And what about the (extreme) long-distance races and especially Barcelona, the “wet dream” race for a long-distance racer? Is it true that hens perform better than cocks on Barcelona or is this a quibble? This article tries to give an answer to this question in a well-founded way.
To measure is to know
Taken into account are the Barcelona races of the last 10 years, i.e. between 2012 and 2021, more specifically the international results, both the general ranking and the one of the hens.
Four performance blocks were distinguished:
- Prizes per 4
- Prizes per 10
- Prizes per 100
- Prizes per 1000
For each performance block it was checked whether the hens performed better or worse. We call this the outperformance.
Let us take the Barcelona 2021 race as an example. Internationally 16,485 pigeons participated of which 5,840 hens. The first 58 hens won a prize per 100 (coefficient better than 1%). The 58° hen ranked 118 on the overall result which gives a coefficient of 0.71% (118/16,485) or in other words a prize per 140. So although this pigeon was the last one on the hens result who won a prize per 100, she won a prize per 140 on the general result. This means that the outperformance of the hens (on the performance block 1/100 for the race Barcelona 2021) is 140%. The outperformance can be defined in two ways, both are equivalent:
- Coefficient with the hens / Coefficient in the overall result (in our example 1%/0.71%=140%) or
- Per x in the general result / per y with the hens (140/100= 140%)
This approach was applied to the 4 performance blocks of all Barcelona races of the last 10 years, so in total we get 40 data points.
- Of the 40 data points, only three are smaller than 100%. This means that hens almost always outperform cocks (more specifically in 92.5% of the cases). The only exceptions are the performance block 1/10 in 2018 (98%) and 2013 (99%) and the performance block 1/1000 in 2021 (75%).
- All averages over the different performance blocks exceed 100%, so here again an outperformance for the hens. Striking also that the outperformance is the biggest for the prizes per 1000 (164%), a bit lower for the prizes per 100 (145%), even lower for the prizes per 10 (110%) and tapered to an almost similar performance as the cocks in the performance block per 4 (103%). So for the top prizes the hens do much better than for the smaller prizes.
- Also the averages per individual race are always bigger than 100%, so also here the hens perform better than the cocks. The biggest outperformance is for the 2015 edition (160%), followed by 2020 (159%). The smallest outperformance is for the 2021 edition (107%).
- The overall average is 131%, which means that on average over all (10) Barcelona editions and over all performance blocks the hens perform 31% better than the cocks
The results from the table are also clearly visible in the graph:
- The lines are almost always above the 100% line, so the hens perform better than the cocks.
- Peaks cluster. For example in 2015 all lines are high (especially the line 1/1000) or in other words in 2015 the hens performed better than the cocks in all performance blocks. You could say that Barcelona 2015 was a hens edition.
- The 2021 edition just seems to be the opposite: a clear underperformance of the hens in the performance block 1/1000 (75%) and also the other performance blocks show only a moderate overperformance. This Barcelona edition was also special in the sense that almost all prizes per 1000 were won in France (pigeons at home on release day). Maybe in France they participate less with hens on Barcelona (in comparison with e.g. The Netherlands)? Flying home in one go is something that also happens in the long-distance races, which is perhaps more the domain of the cocks?
Possible explanations for the outperformance of the hens
We can never be sure, but some elements will certainly be of importance:
1. The average quality of the hens that are basketed for Barcelona. In general, mainly the genuine Barcelona specialists prepare a dedicated hens team for Barcelona whereas the non-specialist fanciers rather put a widower, who did not perform well enough on the shorter races, through to Barcelona.
2. The Netherlands are usually outstanding on Barcelona, although the pigeons have to fly further. Maybe this has to do with a thorough selection and the (enhanced) nature to fly during the night. Maybe the Dutch basket more hens to Barcelona than other countries, so the extra performance of the hens is just a "Dutch" effect?
3. Whether this dominance of the hens also applies to other (extreme) long distance races is food for another study. It would surprise me because in many "normal" extreme long distance races (Pau, Narbonne,...) the top prizes are already won the same day (in Belgium). And maybe coming home the same day is more the cocks play field (cf. Barcelona 2021).
Conclusion: hens outstanding on Barcelona!
Over the Barcelona editions of the last 10 years, the hens clearly outperformed the cocks:
- Almost always (in 92.5% of the cases)
- On average by 31%
- Especially at the top of the results, i.e. performances per 1000 and per 100, hens do much better than cocks (164% and 145% over-performance respectively).
- Sometimes with head and shoulders (e.g. prizes per 1000 in the 2015 edition (275%)).
It must be noted that in reality, the outperformance of the hens is even bigger than what was calculated above for two reasons:
- not all hens are doubled up with the hens, which means that they are wrongly considered as cocks in this analysis (where I was aware of the incorrect sex, I did correct it).
- The above results are compared to the general result (which contains cocks and hens). Compared to a classification with only cocks, the outperformance of the hens would have been even bigger.