HECTOR DESMET, GERAARDSBERGEN
Was one of the greatest Belgium champions and was able to win top prizes which were nearly always first prizes from Pont St.-Maxence, Dourdan, Orleans, Blois and also on Angouleme and Libourne. He won several national championships in such a convincing manner, that it was nearly impossible to beat him. Hir is the opinion of Hector Desmet on the question that keeps us busy :
First quality : Balance.
Second quality : form and suppleness of the wing.
What the colour and expression of the eye concerns : One can find good pigeons among all colours. But the balance never lies. He added to this : To become in the first ten in a National, a pigeon must have a perfect balance and the form of the wing and the form of the wing must be in complete proportion with the pigeon. Otherwise there will be no complete balance.
Everybody will probably remember the famous " Prince " of the champion of Geraardsbergen. It was the best pigeon I ever handled. What concerns balance and wing it was perfect. It was perhaps the best pigeon in the whole of Belgium and I really don't believe there have ever been a better one.
OSCAR DEVRIENDT, MOERE
The first quality and requirement is according to me the balance. When I, speak of balance, I must say, that in this the size of the pigeon is of little importance. Among all type of pigeons — great, medium and small — one can find good pigeons, but what is important for the sportive value of a pigeon is the balance.
A pigeon that weighs heave and has plenty of meat on its body, can impossible be a good pigeon and surely not a good long distance pigeon. A pigeon must feel light in the hand, not like a pigeon that has been lost and came back after a certain time, but more like a ball that has been blown up. No more plays in this balance the lenght of the wing a roll. It is normal that a small pigeon has a shorter wing than a big pigeon and it is also normal that a short stubby pigeon has a shorter wing than a long stretched pigeon. It is also normal that a sprint cyclist has shorter leggs than a long distance cyclist. What is important: the wing must be supple. One will seldom find a stiff wing or a hard feathering by a good pigeon. In short the best expression will be : the harmonically build of a pigeon, no corners or edges, no disproportions, but all parts in balance with eachother. A second quality and than especially for a long distance pigeon, is sturdiness, a strong frame, a strong back and a strong muscular system. A pigeon that, for example, lifts up its tail when taken in the hand in a normal way, can in my opinion never be a good long distance pigeon. Such a pigeon must feel a pain in the loins after a few hours flying, and what about a pigeon with an open vent ? Will it be harmful to the sportive value of a pigeon ? I don't think so, although it is surely not a favourable quality in a pigeon. But sometimes it may occur in some strains. Next to the outward qualities, the not so visible factors play a big roll. How is it otherwise explainable that a pigeon that satisfies in all aspects and is healthy, does not perform well ? This is the reason I consider that the intelligence and the will-power are essential factors. A stupid pigeon is a bad pigeon. This is as sure as two times two is four. But moreover will-power alone is not enough. It must also possess the staying-power to come home no matter how bad the weather is. And that is something that also some good class pigeons miss. It is not typically that some pigeons are able to give great performances in absolute normal weather, but are hours behind when the weather is a little out of the ordinary. Or am I wrong in saying that in these pigeons the orientation abilities are disturbed as soon as the is something wrong with the weather ?
JOS KEMPENEERS, NIEUWERKERKEN
Also one of the strongest flyers and greatest champions of Belgium, gave us the following answer on the questions we put to him :
The most important point or rather the greatest that a pigeon has, or must have, is intellect.
A nice looking and well build pigeon with a superior wing, of which so much up heave is made (and in which I don't believe) and with no intellect, can never win a brass farthing. But an intellect pigeon with a bad wing can sometimes be a really good pigeon.
It is for that reason that I bought the world renown " Witpen " (Barge) from Hector De Smet for 70.000 Bfr. and the " Daxien " for 27.000 Bfr., etc...
Because the were pedigree birds and I don' want anything else. For such a purchase I never care what price I have to pay because I knew what I was buying. If I had take a chance with pigeons I buy, I may as well buy them in a market (Liege for example), but for anybody that tries to find the right way in the pigeonsport, I don't advice this.
When one buys a donkey one has a donkey. How many times have I beart about the trouble caused by angry parents (human ones) when their children did not learn anything at the school in their village. The parents maintained that the teachers were at fault, etc... and then they send their children to a college. And what happens than, the trouble is worse. When the intellect is not there, nothing will make them intelligent and this is the same with our pigeons.
A racing pigeon must also be well build and must be in a perfect health which only be obtained through origin and good management. The vent must be strong and well closed. The throad aperature must not be too large. The feathering is also important. It must be soft and of a good quality. A pigeon with a withered or dry plumage is, in my opinion, not healthy and not in condition and will never win any money.
