of Jabbeke-Snellegem, Belgium
talking to Les J Parkinson
Around the year 2000 we had a trip to Belgium and that was the first time I came across some of the more well known top names on the continent. That was a learning curve that I remember well and when we drew up at the lofts of Marc Pollin straight away I could see the change. On our first trip there were several small lofts but now they were much bigger lofts and fewer of them. This is certainly a professional set up and one that is made for pigeons and the visitors that are very often seen at this address. Marc was winning then and he still is today, in fact he has just had another cracking season. It is always a pleasure meeting top fanciers to see what they have but in many cases there is as expected a language barrier but pigeon fanciers soon get over them.
Widowhood cocks' lofts
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got started in the sport. I am Marc Pollin. I am 65 years old and I have been referred to as a no nonsense men. As child I was already passionate about my father’s pigeons. I was a young men starting with one loft in the early ‘70s and they have grown in the sport year after year. The results followed but no reservations, the passion about pigeons is still there and the search for good and better pigeons is still going on after all these years. Racing pigeons is getting smaller as a sport but more competitive; everyone is trying to win the races.
With your pigeon work do you have a silent partner i.e. wife, partner or friend, and if so what part do they play. In the Pollin family the pigeons are a family affair. Diana does a part of the cleaning and gives water to the pigeons and she also does a lot of the administration. Geert, my son, helps me with basketing the pigeons, takes the pigeons to the clubs and makes the pedigrees and other paperwork that needs doing and this allows me to concentrate 100% on the pigeons themselves.
Give the readers the most memorable results that you have achieved. 1st International Perpignan 14,383 birds. 1st National Perpignan 4,572 birds. 1st National Limoges ylgs 21,463 birds. 2nd National Brive 19,487 birds. 2nd National Montauban 5,438 birds. The list of top 100 places National/International races of last year 2010 is impressive! 2011 not yet done. Olympiade pigeon Basel 2003 cat. All Round Olympiade pigeon Dortmund 2009 cat. Marathon Olympiade pigeon Dortmund 2009 cat. Fond. Kampioenschappen 2010.1ste West-Europese Landencup Grote Fond België. 2de Asduif Fond KBDB. 3de Nationaal kampioen Fond KDBD. 1ste Algemeen kampioen KBDB West-Vlaanderen. 1ste kampioen Fond oude KBDB West-Vlaanderen. 1ste kampioen Halve Fond Jaarlingen KBDB West-Vlaanderen. 1ste Algemeen kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging. 1ste kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging oude duiven. 1ste kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging jaarlingen. 1ste kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging Interprovinciaal kriterium. 1ste Algemeen kampioen Cureghem-Centre. 1ste kampioen Oude duiven Cureghem-Centre. 1ste Asduif Jaarlingen Brugse kampioenschappen. 1ste Flanders Pigeons Trophy: meeste prijzen. 1ste Algemeen kampioen Horizon Express. Winaar 5 jaar klassement Euro Diamond Pigeon Club. 1ste kampioen Union Gistel oude duiven. 1ste kampioen Union Gistel jaarlingen. 1ste kampioen Union Gistel Grote Fond oude en jaarlingen. 1ste kampioen De Torhoutse duif beneden Parijs oude en jaarlingen. 1ste kampioen Fond oude Horizon Express. 1ste kampioen Fond Jaarlingen Horizon Express. 2de kampioen Zware Halve Fond Jaarlingen KBDB West-Vlaanderen. 2de kampioen All-Round Belgische Verstandhouding. 2de kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging: kampioenschap der Azen. 2de kampioen Westvlaamse vereniging: kampioenschap der Jaarse. 2de Asduif Jan Breydel Marathon. 3de Algemeen kampioen Belgische Verstandhouding. 3de Azenkriterium Belgische Verstandhouding. 3de Belgian National Fondthrophy (oude en jl.). 3de Jan Breydel Marathon. 3de Super Cup midfond (oude en jl.) Brugse kampioenschappen. 3de kampioen De Torhoutse duif Fond oude en jaarlingen. 4de kampioen Zware Fond oude KBDB West-Vlaanderen. 4de kampioen Grote Fond Cureghem-Centre. 4de kampioen Jaarlingen Cureghem-Centre. 4de Ere-kampioenschap jongen Riddersclub. 4de kampioen De Torhoutse duif: kampioenschap Ablis/Brionne jongen.
