When I was real young I had 3 hobbies:
- Race pigeons.
- Catch pigeons.
'Catch pigeons?' one may wonder.
Right, catch pigeons indeed.
In those days there were about 70 fanciers in the little town in which I lived (now it is reduced to 10) and understandably competition was strong.
Good birds were what we wanted but we had no money to buy them.
Furthermore fellow sportsmen that helped novices were rare, which is of all times, as it seems.
I had a close friend then, who also loved good pigeons.
And whenever there had been a smash our nights were shorts, since we roamed the streets then looking for pigeons in gutters with a torch till late in the evening.
Sometimes we had bad luck and did not find any; sometimes we were lucky, and sometimes very lucky.
That was when we found several stray birds at a time.
Then we shone at the bands on their legs to check if they were Belgian, because it was Belgian pigeons that we wanted in the first place.
We caught them, took them home with us, bred from them and only let them free later if we were in a good mood.
The same thing happened when stray birds entered our lofts; if they were Belgian the owners had bad luck.
But times have changed.
The Dutch and Belgians exchanged birds, the Dutch bought Belgian birds and' recently people wonder if Dutch birds are superior.
'No way' the Belgians unanimously say.
'Sure' many Dutch say and then they refer to International long distance races at which they so often humiliated the Belgians.
Personally I think nowadays there are good and bad birds in both countries and in other countries as well.
But the Belgians have a problem, which was shown at the Olympiad in 2007.
There you could hear many Belgians moan that they could not understand that foreigners now pay more for Dutch birds than theirs.
'What is going on?' they wondered.
'Do you understand why they moan?' a friend asked.
I told him I did.
Since many years Japanese, Americans and Taiwanese have been buying pigeons from Europe and recently the Chinese joined.
Initially it was mainly Belgian birds, later on both and nowadays they pay more for Dutch birds indeed, as it seems.
This is mainly due to the internet and other media.
Fanciers from all over the world can see results of the races now.
And results from Dutch fanciers are often far more impressive than those of their fellow sportsmen in Belgium.
If you read something like:
'Mr 'X' won from Orleans 17,000 birds: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th and from Etampes 12,000 birds 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th''you can be 100 % sure Mr 'X' is Dutch.
In Germany you see such results as well but that is another story.
When in a Belgian pigeon magazine a reporter refers to the fantastic result of Mr 'Y' who won from 300 birds say 4th, 8th and 25th some Dutch laugh as if they want to say 'is that a fantastic result?'
I do not laugh though because I know what it may mean.
Probably Mr 'Y' had entered only 3 or 4 birds.
And probably Mr 'Y' competed 120 fanciers or even more who altogether entered those 300 birds.
Most Belgians enter few birds for a race on which much money may be pooled.
Of course there are mob fliers in Belgium but in Holland far more.
Due to these shockingly difference as for the birdage the results of birds individual also differ a lot.
In Holland people can show off with birds that won for example:
24,000 birds ' 1st
12,000 birds ' 1st
6,000 birds ' 3rd
8,000 birds ' 2nd.
5,000 birds ' 3rd
Let's call such a bird 'Rocket'.
It is absolutely impossible to have such a bird in Belgium.
With 'such a bird' I do not refer to quality but to the results only.
The results of a pigeon in Belgium (let's call him 'Super Star') that won for example:
430 birds ' 1st
520 birds ' 1st
331 birds ' 2nd
700 birds ' 4th
260 birds ' 3rd
can't even compare with Dutch 'Rocket' but still Super Star may be the best ofBelgium and consequently National Ace.
In Holland there are numerous pigeons with better performances than 'Super Star'.
But' if youngsters off both 'Rocket' and 'Super Star' would be offered for sale it stands to reason for which foreign buyers would go and pay more money.
The majority, especially in the Far East and the USA are not aware of the different 'racing circumstances' in Holland and Belgium.
I will make myself clear.
Many Dutch enter all their birds for ONE race only every weekend.
They enter them in their own club, the combine and the Federation.
A Combine is some clubs together.
A federation is a lot of combines together.
Some clubs form a combine, some combines form a federation or province.
Results are made up for clubs, combines and the Federation ('Rayon', 'section' 'province').
The birdage of all combines together can be enormous.
So it stands to reason that there are many club winners, few combine winners and only one provincial winner for that one race.
How different the situation is in Belgium.
Over there most fanciers 2 short distance races on Sundays, a Middle Distance race on Saturday as well as one or more long distance races.
Quievrain and Noyon are the most popular release stations for sprint.
There are different competitions for yearlings, old birds and in the past also hens.
Furthermore they can enter birds in different clubs.
So the following thing can happen:
A guy in Belgium has 30 racers, both cocks and hens.
Since he likes to pool he only races his birds that are in the best condition.
This may mean that he races in one weekend:
- Three hens Quievrain (sprint).
- Four yearlings Quievrain.
- Two yearlings Noyon.
- Two old birds Noyon.
- Two yearlings Middle Distance.
- Three old birds Middle Distance.
- Three birds long distance.
- Three birds in another club for a middle distance race.
So he may participate in 8 different competitions in one weekend while the Dutch only have one race.
Now it may be clear why the entry in Holland is so much bigger, apart from the fact that generally speaking the Dutch keep more birds than the Belgians.
In Holland an old bird is an old bird, whether they are yearlings or hens does not matter and fanciers do not have those possibilities (different competitions) that there Belgian fellow sportsmen have.
They cannot enter birds in other clubs either.
If they race 30 birds they are all in one race, so the same competition.
And hopefully one will understand now that a bird that won a race in Holland against 20,000 birds need not be better than a bird that won a 1st prize in Belgium against 250 birds. The Belgian winner just had no chance to beat more birds, since club results only matter.
In Quievrain up to 200,000 birds are released together but' there are no winners from Quievrain from 200,000 birds, not even from 5,000.
Most foreigners are not aware of these differences.
And it is obvious that they prefer a winner of 20,000 birds to a winner of 400 birds,
this explains why those Belgians were moaning about the high prices that are paid for Dutch birds.
I know the strength of some clubs in Belgium and would prefer a winner of 300 birds there to a winner of 20,000 birds in certain Dutch provinces.
Does this mean Belgian birds are still better?
I do not know.
In 2006 I raced my youngsters with Dutch bands in probably the biggest and strongest combine in Belgium ('Sint Job').
They won the first championships.
I won 1st prizes against about 500 birds entered by 130 fanciers.
In Holland I won 1st prizes against 1,400 birds entered by 35 fanciers!!!
Again: food for thought!