The exceptional fancier Cor Leijtens at a young age, in front of his first loft
Cor and Harrie
We go back to 1948, when Cor Leijtens is born in the farm of his parents in the Dutch town of Oostelbeers. His brother Harrie is born one year later. The Leijtens family consisted of father and mother, two sisters and two more brothers. The two sisters left the house, got married and had children. The four brothers continued to live in their house of birth. Father and mother Leijtens were privileged to have spent their last moments at home, in their familiar environment. No one would have guessed that the two brothers Cor and Harrie would one day become world famous citizens. They became highly successful pigeon fanciers, achieving the most brilliant results and dominating the competition in CC Midebo and in the province of East Brabant. Fanciers from across the world would soon visit the lofts of the two successful brothers from Oostelbeers. In this two-part series we discuss the lives of Cor and Harrie, how they developed into highly renowned pigeon fanciers, and the pigeons that have played an important role over the past 50 years.
Cor and Harrie grew up in the small town of Oostelbeers in the province of Brabant. There were few social activities in their home town when they were teenagers. They had to work hard in the farm, and there was no time or money to go on holidays. Instead they spent most of their free time out in the woods, since their home sits between a state park and the De Baest nature park, where they found plenty of inspiration. They came into contact with all aspects of nature: they climbed the highest trees to see the birds nests up close. Keep in mind webcams or the internet did not yet exist at the time. They would catch squirrels and sometimes an occasional wild rabbit as a pastime. There were also several pigeons that passed along the farmyards, looking for food and water. As you might have guessed, the two brothers would often try to get their hands on as much pigeons as they could. It was with some of these lost pigeons that they eventually started racing for the first time.
In 1964 Cor and Harrie watched the arrivals of the pigeons of the late Jan Kolsters, a renowned fancier in and around Oostelbeers. It awakened their interest and it soon became obvious that pigeon racing suited them really well. They got involved in the sport for the first time in 1965, with the experience they gained during their many outdoor trips. They managed to become successful fanciers in the pigeon racing union of Over Berg en Dal in Oirschot very quickly. This union started to see the two brothers as two major contenders from 1967 onwards, and from then on they started to perform really well. They won their first championship prizes in a club of 80 members, mostly in the natour races. When Harrie was completing his military service Cor had to take care of his pigeons alone. Harrie was sometimes away for weeks, and they could communicate only through mail. There is an interesting story to it: in the barracks where Harrie was serving, there was a public announcement to inform him that he had received a letter from his brother. It said: "the pigeons have been doing really well." This basically summarizes the career of the two fanciers.
In their first years as pigeon fanciers Cor and Harrie were wery impressed with the achievements of one man in particular. A fancier from the town of Reusel in Brabant was making history in our sport, mainly with pigeons from the world renowned Janssen Brothers from Arendonk, Belgium. This fancier was none other than Jos Van Limpt or "De Klak", the undisputed number one fancier at the time. A young Cor and Harrie made the trip to the big city of Eindhoven to attend the sale of a youngster of Klak, which shows how ambitious they were. Their father advised them to go and buy that pigeon, even though it cost them 100 Dutch guilder at the time. It would be the first Klak pigeon in their collection. They obtained an additional few youngsters of Klak in a sale in Oirschot and Moergestel, and they bought four youngsters directly from Jos De Klak later on as well. These pigeons paved the way to a successful career.
The new loft built in the 1970s, where the right environment is created using light, heat and cold
Division of tasks and a new loft
After Harrie completed his military service he returned to the familiar surroundings of his home. It was time to start looking for a job, and he joined a transport company. He began as an assistant to the truck drivers before becoming an international driver himself. He would travel to Italy most of the time. Cor stayed at home to help out his father on the farm; he was responsible for dairy cattle. This farm has continued to produce milk to this day, and you can tell from their infrastructure that they have quite a flourising business. A lot of progress was made in pigeon racing as well: the brothers built their first real pigeon loft behind the farm, using wooden boards. Over the years they managed to further improve their loft, based on what they learned from nature, and they continued to achieve some excellent results. The town of Oostelbeers founded its own racing club in 1968, called De Drie Beerzen. Cor has been a member of this club ever since.