OMER DE KEYZER, OUDENAARDE
A man who's pigeons made his fortune. A skilful connoisseur and a greatly valued judge. He remained, for more than 50 years, in his speciality, one of the best. Although he has several sales, which always were a great success, he stayed nevertheless, the champion of Belgium.
He obtained the most prizes in the short and middle distance races.
See here what he wrote in an extremely friendly letter intended for the benefit of our readers, the three qualities he demand of a pigeon :
1. — The muscles: a good muscular pigeon, no matter its size or the form of its body, is always light when taken in the hand, must be well balanced and must feel like a well filled balloon. On this point I have always been right. When I handle a pigeon, I never hestitate in giving a favourable or unfavourable opinion and this without a close
look or any consultation. It is perhaps a tactile sense which not every body has which can be obtained by handling a great amount of pigeons and through making a comparison between good and bad pigeons. In my opinion this is the first quality one must demand from a racing pigeon.
2. — The feathering and the fighting spirit: The feathering of a good pigeon is always smooth and oily. It has always a good back wing. My preference is for a pigeon which last flight is slightly longer than the ninth feather or at least of the same lenght.
The last feather must never be shorter than the eight feather. The eyes must be clear and sparkling, no matter what colour they are. Out of the expression, one can draw a conclusion if the pigeon is intelligent and combative.
3. — The heart, the breating organs and the suppleness of the wings: I have never heart of a superior pigeon that did not have a supple wing. One can decide by the breating of a youngster in the nest if it is going to be a good or a bad subject. The perfection of those qualities will assure it a long live. Only on those conditions will it be an extra good racing pigeon during a period of 6, 7 or even 8 years and one can, rest assured, that it also be a good stockbird. It is only out of those one must breed. A pigeon who's breathing organs are only of anaverage, can only be a good pigeon as a youngster or a yearling and at the most as a two year of three year old, notwithstanding its gifted muscular system, its soft feathering, its exceptional fighting spirit and intelligence.
There are at least 60 % of such pigeons in the lofts. Their breating organs decline and their muscles weaken when they have reached the age of three years.
Even when they were winners in their first or second year, they are finished and as breeders they are useless. Their youngsters will inherit this faulty breading and will cause a decline in the loft. The best thing to do is, to eliminate them or at least one should not breed out of them.
These were the words of this master in the pigeonsport. His name was Omar De Keyzer.
GASTON SECRETIN, LIEGE
Since years one of the greatest champions of the Liege Federation.
He usually wins in the strongest union in country the L'Independante de Liege, of which he is the chairman, the most prizes. A pigeon breeder who every breeds a whole series of first class pigeons which enable him to remain on top in the National pigeonsport. He is also skilful leader and his opinions are highly valued in Brussels and Liege. In What follows one can see how he solsed this problem in his own loft : what are for me the three most important qualities of a racing pigeon ?
1. — The first quality I demand is a complete balance, which I can feel as soon as I handle a pigeon. I am on this point very obstinate and when a pigeon does not answer to these requirements it is in my opinion a mediocre pigeon and I will not take the trouble to examine it any further. A pigeon that has a bad bone structure and who's muscles are not suited to its body, can never be well balanced and cannot give any good performances. In the mechanical world one have never seen a plane or a car of which the build was not in complete balance, put up
any great performances.
2. — A second requirement is the abundance, the oily feeling and the suppleness of the feathering, which I call the richness of the feather ing. In my opinion, this are the best signs of the richness of the blood, the vitality and of good health. Without these, nothing can be achieved.
3. — A third requirement : They must have a supple wing which must be in comparison with the weight and size of the body, in other words, it must balance with their bone-structure and muscles. These are the first three requirements I demand. Nevertheless, I cannot pass by in silence the fact that I consider the parentage as a important element. I like to see also, a sparkling eye, the livelyness of the look and the proofs of intelligence a pigeon shows in his behaviour in and outside the loft. Naturally, a pigeon must also be in good health.
This was the opinion of Gaston Secretin.
CHARLES VANDER ESPT, OSTEND
Was a great authority and a Belgium grand-master in the pigeon sport.
He was not only the worthy successor of Vandevelde but became also a world celebrity through the exceptional breeding value of his colony.
The last proof of this we saw in the final sale of his pigeons after his death. There were buyers from every corn of the world.
Charles Vander Espt possessed the great quality to bring into his loft only pigeons which came from an irreproachable origin. He know all the Belgium strains in detail and obtained only those pigeons with which he would have the most chance of success.
