*With grateful thanks to Henk Simonsz www.pigeonfever.nl
The Janssen pigeons produced in those years an abundance of descendants that belonged to the absolute top and who were almost unbeatable.
*In 1974 and 1975, the name of Jan Grondelaers was on everyone’s lips in the Western part of the pigeon world. Jan won everything there was to win with his now world famous pigeons, of which the ‘Chateauroux’, the ‘Stuka’ and the ‘Orleans’ were the best known. For instance, the ‘Orleans’ (B73-5140730) was a real phenomenon and the fastest pigeon from Orleans in 1974 and 1975 against some 20,000 pigeons!
Jan Grondelaers was highly successful with the crossing of Hofkens x Gebr. Janssen, a crossing that produced very good offspring, and although there was also a fair amount of Janssen blood in these Hofkens pigeons, they produced lead flyers that seemed to be unstoppable. Coincidence or not, at the time that Ad Schaerlaeckens started crossing Hofkens x Janssen A, he began to perform fantastically with these pigeons as well, and it was the start of his Orleans Domination.
The basis of this Orleans Domination was formed by two light-chequered hens, direct Janssen pigeons which Ad Schaerlaeckens acquired in 1976 from Jef van Gestel from Turnhout, Belgium. These first Janssen hens were small and delicate, and they didn’t stand out much, not by their behaviour and certainly not by their performances on the first flights. Despite all that, Ad was keen to find out the quality of the hens and he entered one of them, the 76-960, in a race from Orleans while she had a young of only a couple of days old (a ‘papjong’). The people that were in charge of basketing the pigeons were certain that he would never see the bird again. She was thought to be too small and too light. Ad was not entirely certain himself, but after a bit of hesitation he still entered the hen. This was very fortunate because this hen, and especially her descendants, would come to play an important role in the national Orleans races over the next few years, which even gave Ad Schaerlaeckens the name of ‘Mr. Orleans’.
That first race from Orleans was not an easy race for the 76-960. There was a strong headwind and it was very warm. In cycle-racing they have an expression ‘the everything or nothing mentality of the sportsman’, and this certainly applied to the fragile light-chequered hen. The bond with her young in the nesting bowl was so strong that she fought like a lioness to make her way home, which even resulted in her flying alone in the lead for no less than 8 minutes. This meant a 6th place nationally (R3), and this time, as Ad himself says, he didn’t make the mistake to continue racing with her, but immediately put her in the breeding loft. And that proved to be more than worth it!
Ad coupled the hen to his Hofkens cock and they produced two pigeons that would also prove to be of great worth in the build up of his colony. These were the ‘Goede Jaarling’ and his sister. A daughter of the ‘Goede Jaarling’ later flew the 4th national from Orleans, and a grandchild also ended up 4th national. The sister of the ‘Goede Jaarling’ herself managed to secure a 3rd national Orleans, in short, the ability of these pigeons to fly in the lead was evident again and again. In the meantime, the achievements of Ad Schaerlaeckens on the Orleans races made him a national pigeon celebrity. And even better, fanciers who acquired pigeons from him were usually very successful with them as well. The rise to international fame was made and would never stop again but only intensify.
During this time, Ad was more and more captivated by the original Janssen pigeons, and according to many, the best breeder of the Janssen pigeons was the ‘Jonge Merxck’. But the question was, how to get hold of these pigeons. But Ad Schaerlaeckens only slept at night and always had his eyes and ears wide open, he let mainly other people do the talking and took his chances when they were there. And one day that chance presented itself, like a wide open goal even… Toontje Schouteren, a long-distance racer from the southwestern corner of the country had as a nickname Toontje de Mozes. Not by accident, because his stock couple Mozes x Saar was writing history in the world of the extra long-distance. All kinds of romanticized stories about this couple were circulating, especially about the way that the pair had been put together, but we won’t go into that in this article.
It was remarkable that, while the long-distance pigeons were tested during races, Toontje de Mozes won time and again on the speed and middle-distance, and with results that Ad Schaerlaeckens found almost impossible. He wanted to find out more about this phenomenon and went to Toontje to take a look at those pigeons. And what transpired? The Mozes x Saar pigeons were indeed very impressive on the extra long-distance, but the prizes during the shorter races were earned by different pigeons, and these were not just any other pigeons as it turned out. Ad’s jaw dropped in surprise when in Toontje’s breeding loft he saw a five year old son, direct out of the ‘Jonge Merxck’. And not just any son but a magnificent cock, full of vigour and the prototype of a Janssen pigeon… What happened next will be evident…
(to be continued)