Humans, pigeons and apes 2
In part one I talked about the herd instinct of pigeons.
We organize races for these pigeons, they are all released at the same moment, they want to stay together by instinct, but that is not possible.
Because they have countless different destinations to go to.
Therefore they have to be self confident enough to fly alone and be able to pick the most direct route home.
As I see it pigeon races are not so much speed races but more orientation races.
They have little to do with flying fast(er).
This is different with cycle racers, horses or athletes.
They all race the same distance, at the same moment in time.
Or you would have to be dumb enough to assume that when the winner in a pigeon race races 1,500 mpm , the 100th prize winner races 1,400 mpm and the last prize winner 1,200 mpm and that this was the actual speed of the pigeons.
Consequently the last prize winner flew 300(!) meters slower every minute than the winner. Everyone knows that this is nonsense.
I think that all healthy pigeons develop the same speed during races up to 300 or400 km when they all have the same conditions.
"Yes but," you will possibly say, "once I had a pigeon who flew 10 minutes ahead."
That is possible.
I also had such pigeons myself. But when that happened there was always a tail wind, never a head wind.
Why then did it happen?
Because that pigeon flew at a different height than the other pigeons. A height where there was more tail wind.
And those are not 'the same conditions'.
Weather experts know how much wind speed can differ at different heights.
Why do you never see those lead victories with a head wind?
Because then the pigeons DO fly under the same conditions; all at a low level.
Spending The Night
In 2 day races in Holland you will sometimes see differences of 200 mpm among the first pigeons as well.
Again this may occur because of different circumstances.
Some pigeons stop for the night early in the evening, some fly on for a time in the dark, some take a direction over flat country, others fly a route over hills and valleys.
Equally Fast Again
I live right on the Belgian/Dutch border and on racing days you see lots of Dutch pigeons flying over, especially when they have been released close by (in Belgium).
Those pigeons do not all belong to the same fancier. They are not released for a one loft race and their home lofts do not lie in the same direct line.
This means that most of those pigeons are flying a wrong route.
They fly together because of the inborn herd instinct.
With old pigeons that happens a lot less because they have learned to be less of a herd animal.
And speaking about flying faster; I have never seen a pigeon accelerating away from the flock.
I did see them falling behind and that can be explained.
I talked about HEALTHY pigeons under the same circumstances.
The pigeons that fall behind are just not so healthy as the others.
The better pigeons are the ones that have a better natural orientation.
Which pigeons those are is sometimes very clear early on.
Sometimes it already shows during the very first race for young pigeons or occasionally even sooner.
There was Dutch Kees Hanegraaf who had a miracle pigeon.
As young pigeon in his very first race of just 70 km he was first nominated and won with a tail wind a 1st prize against 8,000 pigeons.
Later he finished 8th in a national race from Orleans against 25,886 pigeons, this time with a head wind.
When I asked Kees why he had nominated this pigeon as first in his very first race he answered that that pigeon had already beaten all others in training tosses. training flights.
In My Own Loft
One of the best pigeon I ever had was 'De Blauwe van 88'.
This pigeon won a 1st prize in his first race with almost a whole minute lead against more than 1,000 young pigeons, which meant about 1,700 mpm. And having a lead of a minute from such a speed race is a lot.
"That is going to be a real champion," I told the other fanciers.
But they laughed at me.
"Because he won a 1st prize with a tail wind in such a short race?"
"Yes, that is exactly why," I thought but I did not say that.
My lofts are situated south-east. The wind that day was (for babies that had never been released together before) south-east, which meant that the whole flock had been drifting to the west.
Except that one pigeon. He was the only one who had separated from the flock. This was proof of good inborn qualities like self confidence and orientation.
Something similar happened to me in 1991.
Two pigeons out of the same nest, the '033' and the '34', won 1st and 2nd in their first race for young pigeons (just 70 km) against over 1,000 pigeons.
Two months later they were the fastest two bird average in the National fromOrleans from about 100,000 pigeons. Now with a head wind.
These two pigeons had those qualities.
Regrettably, both pigeons were lost later on, but a youngster from the '033' was my '145', named Ace Four, he bred several national Aces and National winners and Olympiad birds both in Holland and Belgium descend from Ace Four.
In 2010 Mr Knaven became NATIONAL Champion long distance with descendants Home Alone, a son of Ace Four.
Bubbles and Alessandro Verkerk descend from this line as well as National winners in Belgium (Patrick Rubens, R. Ceusters, M Vanlint, B v Oeckel, Jespers v d Wegen and others).
Then there was the late Jos Leuris.
The stock pigeon who fathered many of his superior racers had himself never won a prize, for the simple reason that he had never been entered in a race.
During the training flights (even from 10 km) he always returned before all the others.
Jos was so impressed that he put the bird in the breeding loft immediately, according to Jos the best thing he could ever have done.
"My husband has the fastest pigeons of the whole world," I once heard a woman say; which seemed a very silly remark to make.
Of course pigeons CAN fly faster than they normally do, look at them when a hawk is chasing them, but when there is no direct need they will not do it.
But returning from a race they do not 'know' that they are competing.
And what about the 'fast wing' that some Germans talk about?
Remains the question if we as fanciers can influence the results to achieve a higher level by deminishing the herd instinct and by increasing the self confidence of the pigeons. I think we can.
(to be continued)