David Barros Madeira with Georges-Henry Bodson & Roger Vereecke
How was it that you became a fancier?
Pigeon racing for me is magic. Some of my best childhood memories are connected to my father's pigeons, waiting, breeding, basketing, clocking the miracle of the arrival of a small ball of feathers in the early morning, just after the sunrise, from a 900km race, that has been my reality since my younger years as a second generation fancier. When I was born pigeon racing was already there and I was very soon entangled in its chores and it still amazes me how quickly I was infected by this virus and the spell that goes with it.
To become a successful pigeon fancier is hard work. It requires a fair amount of dexterity with the cleaning utensils and that was a lesson I was taught from the start. Nobody speaks about it though, specially not in interviews. It's not glamorous. People speak about wonderous superior pigeons, big or small tricks, revolutionary training methods, motivation, the wonder loft... But all that is only a complement to the daily payload of the fancier that wants to become someone in this sport. But, to make things even more complicated, to be a real champion you also need intuition or empathy with your pigeons or that "feeling" that only very few have and many only think or pretend they have.
In my field of work, medicine, many people still refuse to call it science because it's more than that they say, it's an art. Pigeon racing for me, in all its complexity, is also an art. And that explains why so many people with money and power, many times fail to reach the top. It requires a sum of big things and small things, simple and complex, motivation and sensibility, decision making and patience and also something the nobody speaks about, but which is responsible for transforming small hard working fanciers into champions... a bit of luck not only in the races, but also in the genetic lottery.
The widowhood lofts of David Barros Madeira
My father was always very connected to Belgium. Ever since I remember we would always receive, many times with considerable delay, La Colombophilie Belge and the Pigeon Rit (still my favorite pigeon magazine after all these years). We have hundreds of books about the sport, in French, English and Portuguese from Old Hand, Leon Petit, Jules Gallez, Landercy, Vanderschelden, only to reference a few and I read them all. At the age of 14 I was sent for two months to Belgium to the house of our friend Fernand Colson to improve my French and my pigeon skills. Still now many people find my French accent strange for a Portuguese person. I always kept coming back as much as possible to handle pigeons, visit the champions and be with my friends. Belgium became a second home for me.
In 2004 I started racing in partnership in Belgium with André, Peter and Hannes Gyselbrecht. To race in Belgium was an old dream of mine. Things were good for years, some nice results and good ambiance. It ended in the public sale of 2013 following personal problems inside the family. There was however, a mutual benefit for both lofts of the joint venture. Our biggest acquisition of that period was the Limoges Bourlard. But many other pigeons from the reputed long distance colony of Harveng crossed very well with the old Gyselbrecht line of the Laureaat. Also the Bourlard benefited from the exchanges with our partnership. The 1st National Montélimar Bourlard was sired by a Gyselbrecht-Madeira pigeon. We got some excellent pigeons from our neighbors Antoine and Rudi Desaer, but they got also Super Pedro from us.
Many people who bought pigeons in the final sale had success with them. Looking at it from already some distance I had many happy moments and it's those that I choose to remember.
The main object of the sport is not, as most people think, to win everything and become rich. That is only a part. The most important thing, never to be forgotten, is always to have pleasure and fun from the contact with the people and the pigeons. And what a wonderous beast is the racing pigeon!
David is Grandfather of 1st National Sport Long Distance of Portugal 2014 (9th in the Budapest Olympiad)
and of 2nd National Sport Long Distance of Portugal 2016 and also Olympic pigeon in Brussels.
The first pigeons my father imported directly from Belgium was a pair from Oscar Devriendt from Moere in 1965. But the best in our loft from the seventies onwards were the pigeons from Roger Vereecke. We imported quite a few over the years, until the turn of the new century. Those pigeons gave extraordinary results both in our loft and in others in Portugal. The pigeons of Vereecke in faster races were less dominant so we started researching middle distance pigeons and we hit the jackpot with the pigeons of Vanhove-Uytterhoeven.
Later (1995) we started importing the pigeons of Gaby Vandenabeele directly or via Rudi Desaer and Rik Cools later, those crossed with our old lines produced some superior flyers. Especially a son of the Wittenbuik of 95 and the Jens that Desaer bought on their first sale ever on PIPA. The Jens was the favorite of Antoine Desaer who was still alive at that time.
In 2016 Arya, a daughter of Jens from Desaer, paired with a granddaughter of Golden Boy from Vanhove was ace pigeon MD Semiprovincial and Survivor was ace pigeon long distance for the whole of the Algarve. Survivor is a grandson of the famous couple Perigueux x Corry from Desaer and of the Rudy from Vandenabeele.
A small chequer hen that later, to my disappointment became a very little cock, from George Bolle from Kortemark, a direct son of his 1st National Dax, started a revolution in 1998. It became our most important long distance breeder and is now the grandsire of a myriad of fantastic flyers. The Kleine Dax among many others is the sire of our Comando, the best long distance pigeon that ever flew in our loft, of David (grandsire of two olympic sport long distance pigeons of Portugal ) and of Inbred Bolle our best breeding hen for years and the dam of Mr. Barros, a fabulous pigeon sold to Gaby Vandenabeele.
My father always told me that any pigeon breeder is a victim of the genetic lottery. But we can cheat, by breeding from the best pigeons available. Trial and error again and again until trial and triumph.
By breeding from the best pool of genes possible and by breeding a lot (yes, numbers also count) you increase your chances. After tough selection, that is the core of our sport.
Our best pigeons now are mostly crosses of all those lines mentioned above with Vanhove-Uytterhoeven. It would be unfair not to mention Bobby Bourges from Van Leest Peeters and a hen that was National Ace MD of Portugal in 2005 and crossed with a brother of the Limoges from Bourlard also produced some wonderful flyers.
