Every now and then I
am asked by fellow fanciers or club committees to grade their birds or
Say which are good and which are bad.
Sometimes they are willing to pay me good money for that which is not
Keeping a bunch of bad birds also costs money.
‘I am sorry’ I say then and add ‘I cannot see for sure if a bird
is a good racer or a bad racer, a good breeder or a bad breeder’.
They do not understand.
‘You write in magazines, you race good and you of all people say you
do not know?’
Their voices betray their feelings. They think it is ‘false modesty’
but is not.
THE ‘PIGEON WRITER’
People who write about pigeon sport are in a special position as often they
practise this sport themselves.
That makes it inevitable that now and then the author refers to his owns
birds as it is mostly the own experiences that teach you what is true and
what is not, what is correct and what is wrong.
There is nothing wrong about writing about own experiences as long as the
author is neutral.
Especially when he is paid for his articles these cannot be meant to promote
his own pigeons.
A (pigeon)magazine should bring the news and it should be educational.
Articles about the successes or failures on the author’s side may also be
I will try to avoid writing about my successes as much as possible, that is
a promise, but sometimes I have to.
That is when I have something to say, like now.
CHAMPIONS DO NOT DAY
In 1998 I bred a pigeon which was 1st Provincial Ace in 1999 and also in
In 2000 it was 2nd National Ace Holland (NPO) as well which means the 2nd
best of 36,000 fanciers.
A brother of his is also a sensational racer and in 2000 I bred some babies
off of the same pair again.
They were trained but in one of them I have no confidence at all. He is
beautiful, the body is perfect, but unlike his successful brothers it is a
bird with no character.
He has not the fighting spirit that his brothers have. His brothers would
fight till death to defend their nestboxes, he does not. Still I kept him as
unlike in Taiwan old bird racing is the main thing in Holland and Belgium.
But I am sceptic and realistic. Day dreaming is something for the losers.
The champions know that in case they have a couple that gave 2 super pigeons
you have no guarantee it will ever produce one more good bird again.
For that reason many champions change the matings every year, even their
best breeding couples.
It seems that when you leave a
couple together the quality of the babies is getting worse and worse year
I know of very few breeding
couples, if any, that have given a handful of supers. So ‘Golden
They exist more in the mind of fanciers than in their lofts.
With humans this is not so much different.
In Europe cycling is very popular and one of the best cyclists ever was
Coincidentally he had a brother who was also a cyclist. You
could hardly tell them apart. They were real look alikes.
The brother of Michel Indurain however was a nobody when cycling was
Still he was a brother of famous Michel: The same father, the same mother,
the same education, the same food, the same training. Only Michel’s
brother could not make it.
Of course this does NOT mean that origin means nothing.
If the brother of my 2nd National Ace will not be a good racer I am going to
breed youngsters off of him.
Success is never guaranteed but with such birds chances are greater. The
more good birds in a family, the greater your chances are you will breed
That we are never sure is something to be happy about. Because if we were
that would be the end of the sport.
The super birds would soon fall into the hands of the happy few. Those
people who have money.
From time to time another strain of birds is a hype in Europe.
In Germany a hype at the change of the millennium is the Schellensbirds.
Everybody is after them and if you should believe the adverts in German
magazines also lots of people have the Schellensbirds as so many offer them
It is especially the descendants of one pigeon which are popular: the so
called ‘Den Engels’ a checked cock, bandnumber
Schellens was a diamond-cutter and a multi-millionaire in USD who bought
lots of Aces in the past.
He auctioned his birds in 1995 when he was 84 years old.
The pigeon called ‘Den Engels’ won no less than 15 first prizes and as a
breeder he was even more outstanding.
In most pedigrees of Schellensbirds we find the bandnumber of ‘Den
Engels’ but the pedigrees go no farther than that. So no father and no
mother as they are unknown.
Mr Schellens bought ‘Den Engels’ from the famous Flor Engels when the
bird was 4 weeks old.
Later Mr Engels gave the parents as a present to a man who did a small job
This guy was so proud with the birds he got from Engels that he showed them
to whoever he could show them. But those who saw the couple unanimously said:
‘such birds cannot be any good. So you can imagine the man who was so
happy with these birds in the beginning became a disappointed man later.
So to Mr Engels he went and said:
‘Every body who sees your birds says they are no good.’
‘No problem’ Mr Engels said.
‘Bring them back and I will replace them. So the man did. He went to
Engels who killed the birds and gave 2 others instead.
The birds which were killed
were to be the parents of the famous ‘Den Engels’ of Mr Schellens.
THE YOUNG ARTIST OF
Famous all over the world is the name of Houben.
One of their basic birds is ‘The Young Artist’(82-6380170).
Every time I handled him I thought ‘how can such a pigeon be so good’.
And Houben must have thought the same when the bird was young. It was not
good looking, that was the reason he did not want to keep it for his own use
but on the other hand the origin was too good to kill it.
