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Wingtheory: Part I

"The History of the Belgian Racing Pigeons"
Varied opinions of the wingtheory after 20 years of pigeon racing. Part I
We have not departed from our costum to investigate every conclusion beforehand, and have never made a rash decision and also have never been strongly influenced with the different theories put forward with much publicity, hoping to find a ready market and financial gain. Up to the present time, as we are writing this, we have never, after being in the pigeonsport for over 20 years, rued the day of our innate caution on this point.
The wing theory, as all preceeding theories, have had, from the first moment they were proclaimed (1936 - '37), our fullest attention.
In that period, one talked a lot about the lengt of the wing (shoulder to wing top). For two years we have visited many lofts, were we examined many good short, middle and long distance pigeons. The main reason for our visits were, to measure the length of the wings. The loft visits, we undertook for our own instruction, have once and for all comfirmed our opinion concerning the value that can be attached to the length of the wing and by the fact that neither the prophets of the wing theory nor the many sportsman, that followed them head over heels, have never been able to prove the correctness of the percepts which must have formed the foundation of the wing theory school to prove results.
I don't like to be cruel to give any names but many fanciers, some with big names still proclaim this theory.
The war interfered, many fanciers held up their expectations. But some of the partisans of the wing theory, had the opportunity to try out pairings which bred youngsters with much longer wings than the already know medium sized ones. We have visited lofts in one town where the wings of several pigeons - properly measured - exceeded 26 cM.
Before the war, there was not enough time to have real " efficient " pigeons ready for racing. But now that the war was over, one should experience how the " efficient " pigeons would overshadow their rivals which were not endowed with the same wings. The efficient pigeons, since ten years bred with so much perseverance, should dictate the law in all races.
But what did we see at the resumption of the pigeonsport in the first years after the last war ? Don't misunderstand me but my memory is rather strong.


We have seen it happen, that all those long flighted pigeons of which one made such a upheove were easely beaten on all distances. The promoters of the wing theory made a laughing stock of themselves during the racing season and we are really still waiting for a revelation from of the many fanciers that sacreficed everything to this theory.
Confirmation in practice, since long prophetically proclaimed but could not be proved during the war years, did turn out to be a disaster for all apostles who had sworn on the efficiency of the wing theory as on a god.
After this, the promoters of the wing theory paused and collected themselves and them proclaimed, that the wing length alone was not sufficient and to make the performances more complicated and to have escape routes handy, they then drew up twelve points for the wing theory.
It started with a short fore-arm, a rear wing as short as possible with flat smoothed cover feathers which must be of a good quality, the last four flight feathers must not be too bread on the base, but with broad ends and as much as possible of the same length so that they form a four headed wing.
Those last four flight feathers must be very straigth and the last one must beslightly bent outwards. An to conclude, the lenght of the wing must reach for the cocks 25 cM and for the hens 24 cM. So the followers of the wing theory could start all over again. Firstly they had to obtain a pigeon which fulfilled those twelve points and then they could start a new culture. For the doubting Thomas, like we are, because we take nothing for granted without proof, this ment new experiments and observations, more complicated than the first ones.
The IVth " Salon van de Belgische Reisduif " (The fourth show of the Belgium Racing Pigeon), that was organized in that period gave the right opportunity to continue the so necessary confrontation. The best 25 pigeons were weighed, measured and photo's were taken from different angles. And what was the result of this investigation, that was executed with all the objectivety and impartality ? Its showed that the weight, stubbiness and body structure of one champion to the other can be so different, also the form, position and direction of the flight feathers.
The following remark has the value of a brass farthing : The greatest blame the wing theorists directed to the old school that they suggested that the new school was not able to introduce anything mare concrete or tangible.


