All the same speed?
It is always fascinating to watch racing pigeons flying over on Saturdays in the
south of Holland or in Belgium, especially with a slight headwind or no wind
at all, because then they fly lower. It's remarkable that sometimes these
pigeons are still flying in a large group, and that you don't see birds dropping
out of that group because they 'can't keep up'. You won't see pigeons
breaking away from the group either; they are all 'group flyers' that are
seemingly flying equally fast. Sometimes you can see such a group
overtaking other pigeons, but these are flying higher or lower.
What we see confirms the thesis:
'Under the same circumstances, healthy pigeons will develop the same
speed up to a distance of about 400 kilometres.'
On racing days, when the majority of pigeons has flown over, you can see
stragglers that fly slower than the rest, but looking at the way they are flying,
they are not healthy pigeons. If the speed is the same why is it that pigeons
on their way home fly in single file and not side by side? The pigeons that fly
a little bit behind, apparently had a later start from the release area, or they
went off in the wrong direction and corrected their route later on.
You may also ask why these pigeons are still together in such large
numbers. Indeed, that shouldn't be, unless they all come from the same
loft or their lofts are in a direct line with each other, which is not so of
course. Most of them are flying an incorrect route because they are
'group flyers'. And there are even more of those with group releases,
like they do in the Netherlands. With combined releases of several districts
(provinces), or with national releases, you don't see these large groups.
With combined releases of several
districts, or with national releases, you
don't see such large groups.
Sceptics will put forward that pigeons sometimes fly minutes ahead,
especially with a tailwind. Have they not been flying faster? Probably they
did, but they flew at a different height 'with a stronger tail wind', while the
thesis was 'under the same circumstances'.
The strength of the wind can after all be very different, depending on the
height. You will sometimes see that with clouds that are 'sliding over each
other'. These lead victories are less common with a head wind, because all
the pigeons are flying equally high, or rather equally low, so that the
circumstances are the same for all of them.
In a race over a shorter distance, Belgians will call that 'speed'. This term is
not used correctly here. Germans will speak of 'a fast wing'. This doesn't
make sense either. And those speed lines in the eyes, of which Gert Jan
Beute so often speaks?
I'm sorry for Gert Jan, but I believe that is also nonsense. Even if one pigeon
would be able to fly faster than others, I still don't believe that you can read
Pigeons must sometimes fly over mountains and through valleys. However, the
speed is calculated in a straight line and that distorts the rate at which pigeons
actually flies in reality.
that in the eyes. What it all comes down to is that races for pigeons (up to
the middle-distance) are not speed races but orientation races, or navigation
Long-distance is another story, because after flying for many hours, one
pigeon will be more tired than another. I can therefore understand that
pigeons can't keep up any longer in long-distance races, because they don't
have the physical strength that other pigeons have.
If it's therefore mainly a question of orientation, then we are talking about a
quality that can't be seen. Not in the back, not in the build, the wing or the
eye. And certainly not in such nonsense as square armpit feathers. This
explains why especially champions always claim not to know anything about
It puts me in mind of Gust Jansen and the late Albert Marcelis. If you got one
of their pigeons in your hands and studied it they would both say: 'examining
a pigeon is good, but you will never find the one quality you are looking for'.
It also reminds me of Jan Grondelaars. He always said: 'If you want to
strengthen your middle-distance team, you must buy speed pigeons. Speed
pigeons have the most important quality that a pigeon needs which is a good
sense of orientation.'
And Jan practised what he preached. He bought speed pigeons mainly from
Staf van Reet and Hofkens, and these pigeons would make him an even
bigger champion on the middle-distance than he already was.
Now you know the reason why I prefer to buy my pigeons in Belgium.
Fanciers who did the same were Bosua and later De Bruyn, Eyerkamp and
Breman, who all won NPO competitions with descendants from their 'Belgian
This brings us to the topic 'speed pigeons have long-distance in them'. Some
fanciers believe after all that speed pigeons don't exist, that a good pigeon
is a good pigeon and that the distance is not important. I wouldn't go that far.
I also believe that some 'Quievrain racers' don't realize what their pigeons are
capable of on longer distances, but that does not apply to all speed pigeons.
As mentioned before, other qualities are necessary for being able to fly for
many hours, qualities that many speed pigeons don't have. You can
recognize these pigeons that can't fly further by stiff flights!
Moreover, Marcelis and also Jos van der Veken believed that there are 'white
ravens' that are able to fly faster than others. Particularly pigeons like 'De
Sprint' and 'De Olieman'.
I talked earlier about my middle-distance pigeons and one-day long-distance
races. However, pigeons for the middle-distance are something else entirely
than pure Belgian speed pigeons.
Belgian speed pigeons are selected on one single race (the race from
Quievrain of no more than 100 kilometres) and ... there is an essential
difference in races with one or two nights in the basket.