seasons certain pigeons triumph in an inimitable way at various world famous races and also with those winners you came across exactly the same names in the pedigree: Ace Four, Home Alone, Invincible, Supertje 144 etc. All descendants of the basic couple of Ad Schaerlaeckens Mattens x Sissy.

It actually started in 2014 with the final of the Algarve Golden Race. The largest and most professional race in Europe and at least in the top 3 of the world, not including China. I had just finished the series on Ace Four and with Ad Schaerlaeckens himself one pigeon had really stayed with me and that was his blue cock with ring number NL08-2116553. This cock came from his phenomenon Home Alone, who himself raced 7 minutes ahead against more than 13,000 pigeons. Home Alone was actually a firmly inbred pigeon and was a son of Ace Four, who thanks to the free mating policy that Ad. S. practises  he coupled with his own cousin. If you manage to trace a topper from this line, two things will surface every time: easy flying ahead and being able to tolerate heavy inbreeding.

Anyway, the 2014 final was won by a hen named Corina and was bred and raced by Miroslav Vidhold from Slovakia. As always, I saved the top 20 pedigrees in my computer for later analysis.

When the time came and I looked at the pedigree of Corina I could not believe my eyes … Corina was bred from the line of that 08-553, son Home Alone and not only on the mother’s side, but also on the father’s side . Miroslav had bought a number of pigeons from Ad Schaerlaeckens in 2009 with which he was very successful. Among them a beauty of a hen that he called Atka I (straight from that son Home Alone 08-553). From a daughter of Atka I he bred the winner of the final Algarve Golden Race in 2014. A fantastic performance against the best of the best in the world in the field of One Loft Races. It turned out to be the starting shot as in the following years yet more spectacular victories were achieved by  different fanciers, with the same bloodlines in the background. The last six years, for example, the Golden Algarve final was won no less than 3 times with pigeons from the Ace Four family.

The phenomenal achievements of 2018 and 2019 that I quoted earlier and which eventually got me back to the pen and writing this article is all about a newly discovered breeding phenomenon called Romario. The performance of the descendants of this cock, also bred from the old baselines of Ad Schaerlaeckens, shook up the international One Loft Race world. The link between certain pigeons and some exceptional performances was not always noticed by everyone. This is for the simple reason that when describing pedigrees, interests sometimes come into play that make a certain line more visible than others. It has always been and always will be. I don’t think that in itself all bad because that is why you can often go after the pigeons with super offspring while many – often foreign fanciers with too much money – prefer to focus blindly on fantastic names that have scored well in the past, but where the racing success is over.

The garden loft with run. Air, air and more air …

The first very special performance of a pigeon that I would like to describe is that of “Thomas 6” with ring number DV01696-186. This cock was bred in 2018 by Schute and Kornelius from Germany and entered in the One Loft Race of the Golden Algarve in Portugal. That year almost 5000 pigeons were entered for this popular race. Most pigeons there are collected between mid-March and early May, while the final is held in late September of the same year. They fly from the north of Portugal to the south coast of the Mediterranean. The care of the lofts in the Algarve is of a high level and is very transparent. In terms of organization, it is personally my favorite race so far. There are also relatively few pigeons lost if you compare that with the losses in regular lofts or other One Loft Races.

In the early morning of September 29, 2018, the pigeons were released in Bragança in the north of Portugal and started the journey of more than 500 km in tropical heat. In general, you cannot compare a 500 km final of a one loft race to a regular race of 500 km. The main reasons are the pigeons quickly separate and have to rely largely on their own strength and orientation. Thomas 6 did this in a very impressive way, as he followed his own course and appeared above the lofts in the Algarve at 3 pm where he came down like a stone and was clocked quickly.

There was a loud cheer from the thousands of fanciers who had gathered at the lofts and it turned out to be a German pigeon bred by Thomas Kornelius from two top lines. His father was an inbred son of the Jozef, who himself won 6 x 1st prizes and also became father of the 1st national ace pigeon in Germany in 2015. The Algarve winner’s mother was a daughter of Romario from Hans-Jörg Hallmann.

That Romario caught my attention in the winner’s pedigree was because I had already encountered it much more often with top pigeons in different races. He was bred from 2 pigeons that Hans-Jörg Hallmann had bought as eggs from Ad Schaerleackens. The pedigree only contained a few summary details. So it became time to find out more on a nice winter day …

The first pigeon was therefore recorded at 3 pm and there were still a few thousand pigeons on the way. It was expected that several top pigeons would follow soon. It was already nice that the winner came flying alone and clearly claimed the honor for everyone. Only after 10 minutes still no 2nd pigeon … After 20 minutes still nothing  …fanciers in the crowd were worried … What was going on here? Disaster flight is quickly called by outsiders in a one loft race, so wait and see. It could also just be a tough final and that is what it turned out to be. Only after 24 minutes the 2nd pigeon came down and the following hour another 30 pigeons were added, which showed that it would be a tough but fair final and certainly not a disaster flight. Thomas 6 had gained immortal fame for his bosses with his solo flight and was therefore auctioned for a record amount … A real once in a lifetime cock, this Thomas 6 … Very Impressive!