1987/1988 A major turnaround
We are in the late 1980s as the computer makes its first introduction in pigeon racing, providing us with digital results for the first time. This wan an eye opener to many fanciers. The pigeons of Cor and Harrie Leijtens appeared quite a lot in the rankings for the ace pigeon championships, and from then on it was clear that their pigeon family was quite special. Unfortunately their loft attracted thieves as well, as a number of pigeons were stolen from their loft in January 1988. But the two brothers decided not to throw in the towel. In fact, this setback motivated them to work even harder: they wanted to show the world that nothing could stop them.
They started to read every single pigeon magazine and they browsed all results from across the country, and they obtained pigeons from some of the very best fanciers. They also kept more and more pigeons. The idea was that if there would be another theft, they would still have plenty of pigeons left to keep racing. This approach was the start of a highly successful period in the 1990s; an era in which fanciers managed to achieve the most astonishing results. In 1990 quite a number of their young birds got lost, and one of them was found by Rinus van Gastel (Roosendaal, NL). The two brothers went to Roosendaal to pick it up, and they got along really well with Rinus. Eventually, they obtained four eggs from him in 1992. The two brothers still consider Rinus to be one of the greatest fanciers they ever met. In 1993 they noticed that the Van Gastel bloodlines had a considerable impact on their existing breed; their young birds began to achieve astonishing results. They were kept in the old lofts behind the widower loft, and it was there that entire groups of young birds would arrive home from the races in CC Midebo. They really dominated this competition, beating thousands of pigeons.
They did what many considered to be impossible: they became general champion of CC Midebo for four consecutive years. The two brothers managed to achieve the impossible, and in an impressive way. We included a few of their results, which beautifully illustrate how strong they were at the time. Feel free to browse their results from back then, and keep in mind this is only a small selection of their palmares. These races took place in a time where pigeons were still clocked by hand, and where clocks were often completely full;
1993 Chimay 7144 young birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-12-13-15-16-17-etc. 1997 Strombeek 1113 old birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-10-11-14-etc. 1998 Houdeng 4537 young birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-11-12-13-14-19-21-22-23-25 etc. 1998 Houdeng 1410 young birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-21-22-24-25-etc. 1999 Bohain 3510 young birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20-21-22-23-etc. 2000 Houdeng 4096 young birds 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-etc.
Exceptional pigeons in the 1990s
We would like to run through some of their best pigeons from the 1990s. These pigeons continue to influence the competition in The Netherlands to this day. These were not everyday racing birds. They have an impressive list of achievements, and many of their descendants went on to win ace pigeon titles themselves, even at national level.
The first one is the iconic NL99-1107523 Reneris. His sire is NL93-1203173 Pedro. He was a great racing cock and winner of a first prize from Chimay (7144 p.) and General Ace Pigeon in 1995-1996 and 1997. Reneris has played a defining role in the Leijtens pigeon family. His most well known daughter is without doubt NL03-4101114 Benicia, which won the National Ace Pigeon Championship Middle Distance in 1995. Reneris has an impressive palmares as well, having won four first prizes in major competitions;
Chimay 1 – 4358 p. Sezanne 1 – 2136 p. Houdeng 1 – 2065 p. Troyes 1 – 1840 p.
The second pigeon with an international reputation was 97-1754159, which was also called 2e WK and Pentinum. Thanks to his impressive results he finished in 2nd place in the popular Versele Laga competition. His best results include:
Limoges 1 – 977 p. 3 NPO – 5306 p. La Souterraine 2 – 1142 p. 6 NPO – 8607 p. Châteauroux 4 – 1697 p. 19 NPO – 13011 p.
The third champion of Cor Leijtens is NL98-1436441 Lammert. This cock was 1st Dutch Olympiad Pigeon Sprint in South Africa in 2001, representing The Netherlands. Descendants of Lammart have won numerous top prizes at national level. Lammert himself has won five first prizes as a racing bird;
Chantilly 1 – 3353 p. Etampes 1 – 1373 p. Bohain 1 - 4780 p. Peronne 1 – 4710 p. Bohain 1 – 1972 p.
Our story continues in part II, which will be published any time soon.