Pigeon Fever 5 ~ Opportunities and threats within the pigeon sport…Henk Simonsz

April 6, 2014

Nice slender and delicate hen of the line of the ‘National King’. Her young will have a chance to prove themselves this year in the Balkanic Fair Play one-loft race.

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Now that I have stepped back into the pigeon sport with enthusiastic and fresh eyes, I have noticed several things which in my opinion are a downright threat to this fantastic sport. But I also see a few great opportunities because of new developments and combinations of developments.

If our policymakers and we as fanciers with voting rights would adopt a more flexible attitude, I don’t see any immediate dangers for the modern pigeon sport. In fact, if the pigeon sport would be able to move with the times, it would be a sport which can be enjoyed for at least another couple of decades, I’m convinced of that. But for that we will have to move with the times and try not to hang on to traditional values.

If we continue as we are doing, in the future there will only be a few large professional lofts left, which will employ a whole team of people and make the pigeon sport purely commercial. Super professional and when managed correctly quite profitable as well. Do I see these lofts as a danger to the pigeon sport? Not at all, as long as we ensure that the smaller lofts also have a reasonable chance to win prizes and get themselves onto the result list.That is essential.

A good couple, 'Lasse' x 'Jacky', which I put together at the beginning of March. For 'Jacky', these will be her first eggs, because she is a summer young of 2013. I will explain how I try to breed a certain type of pigeon for specific one-loft races. The coupling is specifically formed for the one-loft race in Denmark and maybe for the Belgian Master next year. The cock, on the left side of the photograph, is the 'Lasse'. His nest mate flew a 1st last season in the very difficult finale of the Danish one-loft race with about 900 meters per minute. 'Lasse' and his nest mate are from a cock, who himself won a 1st alone in the lead during the finale of the same race in 2011... Coincidence? I don't believe so. 'Jacky', left in the photograph, comes out of a crossing with K de J & Son. The father is the 10, a fantastic breeder who also produced a 1st NPO winner in a 700km+ race. The mother is my own 26, a full sister of the 1st ace pigeon Belgian Master 2011 who, for that matter, also won a 3rd prize. Extraordinary is that, when the hen sits on her perch at night, the cock comes to her and sits on the sloping side of the perch. He stays there all night without intruding on the hen. When I do my last round and see them like that, they touch my heart. In short, on paper a very promising coupling. All I can do now is hope that the basket will agree, because the basket always has the last word...

A good couple, ‘Lasse’ x ‘Jacky’, which I put together at the beginning of March. For ‘Jacky’, these will be her first eggs, because she is a summer young of 2013. I will explain how I try to breed a certain type of pigeon for specific one-loft races. The coupling is specifically formed for the one-loft race in Denmark and maybe for the Belgian Master next year. The cock, on the left side of the photograph, is the ‘Lasse’. His nest mate flew a 1st last season in the very difficult finale of the Danish one-loft race with about 900 meters per minute.
‘Lasse’ and his nest mate are from a cock, who himself won a 1st alone in the lead during the finale of the same race in 2011… Coincidence? I don’t believe so. ‘Jacky’, left in the photograph, comes out of a crossing with K de J & Son. The father is the 10, a fantastic breeder who also produced a 1st NPO winner in a 700km+ race. The mother is my own 26, a full sister of the 1st ace pigeon Belgian Master 2011 who, for that matter, also won a 3rd prize. Extraordinary is that, when the hen sits on her perch at night, the cock comes to her and sits on the sloping side of the perch. He stays there all night without intruding on the hen. When I do my last round and see them like that, they touch my heart. In short, on paper a very promising coupling. All I can do now is hope that the basket will agree, because the basket always has the last word…

Participating in the pigeon sport takes a relatively large amount of energy, which is not bad in itself, as long as there is something in return. That you have the opportunity to compete seriously with the larger lofts, no matter how small your own loft is. Often, one or two well-performing lofts are taken as example to show that there is a chance for smaller lofts. But I think that the policymakers shouldn’t look to the exceptions but to the masses. 25 Years ago, everyone with a bit of feeling for the pigeon sport was able to get onto the result list, nowadays most smaller lofts don’t even appear on it at all. And it is my belief that this is deadly for the sport.

Especially from the moment that the electronic pigeon clocks came into being, the floodgates were opened. Fanciers who have their team of pigeons in super form are now able to clock so many pigeons in a record time that there is nothing left for the rest of us, not even crumbs. This is not the fault of those champions but of ourselves, because we have allowed the system to take hold. I find the system (not the fanciers, don’t get me wrong) just antisocial and it is just asking for scaring away half of the fanciers.That is my opinion as a re-starter.

