Harrie and Roger Wijnands (Maastricht, NL) dominated the marathon competition in The Netherlands for over 40 years (Part 1)

Harry & Roger Wijnands have been one of the most prominent names in the marathon competition in The Netherlands for more than 40 years. The fanciers from Maastricht have 7 national victories to their name, and they are also two time National marathon champion in The Netherlands.

Harry Wijnands passed away on 29th of July 2019 at the age of 92. It marks the end for the invincible long distance pigeon family of Harry and Roger Wijnands, which had the Ringhoeve in Maastricht as their home base. This father-son combination was founded in 1975 with a group of long distance birds, and they claimed their first national victory back in 1983. They were undeniably among the strongest long distance fanciers in The Netherlands over the past 40 years. They won pretty much every race on the calendar. This makes for a total of 7 national victories, alongside numerous national and international championship titles. It begs the question: has anyone ever done better? In this two-part series we will look back on how it all started, and we will discuss some of the pigeons that have been at the basis of their many successes, today and in the past.

Harry, who worked as a farmer (and he did so until the age of 74), developed a passion for pigeons already in 1945. He kept them in an empty bedroom on the farm but he was forced to get rid of them in 1950 because he had to spend all his time working the farm. It was his son Roger, who works as a confectioner, who reintroduced pigeons back in the family. As a kid, his father Harry had learned how to catch birds and keep them a small cage. But Roger was mostly catching stray pigeons instead of stray birds, and he did not want to let go of them. The family built a small pigeon loft for Roger in the attic above the cow stalls, and that is how Roger's pigeon racing career took off. In the early 1970s Harry and Roger started to get serious about racing pigeons, as they installed several more pigeon lofts above the cow stalls. They eventually turned their focus towards the extreme long distance in 1975, and it was this decision that turned them into world famous fanciers.

The lofts above the more than 130 year old farmhouse with its beautiful courtyard

The lofts in the attic sitting under the old tiles from Boom

The pigeon breed and the most important stock breeders

It would be almost impossible to talk about each and every successful pigeon in Harry and Roger's collection. Many renowned fanciers have played an important role in the development of their long distance breed, and in this article we will be discussing the pigeons that have been invaluable in the team's many successes over the past 40 years. Their current generation of birds mainly consists of pigeons of the Kuypers Brothers (Neer, NL), Cretien Vanoppen (Althoeselt, BE), Brouwers-Kodama (Grevenbricht, NL) and Anton & Lucie van der Wegen (Steenbergen, NL). They also introduced pigeons of Fons Vanophuizen-Marell (Landgraaf, NL), Jo Gillissen (Cadier en Keer, NL), Roger Florizone (Nieuwpoort, BE), while other recent investments came from Theo Daalmans (Elsloo, NL) with Skyfall & Madness, Thieu Cox (Stein, NL), Jos Thoné (As, BE) with Beluga, and Noël Peiren (Zedelgem, BE). Their first long distance pigeons come from Huub Smets (Mechelen, NL) and from two champions from Maastricht: Pol Poismans and the Kusters Brothers. The fanciers also obtained pigeons from the Kuypers Brothers (Neer, NL), Lucie v.d. Wegen (Steenbergen) and others. One of their absolute number one stock breeder would be Kleine Jo (NL82-1563734), which came straight from former Dutch marathon champion Jo Gilissen. 

NL82-1563734, Kleine Jo

It was the fantastic Kleine Jo (NL82-1563734) who developed to become the number one stock breeder in the first couple of years; he comes from renowned long distance fancier Jo Gilissen. This former Dutch champion used to be a highly successful satellite loft of the late Marcel Braakhuis (Heer, NL). We can see in the pedigree of Kleine Jo that he is related to a 1st Nat. Barcelona (Aarden) of v.d. Slik (Middelharnis, NL), through Krouwell-Pollman. The dam of Kleine Jo was inbred to the legendary top pair of Marcel Braakhuis, which are also the parents of the famous "black killers". Kleine Jo was an outstanding long distance pigeon back in te day, winning for instance:

 5th Nat. St. Vincent 24,279 p.
30th Nat. Dax         13,308 p.
33rd Nat. Bergerac    22,510 p.
37th Nat. Dax         12,188 p.
45th Nat. Dax         15,473 p.

