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The History of the Belgium Racing Pigeon : Jan Grondelaers - Opglabeek (BE)

Jan Grondelaers was born in 1920 in Opglabbeek, in a family of 5 children. At home they never heard or saw anything about pigeons but Jan got very interested in the pigeons of his neighbour.

Born champion
At the age of 11, he was very glad when he got the chance to get him a little loft in the garden to hold some pigeons. As a teenager he already tried to compete in some competition-flights. But then the second world-war put it all to an end.
Nevertheless Jan was not the only winner in his family, his brother Robert was a fervent bicycle-racer. In 1948, Jan gave up his plans to become a fancier when he decided to manage his brother. This seemed to be successful because Robert ended up with a silver medal on the Olympic Games in Helsinki.
In 1952 Jan started for the third time with his pigeons and this time it was for sure. During his years as a manager, he learned a lot what could be used within the pigeon sport. Exercise and motivation are very important but at the end the class and quality are the most important aspects. These lessons would be remembered for the rest of his life.

The first pigeons.
Jan got his first pigeons with a fancier in his area, who dominated the speed competition every week again by the name of Bammens from Zwartberg. This Bammens owned a pigeon that flew 50 prizes per ten among which 10 pure first prizes. That’s why Jan went to Bammens to get him 3 of his best pigeons. Already in 1953 Jan succeeded to win 2 or 3 first prizes and at that moment a superstar was born. Then he got him more pigeons at Durant from Geraardsbergen and also 1 pigeon at the national superman called Hector Desmet. In 1955 Grondelaers had his first bad experience that he would remember for the rest of his life. On a very hard flight of 1000 m/m it was Fernand Kellens from Winterslag, who succeeded to win with 6 pigeons before Jan had one. At that moment Jan didn’t try to find excuses or secrets but he knew that this man had better than he had. So he decided to get him some of these pigeons too.
They didn’t hesitate much longer in Opglabbeek and Jan bought 10 birds out of the best at a price of 500 Bfr. a piece. There he also found out that these pigeons were descended from the Geyskens-pigeons from Testelt. Again the logic came through with Jan; this Geyskens was a goldmine for super speed birds. That’s why Grondelaers got in his car and drove to Testelt to buy another 10 pigeons at a price of 1000 Bfr.. Afterwards a direct Geyskens won 3 first prizes in three weeks time and all three were good for 17 minutes lead. The race of Geyskens was especially based on Jacq Tournier, Jos van den Bosch and Janssen.
Throughout the years Jan bought all good pigeons here and among these we has the St.Vincent, 5120155/59, a bird that won 1St Prov. Angoulême and 1st Prov. St.Vincent in one season. Soon they noticed that Jan was right because he only had breed super birds out of this winner. His son, The Kleine, 5126996/61, flew the 1st Prov. Limoges but he also became father of the Gestuikte, 5111338/65, 2nd Prov. Cahors, 4th Prov. Limoges and at the same time father of the Orléans I and the Orléans II.
Another Kellens, the Goede Witveer – 5013679/56 and half-brother of the St.Vincent, he got the famous Dax, 5003305/64, father of the Kleine Dax (5260814/74) and good for a 1st Prov. Bourges in ’76. It was out of this line that Pros Roosen got his Supercrack 327. So it’s a true fact that Kellens from Winterslag is very important to the base of Jan Grondelaers.

1957 – 1960
Since 1957 it all went well with the Kellens and Geyskens pigeons. Every time again Jan succeeded to play the whole concurrence down within minutes. It was 1959 that he got the first 8 from Tergnier against over 1000 pigeons. Now he was totally sure! Already in 1959 he got the 2nd Nat. Ace-pigeon KBDB. And we all know now that this was only the beginning of a super career. The worst prize of that year was a 16th against 2000 other competitors. It was ther on that little loft of 6 meters with only two compartments and build with very simple materials, that Jan found out that comfort is only wanted by the fancier and good pigeons have to remain healthy by themselves.
In 1958 again a super buy was made by Jan and this was on the loft of the little famous men in Arendonk. Already then Jan found out that it’s not all gold that shines and so he bought something out of the very best breeder of that moment, namely the Blue of 1948. This chequered hen would become a true base-mother.
From 1960 on, Jan Grondelaers was the one to be afraid of. He was excluded here and there and he could participate with only two birds in Opglabbeek in each game. So at that time they tried to avoid him completely.

