Strains, names and eyes
And the first question the champion in Holland and Belgium has to answer is: 'What strain do you have?' 'What strain?' The champions in Holland and Belgium often do not understand. 'What does this man want, a strain or a good bird?' they wonder. This is not strange because the majority of the superbirds in Europe are products of crossings! Moreover the question may rise if 'pure strains' really exist? In my opinion they don't.
Take the late Mr Hofkens and his so called strain. Hofkens is a great name, especially in America. He was a butcher and lived close to me. He was of an older generation but still we were kind of friends. That's why he asked me twice to organise an auction for him. That was when he was still alive of course. Because of my activities for these auctions I am pretty well informed about his birds, his results and the origine of his birds. Well, Mr Gust Hofkens himself did not believe in a strain and never wanted to have one. Later, after his death, others would show off with 'strain Hofkens'. If Hofkens would be able to read the publications about him and 'his strain' which appeared after his death he would turn in his grave. In America, and not only there, they claim to have Hofkensstrain pure whereas Hofkens himself never even thought of keeping a family 'pure'. He was always looking for better birds. He bought pigeons wherever he could provided they were good and preferably from racers in his own area. Because the pigeons he wanted were those from people who beat him in the races. When Hofkens died his birds were totally auctioned. How popular they were is shown by the fact that some days before the auction took place part of the birds was stolen despite a policeman guarded them they and night. I still have the auctionlists. They show that about one third of his birds were 'imports', so pigeons he got from other people, birds which did not even wear a ring from Hofkens. Another third he bred off of birds he imported. And pigeons with parents and grandparents bred by Hofkens himself? He hardly had such birds. Fanciers who bought pigeons in the auctions later pretended to have 'Hofkensstrain', even if it were pigeons that Hofkens did not breed himself or pigeons which Hofkens bred off of birds he purchased himself somewhere else.
I will give another example: Jan Aarden, a famous name all over the world for long distance. Now, some decades after his death many people in Holland claim to have pure Jan Aardenstrain. Most of them know better but the name sells! And what again is the truth? Just like Hofkens Jan Aarden was always looking for the best, he bought birds everywhere and though he was not a very succesful racer it must be said that later other fanciers were succesful with the offspring of his pigeons. But… they were not 'a strain' either. What he did have was also a mixture of birds. Like I said before epecially the American pigeonfanciers are very naive. They show off with pure Bekaert, pure Wegge, pure Verheye, pure Hansenne, pure Bricoux, pure Huyskens van Riel, pure Genette etcetera, etcetera. Names completely unknown to the younger generation in Europe. For example Wegge and Huyskens van Riel.
Wegge and Huyskens van Riel. Wegges birds were auctioned in 1903! Again the same story: They were nearly all crossings. Now almost a century later some Americans claim to have them pure. Isn't it ridicoulous? Huyskens van Riels pigeons are also kept pure in foreign countries. However, Geroges, the son of Jef van Riel himself admits that in his birds is not much blood left of his late father. And if there would be one person in the world who could have Huyskens van Rielstrain it would be him. But he is an honest man who does not want to misuse the name of his father. Moreover… also his fathers pigeons which destroyed the races in the late fourties and early fifties were products of crossings. In 1946 Jef van Riel bought a round of eggs from Jos van den Bosch. He CROSSED these pigeons with his own and an explosion of superbirds was the result.
Names So succesful racers, (the champions in Holland and Belgium) do not care for strains and they no not care for NAMES either when they want to buy. The press made the names and it is funny and sad at the same time to see that even today certain people who are completely unkown in Holland and Belgium as they mean nothing as racers are famous all over the world. They cannot show results but their strong point is that these 'paper tigers' know how to manipulate the media. They advertise, they know what people abroad like: Strains, impressing pedigrees and photos and they offer what people abroad like: Strains impressing pedigrees and photos. But their business is good: They sell! Because they have other qualities than breeding good pigeons: They have a good nose for money! It is rather frustrating for the real champions with the superbirds to see Japanese, Americans and Taiwanese buying such 'paper birds'. Have you ever heard about William Geerts? You sure have. Have you ever heard about an old man called Fond Jacobs? Probably you have not. But it was the birds of good old Fons Jacobs that made Geerts famous!
Mr. Boeckx; No strain, no great name, siple lofts but super results
So what's the conclusion? Very many champions in Holland and Belgium became famous with pigeons they got from completely unknown fellowsportsmen. These 'fellowsportsmen' are the real champions, unknown is they may be. They do not advertise, they do not want to pay middlemen for publicity, very often they do not even like publicity and they do not want to pay exporters or importers to make them 'big shots' abroad. Because money is not that important to them. What makes them happy is good pigeons and good results. For those people the press can go to hell. They want to win races, others may have the fame.
Moreover they can sell anyway. Not to foreigners but to fellow sportsmen in their own country. Its the resultsheets that make their publicity.
Mr X and his neighbour the Janssenman I would like to finish this article with one more example which shows what I mean. There is this Janssenman. A guy with many pigeons directly from Janssen Bros. As a racer he means nothing but he is known all over the world. Coincidentally his neighbour, let's call him Mr X, is a great champion and hardly to beat in the races. In fact he feels sorry about the poor results of the Janssenman next door and he hopes every weekend this man will have a good race. But in vain. The neighbour is just a loser. However… people from all over the world want the pigeons of this loser. It often happens that they stop at the house of Mr X. They see his loft 'so there must live a pigeonfancier' and they stop there to aks Mr X where the famous Janssenman lives. What such foreign visitors do not realise is that not the Janssenman is the real champion but the guy where they ask his address.
'Why', I often wonder, do foreign pigeon people not ask about results when buying birds? They want good results themselves but when buying birds they want names and strains. And… not to forget they want pigeons with special eyes: Colourful 'rich' eyes, so-called breeding eyes. Why do they like pigeons with rich eyes? I don't know. What I do know however is that scientifically the eye means nothing. Again in America pigeonpeople are crazy about 'eye-sign'. The fact that we even do not have a Dutch word for 'eye-sign' means enough. Good birds. That's what pigeonpeople all over the world are after. But if foreign buyers would know about the (poor!) results of some famous European names their eyes would pop out. But their eyes would even more pop out if they would know about the sensational results of fanciers whose names are completely unknown to them! Whose fault this all is? As I said before: The media, the press! One of the reasons that I said 'okay' when Mr Lin asked me to write for him in this magazine is that I consider it as a duty for every man who writes about pigeons and pigeonsport to open the eyes of people who have been brainwashed too much in the past in this materialistic world.