After which he developed into a super class breeder. Kleine Jo is the grandfather of:

NL89-2863641 De Soustons :   1st Nat.  Soustons    1992 20,230 p. (plus car winner)
NL93-1546348 Ballerini   :   4th Nat.  Soustons    1998 13,781 p. (plus car winner)
                             4th Prov. Bergerac    1996  8,972 p.
                            63rd Nat.  Dax         1998 17,121 p.
                           244th Nat.  St. Vincent 1997 20,073 p.
                           318th Nat.  Dax         1997 20,349 p.
                           374th Int.  Tarbes      1996  6,603 p.
                           509th Int.  Dax         1995  5,776 p.
                           560th Nat.  Soustons    1997 12,373 p.
                           720th Nat.  St. Vincent 1998 21,385 p.
NL93-028                 :   5th Nat.  St. Vincent
                            23rd Nat.  Souston
Jackpot                  :  19th Nat.  Bordeaux          4,831 p.
                            23rd Nat.  Marseille         5,415 p.
NL91-040                 :  15  prizes in the extreme long distance
etc., etc...

Kleine Jo is clearly the recurring theme in the team of champions of Harry and Roger.

NL84-158128, Kuyper 128 (brother Pau duivin)

In 1984, they did a golden investment in the lofts of the renowned Kuypers Brothers (Neer, NL), and these pigeons have had quite an impact on the Wijnands pigeon lofts. They obtained four pigeons, three of which proved particularly successful. The first two pigeons were youngsters of the golden breeding pair of the Kuypers Brothers: Matterne x Barcelona 28, which are also the grandparents of the legendary Beatrix. The other two pigeons were bred from Son Spin x De Pau duivin. Brother Pau duivin (NL84-128) was paired to a hen of Van de Wegen when he bred the famous Bordeaux (NL87-2765957), an exceptionally gifted racing and breeding bird. This is his palmares:

 10th Nat. Marseille   2,724 p.
 19th Nat. Bordeaux    1,162 p.
101st Nat. Barcelona  10,574 p.
135th Nat. Marseille   5,057 p.
171st Nat. Perpignan   3,242 p.

After his racing career, Bordeaux became one of the team's most important stock breeders. He is for instance the sire of:

NL96-1222001 De Sluiper :   21st Nat.Perpignan  1998
                           655th Nat. Barcelona 1998
                           229th Nat. Bordeaux  1997
NL96-1222040            :   29th Nat Pau        1998
NL97-2044536 Bobet      :    9th Nat. Munchen
NL96-1222150 De Duiker  :   32nd Chateauroux           617 p.
                            78th Nat. Perpignan 2000
                           534th Nat. Barcelona 1999 8,140 p.
                         1,398th Nat. Barcelona 2000 7,568 p.
                           573rd Nat Barcelona  2001 7,567 p.
                           761st Nat Perpignan  2001 8,627 p.

The two direct pigeons of Kuypers Brothers NL84-158128 x NL158127 were inbred, and together they bred Goede Blauwe Kweker (NL85-2046142), which is a fantastic breeding bird.

To begin with, Goede Blauwe Kweker is the sire of NL88-2530563, winner of a 48th Nat. Barcelona and a 49th Nat. Munchen. This NL88-563 was paired to a hen of Georges Carteus (Ronse, BE) and together they bred none other than Poulidor (NL97-204454), winner of an 8th Nat. Bordeaux '98 of 6,656 pigeons and a very successful racing bird in Barcelona, Perpignan and Pau. A hard working brother of Poulidor, Lothar, was quite successful as well, winning a 25th Nat. Munchen '00, 114th Prov. Bourges '99 (8,231 p.), 415th Nat. Bordeaux '99 (3,558 p.), 757th Nat. Barcelona '01 (7,567 p.) etc. Goede Blauwe Kweker was also paired to the phenomenal Tafi (NL94-2015124), which has an impressive palmares as well:

 19th Nat. Perpignan 5,479 p.
 37th Nat. Marseille 4,307 p.
383rd Nat. Barcelona 6,290 p.

And he has been a rather successful breeder too. He is for instance the sire of Mis Mis (NL97-2044612), winner of a 22nd Nat. Perpignan '99 (6,875 p.), a 331st Nat. Perpignan '00 (7,195 p.) etc. He was called Mis Mis because he did not win a single prize as a yearling.

BE88-5127833, De Blauwe Vanoppen

Cretien Vanoppen won a 1st International Barcelona in 1987. This was probably the most difficult edition in history, and it took almost a week until the last prizes could be awarded. It was so hot that day that asphalt was starting to melt in France and that sparrows would fall dead from the roof. Harry and his wife Mai (which died at the age of 90) would spend most of their Sundays going out on a trip by car, and one day they decided to try and locate the pigeon lofts of Cretien Vanoppen. They found the address and they drove around the house a few times. They saw Cretien outside the house so they pulled over, and they were invited inside for a cup of coffee. Upon leaving, Harry asked if he could perhaps obtain a pair of youngsters from the parents of his race winner in Barcelona the following year (1988). Cretien said that he was willing to trade with a different pair, rather than sell a few youngsters. And one of those youngsters that he obtained in 1988 was super class breeder Blauwe Vanoppen. We think this pigeon is a truly brilliant breeder, and that is not an exaggeration. It would be almost impossible to list up his successful descendants from the first, second and later generations, so we will focus on some of the most noteworthy descendants instead:

NL91-1015099 De Vale 099:  28th Nat.  Perpignan  4,342 p.
                           53rd Nat.  Marseille  4,601 p.
                           82nd Nat.  Barcelona  7,767 p.
                          134th Nat.  Barcelona  5,737 p.
                          329th Nat.  Soustons  20,264 p.
NL96-1222077 Gimondi    :   1st Prov. Barcelona  2,002 p. (and 14th Nat. 6,290 p.)
                           89th Nat.  Perpignan  5,479 p.
                          128th Nat.  Bordeaux   4,831 p.

His grandchildren have proven to be very talented as well, including most notably Olano (NL94-2015266). He achieved another fantastic result for this team in 1997, winning a 1st National Marseille of 4,449 pigeons (6th Int. 15,740 p.).

NL97-2005586, Blauwe Brouwers

Their last golden investment came from the lofts of J. Brouwers & Son from Grevenbicht, who had two pigeons from Vale Marathon x Super class hen 'the 10' of Jan Theelen in their collection. These two birds, the 790 and the 791, had bred several very successful racing birds. Harry and Roger purchased a pair of youngsters from each of them, ending up with four youngsters. Among them were two talented breeders and one super class breeder: Blauwe Brouwers. This pigeon has been pivotal in the further development of this pigeon breed; this bloodline can be found in the pedigrees of many of their champions in recent years.

We have tried to come up with an overview of the most important pigeons that have led to this powerful team of long distance birds. In addition to their national victories and countless other top results, they were particularly successful in the national race from Barcelona throughout the 1990s. They basketed a total of 292 pigeons over the course of the decade (from 1987 to 2002), and 185 of them managed to win an international top result, leading to a remarkable 62.5% prize percentage. We look at their results in the 1990s:

Nat. Barcelona '87  5,989 p.:  10-122-283-789-1107 (5/6)
Nat. Barcelona '88          :  59-233-299-370-1123 (5/13)
Nat. Barcelona '89          :   6-709-781-1135 (4/8)
Nat. Barcelona '90  6,753 p.: 144-292-297-326-932-etc. (8/13)
Nat. Barcelona '91  8,102 p.: 260-729-843-1008-1093-etc. (9/13)
Nat. Barcelona '92  7,243 p.:  48-701-814-1009-etc. (9/12)
Nat. Barcelona '93 10,574 p.: 101-169-379-409-585-654-etc. (16/19)
Nat. Barcelona '94  7,767 p.:  80-82-136-156-268-377-etc. (14/20)
Nat. Barcelona '95  5,737 p.: 106-113-134-210-357-etc. (9/18)
Nat. Barcelona '96  5,229 p.: 487-755-803-806-824-etc. (8/18)
Nat. Barcelona '97  7,047 p.: 147-371-956-1005-1240-etc. (11/21)
Nat. Barcelona '98  6,290 p.:  14-118-144-327-383-etc. (14/17)
Nat. Barcelona '99          : 167-204-225-294-321-etc. (15/24)
Nat. Barcelona '00  7,568 p.:  31-126-171-335-374-394-etc. (17/29)
Nat. Barcelona '01  7,567 p.:   4-15-88-262-457-467-673-etc. (24/38)
Nat. Barcelona '02  8,713 p.: 146-163-183-216-271-328-376-587-etc. (24/38)

And they have been outstanding in the other national races as well. Here are few examples from the early 2000s:

Nat.  Perpignan '02 7,083  p.: 5-13-16-19-20-167-208-442-470-etc. (15/29)
Nat.  Marseille '02          : 19-24-75-105-110-135-255-370-etc. (17/25)
Nat.  Bordeaux      6,133 YLs: 8-33-38-47-74-116-147-etc. (20/35)
Prov. Limoges       3,762  p.: 5-6-34-88-99-102-103-118-123-127-etc.
Nat.  Dax       '03 9,405  p.: 95-185-239-313-383-546-etc. (10/15)
Nat.  Marseille '03 8,730  p.: 12-74-142-188-268-272-308-etc. (32/86)
Nat.  Perpignan '03 5,890  p.: 124-132-138-184-202-etc. (9/22)
Nat.  San Sebastian   434  p.: 20-101 (2/4)

Harry and Roger were National Marathon Champion twice up until 2000: in 1987 and 1994. They also claimed four national victories in the 1990s:

1st National Marseille 1983
1st National Soustons  1992
1st National Perpignan 1992
1st National Marseille 1997

In our second part of this series we jump ahead in time to discuss some of their best results in recent years. No one will be surprised to see that those same pigeons appear in the pedigrees of their current generation of top class racing birds.