That is when a hobby stops being relaxation and becomes pure stress. And when you have a demanding job besides, it quickly takes away all pleasure. Unfortunately, within the pigeon sport it seems more important to talk about the problems rather than to look for practical solutions for the problems. When I am reading the minutes of a meeting today, they are almost identical to the ones of 25 years ago. As are the items that are on the agenda. Motion from rayon A to fly from a south-westerly direction, motion from rayon B to fly from a south-easterly direction, department C doesn’t want to release at the same time as department D, and so on.

There are so many intelligent people within the pigeon sport who should be able to come up with a simple and effective system that gives everyone a reasonable chance to perform well. That the best fancier takes away the lead prizes is only natural, but wouldn’t it be possible to set a maximum? That shouldn’t be so difficult, should it? When someone has already clocked 10 pigeons that should be enough. Why must one person have everything and the rest nothing? I really don’t understand that.

The 'Picasso Jr.' is a cock with a real personality. The father of Jr. already produced several top pigeons, among which a 1st NPO winner Chateaudun. The mother of Jr. herself won a 1st NPO from Blois. Both parents are fairly pure descendants of the 'Ace Four' line. I think that the lines of the 'Ace Four' and the 'Kannibaal' are among the best in the world to breed pigeons that can fly in the lead from 100 to 650 kilometers, and that their peak lies at about 500 kilometers. And this is not just my opinion but is proven by facts over the whole world. For the first one-loft races I'm trying to breed a little more stamina in my pigeons, I will tell you more about this later. But the reason why I have many pigeons of the 'Ace Four' and 'Kannibaal' line in my lofts is simple. Because they can really fly in the lead and out fly an entire peloton when they are in their element. Another reason is that both lines have such strong genes that, for generations, they regularly go on producing super pigeons. But we have to be realistic because they are not always good pigeons of course, that is why my cock gets two years to prove himself, despite his good pedigree. Otherwise it will be curtains for him too. But I believe in a simple principle: when the input is super, you have a bigger chance that the output will be super too.

The ‘Picasso Jr.’ is a cock with a real personality. The father of Jr. already produced several top pigeons, among which a 1st NPO winner Chateaudun. The mother of Jr. herself won a 1st NPO from Blois. Both parents are fairly pure descendants of the ‘Ace Four’ line. I think that the lines of the ‘Ace Four’ and the ‘Kannibaal’ are among the best in the world to breed pigeons that can fly in the lead from 100 to 650 kilometers, and that their peak lies at about 500 kilometers. And this is not just my opinion but is proven by facts over the whole world.
For the first one-loft races I’m trying to breed a little more stamina in my pigeons, I will tell you more about this later. But the reason why I have many pigeons of the ‘Ace Four’ and ‘Kannibaal’ line in my lofts is simple. Because they can really fly in the lead and out fly an entire peloton when they are in their element. Another reason is that both lines have such strong genes that, for generations, they regularly go on producing super pigeons. But we have to be realistic because they are not always good pigeons of course, that is why my cock gets two years to prove himself, despite his good pedigree. Otherwise it will be curtains for him too. But I believe in a simple principle: when the input is super, you have a bigger chance that the output will be super too.

And the championships that have been the same for the last 150 years? It should be relatively easy to adapt these and make them much more family friendly, if we only put our minds to it.

I have read somewhere that in some countries they have a system that one person can only win a certain amount of prizes. After that it simply stops for that fancier and the rest of the prizes are for the other contestants. How much simpler can it be? But the ‘solutions’ that I read about here are complicated systems with percentages, nominated pigeons and so on, and so on. So complicated that the fancier who only wants to enjoy racing with his pigeons, doesn’t understand it anymore. At least, I don’t.

It often reminds me of the government, not capable of addressing and solving often relatively simple problems. It appears that they also can’t think pragmatically and that they take too much into account things like sensitivities, old grudges and so on. I think that this is also a little bit inherent in our culture, everybody wants to have an opinion, everyone wants to have his say in the matter and everyone wants to see their ideas written down in the end report.

The result is that the solution that is presented in the end is impractical and does in fact not solve anything. I believe that it is necessary to ‘put the cat among the pigeons’ so to speak, and it would be a pity if a few fanciers threatened to leave or indeed did leave, but in the long run it could save the pigeon sport as a whole. The time of treading softly is over in my opinion.