The pigeon at the moment is one that is in big demand around the world and there have been many good offers for him turned down. The pigeon is “Mortifer” Olympiade pigeon category Marathon Dortmund 2009. Here are a selection of the results that this great cock has achieved, there are many more. 2004 - Tours 18th 2,271 birds. Prov 60th 4,132 birds. Beziers 8th 174 birds, Prov 34th 804 birds. Belg Verst 72nd 2,075 birds. National 169th 6,191 birds International 189th 6,702 birds. 2005 - Limoges 3rd 431 birds, 2-J. 2nd 300. Prov 11th 2,310 birds. 2-J. 4th 1,391 birds. Zone A 17th 5,108 birds. 2-J. 7th 3,051 birds. National 20th 12,266 birds. 2-J. 9th 6,617 birds. 2006 - Limoges 9th 477 birds, Prov 43rd 2,104 birds. Zone 90th 4,067 birds. National 127th 9,545 birds. Brive 11th 296 birds, Prov 42nd 1,479 birds. Zone 86th 3,448 birds. National 91st 9,446 birds. 2007 - Irun 4th 277 birds, Prov 8th 1,478 birds, National 26th 5,252 birds. Perpignan 6th 267 birds, Prov 26th 1,065 birds, National 58th 5,547 birds. International 114th 15,087 birds. 2008 - 2008 Montauban 1st 136 birds, Prov 2nd 831 birds, Zone 2nd 2,012 birds, National 2nd 5, 438 birds. Tarbes 4th 210 birds, Prov 24th 1,212 birds, National 57th 4,460 birds, International 92nd 12,537 birds. Chateauroux YLG 3rd 18,725 birds 495km. Souston YLG 3rd 8,443 birds, 890km. International 3rd 10,261 birds. Tarbes 3rd 49th 4,576 birds 914km. International 6th 85th 15,028 birds. Chateauroux 4th 78th 88th 17,109 birds. Gueret oude 13th 2,953 birds, 562km. Argenton ylg’s 15th 58th 94th 19,816 birds, 523km. Cahors 17th 8,651 birds, 751km. Souillac 23rd 36th 99th 7,045 birds 708km. Tulle 25th 6,695 birds 633km. Argenton 32nd 10,549 Gueret young 49th 13,885 birds, Pau 60th 2,183 birds 910km. Limoges Derby 64th 5,607 birds 609km. Libourne ylg’s 68th 6,757 birds 740km. Limoges old 88th 10,488 birds. In the provincial and only the top three, Chateauroux 1st 2,095 birds. Sint-Junien 1st 1,736 birds. Tarbes 1st 1,104 birds. Bordeaux ylg’s 1st 512 birds. Bordeaux old 1st 577 birds. Gueret old 1st 283 birds. Chateauroux 2nd 2,211 birds. Souston 2nd 1,699 birds. Poitiers 3rd 2,128 birds.
What are your lofts made of and how big are they. All my racing lofts are made in wood. Very handy is that in some of my widowhood lofts there is a corridor so I can go in the loft and see the pigeons without making the pigeons “afraid”. There are a good range of lofts that allow me to try different things with my pigeons.
Do you attach any importance to having a tiled roof on a loft. Yes on a tiled roof the pigeons can not pick up dirt.
Do you use any form of heating system in any of your lofts. We don’t have any form of heating system in our loft. We don’t say that after a raining/cold race the pigeons could not enjoy or have any advantage of heating. But we believe more the fact that when you use frequent a heating system you make the pigeons weak.
A premier stock pair
How do you control the ventilation in your loft. There is air circulation under the loft and above the pigeons. Air circulations without the fact that pigeons are feeling the wind!
Do you have any grills fitted in the floor or in the boxes, are there any advantages to using them. There are some grills in the aviaries but the lofts are cleaned out.
