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by John Clements

I cannot say exactly how my first 2013 Tarbes pigeon was bred for I don’t do pedigrees and in truth I am not driven to know in the exact sense of a detailed mating plan. My system is an alternative system based on the whole flock or entire colony in my loft. My system attempts to imitate migrating flocks of sea birds or wild geese that annually migrate from Siberia to the wetlands of England, the Netherlands Belgium and France. They don’t do pedigrees either.

By attempting to imitate nature I allow the pigeons to pair up as they choose but in exchange for this freedom I demand performance over long distances similar to the annual journeys of migration found in nature. In my scheme, long races act in a similar way to migration in that they gradually, over time,  eliminate the pigeons that are unable to perform.

The basis of my present stock is an original round of late-breds I bought cheaply from Carson Bros of Winster, a cock of Gilbert Heynen of Gronsveld given as a gift and a direct Deweerdt cock that also came as a gift. Last year’s Tarbes hen has a lot of the Deweerdt influence in her makeup.

The beauty of my system is that it is in a way similar to migration in that I think in terms of the team as a whole rather than in terms of individuals of special breeding. My entrants for the longer races are prepared as a team not as individuals. Because of this team attitude I usually get not just a single pigeon in the Tarbes result but two or more. Last year I got two in the result out of five sent. This was particularly pleasing as it was a hard year where only five pigeons in the whole race made it home by the second day at my distance of over 700 miles.

Mine was the fifth best timed at 21.08 on the second day to take 2nd section and  37th open. She was also the winner of the Eccles Two Bird’s longest race nomination, the Greater Distance Single Bird Nomination and an RPRA region award.  I knew from past experience this hen was the right type and had the right mental attitude. She had previously scored 35th section, 58th open from Messac (380 miles) in 2010 and subsequently had flown two difficult 440 mile Cholet races in 2011 and 2013, both times on the day. In 2013 my Tarbes team consisted of five pigeons’ one of which I had doubts about.

Her mate – a similarly bred pigeon, prepared in the same way, came early next morning. He  arrived  at 06.15 to be 5th section and 139th open. I intended to get at least one more pigeon so it was no surprise that one came simply because they were all prepared and bred in a similar way.  The idea being if you can get one from a similar bred and similar prepared team you should get two.  


So I am now in the happy position of having two Tarbes pigeons that have grown out of the random flock selection process that has produced a mated pair of hard day Tarbes pigeons. My process over the years has proved to be just as efficient at producing 700-mile pigeons as has any type of controlled carefully selected mating process.

The downside of this is that I cannot sell pigeons because buyers want a pedigree and as selling pigeons makes you famous I am not at all famous and often get confused with other fanciers also named Clements! This name confusion may be a blessing, as might my not selling pigeons. Being undetected, unchallenged, safe under the radar is a very comfortable position to be in.

The fact that fanciers demand pedigrees inevitably means pedigrees are supplied. This inevitably means a few big sellers of pigeons have now decided not to race at all. This, in my mind, is analogous to a flock of wild geese or a collection of sea birds no longer migrating. In the end the species will be wiped out.

There are other things I do that are too complicated to go into in this short introductory piece but as happens in the wild – mating, fitness and food are all connected in and around annual migration cycle of all species. I try to take my inspiration from all of them. My loft is designed to imitate a sea cliff facing onto hostile sea. It has a steep overhanging roof to protect from predators who might try to gain access from above while at the same time there is sufficient height from the ground to deter predators from below. This loft style is designed to inject a feeling in the pigeons that the outside world is hostile but their home and nest box are safe. The feeling of ultimate safety is an essential psychological drive in all long distance racing pigeons. It helps them put up with the physical pain incurred in long flights, as well, in my opinion, helping pigeons to get up in the morning to have yet another go and possibly to cross a difficult sea hazard alone. Pigeons and migratory birds that can do this are some of the world’s best and most tenacious birds. We try to do our best to learn from nature.

So far, as far as I know, no one has yet attemped to imitate my type of loft design nevertheless occasional visitors often make the suggestion that I should have open doors for quicker trapping or that the loft should be made easier for the pigeons to land. Nothing could be wider of the mark.


Elimar - January 2014