When we took the chance to measure and photograph the wings, we came to the same conclusion and we are forced to put exactly the same blame to a theory that was supposed to make every thing as plain as
daylight. The obstination with which the wing theory was defended, the always repeated affirmation of its infallibility, the talent with which it was explained to us, did not fail to convince us and although we are on
guard, we have never been a real opponent of it. But we don't like to be dictated, no matter what the idea is.
We investigate everything personly and will always stay master of our own assessments of value. Nobody can alter our own opinions and will always make our own choice, we wil never say, neither by force, accomodatingness or on order, that white is black. The promoters of the wing theory were not easely defeated, on the contrary, they continued their crusade with a greater stubborness and went so far that they trew everything over board that did not concern the wing.
It was the wing and only the wing was the motor of a pigeon that determined the performances. If it was only obstinacy and the self-complacency of some of the theorist and their misguided followers, we would let it pas with a shrug of the shoulders. But we knew too well how many fanciers and especially the young ones and novices among them were put under the banner of this illusion and we knew also of the considerable harm this theory
could do to our sport. That was the reason that we gave it the finishing blow. Young fanciers came to our aid, fed with the illusion about the wing theory and confronted with the reality, disillusion, discouragement and
at the end, desertion followed. The result of the investigate made in the Fourth Belgium Racing Pigeon
show, must for that reason enlighten all the victims of an already at the beginning still-born school, that more factors than the wing alone make a champion. There was no better remedy than to try to obtain the advice of some of the greatest champions, and put this question to them : Which are the three best qualities you require of a pigeon ? This question was already put to some Belgium champions in 1939 and here follow their answers, which are, from more than one point of view, very important.

PIERRE BEERENS, HOUDENG.
For those that don't know him, we wil underline that Pierre Beerens was a great flyer and was, for a long time, respected as one of the greatest judges of Belgium. He always gave his opinion of a pigeon after he had examined the eye in which he could read the good qualities of a good pigeon. We were well acquainted with him, but when we put the question of him, if he could explain he could see in the eye of a pigeon, he answered us, very politely, that this was his secret. The secret must have failed at the end of his carier, because during his last years in the pigeonsport, he was only the shadow of earlier years.
FRANS BERNAERTS, SCHAARBEEK.
Was not far of the same opinion concerning the importance of the eye. He did not go so far as to speak about a secret, but he repeatedly explained to us, that he could point out to us the best pigeon in a show by only looking at the eye of a pigeon.
He was in his last years, a great champion, but we are sure that in spite of of his often repeated statements about the eyes, he paid attention to other qualities to help maintain and improve his strain of pigeons. We told him once that he, with his method, very easy could lay his hand on all the best pigeons that were, unnoticed, sold in the sales in Brussels for a low price. He only smiled and did not take much notice of our hint.

DOCTOR BRICOUX, JOLIMONT.
A master in the pigeonsport was a supporter of the French-Belgium standart rule. He drew up, together with the late Leruy, Beague and others, the rules which would allow a classification of the racing pigeons according to this formula.
Nevertheless Bricoux in the last years of his glorious epoch one of the greatest flyers the world has ever known. More than once he had in his team of pigeons one or more outstanding pigeons, which a docile supporter of the standard-theory never would have kept alive. One thing we must say of Dr Bricoux, who was besides a good pigeon fancier, a good business man, that he prefered to breed a well built pigeon with a sound constitution, with a round and broad back and strong loins, as it was required at that period. He had also the habit to keep, at least one pigeon every year that did not come up to standard all was it only to try it out, and more than once such a pigeon turned out an exceptional racing bird.


ADOLF VIRLET, HAINE-ST.-PIERRE.
A first class breeder and flyer who, untill the last year (1939), obtained startling results. He died at the beginning of the war. When we put the same question to him, he gave us the following answer : The first thing I require, when I take a pigeon in the hand is : perfect balance. I never failed on this demand. This is, what allows me to give a favourable or an unfavourable opinion after I have taken a pigeon in the hand, even without looking closely at it. It is plainly a question of finger sensitivety. But I still maintain that a general balance is the most important quality I require from a pigeon. On second place comes the form and the suppleness of the wing. Very seldom have I handled a good long distance pigeon that did not have a supple wing. My preference goes to a pigeon who's last flight is slightly longer than the last but one.
But remember this is only a personal preference because there are many exceptions, but one must in all cases demand that the last flight is, at least, of the same lenght as the third one, counting from the outside. To conclude, I will say, that a good pigeon must always have a clear and lively eye, no matter what colour it is. This is the opinion of an old champion who departed in full glory.

DR. DUPONT, THULIN.
Was a specialist and a champion of the long distance races, - alas, he departed too early, he was also am untiring reseacher and a brilliant orator. Speaking of wings, he had, before the war, one of the finest collection of birds. In 1938, when we visited him, he had cut back the back wings of all his birds. (The truth forces us to say that the season had not been as brilliant as the previous one). We will give his opinion concerning the required qualities of a long distance pigeon, other pigeons did not interest him. Physique qualities : I prefer pigeons of a medium size (the greater part of his best pigeons were indeed rather small). They must have a strong muscular system. I prefer a rather long wing and a well-proportioned fore-arm. But above all, I like to know their origin, otherwise the breeding with them is only guess-work, which means very often a less of time and money. On the other hand, it is very important to find out a management system that suits them best and also what training and exercising they need. One can train the youngsters but one must not overdo it and don't race them too hard untill they are three years old. This were the onley words of a greatly missed Dr. Dupont of Thulin.