That’s why he decided to sell this 82-170.
And every time people wanted to buy pigeons Houben put a bunch in a basket (including
82-170) so that the buyers could pick out what they wanted.
But no body liked this 82-170 and Houben had 2 options:
Either kill the bird or keep it as there were no clients.
He decided to keep it.
The old fox did many good things in his life but this was the best thing he
This bird was to become his famous ‘Young Artist’. In nearly all the
Houben winners and Aces of recent years you will find his blood. In fact the
bird made Houben who he is.
For the following anecdote we go farther back in history.
In 1971 Stan Daelemans of Antwerp got a sensational winner which was crowned
as 1st National Ace (about 100,000 fanciers then). I was asked by a Japanese
to buy it, so I went there.
‘How come you mated the parents’ I asked as I nearly vomited when I saw
‘They raced real good as babies despite the fact they were not good
looking. I was curious what would happen if I would mate such uglies. The
result was a baby which was perfectly built and? the best in Belgium !
KLAK AND HIS 613.
The best racer Jos van Limpt (nick named Klak) had in the last
few decades was undoubtedly his 89-1776613, called ‘The 13’. Klak does
not like to give his birds names such as ‘Rocket’,
‘Miracle’ or ‘Superman’.
The story of ‘The 13’ is almost similar to that of ‘Young Artist’.
In 1987 he had 43 cocks and 42 hens. So a cock was for sale. One of them was
so ugly that Klak decided to sell it.
He did not want to cheat people but just like Houben he did not kill it
because of the origin.
However, again no one wanted this cock: He was too ugly.
When he was about to kill him something remarkable happened.
At first it seemed to be bad luck but it turned into good luck though!
Two of his birds were caught by a hawk and both were cocks. So now he was
short of a cock and he kept this ugly one. He became the father of ‘The
Klak gave the father the name ‘The Knook’ which means ‘the ugly one’.
The message is clear:
When even great champions like Engels, Houben and Klak openly admit they
sometimes make big mistakes when grading birds who are we to pretend we are
capable of it.
I had my ‘Good Yearling’ (78-430149).
He was such a good racer that there was a great demand for his babies. One
of the sisters was a 1980 hen, nothing special as a racer and average
I myself did not consider her as a good breeder at first but I had to change
This bird (later called ‘Sister Good Yearling’) was to have a great
impact on my loft.
In 1985 a son of hers even won 1st National Orleans. When it was too late
and ‘Sister Good Yearling’ did not lay eggs any more everybody wanted
To claim that we know nothing about pigeons would be exaggerated though.
‘Some people know a little bit’ is a better statement.
Why do even the greatest champions in Holland and Belgium breed a 100 babies
Just to give luck a better chance.
Piet de Weerd used to say:
‘Most fanciers know nothing about pigeons and I (so Piet de Weerd) know
maybe 10 percent which makes me a better grader than the majority.’
AUCTIONS AND VISITORS
In winter there are many auctions in Europe and it is always the same story:
Some pigeons are high priced, others are cheap.
You can’t believe how often it happens that some years later a fancier
shows up with a super bird whose father or mother was bought at such an
auction for little money.
So many others who were there were mistaken and bought the wrong birds at a
too high price.
Yearly many foreign fanciers visit Europe to buy pigeons.
Some of them have those funny glasses on their noses to look at the eyes of
the bird. They look for the so called ‘eye sign’. The fact that there is
no Dutch word for ‘eye sign’ proves enough. It shows that we just do not
believe in it.
If quality could be read in the eyes, pigeons would be very special animals.
- Can we see in the eyes of a horse if he is a good racer?
- Can we see in the eyes of a canary if she is a good singer?
- Can we see in the eyes of a human being if he is an athlete?
Now I ask you:
- Why should a pigeon be different?
The fact that those graders with these glasses have lots of breeders
themselves shows how unsure they themselves are.
If they could see which pigeons were good they would not need that many.
When I see a guy studying the eyes of a bird I sometimes say:
‘You should not look the bird in the eyes but the fancier.’ Mostly they
get the message: The fanciers should be honest!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Houben had his ‘Sony’ but the parents only gave one ‘Sony’.
- Klak had his ‘613’ but the parents never ever produced one more bird
of the same quality.
- Etienne de Vos had his famous ‘Didi’ but none of his brothers raced as
good as he did.
You need birds of good origin, that is clear. But apart from that you need
That is why it is good to breed many babies.
Those who do not sooner or later get finished as they reduce their chances
to get good birds.
You can compare this with a
lottery. The more lottery-tickets you have the greater your chances are to
have your lucky number.
About beauty one more
Many Eastern guys like girls blond.
And I admit, there are blondes whose beauty is breathtaking. But their
beauty does not mean they are good.
The fact that my wife is blond has nothing to do with this.
by Ad Schaerlaeckens
© Ad Schaerlaeckens