PIGEONS WITH X-FACTOR
Trends come and go in pigeon racing almost as quick as the racing seasons themselves and many fanciers set their hearts on the latest strain because to be successful , you have to have a strain right? Well I have selected several successful fanciers from various decades of this great sport of ours to show that in most cases “X really does mark the spot” on the road to success .
There are no absolutes in pigeon sport so says Dirk Van Den Bulck, a fancier who has left his mark on 21st century pigeon racing thanks to his excellent stock sense and birds at the base of which we find Leo Heremans among others , leads me to ask why are so many fanciers obsessed by the notion of Absolutism and secrets? Maybe Human nature is to blame as to why some fanciers fall by the wayside, after all most champions are flexible in their thinking again the pedigrees of the Bulk birds with the crossing of winning genes from various fanciers are a prime example of this “flexible” approach. Champion fanciers have been doing this for decades and in fact centuries. One of the first fanciers to do this with success was a fancier whom many regard as the architect of the modern racing pigeon, I am of course speaking of Karel Wegge from Lier, the town which is famous for its pigeon market, and he died well over a hundred years ago or more!
“You must have good pigeons, everything else is a side issue. “This was the golden rule of pigeon sport according to the grandmaster that was Jan Grondelaers. A fancier who in his prime was the personification of pigeon racing perfection. The year was 1920 , on the political stage The League of Nations was established, but for pigeon racing 1920 was also a significant year for our beloved sport because that year in Opglabeek Belgium in the province of Limburg that great champion Jan Grondelaers drew his first breath ,I am sure that at that moment nobody knew that this child would go on to become a global superstar with an immense passion for pigeons that would see him dominate the sport like no other fancier had ever done before! Jan first got the pigeon bug at the age of 11 but due to the outbreak of the second world war, this start was short lived. so, it was not until 1952 that the name of Grondelaers would once again adorn the result sheet. From my research Jan was not the only member of his family to have a competitive spirit his brother Robert was a competitive cyclist and took part in the Olympic games in Helsinki. It is interesting to note that for a time Jan was Roberts manager, one cannot help but wonder what valuable lessons in terms of Diet, exercise and rest were learnt in this period which would help Jan reach the pinnacle of professional pigeon racing. The first birds came from a local source in the form of Bammens from Zwartberg. This Bammens owned a pigeon that flew 50 prizes including ten pure firsts this fancier dominated the race results every week and as he did his whole life Grondelaers selected the three best pigeons from this loft which would go on to produce the first prize winners of his formative years. To stand still in this sport is to go backwards and so Jan continued his search for exceptional pigeons because without them success is impossible. The reason I mention these three fanciers is because they have each in their respective eras attained success through crossing pigeons, meanwhile many British fanciers remain obsessed with the notion of a pure strain!
I do not think anyone would argue if I was to say that the pigeons of Georges Busschaert are among the most successful birds ever introduced to our shores, but it may surprise some to learn that “George” was in fact called Remi and was born in 1911 in St Lodewijk-Deerlijk in Belgium. Like many households of the period the Busschaert family were no strangers when it came to the sport of pigeon racing because their father was already a fancier and so it is little wonder that the son would follow in his footsteps. In his early years Busschaert raced in partnership with Albert Nuttyens who had married his sister Alice, the partnership immediately set off in search of top quality winning pigeons buying several at auction including a mealy Commines and a pigeon called Tito from Hector Baele of Scheldewinke. They bought De Plattekop from Vandevelde and sons and daughters out of ‘The Coppi’ and ‘Witterugge’ from Michel Nachtergaele of Zulte. George later borrowed ‘The Coppi’ to pair to the daughters of ‘Tito’. They later also bought the pigeon called ‘De Fijnen’ from Michel Nachetregaele. This perfectly illustrates once again the significant role of cross breeding. It was in later years when George was sent over to Kent to managed the family textile business that the pigeons reach the next level with birds bred by his brother and brother in law , George began racing in England , it was around this time that a friendship was formed with a fancier by the name of Gil Duncan of Deal the two soon formed a formidable partnership thanks to such pigeons as The Crack’, ‘The Coppi cock’, The Great Coppi’, The Bonten’, ‘The Blesse’. It wasn’t long until fanciers across The United Kingdom began beating a path to the door of George Busschaert, between the years of 1956 and 1962 the Busschaert loft won over a staggering 150 first prizes often taking the first three positions at federation level and as they say the rest is history!
I hope that readers have enjoyed looking at some of the great champions and I hope it proves that thinking outside the box can go a long way. Until next time enjoy your pigeons!
Jan Grondelaers in his younger years
One of the most famous fanciers of modern times Dirk Van Den Bulck
The iconic Georges Busschaert