Cor Leijtens showing his 17 year old racing cock Reneris. This is pigeon racing at top level.
A new century
We go back to the year 2000, the start of a new millenium which heralded many big changes for Cor and Harrie Leijtens. The two fanciers are full of energy and they had some big plans in pigeon racing. In order to achieve their goals, they decided to build a brand new pigeon loft. As you would guess, a lot of time went into the design and the creation of the loft. They spent a lot of time thinking about the lay-out, the materials they could use, and possible technologies that could help them create the perfect environment, in which their pigeons can perform at the highest level. They built an impressive new pigeon loft of 20 metres long and 3 metres wide. There is a 1 metre corridor along every section, each of which is equipped with an aviary, where the youngsters spend most of their time. The entire side of the loft is equipped with light-transparent panels, and these can be covered from the inside out. The lighting can be switched on or off automatically. Internal air ventilation is included as well.
Cor and Harrie by the left side of their new loft. They spent a lot of time talking pigeons.
The racing hens
The two brothers have an innovative mindset, and they wanted to try something else besides traditional widowhood. They had been hearing stories of fanciers that achieved great results with their hens, and the two brothers agreed to come up with their own team of racing hens as well. They wanted to create the perfect system, and they even tried to come up with the perfect dimensions for their breeding boxes. They also looked for the best possible diets, and they tried different ways of motivating their racing hens. Many different approaches were used, including for instance two hens paired to a single cock. The hens get to see a cock every time they arrive home.
Cor and Harrie learned many things through trial and error. For instance, the hens used to do several training flights in the winter as well, until one day several hens lost their way due to fog. That is why the hens stay inside for most of the winter nowadays. There are many birds of prey around the area as well, and the fanciers also found out that too many training flights in the winter affects the pigeons' moult. They eventually came up with an approach that enabled them to achieve great results, based on regular training and an appropriate diet. We were quite impressed with the evening trainings of the racing hens, which were flying past us at very high speeds.
Daphne, probably the very best in a long list of top class racing hens (top 10 WHZB twice)
Cor and Harrie were among the very first fanciers to be using broken corncobs as a ground cover. These corncobs keep the temperature at a comfortable level, they stay very dry and any dust particles can fall through to the floor itself. The first man to find out about these corncobs in their loft was a very tall man, and here is why: a large wooden board had been placed in front of the corncob layer, so that most people could not even see it. But this particular fancier was tall enough to look over the wooden board, and to discover one of the secrets of the Leijtens brothers.
Looking for better
The two brothers have been searching for good quality pigeons throughout their careers. They obtained pigeons of De Klak and Rinus van Gastel, but they also visited several other successful lofts, including that of the Brouwers-Kodama combination. They obtained their NL97-2005600 Blauwe Jack, an outstanding breeding cock. They also purchased pigeons from Jos & Jules Engels (Putte, BE), Ad Schaerlaeckens (Baarle-Nassau, NL), and the PIPA Elite Center (Knesselare, BE). In addition, they got their hands on a hen of Jan Hooymans (Kerkdriel, NL) through an auction in which pigeons from the Belgian Master competition were sold.
Any fancier looking for the very best bloodlines on the market has come across the name of Gerard Koopman (Ermerveen, NL), and his world renowned breeder Kleine Dirk. Cor took the plunge and he obtained three youngsters of Kleine Dirk that would be used in the breeding loft in Oostelbeers. One of them was a son of Kleine Dirk x Amoré, the NL02-2173502 Amore’s Dirk, and this pigeon proved really invaluable for Cor and Harrie. Numerous youngsters and grandchildren of this exceptional breeder have won ace pigeon titles and top prizes in CC Midebo and in Province East Brabant. The 907, which is a son of Amoré's Dirk, won the Ace Pigeon title of Best Cock in the national WHZB competition in 2007.
Top class breeder Amoré's Dirk. (son of Kleine Dirk x Amoré)
The racing birds
Our two-part series about the impressive career of Cor and Harrie Leijtens would not be complete without an overview of their best racing birds. From the year 2000 onwards the team managed to breed a special racing bird every single season, capable of winning an important first prize or ace pigeon title. We picked a few:
NL03-4101114 Benicia (Daughter Reneris) 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon Middle Distance NPO 2005
NL00-4047558 Briljantje 1st General Ace Pigeon CC Midebo - 12th Best Hen WHZB 2002 NL00-4047551 Jeannie 1st NPO Bourges 10,338 p. NL01-4103577 De 577 5th National Ace Pigeon Middle Distance NPO 2003 NL01-4103650 Super Leentje 4th National Ace Pigeon WHZB 2002 NL01-4103683 Nanne 5th National Ace Pigeon Sprint NPO 2004 NL01-4103689 Kampioentje 6th National Ace Pigeon Long Distance NPO 2003 NL02-4145259 Daphne 4th Best Hen WHZB 2005 - 10th Best Hen WHZB 2004 1st NPO Limoges 5927 p. NL03-4101114 Benicia 1st National Ace Pigeon Middle Distance NPO 2005 NL04-4155907 907 van Amore’s Dirk 1st Best Cock WHZB 2007 NL05-4004811 Jacky Blue 1st National Blois Rayon 3 4187 p. - 1st NPO Blois 6451 p. NL06-4070064 Kleine Bram 6th National Ace Pigeon Long Distance NPO 2009 NL06-4070134 Blois II 1st National Blois Rayon 3 4317 p. NL07-4101812 Britt 4th Best Hen WHZB 2009 - 1st General Ace Pigeon CC Midebo 2009 NL08-4107571 Vieree 3rd National Ace Pigeon Middle Distance NPO 2010 NL08-4107638 Alexia 1st General Ace Pigeon CC Midebo 2011 NL09-4141037 Walter 1st National Argenton S1 20,816 p. - 1st NPO Argenton 6580 p. NL10-4172899 Kian 1st NPO Poitiers 4,494 p. NL10-4172926 Harlette 1st General Ace Pigeon CC Midebo 2013
907 of Amore's Dirk, Best Cock in the national WHZB competition 2007
Cor has always been fully dedicated to creating a successful pigeon breed. Unfortunately a lung condition prevented him from spending enough time looking after his pigeons in recent years. Cor knew that he could not go on like that much longer; it was simply too much for him. In the spring of 2016 he made the difficult decision to bid farewell to his pigeon family, even though he was already in full preparation for this year. He had bred a full round of young birds of 2016, and the old birds were already training hard for the coming season. He got rid of his entire collection of old birds, while the young birds stayed in the loft. He will probably use those to breed a (smaller) racing team for 2017. Cor is still convinced that he made the right choice, and he does not regret losing his old birds. It was just too difficult for him. He is actually glad that he could take a step back. He now enjoys running just a team of young birds, which he devotes all his attention to. He did keep one old bird though, his 17 year old Reneris. This cock was a successful racing bird and became an invaluable breeding cock later on as well. Reneris can now spend his last days in the loft in Oostelbeers, just like his illustrious loft mate Lammert, which died last winter.
Reneris, 17 years old and feeling at home in Cor's hands
Cor and Harrie Leijtens are two special people, not only as pigeon fanciers but also as nature enthusiasts and as human beings. Cor has made a number of statements in the course of his career that could help pigeon fanciers put things in perspective after they had a bad race:
If you were ever in doubt about basketing your pigeons and you asked Cor for advice: You should never be scared in life but you should always be careful. If Cor had a bad result and you asked him how he was doing; Well, at least we don't have to make a living from this. After a race where many young birds got lost, he would often say: Many wars have been fought, and yet there are still plenty of soldiers. And if he had been particularly unlucky he would always say: Tomorrow is another day.