The next race that caught my attention and which I followed with special interest to possibly participate in the future was the fairly new race in Zimbabwe called The Victoria Falls. This race has now been held twice and is of the same professionalism as the Algarve Golden Race, with maximum transparency and a well-functioning website with up-to-date information. All things that indicate a good and tight organization. They had moved the finals to a later time of the year last year to ease the pressure of the birds of prey and the harsh weather.

With the final that was held on July 19, 2019, they had apparently got the weather a bit wrong. The previous races had always been fast with wind from behind, only from the 600 km final the wind turned from a tail to a pure headwind. The long distance fanciers were happy with that and thought they had a solid advantage in this final. But also here the distance and the severity of the race was strongly underestimated because on the day of the release no pigeons came through. Only the next morning at 6.59 am a blue pied pigeon rushed in like a bolt and was quickly registered. The very first pigeon of this prestigious race was in and appeared to fly a whopping 54 minutes (!) Ahead of number 2. This Incredibly handsome cock, ring number DV6306-18-0368 was from Rolf Berger from Germany.

A few beautiful 2020 youngsters in the dish with wood shavings.

As always, I was very curious about the bloodline that managed to win this tough race and could also fly ahead by almost an hour. The moment I saw the pedigree I had to swallow. The father of this pigeon turned out just like the mother of Thomas 6, bred by Hans-Jörg Hallmann and came from a son of Romario … I thought that was unbelievable.But it would get even crazier in 2019 … A scenario that you could not imagine or suspect yourself. And that in such a short timeframe of less than a year on two different continents. At the end of September 2019, the final of the Golden Algarve Race again took place. Again over 5000 pigeons were entered from all major pigeon countries of the world. From Norway to South Africa and from the United States to China. And again a Romario descendant would do it … Coincidentally, two weeks before the final I wrote on my blog that that the Romario line had to be very special with such performances, but of course I never expected it to be bingo again in a tough 500 km final of international stature …

This time it was Team Wofsberg from Germany who claimed 1st place in the final with their beautiful little blue hen named Lena (DV09564-19-344). At 3.18 pm she clocked and covered the 500 km with an average of 1151 meters per minute. Fantastic as a fancier to experience something like this and to see your pigeon clocked first. The ring number and name of the pigeon and the name of the fancier appears life-size on the large screens at the lofts. That does something to you and not just the winner. Many people get goose bumps when you see the first pigeon dive down after such a beautiful race. As always it was exciting again which pedigree this top hen would carry … And again it turned out to be a big Romario bull’s eye … Lena was bred from a daughter of Romario! And the special thing was that all three winners were each bred in a different combination and by different fanciers. What they had in common was that two winners were bred from a daughter of Romario and the father of another winner was from a son of Romario.

For me that meant time for action! Romario’s pedigree was very brief. The fact that he was bred from two pigeons from eggs collected from Ad Schaerlaeckens was actually the only special thing on the family tree. It made me incredibly curious about the exact background of this pigeon and its breeder Hans-Jörg Hallmann, so I went looking for more information. And that turned out not to be easy. Hans-Jörg Hallmann turned out not to be commercially oriented at all and very difficult to contact. There was no mobile number or e-mail address anywhere and the fixed telephone number stated ex directory. All in all, it stimulated me more and more to see the descendants of Romario and to meet the fancier. Romario himself appeared to have died a few years earlier, but the strange thing was that the most spectacular results were achieved mainly with pigeons bred from his children and grandchildren.

An inquiry with Ad Schaerlaeckens provided confirmation that Hans-Jörg Hallmann had indeed bought eggs there several times, but he also had no further information about him. No phone number, address or anything. Fortunately, I managed to make contact with Hans-Jörg Hallmann. I noticed that he was very careful and was not eager for attention, let alone a loft visit in his hometown near Kassel. But after some intensive email contact we luckily got a real fanciers oaky and I was invited to come and see his pigeons and write down the backgrounds.

Beautiful head study by Romario.

At the beginning of the year, fortunately just before the corona virus broke out, I drove one day to the center of Germany and reached his beautifully situated house on a mountain side, at the end of a dead end road. I was warmly received by a cheerful Hans-Jörg Hallmann and had a fantastic pigeon day with him. It was not only very nice, but Hans-Jörg Hallmann also turned out to be a very nice man who enjoys his pigeons intensely. Just like his friends club Sylt 2000 where he spends a lot of time and visits One Loft Race finals, for example. That is the most important thing for him in the pigeon sport and all of the hassle of buying and selling around him does not interest him at all. He doesn’t have many pigeons either. There were about 18 breeding couples plus a bunch of youngsters and that was it. The pigeons are in an approximately 8 meter long loft with an open aviary and were in excellent health. I found the quality of the pigeons and especially children and grandchildren Romario breathtaking. Truly pigeons from a different dimension. But of course, it could hardly be otherwise…

I’m not going to go into too much detail about performance on other flights and races in this article to keep it somewhat legible, and I will mainly focus on the main points. As mentioned earlier, Hallmann obtained a set of eggs from Ad Schaerlaeckens in 2004 and 2005. He started racing with the pigeons that hatched out before he even considered placing them in the breeding loft. Two of those pigeons that he raced were, among others, Remus and the 209 hen from 2005, who would later write history as mother Romario. Because the performances were very good, he paired these two pigeons together and in 2006 bred a small blue cock with the ring number 03801-06-338 which he called Romario. So the Romario story started …

Beautiful spacious breeding boxes in an airy loft.

