In the old Flemish pigeon magazine “Vlaamse en Jonge Reisduif” I found the following text written by Magister in 1935:
The controversial habit of racing widowhood is one of the reasons for the regression of our sport. This way of racing has undoubtedly discouraged many fanciers here in Flanders, causing smaller fanciers to give up their hobby, rather than to lose against bigger fanciers week after week. These fanciers have more time and money and their lofts are big enough to accommodate this new way of racing, for which a large number of pigeons is needed.
Indeed, it is nonsense to say that any fancier can easily race widowhood and that a loft need not be rearranged, etc. If you want to race widowhood you need a specific loft and a large number of pigeons, including some special breeders and this is not always feasible. A smaller fancier might be able to adopt this system, but as soon as his good flyers are burned out there are not enough substitutes, as he cannot breed enough yearlings every season. This would eventually cause him to drop out.
This idea dates back to many years ago.
Gradually, we all started racing widowhood and we will never know if this was a good thing for pigeon racing. Although this was a big evolution in our sport nothing has really changed: we still have short and long distance races, pigeons are as fast as they used to be, there are easy and very demanding races, etc. It is basically the same game as it was 50 years ago.
But the pigeons themselves have changed. Today, we use sprinters for the middle distance races and the pigeons from the ‘30s are nowhere to be found. They cannot keep up, except maybe for the Barcelona races. We race with youngsters more often, and I think fanciers do not allow them time to mature. This means that the racing pigeon in general is evolving. Today, many fanciers even race with youngsters on widowhood! If a fancier does not have room to have breeders he just buys youngsters and races with them. Hence the increasing demand and the high prices.
Red ring around the eye
Why would you get rid of pigeons with this phenomena? Raymond, a friend of mine, doubted if they could become good racers, but there is no reason why they shouldn't. Fancier Van De Velde from Oudenburg used to have several Rooscheel pigeons with a red ring around their eye. Do not fear to race and breed pigeons with a red ring around the eye: things will not get worse. Of course, many of these pigeons will not become good racers, but that applies to 99% of the pigeons with a regular eye as well!
The sudden appearance of red rings in a colony is usually linked to their forefathers. It is unknown why this type of pigeon seems to have disappeared. Possibly, fanciers did not like the red eye and took these pigeons away, or they only selected pigeons with white rings around the eye. Similarly, pigeons with stout black nose warts or black rings around the eye seem to have disappeared as well.
I was talking to a fancier that was complaining about the late arrival of his pigeons, which were expected to do well. A pigeon might be a descendant of an exceptional pigeon or it might appear to be in top form, but that does not say much. Success depends on numerous factors, many of which are uncontrollable.
But you can give special training to pigeons that do not perform as expected. As I said before: you start from the beginning with multiple shorter training tosses per week, both separate and in group. If needed, you can race them on widowhood a bit with mandatory training flights of 15 to 30 minutes per day. Besides, why should a pigeon perform well as a youngster?
How many times have we been told that a successful youngster will be a true champion in the future? Well, in fact they usually perform less well in the following season! You should be patient and give your pigeons time to develop, although they will not be successful now, believe me, they will be in the next season.