What families of pigeons do you keep. We have a few different lines of pigeons so I will describe the three most important ones, and notice that we cross this lines under each other. (1) DeVooruit ’77-pigeon Our main stock bird in history being father, grandfather, great-grandfather to many generations of winners with the most important son being “De Montauban”. Even up to today our best pigeons are related to this bird. (2) Santens. With these pigeons we went in the ‘80s to fond and longer distance races. Gerardje and other pigeons of this pigeons are still in our stock loft where they are influencing today’s winners. (3) The Perpignan and his children are very important in our pigeon family. Nowadays I’m very successful with children of Dortmunder, Mortifer and especially the Nai-line. Two of Nai’s direct sons were very successful in racing but even better on the stock loft where he is responsible for very many winners.
BREEDING AND RACE PREPARATION/PLANNING
How do you go about bringing in a new family and what do you look for. When we bring in new pigeons we look at two things: First, and most important, we have to like the pigeon. This is rather difficult to explain, there has to be “a click” between the pigeon and me. Second, the pigeon has to have good family. The pigeon itself does not have to be a winner, but very the close family of the pigeon have to be. We believe in family lines for pigeons.
When you bring in that new family do you think that they need time to acclimatise. Sure they need time to acclimatise but most important is that the fancier has to give the pigeons the necessary credits. Try to breed with different partners, search for the best breeding partner and you will find the top pair to breed from. When you breed out of a family of winners, sooner or later you breed winners.
Which of the two sexes do you consider is the most important when it comes to breeding. Equal. You have to look at your home of pigeons and be honest and critical. When you have a good set up of winning cocks/breeders, you look for a good hen for them. You feel like you losing quality on cocks (racing/breeders) you can bring in a lot of good cocks.
When it comes to breeding do you line-breed or use a first cross or just pair winners to winners. We experiment a lot with our breeders; we change a lot of partners, this in search of the “ideal couple”. We do not breed close family. We look more to the family-lines and bring two good lines comes together. We also look at the body of the pigeons and we do not couple up two big or two small pigeons together.
What method do you use to select your breeders. We like to use our own winners and the pigeons we bring in need to be from a very good winning family. We like to be very selective.
When do you pair your pigeons. At the end of November we pair our stock pigeons and race pigeons so we have youngsters in early January. At this time there are young bird rings available. The racing pigeons go back together early April. So when they have eggs we can easily train up the cocks. After the racing season our best racers also raise a couple of late youngsters.
How many stock birds do you keep. We have about 20 breeding couples and some of them are kept in individual boxes. This system has 2 advantages: (1) we are 100% sure that the youngsters are from this couple. (2) We can couple one cock with two hens. We make sure we breed out of our race team as a good racing cock comes to the stock loft at about 5 or 6 years of racing then we know already something about his breeding capacities.
What is the farthest distance that you would train your old birds or young birds. The training at home goes in 4 or 5 stages to 75km then from 100km they go to the club for training. Then they learn to come with others pigeons and each individual must break for their home.
Do you breed off the top widowhood cocks after the racing has finished. Yes, we breed a lot of late youngsters and fanciers who have the place and the patience to let late breds grow out can keep the best stock birds out of them. Late breds can be good racers also but here also patience is the keyword, not many have that with later bred young birds.
How do you race your pigeons and how many. We have about 100 racing pigeons that consists of old birds and yearlings. That seems to be a lot but if you want to play all the races that’s even not enough.Pigeon racing is very competitive and you need plenty of pigeons to select for the best races.
In your view do you think that a loft needs different pigeons for different distances. We believe in a family of pigeons who can fly any distances. You only have to find out which pigeons perform best at which distance. From two brothers one can be good at middle distance and one at long distance. You have to give them a chance to prove themselves.
Is there any specific condition that your pigeons perform best at, or any particular time of the year. Our pigeons make the best positions when they have to “fight” against the weather conditions; this is how they show how fit they are, winning when things are against them. This has not been a problem for our pigeons.
When do you allow your racers to take a bath. In the beginning of the week they have to opportunity to take a bath.
Do you use any floor dressing or do you clean the pigeons out daily. The boxes are the pigeons home so they are cleaned out daily but we like to leave the floor for every week.
Do you like to have plenty of room for the pigeons. Yes, this is important in our opinion and we don’t like too many pigeons on one loft. Pigeons need space if they are going to be happy and win races.
How do you feed the cocks and what do you feed them on, a branded mix or do you buy separate corns and mix your own. We use the mixes of Versele-Laga who have invested a lot to find the right mixtures for our pigeons. So we think that they know the best what pigeons like to eat and what is healthy for them.
