Another year passed by
When I was a child my parents used to say 'time goes fast'. I did not take that too serious. For me time could not go fast enough. All these boring days at school. Moreover I wanted to be grown-up. Now I am a father myself and say the same thing to my son. He shrugs his shoulders. But my parents were right: 'Time goes fast' and another year is history: 2000.
This is a review of important things that happened in pigeonsport in Holland and Belgium last year.
The first news was the same as in previous years both in Holland and Belgium. Thousands of fanciers who quit the sport again.
In Holland now 36,000 fanciers are registered, this used to be 57,000.
In Belgium it is 60.000 but some sources say only 40,000 fanciers are active in the sport. This used to be about 250,000 after the war though this is no more than a guess as the number of fanciers in those days is rather obscure. Anyway when you drive through the Belgian countryside you see more pigeonlofts with no birds in them than lofts which are populated. It is sad but true.
The last few years also fewer rings were sold. Some years ago the amount of fanciers already diminished but then more rings were sold by KBDB as people began to keep more birds.
Nowadays there are not only fewer fanciers but also fewer birds. Pigeonsport in Europe only flourishes in Portugal and Poland
In Belgium people were curious what would happen concerning electronic clocking.
Both in Germany and Holland people are used to it but in Belgium is much resistance. How come? The majority of the traditional clocks do not belong to the fanciers but to clubs or people who have much influence in KBDB.
The fanciers hire the clocks from them and when electronic clocking would come true the value of these traditional pigeontimers would lower dramatically.
KBDB decided that electronic clocking would be allowed but only at long distance and even then the birds should be put on a rubber band. So people still need their traditional clocks.
The latest news is that also for 2001 electronic clocking will be banned for middle distance and short distance.
A remarkable thing is that in Germany Tipes has the greater part of the market, in Holland it is Unikon and Tipes, the Belgians have a preference for Bricon.
This is a result of good marketing and maybe the fact that Bricon is manufactured in Belgium. As for electronic clocking the good news in Holland was that the ' chipring ' became cheaper.
It used to be 5 Dutch guilders for one but the price went down to 4 which according to 'experts ' is still far too expensive.
Maybe something to consider in Taiwan. In Europe the opinion is that they can make the chips cheaper over there as technology is more advanced.
Timers that are almost history in Holland and Germany
Sensational news in Belgium was that a doctor opened his 'sperm-bank for pigeons' .
The news was such a smash hit that even daily magazines paid attention to it as well as the great tv-stations.
'Artificial insemination ', was that the future? If you had a good hen you could go to that vet and he put the sperm of a good cock into her. The price was 5,000 Belgian franks and it was the talk of the day.
Now nobody talks about it any more though. As it was not a success. But the same vet came up with something else which was even more spectacular: DNA tests for pigeons.
That was sensational as it may change pigeonsport in future.
If money is involved people all over the world are capable of doing anything. That is a well-known fact.
In Europe it is also well known what sometimes happens to direct Janssenbirds when they die. They had cost a lot of money so some folks take the ring off and put it on the leg of a baby.
Thus that they can still sell babies off of their 'Janssenbird' which is not one later on.
Or they can make money for this so-called ' Janssenbird ' itself.
With DNA-tests it has become easy to find out if pigeons are brothers or sisters or if they are babies or parents of a certain bird.
What you should do is pull 2 flights from the tail of a pigeon and 2 from the tail of another one. Put them in 2 different envelopes, send them to the vet and 2 weeks later you know the result. It is not cheap but not expensive either.
Why this may change pigeonsport?
I sometimes wonder how many brothers or sisters of superbirds are transferred which are not the brothers or sisters of superbirds.
From now on some people will think twice before cheating.
I will tell you something that happened to me. You should know I have 2 birds, brother and sister (144 and 145) which are very famous in Holland.
'145 ' was 1st Provincial Ace, his sister was 2nd. There were average 11,000 birds in the races so these are good birds which also turned out to be good breeders. That does not mean all their off-spring is good of course but some babies are.
Now this man came up to me and said:
' I have a sister of your 144 and 145. '
'What is the bandnumber?' I asked. He gave it but it was not mine.
His explanation was that he bought her as an egg. I checked my bookkeeping and he was right. I sold him an egg off of the same parents as 144 and 145 at a low price as I did not realise then how good they were. I asked him if he had had any good luck with the offspring of this hen.
'Unbelievable' was his reaction.
I suggested a deal: He should give me that hen and I would give him 6 youngsters in return.
'Okay' he said. But… a little bit too fast and greedy. That's why he made me doubt. Was this hen a real sister of 144 and 145? Because when eggs are sold cheating is very easy later on.
And whenever I saw the hen I kept wondering 'are you or are you not?' Till I could not live with it any longer.
I pulled 2 flights from the tail of 144 and 2 from the tail of the bird which was supposed to be her sister and sent them to the vet who does the research on DNA.
Two weeks later I got the result, now I am sure and that feels good.
Furthermore 2000 was a dramatic year for pigeonsport in Europe. 'Never ever did we have such bad weather and such heavy losses' sportsmen complain. When the racing season started, early April, it did not look like that though.