The Stoces intermezzo
At that time Frans Stoces was unknown. He lived in Winterslag in a house he rented from a certain Bert Steyfkens from Genk. Originally Stoces was a Czech who had earned his bread in the coalmine but at that time he was already retired. He took care of the pigeons of Steyfkens and in return he could live for free. But because the pigeons didn’t do as well as Steyfkens wanted, he wanted to sell the total colony. When Grondelaers heard about this, he immediately thought that this was the way to escape of the lot of exclusions and the limits. So he decided to buy the pigeons included with the services of Frans Stoces. Nevertheless the results stayed behind and Jan started to follow his own method with the pigeons in Winterslag. The following aspects would be taken forever in the annals of the pigeonsport. The temporary tandem Stoces-Grondelaers but for 100% with Grondelaers-pigeons, reached not only local but also on provincial and national level the top; provincial victories and Ace-pigeons were always there.
But then trouble appeared when Stoces had the opportunity to buy the house he lived in. Suddenly he became much more demanding to Jan when it came down to finances and soon the tandem was past time. Because Frans wanted to continue with the pigeons, he got 18 out of the best of Jan. The others were sold in public in 1965.
Stoces received among others a hen and a cock out of the Janssen-hen with the best cock of the Steyfkens-race, the Lange. The hen was brought together with a cock of Jef Van Hamel from Heppen, which he got to know with Grondelaers. A super-couple was born here! And so afterwards Jan succeeded to got several pigeons back by his own way. In fact it’s good to know that the 66, the 74, the 80, the 99, the Linkerpoot, the Provincial, the Phenomenal, the Bourgeske and many other super birds of Stoces are all for 50% Grondelaers. It were birds like the Bourgeske that were bought back by Jan and she would become grandmother of the famous Goede Jaarling.

Gebr. Janssen Arendonk
The mother of this hen was the Janssen-hen (6594934/55) as we already mentioned before. A daughter of the Blue of ’48 that was bought by Cretskens from Rotem in name of Jan with the Janssen Brothers in Arendonk. "That Blue of ’48 is the best breeder ever", according to Jan. "In fact these brothers from Arendonk have been breeding the best pigeons in their heydays; birds that succeeded in competition and in breeding. This is a true fact because when you hear about a super pigeon, it’s almost always with Janssen-blood… and this is the same on the loft of Grondelaers." After some investigation in the standard work of Ad Schaerlaeckens about the famous Brothers assured the opinion of Jan. The Blue of ’48 indeed is an exceptional breeder. On the loft of the Janssen Brothers, he’s grandfather of the Bange ’59, the Stier, the Gelloger, the Hlave Fabry, etc…. Vanderflaes owned a grandson of this super bird with 20 first prizes, Koppe;l 17 of Marien Pieterse goes back to this Blauwe on both sides, the basic mother of Staf Van Reet is a great-granddaughter of this famous basic cock. In fact Jan bought a son of this last pigeon and this was the famous Prince. This Prince was a true winner with his 32 first prizes, just like his brother the Daniël, good for 57 first prizes! Paired to his own pigeons, Jan breeded his Stuka’s, which were winners too….

The “Chateauroux
Now I need to tell another story too. Grondelaers owned another cock, the Oude Lichte ’57, made in Arendonk. This old light cock was a very nice pigeon. But then another fox came along by the name of Piet de Weerd, who found out all about this and he wanted to buy the Oude Lichte. Jan didn’t want to sell at all but he thought about changing for something else. It was in the aviaries of Breda that Jan saw the best long distance races of Belgium and Holland but he was hardly interested.
Finally a chequered hen of ’58 was Jan’s favourite and Piet de Weerd told him that this one once was the best breeding hen of Eugène Mijlemans. Jan was very impressed about her quality and he left his Janssen-cock in Breda. We wrote 1965. Grondelaers wouldn’t be Grondelaers if he didn’t want to know everything about this hen. Mijlemans immediately wanted to leave for Opglabbeek to go and see the Stoces-Grondelaers-pigeons that would be sold. Of course Jan showed him this certain hen but nothing happened. Jan told him to take a good look at this bird and then: "Damned… this is my best breeding hen!" so reacted Mijlemans. It seemed that Jan didn’t only buy a very good bird but without knowing also a daughter of the same Blauwe of ’48. Mijlemans was very impressed of all this that Jan aprouved to breed together with the hen in 1966: two couples of youngsters and they could choose every other time. And so: who was born then? The world-famous Chateauroux. This is not only luck. Even more; Mijlemans could choose. He choose the cock and he left what he thought that was a hen. "I kept silent", so told Jan,"because when I had the chance to choose, I would have taken this little cock too, who owned a great deal of qualities… Now we both were satisfied, but I had the best!"