Some top quality pigeons are introduced every year. Mostly pigeons I know and have handled, chosen in person, from people I trust and can build a good relationship with. Friendship and empathy are issues that are important in any aspect of life for me. Especially when buying pigeons.
The smaller cost of a bad introduction is the money of the purchase. It has much bigger secondary costs. First in time and work for the fancier. Then for the breeders you cross with those pigeons. Afterwards by hindering your racing team, populated with lesser quality pigeons that you will feed, train and race without results. Even with the best criteria mistakes happen. You have to understand that infallibility is divine not human. The only thing you can do is try to do the least mistakes possible. Trial and selection determine if the acquired pigeons stay or are culled. Over and over again the same routine.
We also imported pigeons from the Netherlands several times, and my Dutch friends will have to forgive me, with no results, so we keep buying pigeons in Belgium.
I am an ophthalmologist by profession but I am a total unbeliever in the eye sign theory. We had throughout all these years, good and bad pigeons in every eye colour, type and pigmentation distribution conceivable with or without lines or circles. I read the books by Bishop, Vickers and Lambrechts. I tested some of the concepts explained, and I saw no positive results or outcomes. And I will always remember that a renowned eye sign specialist visiting my loft at the beginning of the nineties immediately disqualified from breeding a son of the Wittenbuik with those horrible clear yellow eyes of the pigeons of Gaby. That son of the Wittenbuik, even with those eyes, in the following years, sired several champion flyers and became one of my ever best breeders. Eye with nothing to transmit he told me in full conviction. If I had believed him, I wouldn't have bred from him.
If the eye sign was what many pretend, the eye sign guys would dominate our sport completely. What do I see? Most champions are simple hardworking people that do not even look at the eye of a pigeon. Moreover, I hardly ever saw one of the Loupe men do anything special in pigeon racing. So I continue unpopular, unmoved and a skeptic in what concerns eye theory. A good pigeon is a sum of qualities. I never saw anybody choose a new car only because of the headlights.
Don't you have a theory?
Theories are theories. I do however have my personal concept of what I want in a pigeon. Let's call it the "All in One Theory" I have handled thousands of pigeons over these 40 years or more of being a fancier, and my theory is that the pigeons I want must have everything. Nice wing, suppleness, good plumage, balance, muscles, strong back, bright eyes, a healthy vital look, etc. What do I give more importance? Balance perhaps. There are pigeons I disqualify in seconds. Only after comes all the rest. Quality in a pigeon is something that can be seen and evaluated. If you know what you are doing and what to look for. Like everybody I had and have from time to time, pigeons that were very good racers but did not follow my demands in hand. But... those were also the ones that afterwards, on breeding, did not produce winners.
Do we know a lot about pigeons?
I am a strong believer in learning and that all can be apprehended if properly taught. The problem of the pigeon sport is that, like all schools, it is full of bad students.... Not believing in eye sign does not mean that I deny the enormous wealth of knowledge that already exist in our sport. On the contrary. I think that that much can be and is learned from many sources. If the fancier really wishes to learn... One of the most common misconceptions that I find in fanciers and mostly in those that had some success, is that they start to think that they do not need to learn anything more. I try to keep an open mind, especially about racing methods, motivation, feeding, training, veterinary management of lofts, the concepts have been evolving continuously over time.
The Sport in Portugal
It suffered a strong blow with the crisis. Many left the country to work abroad, and many quit the sport for strictly economic reasons. That is one of the reasons why all the pigeon structure here from club to federation struggles to keep the prices reasonable and available to all. We want to have an inclusive sport. One of the causes of the agony of our sport in Belgium is undoubtedly the inflation of costs to the fanciers. Those are irrelevant for the professionals but not for all the others and surely not to any young fancier starting on his own.
My Belgian friends always think that I am lying when I tell them that in Portugal 1,50 euro is the normal price per pigeon basketed for a National Long Distance race of 750km including all duplications (local, provincial and National) results and prizes. In provincial middle distance there is even a province, Braga, that charges the clubs 23 cents per bird for a 450 Km race, all included! How can we get those prices? Organization, strict control of costs, clear regulations that do not raise many legal issues, unpaid voluntary work from a lot of people, a one loft race in Mira, run by and for the federation, the transporters are owned by the provincial associations, a well kept pyramidal structure with clubs at the bottom and federation on top and strong motivation of the fanciers to cooperate with the structure, for common benefit and goals. In management and organization we surpass clearly Belgium. I say this without any doubt in my mind.
In Portugal we race a program. A bit like in Germany and the most important title is the one of General Champion. Thus a fancier in my province, the Algarve, has to have top results consecutively in 21 races, from 250 to 750km. It is not easy. All races count for the points. A bad race is enough to compromise a season.
The championships at club level are given much more importance than in Belgium.
The championships are disputed with a maximum of 25 pigeons basketed per race in sprint and middle distance and 15 per race at long distance. The points are obtained by the first two pigeons clocked of the pigeons sent, prizes per 4. All the 21 results count for the final classification ( 7 from 200 to 400km, 7 from 300 to 500Km, 7 from 500 to 750Km).
2016 was a very normal year for us. A young team, so better results in the shorter distances. Once again, General Champions of the SCL.
Results at provincial and national level
1st Semiprovincial Guarda 2,896p. 1st Semiprovincial Puebla D. Rodrigo 4,466p. 1st Champion Middle Distance Central Algarve 1st Champion Middle Distance Interzonal 14th National Champion Middle Distance FPC 5th General Champion of the Algarve
In 2017, David is continuing down the same paved road of success. Have look for yourself at David's results for the first race of the season. David, congratulations on your success last season. We wish you all the best for the season to come.