The Krakus One Loft Race in Poland is a new rising star in international pigeon racing

On 9 September PIPA was present at the third edition of the Polish Krakus One Loft Race. A 530 km race held in the beautiful Krakow region in tough and the most honest racing conditions. Organised by a team standing out with its professionalism, organisational skills, transparency and (very gracious) Polish hospitality.

The entire Krakus team and the agent for Belgium Mr Stefan Steenbergen (holding the winning pigeon)

Second biggest pigeon nation

While in most countries the number of pigeons fanciers is decreasing dramatically, Poland has a stable number of 43,000 pigeon fanciers, making it the second biggest pigeon national in the world after China (approximately 300,000 fanciers). That popularity goes hand in hand with the establishment of new one loft races in the country, often inspired by attending a one loft race abroad. That was also the case for pigeon fanciers and friends Andrzej Grodny and Waldemar Paruch, the owners of the Krakus One Loft Race in the Polish town of Brzesko: "The idea of organising our own race started four years ago. We had the pleasure of experiencing the fantastic atmosphere of a one loft race abroad. We discussed if such a concept could also be successful in Poland, asked around and in the end decided to turn our hobby into our profession", says Mr Grodny, who is the fulltime loft manager of the race. And so the first edition took place in 2015 with about 700 birds, soon followed by a second edition in 2016 with approximately 1,200 birds. A clear sign that the race was catching on.

Waldemar Paruch (l) bought his very first pigeons from his mentor Andrzej Grodny (r);
now they are the co-owners of the Krakus One Loft Race

Only the best birds can win

Part of that success can probably be attributed to the difficulty and therefore honesty of the race itself. Every year, temperatures during the races varied from a mild 20 to 35°C with primarily sunny weather and a predominant southeasterly (head) wind. Both very tough and honest racing conditions, the trademark of the organisation: "We do not fear strong head or side winds. Other organisations in Poland try to liberate the birds in such weather so that they can easily get home. We do not care about statistics, however. The most important thing to us is that the best birds prevail and that we have a well-deserved winner. That is why we will also stick to the distance of 530 km in the future", says Aleksandra Grodny, Andrzej's daughter who is responsible for the website, marketing and making arrangements regarding hotel, transport and trips. It stresses how important an honest race is to the organisation.

The chairs, faced opposite the direction the pigeons were coming from, show a strong head wind on the race day;
Here you can see the first pigeon arriving

Andrzej (r) and his daughter Aleksandra (2nd right) with Gerard Schalkwijk (l) (from main sponsor Travipharma) and his wife

Professional organisation, beautiful region

Though Poland and Polish one loft races (undeservedly) still face prejudice as being less modern, the Krakus One Loft Race is a shining example of what every one loft race should offer:

  • very spacious, well-equipped and clean lofts (with about 70 per cent occupancy)
  • strict medical guidance, resulting in excellent health (thanks to Polish Travipharma agent Andrew Wolek and the Coba Diagnostic vets)
  • a very communicative organisation which considers transparency of paramount importance
  • a highly experienced loft manager (with Mr Grodny racing pigeons since 1984)
  • a very helpful and hospitable team who at all times see to visitors' needs

They may be three years old but all five lofts still look spanking new, both from the outside and the inside

The immaculate loft interior with four sections, offering room to about 100 pigeons each

Very spacious aviaries which the birds can enter from the front or roof

What's more is that the race is held in one of Poland's most beautiful and interesting regions, offering fanciers and their families and friends who attend the race numerous trip possibilities:

  • the city of Krakow: rich in culture and history with many cosy restaurants and a historic centre registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List
  • Auschwitz-Birkenau: the most notorious Nazi concentration and extermination camp
  • the Tatra Mountains: the highest mountain range in the Carpathians offering challenging walks with magnificent scenery and rewarding views
  • the Wieliczka Salt Mine: a UNESCO World Heritage site offering mine corridors, chapels and an underground lake at a depth of 135 metres

Take into account the very affordable entry fee of 100 EUR (430 PLN) for one bird and you can see that the Krakus One Loft Race has much to offer for only little money.

The city of Krakow is located on the banks of the Vistula river

Krakow's Main Square and the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp, two major sightseeing sites near the Krakus race

Belgian winners

This year, about 1,100 pigeons were sent to Brzesko, 627 of which made it to the final race from Luckau, Germany. All pigeons were liberated on 9 September at 7.15am in the morning for a race of 530 km southeastwards in sunny weather with temperatures around 26°C and a moderate side wind, turning into a head wind and increasing in speed throughout the afternoon as the pigeons were approaching home. While waiting for the birds to arrive, all fanciers present could enjoy a barbecue with typical and very tasty Polish food, accompanied by a Polish beer or - what else? - vodka. At around 4.48pm, the first bird appeared up in the sky from the right direction and, after having circled for a couple of times, entered the loft. It was youngster BE17-5060211 of the Belgian partnership Team Flying Horses which had beaten all his competitors. His lead: twelve minutes on the second and twenty-eight minutes on the third bird, raced by Polish fanciers Robert Banek and Kurnik Wieslaw respectively. At the end of the day fifteen pigeons made it back to the lofts, all in excellent shape! The next day the pigeons kept on coming in quick succession with about 150 home around noon. After that, they arrived at longer intervals, solely because of the lack of quality of those pigeons because everyone present agreed that the pigeons which had arrived on the first day and in the morning of the second day were all in perfect condition.

The winning bird is a 100 % Jacob Poortvliet (Holland). The sire's sire is a halfbrother of the 1st National Ace Bird 2007 in Switzerland and a grandson of De Rauw-Sablon's star breeder Limoges. The sire's dam is a Kaasboer descendant from Dominator (Guy Van Der Auwera) x Gastons Princess (sister 1st National Bourges Laura, Gaston Van De Wouwer). The dam of 211/17 is Heremans x Poortvliet on her sire's side and a full Dirk Van Dyck on her dam's side. After all, the dam comes from Olympic Niels (son of Di Caprio (3rd Olympiad bird) and grandsire of Friendship (1st National Châteauroux)) x granddaughter Kannibaal. Check out the winner's full descent here.

A cosy, informal atmosphere while waiting for the first arrivals

The Krakus team were busy throughout the day serving guests

Enjoying a traditional Polish barbecue at the food stand

Many local fanciers attended the final of the Krakus race

Excitement while waiting for the announcement of the winner

The winning bird of Team Flying Horses

How to participate?

Are you looking for an affordable and trustworthy one loft race where only the best pigeons succeed in winning? Are you interested in culture, history and nature? And do you want to experience Polish hospitality at its best? Then you should definitely participate in next year's Krakus One Loft Race. Send in your birds in April or May 2018 by contacting the organisation at pyo lpdrw.g@n or filling in the application form on the website and who knows you might win next year's first prize of 16,300 euros.

Mr Kurnik Wieslaw was beside himself with joy after winning the third prize and even performed a little dance