Photograph of the finals day of the Danish race in Denmark. There were a few hundred people and there were lots to eat, you could sit inside or out and there was a large screen which projected the pigeons with ring number and owner. Pleasant, exciting and a real experience.

Photograph of the finals day of the Danish race in Denmark. There were a few hundred people and there were lots to eat, you could sit inside or out and there was a large screen which projected the pigeons with ring number and owner. Pleasant, exciting and a real experience.

And besides the fact that the results are important, it is equally important that there are tangible prizes to take home, which is often completely underestimated. For many fanciers, a trophy or a cup is still fantastic to take home and given a place of honour in the living room. I can still get emotional when I see the reaction of experienced fanciers when they get a cup.

I can remember like it was yesterday when I was a teenager, I became 1st general champion in the B category. The title didn’t have that much significance, but I over the moon and proud with it. At the time Chairman Van de Velde knew exactly how to deal with that. He gave a wonderfully uplifting talk and I can still remember his encouraging and praising words. That was great and very stimulating.

That same day I saw the other side of the coin, which I have also never forgotten. After receiving my cup I went back to my table. The fancier next to me was a prototype of an embittered fancier. One who always has to criticize and probably rows with his wife at home. When I put my cup on the table he started to talk to me, while he had never before even looked at me. ‘How many of those things do you want,’ he said. ‘I have an attic full of such rubbish; you can just come and get them.’ This was for me, within a few minutes, my highpoint and my low point in the pigeon sport. Being happy for someone and telling him so, is a wonderful way to keep fanciers enthusiastic and doesn’t cost a thing…

And I don’t see those large, professional lofts as a threat, on the contrary. They are publicity for the pigeon sport to the outside world and maybe for some a challenge and dream to achieve the same. Nice lofts, everything around it well looked after. They are also the lofts to invite pigeon-critical clubs and authorities, to show them how well looked after our birds are, and to tell a good story with nice examples. You can compare it with the supermarkets that were feared to be a threat for the smaller shops. By way of small adjustments, the supermarkets can also act as a magnet for shoppers and the small shops can stay in business by specializing. But for this to happen the policy of a county should be so that the small businessman can keep afloat and make a living, otherwise it will be curtains very quickly. Not very different from the pigeon sport, I think.

The Internet is another phenomenon which can benefit the pigeon sport greatly in the future. It offers unprecedented and unexpected opportunities, and can be of significant worth to the pigeon sport, for instance in combination with one-loft races. I’m fairly certain of this because of my own experiences, and many of the topics that will have to be addressed in the future will be overcome by the combination of the Internet and several other forms of racing components. You could also think about virtual pigeon clubs, even without a clubhouse but with an administration and statutes. Fanciers who choose for other forms of pigeon sport could become a member of those besides their own club. A closed forum is the binding factor. And you could organize all kinds of things, without the need for a club house.

A relaxed day of pigeon sport during the Belgian Master with in this photo grandfather, father, mother and grandchild as enthusiastic supporters. What do you mean; pigeon sport is not a family sport?

A relaxed day of pigeon sport during the Belgian Master with in this photo grandfather, father, mother and grandchild as enthusiastic supporters. What do you mean; pigeon sport is not a family sport?

An example from my own experience: I very much wanted to start keeping pigeons again, but when I told my wife, she almost started hyperventilating. And my wife almost never makes problems, and especially not over something that I want very much and I feel good about. But when I told her of my plan to start again in a small way with pigeons, she got upset. She could see it all. Only ever time for the pigeons, a man in her house whose face and mood would show how the pigeons were doing. And with that the added hassle, stress and being kept at home during the nicest months of the year. She could forget ‘doing nice things together’, despite my smooth sales talk with which I tried to convince her (against my better judgment). And very quickly I saw that it would not be a viable option in our situation, even a specialization would be much too much work and would still bind me firmly to home. And I could never combine it with my job, so all in all, it didn’t have a chance from the very start.

But when I discovered the one-loft races and saw how much was possible with these, a whole new world opened up for me. After some study, I saw that there were lots of one-loft races, in China alone there are hundreds, but also in Europe there are already quite a few with a good reputation, as there are in the USA and South Africa; in short, plenty of opportunities.