Do you measure the amount that you give to each pigeon, or are they fed according to the individual pigeon. We don’t measure the food and don’t feed them as individuals, and our racing pigeons have always food in their loft. A pigeon who cannot handle food (eat to much) can not be a good pigeon.
Do you attach any importance to grits and minerals or can the pigeons get what they want they are out of the loft. Grit is nearly always available on the lofts.
Is there a way that your pigeons let you know when they are in form. This is a matter of observation. When a pigeons trains well that’s a sign that he is in good condition. So you have to watch them and race and pool them at the right time.
Do you have any secrets about what you do with your pigeons and how you get them right. No secret, a fact, we give daily Kaucabam to our pigeons. Truly, the pigeons are almost always in a good condition and not weak, less chance to become sick.
Do the pigeons need any special treatment on their return from the race to help them relax. Is any such treatment needed for the short or long distance races or the hard races compared to the easy races. They can relax up till the next race (joke). We just do not force them to train after the race. The pigeon feels his own body, when he is recovered he train again, if not he sit outside and do not train, so we leave them.
How many weeks do you think a pigeon can maintain its form on the widowhood system for both cocks and hens. We only race cocks because a cock can maintain its form a long time when the races are not too hard or extreme.
If your race team went off form during the season what action would you take to restore their condition. Be patient! Not force them, better keep them a week at home. When you force the pigeons you can lose them and that is even worse than not winning.
Do you think a pigeon has the capabilities of racing both short and long distance races. Also what distance can a pigeon actually still “RACE” as opposed to homing from any race point. A good all round racing pigeon can win on short to longer distance! If you only breed out of long distance pigeons of course they lose the capacity of sprint. When you only breed off sprint pigeons, you can not expect to win Barcelona. We try to breed all round pigeons. We look to this when we couple up or bring in pigeons. After a few years a racer loses his sprint capacities against younger pigeons but then again he can still be a mid fond and fond racer.
If you could pass on one piece of advice or tip, at this point to fanciers old and young, what would it be. Have patience with pigeons. Give a young or yearling pigeon enough chances and give a stock pigeon enough chances with different partners; you might not have the right one as a matched pair at first.
How far do you race your yearlings. The yearlings who perform well on the classic yearling races, Chateauroux, Argenton and Limoges, stay on this programme. The others go to the more long distance races for yearlings like Bordeaux, Libourne and Tulle.
What races do you send your long distance candidates to before their chosen race. The normal speed and middle fond races then we look for a programme to bring them on a good condition of the chosen race.
Where do you house your widow hens. In an aviary; they stay outside the whole day and they just come inside 15 minutes in a day to eat and drink and they stay outside even when the widowhood cocks are training.
Can you tell the readers your routine for preparing pigeons for the longer races. We do not show hens before the race we send them peaceful.
Have you had Young Bird Sickness in your loft and if so what have you treated them with. Every fancier have to deal with young bird sickness. Do not panic, if the pigeons have a general good health they recover from it soon.
Do you race your young birds. We play with our young cocks up till 600km. We prefer yearlings that have raced as young birds. This will give them an advantage as yearlings. But a good and clever late bred can also fly nice results. With our hens we play the national young bird races.
Do you use any preventative medication. When the loft is sick we go to a vet and get a cure and when one pigeon is sick he has to leave.
Some fanciers go out and purchase good quality winning pigeons but never appear to make the grade, why do you consider that this happens. When you purchase pigeons you also have to look at the results of your own pigeons. You can not expect that if your own pigeons do not make any results pigeons of other fanciers can make results on your loft. Sorry, but too many fanciers blame the pigeons and not to the fancier himself.
Do you give any special treatments when the pigeons return from the race as a precaution against anything that they may have picked up in the basket. We believe that Kaucabam makes the pigeons stronger and less weak to pick up something (disease) from the basket. If this is the case, we go to a vet and follow this advice.
Which fancier has influenced you most in the way in which you fly your pigeons. Most important was of course my father, Leon Pollin. As a young man I used to help basketing pigeons in the club. There I learned a lot off the elder pigeon fanciers.