Grondelaers specialised more and more to the middle distance and the provincial flights. But Jan thought it was time to get him some reinforcement, which he found with his colleague butcher Gust Hofkens from Merksplas. Everybody already knows that Super Jan had a good nose to buy good pigeons. In fact he already bought several good pigeons with Hofkens before the man became famous.
The base of Hofkens was mostly Janssen-pigeons that Gust got via Fons Janssen, one of the Brothers of Arendonk. Because of a very strict method, Hofkens was able to write down the very best results. Mister Hofkens was able to score with 50 first prizes per season and all because of an unsophisticated system. This was very much appreciated by Grondelaers because Jan didn’t like it when birds couldn’t stay healthy by themselves. Birds that got helped by several artificial products and too much of comfort.
Who doesn’t know the super couple Driebander x Theeuwes-hen, the Phenomenal Geschifte (6311120/72), the Fondman (6311131/72), the Kleinen, the Bourges (2nd and 9th national). The Driebander was a grandson of the famous basic cock, the Eenoger. In 1965, Jan bought the breeding couple, Eenoger 6353631 of ’56 x Van de Bosch-hen of ‘59 for a lot of money. These two had breed about four youngsters at the loft of Grondelaers, but one of these was a superior bird… as a two-year old this pigeon flew 13 of 14 with 7 first and 4 second prizes!
A daughter of the Eenoger gave the Bourges, 2nd national against 15.000 pigeons and a 1st provincial. In fact the Eenoger appears also twice on the pedigree of the Orléans I and Orléans II.
Jan also bought with Hofkens the nest-brother of the Kleinen, which became grandfather of the Goede Jaarling. Jan also bought the Bourges; his daughter is mother of the Orléans I and II. But Jan bought a son out of the couple Driebander x Theeuwes-hen too. His daughter is the Wit, mother of the Goede Jaarling. And we could continue… everything Jan touched, turned into gold, that’s for sure.

Playing tricks
It’s a certain fact that sometimes Jan played some tricks to get the pigeon he wanted. For example in 1970, he signed a check in advance to choose two pigeons at the loft of Cobut, without getting any kind of directions of the owner. Cobut was very surprised when Jan picked out two national winners out of many others. Of course they discussed a lot but a buy is a buy and the two birds, a cock and a hen, both moved to Opglabbeek. One of them (1st national Montauban) became mother of the Koninginneke (1 st national St.Vincent), which was paired to a Van Hee-cock (son of the Patrick) and they produced the the 1st national Limoges ’78. Many times Jan also send a figurehead to buy a pigeon he wouldn’t get himself or that he would buy only for a lot of money. A clever game but correctly.
Another trick Jan sometimes used was to go and make an offer when the wife was at home. Jan answered clever: "You immediately have more opportunity to buy when the woman of the house hears an amount of 6 numbers. She can always use it to spend on other things". If Jan wanted something, he had to have it.

