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Degeneration of the eyes, etc ... How to make a clear distinction? - Part II

This is a difficult subject. My son, who is a veterinary, thinks that degeneration is even worse for animals than it is for humans. Degenerated crossed birds can sometimes give the impression that they are very strong and that is just what some fanciers are looking for: strong birds.

But these birds do not have a supple body, they are very rigid. Their feathers are often not all that bad but degeneration is most visible in the eye. The pupil is large, which causes a limp, lifeless look. The colour of the iris is too pale and plain yellow or red. You could compare it to expired milk turning blue. It is difficult to explain if you cannot show the differences on for instance a video. Many fanciers have a different understanding of the design and the circle of adaptation in a bird’s eye.

Many fanciers who are faced with degenerated pigeons through inbreeding tend to focus on finetuning their stock but they tend to forget what it is really about: vitality, power, character, good blood, etc. Some of them mistakenly believe that a pigeon with for instance a dark coloured eye is likely to be of better quality than a pigeon with a light coloured eye. The Janssen brothers were the first to think differently and eventually this turned them into the specialists of the goggle eyes. If someone asked them a question about the shape of their pigeons' eyes they would answer that they never pay much attention to that.

Fanciers with degenerated crossed birds might be fonder of a strong looking bird that seems very active and lively. It is difficult to say whether a fancier has any kind of breeding plan; maybe they have no idea what they are doing due to a lack of knowledge or experience.  We might conclude that fanciers who inbreed are often neglecting the physical condition of a bird, whereas fanciers who cross their birds neglect the bird’s mind and intelligence. Generally the inbreed birds are good quality birds, which indicates that these fanciers have had some valuable stock birds. The majority of crossed birds however are usually not very good at all. However it is dangerous to make such generalisations.

I have the impression that the typical degenerated crossed bird, which is the result of bad selection, is often as weak as a degenerated inbred bird. The few birds that can fly well often lack intelligence and endurance. The most important quality in a racing bird is its compass. Professor Anker, who had a long list of questions when I visited him in Kaposovar, has talked about this for a mere three minutes. He considered it a waste of time. I have seen about three hundred of his and his friends’ pigeons.

He asked me: what are the big mistakes?

He was quite surprised to hear my judgment: they did not have enough ‘compass’, and not enough power to grow strong with little food and to stay that way. They were also too dry, too slender. We have been making a distinction between crossed birds and inbred birds degeneration. But in reality there are plenty of intermediate forms as well, making it all but impossible to see what kind of degeneration we are dealing with: crossing or inbred degeneration. In the beginning of the 20th century many lofts have had a difficult time because fanciers would only pay attention to the circle of adaption in the eye, according to the so called eye theory of Gigot, which was adopted by Caiger and Bishop later on. There are also fanciers who only focus on the gullet of the breeding pigeons, following the theory of Frans Van der Linden, the old pigeon doctor from Antwerp. The results of these methods were not good. The results was that several lofts had pigeons with either a perfect eye or a perfect gullet. But the pigeons in question did not win any prizes anymore. Fanciers had been focusing on characteristics that have nothing to do with the quality of a racing pigeon. The only correct way to have a successful inbreed is by a strict and thorough selection: getting rid of the weaker birds in the loft. In pigeon racing there should be no prejudice and no mercy. The only thing that matters is how your pigeons perform; other criteria are side issues. If you do use any other criteria in the selection of your pigeons you must deal with the consequences.

When you couple your birds it would be wise not to mind their relationship or their age. My advice is to put your best cock and your best hen together.

The Janssen brothers go their own way

The Janssen brothers have never been afraid of inbreed, not with nephews and nieces, nor with half brothers and half sisters or even closer family ties. The only thing that mattered was their performance. However, they did keep an eye on anything that was not directly related to performance. For instance if a pigeon had difficulty laying eggs they would try to do something about it as quickly as possible. They do not like white primaries or other irregularites in the chest area; such pigeons were simply left out. But that was no problem because they had been breeding pigeons that did not have such flaws for over ten years.

Many stories have been told about the talent and the quality of their pigeons and most of these stories are correct. What impressed me the most is that whenever they had an agreement on the price the buyer could pick any egg or young bird of any age they wanted! They have been doing this for many years.

“Feel free to come by and to pick out a few pigeons. We will keep the birds that are not sold for ourselves.” Only a fancier with an excellent stock of phenomenal birds can be so generous without the risk of losing their best pigeons. I once told Louis and Chareltje that their generosity might have a worse influence on their stock than the continuous inbreed of their stock between 1933 and 1983. But they did not worry about either of the two. They had an enormous confidence in the resistance of their birds against the influence of inbred. I also asked them if they would ever sell their entire stock; they answered with a smile.


The greatest champion of all times, Dr Bricoux from Jolimont. His pigeons were
very successful in other lofts as well

Has there ever been a stock that has been inbred more precisely and over an extended period of time than the Janssen stock? I would not know. I have not heard of any in the so called developing countries of pigeon racing. Two of the most well known pigeon stocks in history, Bricoux and Delbar, were also the result of close breeding. To conclude I give you the story of Bricoux’s stock. We won’t talk about racing horses but the same principles apply to them; the Mendelian inheritance is universal.

Before the war he had pigeons of several stocks including André Sluys from Brussels, Francois Peeters from Brussel-Molenbeek, Emile Carlier te Brinche (an old stock Lorette from Brussels-Vorst) etc. But his best pigeons were birds from Grooters which he got from his assistant Bekeman. He had a pub in Etterbeek, in the East of Brussels, where he came into contact with Bricoux. He was a medical student who passed by for a drink or a game of billiards once in a while. Bekeman had two young birds of Grooters’ best pigeon from that period: Oude Niort, a national first prize winner from Niort, which was a short race. The famous fancier from Brussels Henri Grooters had also won a 5th prize in a very demanding race in which only 11 pigeons managed to arrive home.


Another great champion, Maurice Delbar from Ronse, with his Kleine Geschelpte 4293562/1932,
the best pigeon in Belgium at that time. His bloodlines can be found in the Jan Aarden stock