Which Champion pigeons over the years have left an impression on you and perhaps influenced your direction in the sport. A one day winner can make an impressive result but to make real impression for us a pigeon must have been regularly in the top results. Look at the results of Gerardje 5 x Dax, 5 x Perpignan and The Perpignan, 5 x Perpignan, and The Montauban who had different top results on Montauban and other nationals.
Whenever I have visited a loft fanciers always look at the pigeons eye. Do you consider that the eye has any importance.
Indeed, we look also in the eye but with no particular reason. We do not following any theories about it. We like a strong clear eye, why, why not. We like the eyes of a winner (joke).
What past mistakes have you learned from. Thinking we know everything about pigeons.
Is there anything that you do not like about the sport, something that you feel needs changing for the good of the sport. It’s getting more and more difficult for young people to start with pigeons. With different reasons: more and more expensive, regulations about building lofts, pigeon sport has an old image and needs changing.
Here are the results from last season, Arras 1st 3rd 14th. Orleans old 1st 2nd 11th. Orleans ylg’s 1st 4th 12th 16th. Poitiers old 2nd 4th 9th 10th 11th 14th 19th. Poitiers YLG’s 2nd 3rd 4th 7th 11th, Prov old 1,827birds. 17th Prov YLG’s 7th 17th. Chateauroux YLG’s 1st 29th 50th Prov 2,095 birds YLG’s 1st. National 18,251 yearlings 3rd. Tours YLG’s 2nd 6th 7th 11th. Poitiers old birds 2nd 10th 11th, YLG’s 1st 5th 7th 9th 14th 16th Prov 2,128d. OB’s 3rd 31st 34th. Chateauroux old 1st 4th 5th. Chateauroux YLG’s 2nd 3rd 12th. Prov 2,211 old birds 2nd 19th 24th. Prov 4,107 YLG’s 27th 29th. National 17,109 old birds 4th 78th 88th. National YLG’s 22,718 YLG’S 118th 125th. Cahors 1st, National 8,622 birds 17th. Argenton YLG’S 1st 2nd 4th 6th 10th 20th. Argenton old birds 1st 6th, Prov 3,250 YLG’s 6th 17th 24th. Prov 1,398 old birds 11th. National Prognose 19,816 yearling 14th. National old birds 10,549 old birds 32nd. Bordeaux YLG’s 1st 2nd 3rd 5th 12th, Old birds 1st 2nd 11th 14th, Prov YLG’s 1st 12th, Prov old birds 1st 10th, Inter Prov YLG’s 1st 14th, Inter Prov old birds 1st 12th. Limoges National 10,448 old birds 88th 105th, National YLG’s 5,607 birds 64th. Souston old birds 2nd 15th, Prov 1,699 birds 2nd. National 8,433 birds 3rd, International 10,190 birds 3rd 417th. Tarbes 1st 3rd 7th Int Prov 1st 4th Prov 1,104 birds, 1st 15th 45th National 4,576 birds, 3rd 49th 120th International 15,035 birds. Limoges YLG’s 1st 4th 16th 18th, National 14,211 birds. Poitiers 3rd 11th 17th 2/J 1st 5th 13th. Blois 1st 13th. Souillac National 7,045 birds 23rd 36th. Brionne 1,295 birds 1st 70th 79th 87th 91st. Lisieuxverbond 10,388 birds 7th. Poitiers YLG’s 2nd 3rd 4th 5th. Tulle 2nd 6th 7th. National 6,695 O.B’s 25th 195th 197th. St.-Junien 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 9th 11th 12th 13th 14th 16th 20th. St.-Junien OB 1st 3rd. Westfondverbond 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 6th 8th 11th 13th 20th, Prov 1st 9th 10th 12th 17th. Hoofdvlucht 1,736 birds 1st 12th 13th 15th. Gueret 1st 9th 15th 17th. Gueret 1st 5th 13th. Dub. 1st 6th 16th, Prov 1st 8th.
Marc Pollins trophies - some of them at least as there are a lot around the house and offices!
Footnote. On this my second visit to the lofts of Marc Pollin I could see no real change in the man himself. He is still the same man as when we first went over 10yrs ago. What I will say is that this is certainly a professional set up and one that is not going to go down judging be the present form that it has seen. I have also studied the results and for a fancier living so far over towards France he has definitely got it right. Even when the conditions are against him he has still had top class results and that does show just how good the pigeons are.