Romario also had to race from the start and flew very well. But at the same time the raptor problem around his lofts became so intense that it was almost impossible to keep a pigeon. They were just waiting for it and at one point it got so bad that Hans-Jörg decided to stop releasing pigeons around his loft. From that moment on he also stopped regular flights and only wanted to participate in One Loft Races in Europe and South Africa. In retrospect a great choice because it is not inconceivable that otherwise Romario would have gone no further than a weekday snack for a hawk or peregrine falcon …

Beautiful stock of pigeons in the open run

Romario quickly developed into the strong breeder of the loft and his genes were successful with almost all of the un- related lines that Hallmann paired him to. It has happened more often that a certain bloodline shows itself well at a certain race. I think it is so special about the descendants of Romario that they can do it on different continents in combination with all kinds of different types of pigeons. Crossed with other, also, top lines of course, but that is what I noticed most and it stayed with me.

Unfortunately Romario himself is no longer alive but after a long search Hans-Jörg had surfaced a nice digital photo for me through a friend which I could edit at home and add his name with a nice background. I was delighted to be able to present this picture in a beautiful frame as a thank you for his hospitality. Cool to see that it really mattered to him when he saw his super pigeon in the framed photo. That characterizes the pure enthusiast that I got to know Hans-Jörg. A jewel in the sport.

I also received as much information as possible from him about Romario’s parents such as ring numbers. I was very happy that that was not lost in any case and I drove a short time later to Ad Schaerlaeckens to finish off in terms of pedigree. That also provided a beautiful picture to see how the bloodlines of Romario were bundled into this Individual, whose descendants can dominate at so many different races and also with the special feature of flying way ahead. And this up to the most recent finals

The Father of Romario was Remus (03801-04-144) and the mother of Romario was the 03801-05-209, both collected from Ad Schaerlaeckens as eggs. The pedigree of these pigeons was wonderful to find out and went back to the stock couple Mattens x Sissy that occurs at least 8 times… Incredible inbreeding. A bundle of unparalleled sporting genes.Father Romario comes from a son of Invincible x Beauty II who was paired with David’s Favorite… Invincible raced the 1st no less than 5 times and was 2nd Nominated. Ace pigeon NPO of the Netherlands and comes from daughter Mattens x Sissy.

Invincible was paired up against Beauty 2, a wonderful daughter of Ace Four himself. Ace Four also comes from a son of Mattens x Sissy …Davids Favorite comes from the Late Blauwe x daughter Wounded Knee. Wounded Knee x sister Invincible is also the responsible for the top hen of Bas Verkerk called Bubbles…

Moeder Romario comes from the Super 306 x Blue 305.                                                                              Super 306 is a son of Second Ace from Beauty II, daughter of Ace Four. Blue 305 Comes from Wounded Knee x Supertje 144, nest sister of Ace Four.

If you look at these couples, as mentioned, there is at least 8 times Mattens x Sissy in the pedigree. You will also encounter the daughter Beauty II and the sister and nest mate of Ace Four called Supertje 144, just like Invincible itself. Beauty II is also a full sister of Home Alone who also came from Ace Four and whose descendants already won the final in The Algarve in 2014 and in 2019 also the car in the semi-final. That meant, for example, that in 2019 both the semi-finals and the finals of Algarve Gold were won by two different fanciers, but both with Ace Four blood in their veins.

The pigeons were in top condition.

The renowned Alessandro of Bas Verkerk, from whom he bred the Sprint, comes from Beauty II, daughter of Ace Four. I also noticed that the top breeder of Rens van der Zijde named Evita, was bred out of Invincible x the Supertje 144 (nester Ace Four). The famous Limo from Co Verbree also comes from brother Ace Four x daughter Invincible to name but a few. You could really write a book about it.

When you have finally selected everything and have it on paper, you realize all the more that the real top pigeons only come from a very small circle. The importance of a good line and above all a strong family, with which many different fanciers with different systems succeed, becomes clear to me every year, Top lines are no guarantee for good pigeons, but for real supers and winners they are the basis often indispensable.

The Mattens x Sissy and Ace Four line has proven itself mercilessly against the competition. I wonder what other surprises are in store. Hans-Jörg Hallmann has been able to combine the baselines of Ad Schaerlaeckens into a powerful, pure and phenomenal gene package and also ensured that these special bloodlines are still in the spotlight of international pigeon sport …

Henk Simonsz