When I write this the new racing season will start pretty soon and fanciers wonder how it will be. For many this is simple: This much depends on how good the yearlings are. In most lofts two third of the racers are yearlings.
We know how they performed as babies, but we also know good results as a baby are no guarantee for the year after.
It happens that babies are in such top form that you get the (wrong) impression you bred a basket full of good birds. This top form concealed quality.
And vice versa of course: The birds may have had poor results as a baby because they were in poor shape.
Champions in pigeon sport think and act very differently but one thing most of them agree on:
Growing a "super" is primarily a matter of chance, with knowledge that has little to do. Why else can it happen that a pair gives a super bird and this never happens again?
On the other hand, breeding is not a gamble or lottery either.
They are often the same fanciers that regularly breed good birds.
Naturally the result sheet only will show how a good a bird is.
The basket is the ultimate executioner, the basket has the last word always.
When flying good pedigrees, good brothers or sisters, or nice eyes do not count any more.
Take Belgian Jef, who has been a great champion all his life.
He is unknown abroad for 3 reasons:
- He races very few birds.
- He does not race the national long distance races.
- He is not a seller and consequently hates publicity.
He does not even have pedigrees of his birds, let it be an own website. He is a sportsman, he wants to win races, all the rest is not relevant.
I did not know him personally, only knew his results, till I met him.
That was when my attention was drawn by someone with a basket of pigeons along the road. Relaxed, he sat on a sort of camp chair next to a pigeon basket.
No piles of baskets as you often see, but only one and a little one.
Occasionally, he poured himself coffee from a thermos and looked at his watch with great regularity. Every time he released a pigeon he made a note .
I recognized him from the picture, this was Sjef, of all people.
I stopped and started a conversation.
It became clear that tosses were the criterion for Sjef to judge his birds.
He breeds about 60 babies yearly, When they are three months old some 40 are left. The rest is lost or eliminated.
At that age he starts tossing the birds. Each time he releases them one by one and every time a bird is released he writes down the time and the band number.
At home his wife in turn also writes down the arrival time and the band number of each bird. Thus he has a record about all his babies after some tosses.
Birds that arrive home late again and again are eliminated.
When the racing season starts only about 20 have survived the selection.
After the young bird season again there will be a selection.
Neither origin nor beauty count , the selection is based on results and results only.
Normally a dozen is considered to be good enough and this number is reduced to about six ( ! ) in spring.
With those six he starts the racing season and believe me, this man is good!
Far better than most of the world famous names.
After I had heard his story I was not surprised he races so well.
From the day they were born the birds are selected again and again.
If you do like him you will end up having good birds. There is no other way.
Jef reminded me of W Geerts in his glory years. Training was for him a kind of religion. He also focused on the arrivals of training tosses.
He had about 80 widowers whose boxes were numbered from left to right.
If widowers were trained, they were put in boxes which were also numbered from left to right.
So the pigeon in nest box one got a place in particle 1 of basket one.
The pigeon in nest box 2 was put in particle 2 of basket one.
And so on.
And if, say for arguments sake, eight pigeons were home, they should be the birds of the nest boxes 1 to 8.
If the birds of the boxes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 11 were home after a while this meant that the pigeon in box 5 was late, the one in box 11 was good on time.
If the bird in nest box 4 arrived first it did a good job, better than the ones in the boxes 1, 2 and 3.
After some tosses he knew which birds got home well and which did not.
This was very handy for pooling money.
I do not know how seriously you take this approach, but if you would know how good Jef races you would it VERY seriously.
Personally, I also note the arrivals of training flights, both from old and young birds.
I noticed too often that real good birds were even in front from tosses of real short distance.
- Yearlings that surprised me often became the better birds later.
- Old birds that had proven to be good in previous years but came home late from those tosses nearly all had a poor year after.
Obviously all this became much easier by electronic clocking, but the problem is that
individual tossing takes time.
Especially for those that have a job it is almost impossible.
But for them this sport is more difficult anyway.
Fanciers with a full time job just can forget to excel in young bird racing.
It is a painful conclusion, but it is like it is.
Do such fanciers have any chances to perform in this sport then?
Of course, but they should have other priorities than young bird racing.
The man with little time should not keep more birds than he can handle and focus on middle and long distance.
And the press should appreciate the results of the fancier who races few birds.
Now the result of the professional who wins say 30 prizes from 70 birds he entered gets all the attention.
The result of the amateur who wins 4 prizes from 4 birds he entered is often ignored.
This is very frustrating for the amateur and the majority are amateurs.
One of the reasons of this situation is business. The profs sell and are after money, commission hunters are their helpers.