HERMAN BALASSE, MANAGE.
We continue with going over old ground of the opinions of deseased champions. It is now the turn of our friend Herman Balasse, also departed on the meridian of his glory. He was during the years 1945 -1950 one of the strongest short and middle distance flyers. Besides this he was an eminent connoisseur and nearly always managed to point out the best bird in a loft. Here is the answer he gave on the same question : My first sorting out I do when I take a youngster out of the nest, before it is weaned. In other words, I handle it as soon as it is old enough to leave the nest. If I don't like a pigeon when it is a month old, I will never like it.
I prefer to work when the loft is in semi-darkness, so that other qualities, than the ones I have in mind cannot tempt me. I like a supple wing, without being exclusive on this point, because exceptions occur very often. I like also a long wing but it must be in proportion of the strength of the pigeon, because it is a fact that the longer a wing is the more difficult it is for a pigeon to use it. I like also hard and firm pigeons. What can you achieve with a weak pigeon, even when all other qualities are perfect. This were the words of Herman Balasse.


ERNEST DURAY, ECAUSSINNES.
He obtained in the long distance races results that were never bettered. Here is the opinion of Mr. Duray concerning the three best qualities of a racing pigeon : The first quality I require from a pigeon is the reflex, or better still the expression of the eye. The colour does not matter but from the expression of the eye one can read the intelligence and the will-power of a pigeon. It is the mirror of the soul.
The second quality is the general build. I prefer a cylindrical form build so that it seems that the bird glides through the air without any exertion. I also like a good carcass, a good vent and a strong muscular system, but I don't like them when they are too long. Deep keeled pigeons and pigeons that are broad and heavy at the front and are out of balance, are only good when the fly in an adversed wind, which restores their balance.
The third quality one can find in the wing which according to a new theory must be as long as possible. Some of my friends have taken the time and trouble to measure the wings of their best pigeons and jotted them down on paper so that they could make some comparisons.
They soon chucked the whole thing in desparation. My opinion is that they chucked it up too early, because it is quiet possible that they were on the right way to become firm pigeon fanciers. Above all other things, a real regular long distance pigeon always has supple wing joints.

RENE GENETTE, NAMEN.
Is one of the strongest flyers in this country (Belgium), and as a judge of pigeons, he is one of the best. We will give here his answer, to this question. He give us his opinion when he was winning practically every race.
The first quality I look for in a pigeon is the vitality, in other words, the super health, the nervousness and the strength it shows. A pigeon that has those qualities and also has a rich feathering, must be in peak condition and will fly well either in the short, middle or long distance races. One can easily detect a pigeon that is out of form by its feathering, which will show a dull colour with practically no shine on it. If a pigeon is in such a condition i will be useless as a racer or breeder. Second quality : For hard races, it is absolute necessary that a pigeon has a exceptional general constitution. A perfect bone structure, a strong muscular system, a great suppleness in the wing, which must be sicle-shaped by comparison with the weight and size of the bird and a rich feathering.
No matter what distance one intends to race, one will only succeed with pigeons that are in a perfect health and it are those that one must breed from. Such pigeons have always a good appetite and their exceptionally good constitution will enable them to assimilate everything they take in. Fed in the same way as other pigeons, they are alway in a perfect condition and will show a lustrous feathering.

MARTIN VAN TUYN, SCHOTEN.
The great champion of Antwerp and to express ourselves better, a national authority concerning practice and technique in the pigeonsport. We don't know of any other pigeon fancier who can speak better on the subject.
He pointed out to us, that the most important qualities are, in the first-place, the muscles. Perhaps, we ought to tell you that Martin
Van Tuyn, together with his old partner the Dutchman Piet de Weerd are, so to say, the discoverers of the muscles. There are very few fanciers like them, that can define the exact placing of the breast muscles and their quality.
Next to the supple muscles, it is also important that a pigeon has a good bonestructure with a strong breast. A pigeon must feel hard and firm when taken in the hand and not soft.
On the third place Van Tuyn quoted the fineness of the plumes, soft feathering and a supple wing. The pigeon must, when one opens wing as it were, the wing into the hand.
The vitality of a pigeon is established by its condition. He always had a liking for a pigeon with a lively look.
Martin Van Tuyn has tested his own theory in practice and for many years he has proved that it was the right one.

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