The fastest pigeons of the world.
That’s what Piet de Weerd told about the pigeons of Staf Van Reet from Mol. And indeed Staf owned a super breeding couple in the seventies. The cock was the Genopte Witpen of ’68 and the hen was a Janssen-hen (out of the line Halve Fabry), namely the Blue Breeding-hen of ’69. This couple gave among others the famous Daniël (named after a good bycicle-racer Daniël Willems). The Daniël, 6635973/76), was good for 57 first prizes on the speed races and this with rain, sunshine, wind or no wind, in fact in all kind of weather. His brother, the Prince, 6664391/72, was almost as good his brother. He flew 32 first prizes and when he couldn’t win he always won the second prize after his brother the Daniël. Another brother, the Dikke Prince (6710998/74) won 28 first prizes and the Lichte Prince won 29 victories. Grondelaers is always there when a kind of miracle happens. So an evening in 1978 he went, together with his friend Marcel Cretskens, to Mol with a lot of money in his pockets. At that time Staf didn’t have any light on his loft and so they brought each star into the house one by one, to take a good look at the birds. Almost immediately Jan preferred the Prince but this one wasn’t for sale so Jan had to play some tricks too. "How much would this bird be worth" wondered Jan. Staf answered that he thought that this one would be worth 30.000 Bfr. but he didn’t know that Jan was full of tricks. Later in the evening a friend a Staf came by and Jan said: "Listen now, Staf mentioned a price for the Prince but he doesn’t want to sell hem to me". The friend, who didn’t knew about the previous event and played along with Jan and he answered: "Come on Staf, a word is a word. I thought I knew you…". After some more discussion, Jan replied that he would give him the double price but then you have to give me a his sister along". So… the Prince moved to Opglabbeek where he became father of the Stuka’s. The Stuka II flew 5 x first in good company. The Stuka I, 5185502/79, won 13 times and afterwards he became an excellent breeder.
Also the hen, which is a nest-sister of the Prince, is a miracle on the breeding loft. She gave among others the 5023706/82 that won the 1st provincial from La Souterraine. Later on Jan also got the Daniël in his breeding section to breed together with the new owner, namely the Verheye from Mol. Out of this together-breed, Daniël x daughter Orléans II, the famous Raket was born with Jan, with ringnumber 5172250/86.

The “Prince” 6664391-72
As a young bird he never saw the basket and as a yearling was suddenly thrown in at the deep end. After a few failures, wich can be expected from such an inexperienced pigeon, he emerged in Quievrain as a flyer to beat them all. In this 132 km flight, he took 32 first prizes until clever Jan Grondelaers got wind of the existence of the high flyer. In 1978 “Prince of 72” moved to Opglabbeek for a substantial sum and the following year showed what a connoisser Grondelaers was. From “Prince” he bred his “Stuka”, famous in two ways: “Stuka” would race home to the coop so incredibly fast that on four occasions not even Jan himself or any of his watchers saw him arrive. Jan heard him each time without seeing a feather, just a thump on the floor of the coop. Another feature of “Stuka” B79-5185502 was that he won 12 first prizes.

Jan Grondelaers: Buy sprint birds!
One of the greatest connoisseurs of all time in our sport is the late Jan Grondelaers. Lots of present day champions claim it is from him that they have learnt how to be a winner.
Grondelaers was an authority who knew the ins and outs of the sport.
How else could he race so well all his life?
Being a champion for one or two years is one thing but being a champion for decades is requires a real good pigeon man such as Jan Grondelaers.
One of his qualities was that he knew where to get good birds and he was often asked why he was nearly always successful with birds he imported.
In his opinion you should import sprint birds.
‘Also for greater distances?’ I asked him once. ‘Sure’ he reacted.
Short distance winners have proven to orientate well and that is the most important quality a pigeon should have.
A real strong bird that can handle even 1,000 kilometres and strong head winds is of no use if he fails to orientate well.
And that is not it.
Suppose one bird could fly faster than another (I doubt if that is so) what sense would that make if he would fly the wrong direction?
Winners from short distance races are birds that have proven their orienteering is perfect.
If, after the release, a bird will fly only one round this is fatal.
If, after the release, a bird would head home together with others (in the wrong direction) this would be fatal too even if it was only for say five kilometres as it is only seconds that are decisive for the result at short distance.
Joining other birds that fly the wrong direction is what bad pigeons do.
Right from the start, directly after the baskets are opened, birds must go as bullets that leave a rifle. Those that make the straightest line from one point to the other (from the release station to the home loft) will be the winners.
And Grondelaers set the example himself.
He had always had good birds but after he had crossed them with Sprint birds from Hofkens (‘Eenoog’) and Staf van Reeth (‘Daniel’) so multiple first prize-winners at short distance he even got better birds.