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The Academic Approach





by John Clements

Rarely do pigeon fanciers see racing as an intellectual problem to be solved. Pigeon racing, especially in the UK, is for the most part against the intellectual/academic approach. Here, the intellect is seen as a kind of freak attitude that shouldn’t exist and is in no way superior to ‘hands-on’ experience and bragging rights gathered over many years. It is for this reason new ideas are enormously difficult to introduce. Fanciers tend to ‘gang up’ against the new and stick to the habits that have been held for years. The ‘familiar’ is a kind of welcome ‘comfort’ zone where our egos and confidence remain intact. Ideally we all should attempt to fight this kind of complacency less it destroys what is best in the sport.

I corresponded many years ago with J.W. Langstone of ‘Cinderella’ fame when he was at the height of his powers. He once remarked in a letter to me “that in order to have an advantage over your rivals you must do something extra that your rivals are not doing”. This simple but profound remark has stuck with me for over 40 years. It is an intellectual remark. What J.W. meant was the something ‘extra’ was something ‘new’ a new idea not just more of the same.

New thinking, or ‘something extra’, is absolutely necessary if you are to succeed in top company. You have to work out how to do ‘something new’ to consistently beat your rivals whether it be in short fast races or long hard marathon races; ‘something new’ is therefore essential. The essence is that having found that ‘something new’ it is then possible to repeat the feat time and time again and as a consequence, come out near the top on a consistent basis. Strangely enough this does not necessarily mean spending a lot of money.

In order to change our thinking fanciers should begin to think like zoologists or those others who study animal and bird behaviour. Thinking like a zoologist is in essence intellectual/academic  thinking based on evidence. We all should be prepared to think about what it is that helps pigeon navigation and what it is that makes  pigeons fly faster. When we study these things in an intellectual way we automatically leave behind reliance on buying strains and fashion names to achieve our goal.

Strains have now become commercial devices designed to sell the possibility of success. Intellect is not of this type. It is not formed by habit or fashion. Modern pigeon racing, without intellect, relies almost entirely on the fashion of the day. The intellectual challenge of attempting to clock a marathon pigeon flying over 700 miles or winning consistently from 150 miles should not change or alter depending on fashion.

There are still fanciers who cannot see this. Some fanciers actually think pigeon racing is only about speed and buying a particular strain, but as we all know, the velocity calculation is a calculation designed only to make a competition possible. It is not the whole picture and is not the automatic right of any particular ‘strain’. If it there were such a strain, a strain whose pigeons never got lost, everything would be easy.  Of course no such strain exists or has ever existed.

The modern pigeon sport has been side-tracked away from intellectual thinking in other areas apart from actual racing but that is another story and one that affects how the modern sport is run. Here we are pondering about how, as individuals, we can change our methods and start planning, collecting evidence and improving our race performances.

If we manage to do this new ideas not previously attempted are then possible. Some of us may fail but some will succeed and all will learn it is all up to each one of us to begin trying. We can start by learning how to specialise on a particular aspect or a particular distance. This is, of course, the intellectual approach to pigeon racing. 



Elimar - July 2014