This was the solution for people who want to participate in the sport with their own loft, but who do not have much time to do it in. The only thing you need is a simple loft with breeding pigeons, an aviary in front and if you want a droppings belt underneath the breeding boxes to make cleaning easy, and the pigeon world is (again) yours for the taking. You choose the races in which you want to enter, in the spring you breed a couple of young for that purpose, deliver them to a collection point, and away you go…

Through the Internet, webcams and other automated systems, you can follow all that is happening with your pigeons. You can even see the training live, in short, an incredible amount of fun, the entire season long. Often there are also several hotspot races, which are the more serious training flights, with nice prizes, depending on which race you have entered, and often an exciting finale.

With one-loft races, you can fully participate in the pigeon sport and make a name for yourself worldwide, without having to bother with loft position, training, medication, carrying baskets full of pigeons and so on. You don’t have to release the pigeons, you can devise a simple and practical feeding system for your breeders and that is all. You only need a small breeding loft, so there are no problems with building permits or trouble with the neighboughrs’, and it doesn’t matter when you are not so mobile anymore when you get older, all things that can threaten an active pigeon sport.

In the summer, you are free to enjoy time with your family and all good things in life, and your partner is happy as well. It is also very pleasant to share the pigeon sport with colleagues, family and friends, and very often, they even find it exciting. I make it all seem a little nicer and easier than it is of course, but the basis of this story is true.

I also try to involve my wife as much as possible in the sport, I ask her for instance to photograph the youngsters before they are leaving, and to think of names for them. This gives her an immediate bond with the pigeons that are entered in a race, and I notice that she enjoys following their training on the Internet, to see the names of our pigeons and to look for their results, and often all of it live.

To top it all, you could make the day of the finale a festivity by taking your partner along. Last year, I took my wife to the finale of the Danish race in Denmark, which we both enjoyed very much. We arrived a few days before, had a few outings to some nice villages, visited a few annual fairs, sat on terraces, ate some very nice meals, and finished our stay with the finale of the race. And I can tell you now that my wife is totally happy with the pigeon sport.

There are also a lot of misunderstandings about the cost. There are already races where you can enter a pigeon for just about 40 Euros, and the most expensive race that I know of is in South Africa, where you pay 850 Euros for three pigeons. When one pigeon doesn’t make the finale, the next will automatically take its place. When you lose all three pigeons before the finale, you may send in three pigeons for free the next year. Also reducing the cost is the fact that you only have to deliver the pigeons to the collection point, you don’t have to do the training (petrol), no basket money, no feed, no medication and so on. With a little bit of luck you can win nice prizes, and many for races there is a rule that, after the race has ended, half of the proceeds of a pigeon will go to the breeder.

Nice that presenting the prizes is done straight after the race. The end of an exciting finals day during the Belgian Master 2013.

Nice that presenting the prizes is done straight after the race. The end of an exciting finals day during the Belgian Master 2013.

All in all, a fantastic part of the pigeon sport, with endless possibilities. I think that it is a good way for potential re-starters to take up the pigeon sport again. For that matter, I think that people of 50+ are the most likely candidates to re-enter the pigeon sport. They have more time on their hands, often a bit more money to spend, and they like doing something that they used to do earlier. Not long ago I heard on the radio, and I also see it around me, that most new motor cycles are bought by people of 50+, re-starters, who used to ride a bike when they were younger. It is very important to introduce young people to the pigeon sport, but I believe that the potential increase in members has to be looked for in the 50+ group.

But, all these new directions in the pigeon sport need a flexible attitude and also understanding and tolerance of fanciers among themselves. When I see how, on the same Internet, these one-loft races are razed to the ground, often with ridiculous arguments; I feel that the future of the pigeon sport is most threatened by other fanciers. Excesses are everywhere, but on the whole, these kinds of races offer, in combination with the Internet, an enormous potential of possibilities for our beloved sport.

Meanwhile, I am busy breeding young for the different races. I have already delivered a team for the Belgian Master, and I have heard that the race has already been fully booked. A tribute to the organization that is making it all possible, and that is continually working on methods to minimise losses of the youngsters. That is hard enough in a normal loft, but especially so with such a large number of pigeons. The latest modifications to the lofts are 25 meter long aviaries in front of them, in which the young are accustomed to be outside and to see the loft from a distance. You can see all this yourself at www.belgianmaster.com.

Next time we will start with a series about one of the most successful breeds within the present pigeon sport. We will look at origins, progress and the current strength of the descendants of this breed. In due course other breeds that have been important for the pigeon sport will also be examined, along with very special, world famous pigeons.

Henk Simonsz

 

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