His second quality we have very often established when the time arrived that the youngster had to be weaned. Very seldom could anybody obtain a youngster out of his first round of youngsters. He bred out of every pair of pigeons he had and pracically all youngsters were trained and raced in the year of birth. After this followed the sifting by hand and all pigeons that did not have a soft feathering, red throat with a great opening, a hard feathering or any other informities were directly removed to the kitchen of his son in Middelkerke.
He was very strict in his judgment of the health of his pigeons. A good health which could only be obtained though a perfect management. On this point nothing was left to be desired.
Many times he talked to us about the management of the pigeons and the way he was talking about this one would think that this did not play an important roll in the good quality and good health of the pigeon.
GEORGES FABRY, LIEGE
One of the greatest Belgium fanciers. He is a specialist in winning large amounts of money. A champion, which through the first class pigeons he breed, is noted, since 25 years, all over the world.
Here is his answer :
Firstly, I examine a pigeon by taking it in the hand I like to do this when the loft is in semi darkness, so that I will not be influenced by the looks of a pigeon. A pigeon must be egg-shaped with the centre of gravity at the front, the vent must be as near as possible to the end of the breast-bone. The feathering must be soft: a sign of good health.
The shoulder must be tightly feathered.
Once I have established all these points, I continue the examination.
The eyes must be well pointed to the front. It must have, no matter what the colour is, a good expression. The after wing must be tightly feathered and rather short, the entire wing must be in comparison with the model of the pigeon.
It must be understood, that those qualities are only significant for racing as well as breeding, if the pigeons one is handling are of a good origin, because without origin it is not possible to perpetuate a good breeding cycle.
I will end with this explanation, that the present standard (Franco-Belgium standard), as used for some years in shows is much too complicated for the judges and brings with it too much needless and boring work.
PIERRE DORDIN, HARNE (FRANCE)
A well cultured person, who we consider with his friend Robert Sion, is noted as being one of the strongest flyers in French. Pierre Dordin is the chairman of the sports committies of the French pigeon Unions, author of the well known reports about the French experimental races, chemist by profession, he is considered to be one of the greatest authorities of our sport. Besides this, he is also an untireable investigater and has written down in a long letter his opinions and explains them as follows :
Here are my opinions in regards to the qualities which we must demand of our pigeons. These qualities are of three sorts and all indispensable : Intelligence, behaviour, constitution.
1. — Intellectual powers. Among those is a very refined orientation ability, the most important one. The other qualities are : the will-power, the dynamism and the energy. The intellect of pigeons differ. Weak and hunched up pigeons are never any good. It is quit possible that some judges can discover these qualities but there are not many. It is mostly in the basket, before one takes them in the hand, that one learns to know, out of the attitude, look and expression, the value of a pigeon. This question is naturally much easier for the owner : he knows its way of live, its habits and many other details, which are important in regards to the intelligence of a pigeon.
2. — Physiological qualities. The vital functions : Blood circulation,
breating, digestion, nervous system and the glands. Each of these functions are essential and must work proper. A single infirmity is a reason for elimination.
3. — Constitution. This last point circumscribes all that is tangible and visible.
Although it is not the most important one, it is the most disputed one. Many theories are build up around these qualities. We don't take any of them seriously. All theories are venerable, provided they are based on true experiences. The trouble is, they come too often too extreme or exclusive. But even when they fail one day, one will profit by them through the deep searching studies they have roused everywhere. With regards to the bone-structure, the vent, the muscles, the feathering, the wings, the tail, the loins, the back, the head, the eye, it is a fact that all those qualities are of an undisputable importance. Others have already explained this in detail, so we will not repeat them. In our opinion, one thing comes before anything else : The whole of its physique qualities must be harmonically established.
It is the " harmony " of all these qualities which gives the true value in such a way, that in our opinion an excess of a certain quality may not turn out to be favourable. Certain faults, on the contrary, so as deviations, a too much open vent, a wing that dont't give easy (mostly through nervousness) influences, only in a small measure, our opinion about the sportive value of a pigeon. We are still waiting for somebody to show us a pigeon that is not harmoniously build.
Pierre Dordin concludes:
- All pigeons that are not built harmonioulsy without any risk of a mistake, be elimated ;
- Grading of good pigeons is always an extremely dilicate matter. We will end this short summary with some intimate informations : For our pigeons we always leave the verdict to a judge, which has always given us the greatest satisfaction : The racing pannier for the long distance races.
These are the opinions of the jovial and distinguished chairman.
NORBERT NORMAN, OOSTROZEBEKE
A prominent National champion, also president of the Entente Beige and the West Flemish Union. He describes the good qualities of a pigeon as follows :
Firstly I like to tell you that in all my long years of practice in the pigeonsport I have allowed all kinds of colours in my loft but have always made an exception for reds and mealies. Although one can find