Especially the month of May and the first half of June we had often weekends with excellent pigeonweather. ' Excellent pigeonweather ' means for European fanciers: a bright sky, warm and North or East wind (so headwinds).
But then came the rain. Just at the time the young bird season started.
And week after week it was the same story, rain rain and rain.
One race after the other was cancelled as in Europe pigeons are never released in bad weather or when the weather is not good on their way home.
When pigeons come back home the same way as they were shipped (by truck) at least you don't lose any but it is no fun either.
Too much time to prepare birds for a race had been wasted and disappointedly people quit the sport.
Those races that were not cancelled often ended in a smash: many losses, outsiders that won and races that lasted for hours. (a race is not finished before 25 procent of the birds is home).
There was so much criticism in the daily press about the losses of young birds that those who were responsible for the release of National Orleans in Holland dare not let the birds go whereas on that day the weather was not bad at all
On this very day the Belgians raced from all kinds of stations, they were perfect races so you can understand the feelings of the people who had basketed 108,000 (!) birds for Orleans. Frustrated. Cancelling a race which is the highlight of the season was the last thing we could use in this bad year.
OLD BIRD SEASON
Fortunately most old bird races earlier in the year were nice races and the most striking man was Belgian Flor Engels whose results were breath-taking .
On May 19th the first Semi-National race from Vierzon took place in Belgium. Mr Lucien Velghe won 1st and 11th (14,000 birds in the race) with 2 birds which are brothers and related to his 1st provincial Ace in 1999 which was transferred to Taiwan.
In the concours for yearlings a bird of Mr Deleus was one mpm faster than Velghes bird.
Then came the great day in Belgium: May 26th : the day of the first National race from Bourges. 22,808 old birds were entered and it was won by Mr Debieve. His bird 'made' 1775 mpm which shows it was an easy race with tailwinds.
The day after there was a storm from the South and as for speed all records were broken. The fastest birds made more than 150 kilometres per hour: Never happened before.
Some weeks later the prestigious race from Sint Vincent in Holland took place.
That is a 2-day race, distance from 1,000 to 1,200 kilometres. The birds are not released until
noon so that none of them can get home on the day. Judging from the speed of the winner (982 mpm) you can see the birds had a hard time.
Even more important than Sint Vincent is ' International Barcelona ' held the 2nd week of July. The birds were to be released on Friday but again the weather was too bad then. Saturday the same story and not until Sunday it looked better and the 26,611 Barcelona-racers which were entered by fanciers from 6 countries were released. They were awaited with mixed feelings as the weather was not too good on this day either.
But to the surprise of everybody it was a normal race.
As usual in the International long-distance races it was the Dutch that were dominating again very strongly.
The fastest bird of Europe was a 2 year old hen that belonged to Dutch Mr Houtekamer.
He sold his winner, his others were to be auctioned with Christmas but… were stolen early December.
So the highlights in pigeonsport in Europe are:
- - The race which is called ' Bourges 1' in the month of May. It is called ' Bourges 1 ' as there is another Bourges to come in August for both old birds and young birds.
- - Sint Vincent in Holland enjoys a great popularity.
- - The International race from Barcelona has an impact all over the world.
- - As for youngsters the races everybody wants to win are Bourges in Belgium and Orleans in Holland (both held in August).
As said before Orleans was cancelled but Bourges was a nice race.
36,198 youngsters were entered and the winner was the unknown Mr Breynaert. Before Bourges his birds were not in good shape and consequently the results were poor. Now he won The Great Race and victories like these make pigeonsport so much fun. The winning bird was a hen who had no nest-position but 'was in love' with a cock who 'was in love' with another hen. It must have been jealousy that had motivated her so much.
Mr Debieve had the fastest pigeon of 9,458 old birds and this was remarkable as it was his 4th first prize national from the same station. The bird that made the highest speed (57,004 youngsters, yearlings and old birds together was one of Mr Philips.
Mr Thone and his partner set up a huge project (cost 5 million USD) which is really impressing and unique in pigeonsport. It is called WPC (World Pigeon Centre). Fanciers from all over the world could send in birds for so-called one loft races.
300 Of them, which represented a fortune, were lost from a training toss of hardly 20 kilometres. People wondered what could have been the reason for this disaster. Mr Thone himself thinks that when birds of so many different environments are put together this may cause health problems. There was much interest for his project though and it was such a good propaganda for our sport that he is still optimistic and does not give up.
As the wind has a great influence on the results Holland has been divided into sections since many years. When you race in sections and there is an Eastern wind fanciers who live in the East still have a chance for a good result and so do people who live in the west when the wind is west. In 2000 the Belgians followed the example of the Dutch and also divided the country into sections (West, Middle, East).
Fanciers are so happy with it that also in future this system will be maintained.
So if your friend says he has bought the National winner from say Bourges and your other friend claims the same this is possible.
As there are 3 National winners for each national race from now on.
2000 Was a bad year both in Holland and in Belgium. For tourism, sellers of beer and ice-cream and… for pigeonsport. Due to a summer which never was a real summer.
But we keep on smiling as there is no other choice.