Moreover, we are not sure of the varieties he used as the basis of his strain. But it has been unquestionably established that Grooters bought pigeons from a Mr. Delderenne, more than fifty years ago, and that the representatives of this family have taken the leading part in the future of this renowned strain. In addition, at the dismantling of the house of Mr. Delderenne of Antwerp in 1875, Mr. Grooters bought nearly the entire collection. It is said that Delderenne liked to tell fanciers in the pigeon sport, that Grooters had won various races with the descendants of his “Roste,” his “Blue,” and many others. Older fanciers could also remember that Delderenne was very friendly with Beernaert, the Ulens loft-manager, and that he had only to open his mouth, to get the best specimens of the Ulens strain. This shows how easy it was for Delderenne to get the Ulens, who were the purest representatives of this latter variety. It is plainly shown that the first and the best pigeons of Grooters came from the descendants of the Ulens.
The “Witkelen” or “White Throats” have a history of their own. We had to turn to one of the oldest fanciers in Belgium, a Mr. Pierre Vanderhaeghen, to get some information about the origin of the Grooters. Here is what he told us in 1910
“ In 1855, my uncle, Mr. Theophile Claes, and I knew the unconquerable champion, Mr. Grooters, very well. He was our mutual friend. Mr. Theo Claes, whose reputation equaled the best, sold his pigeons in 1869. This fancier maintained that the “Witkelen” originated from a pigeon fancier in Brussel, named Mitchel. Mr. Claes bought from a Mr. Delacroix of Antwerp, an Irish hen, a white pigeon with blue specks.
It is out of this pigeon, and the cock he had from Mitchel, that he bred the blue male “De Wittekeel,” winner of First Prize from Narbonne.
Mr. Claes also had the nest-mate to this pigeon, which he named “De Arabier.” This bird was the image of the one Grooters kept for himself, a blue with a white throat. The fancier, Vanderlinden, of Gent, also came into the picture, in these combinations. The birds of this latter fancier -he was one of the greatest pigeon fanciers of that period- originated from Jean Voos, another celebrity of Terviers, who was in 1855 at the very top, with a loft of first-class pigeons.”
The pigeons of Verviers did not represent a definite strain, and it was only a few years later (in 1855) that the fanciers of Verviers paired their small pigeons with the English Carrier, the Persian Homing Pigeon, as well as with related products of these two strains, crossed on to the pigeons from Gent and Antwerp. Jean Voos was the first to try the latter pairings, with improved pigeons he received from Vanderlinden of Gent. In 1857, he possessed some wonderful pigeons which he called “Crossings.” They were as beautiful as the ones we possess to-day, in 1910. Vanderlinden then obtained the Verviers blood, which he introduced into his own family.
We may confirm that the “Kapjes” or “Little Caps” which showed the peculiarity of a small crest on top of the head, descended from the lofts of Grooters of Brussels, Jacobs of Ninove and Vanderhaegen of Gent, who all had descendants of the Vanderlinden strain. It remains, beyond all doubt, that the first pigeons from “Verviers” -as they were commonly called- were introduced into the Grooters strain.
The frequent presence of a characteristic in this family -commonly called “haanoog” or “cock-eye”- brings us to the probability to conclude with our assumptions. Briefly, we will say that the Grooters strain originated from a triple-combination: Ulens, from Delderenne of Antwerp; a pigeon from Mitchel of Brussels; the Vervier pigeons of Vanderlinden of Gent, through Jean Voos of Verviers.
The Grooters are the result of two distinct lines, namely, the “Vossen” of “De Roden” and “De Witkelen.” “ De Witkelen” or “White Throats” are so called because their ancestors showed this characteristic in their plumage; these are, in all respect, beautiful birds. In this line, the pupil is very clear and rather large. The mutual basic circle is generally easy to detect, and it surrounds the pupil perfectly; it is not very large, but is extremely neat and clear. The first circle of the iris shows itself in the form of a small net, while the second, which is rather large as compared to the first circle, is of a vivid red color. The beak is somewhat larger than average, but devoid of extensive wattles. The ceres are very slightly developed. The plumage is very rich, and super-abundant. The wing feathers are very wide. The dominant colors are satin-black, light and dark, and pieds.
It sometimes happens that after three, four or five generations in which white has disappeared completely, it shows up once more in the descendants, either as a white feather in the wing or tail, or a white tic near the eye or on the neck. We had in our own loft, a bird that was descended from a velvet, whose color was a milk-coffee, and very pale. This pigeon was given to us by a Mr. Wellekens, whose specialty was the Grooter family. Outside of the family we are here writing about, when the white shows up again, the eye changes and becomes cloudy, which is a bad omen for the strain. This does not happen with the Grooters. Notwithstanding the white in the plumage, the eye always shows the same characteristics of the family.
When we listen to some fanciers, they will tell you that they have a loft full of descendants of the “Witkelen,” but what a difference we find, when we examine the birds! They are not to be compared to the pigeons of the great master-breeder and fancier, Mr. Grooters himself. There is a great deal of difference between the Grooters descended from the “Os” and the “Witkelen.” “The Os” or “The Bullock” was a male of extraordinary size. The descendants of “De Os” attract attention immediately through the importance of their characteristics. The very strong head has a slight malformation at the top, which makes no difference to the over-all beauty of the subject. The plumage is richer than in the “Witkelen.” The eye-ball is smaller; the basic sign is the same: the first circle of the iris is orange and larger than in the “Witkelen,” and the second circle is of a less vivid red color. The dominant color is light checker, although sometimes we find blue or red subjects. These colors are attributable to “St. Sulpice” and his descendants. The velvet coloring never occurs in the pure “Ossen.” To get that color, we have to cross the descendants of the “Os” with the “Witkelen” line, but then the white will appear once more, in the form mentioned above. Through these combinations, we very often breed checker-bars (Pencil-Blues?), who as a rule, are excellent racing pigeons.
The Grooters, which we could call “The strain of Victory,” were used in conjunction with other first-class strains, to found lofts of a universally successful reputation. Of all famous pigeon families, the Grooters pigeons are the most in demand. Perhaps the reason for this is due to the fact that to-day (1910) it is very difficult to find them in their pure state. They are truly admirable pigeons, in which their incomparable qualities may be seen. They are gifted with a staying power which can stand any weather. With the Wegges, they are the pigeons most in demand by the pigeon fancier.
It sometimes happens in the cultivation of the Grooters, that we find the appearance of a small white net in the first circle of the iris. We shall find these characteristics mostly in lofts founded on the Grooters strain, but into which the owner has introduced another strain. The “Witoog” or “White Eye” hints at a light crossing in the strain that belongs to the Antwerp families, and it is mainly through the “Pittevil” to which we attribute the presence of this shade in the eyes. Indeed, in most cases this presents itself in the Grooters, as found in the culture of the “Swiggers.” The Grooters were introduced in their pure state, into the loft of Swiggers, but it was not long before they were paired with a blue-eyed hen, which came directly from the loft of Pittevil. In their eyes, the pupil is large and the basic sign is well-defined. The first circle of the iris is rather thin and white, while the second is vivid red. The characteristics are more like those of the Ulens, through the Pittevils, than Grooters.