Saban Saatdüzen (Tessenderlo, BE) winner of the national old bird race from Bourges

The traditional first race of the season, Bourges I, was quite a tough one. Quite a number of Belgian fanciers had basketed their pigeons for this race. No less than forty of them belong to Saban (pronounced Sja-ban) from Saatdüzen in Tessenderlo, in the province of Limburg.

Saban was six years old when he left Turkey together with his family, and it was already obvious that he had a love of animals. He was raised here, he worked as a miner throughout his life and he ended his career in the sludge works of Ham. He has been retired since 2003 but the Turkish Limburger is not the kind of man to sit down and relax.

Saban with his wife Vivianeand the national winner of Bourges I old birds


Canary breeders are often successful pigeon fanciers as well. Is this mere coincidence or does it mean that canary fanciers take things seriously? Think for instance of Tony Martens from Limburg (Lummen), who was an experienced canary fancier before turning to pigeon racing. That is how Saban turned into a pigeon fancier as well: “I spent quite a lot of time breeding canaries; I bred great looking birds. It was a time consuming hobby and it was not an easy task”, he remembered. He gained a lot of experience in breeding birds which he now uses in his pigeon loft. He thinks breeding is just as important as the races themselves.

He replaced his collection of canaries for pigeons. “One day my brother came by with a basket full of pigeons. That is how it all started”, he says with a smile. That was back in 1998.


The fancier from Limburg takes pigeon racing very serious. His wife Viviane jokingly said: “I’m surprised he does not sleep in his loft yet”. Saban knows a lot of attention goes to his pigeons. “These pigeons have everything they need to perform well”, says his close friend Lucien Aerts.

Besides breeding he spends a lot of time observing his pigeons as well. “You can tell a lot about a pigeon’s fitness just by observing it.” After a demanding race the pigeons can have a quiet training flight on Monday but they are expected to give their best on Wednesday morning.

The national winner from bourges I 2013 old birds


An increasing number of top class pigeon fanciers use the method of full widowhood. Saban knows why: “Your pigeon family performs a lot better and the hens seem to recover a lot quicker.” The collection of Viviane and Saban consists of 38 hens and 38 cocks. Again, a lot of attention goes to observing the birds. The hens are usually housed in an open aviary but he is careful with hens that are looking for their partner: “I try to keep the hens free as much as possible but if they are pairing too often I have to place them in their box.” Experience has shown that paired hens tend to disturb the training flight at home. “A pigeon pair that is in love tends to land a bit sooner during a training flight and the rest of the group will follow of course. After all, a pigeon is a herd animal.”

In case the pigeons do not train long enough (which usually happens in the beginning of the season only) Saban uses a special tool: he forces them to fly by waving a long antenna. “Abracadabra.” Both the cocks and the hens know what they are expected to do when Saban reaches for his antenna: they know they are safe when they are up in the sky.

Şimşek takes the win

His close friend Lucien Aerts told us that the fancier and his pigeons are in high spirits. “The pigeons train very hard, they are very motivated and they really seem to shine. This is a first class pigeon family.”

The pigeons that were basketed for Bourges have all done the race from Vierzon as well, except for three pigeons. “37 pigeons were included in the results and I expected a few others to land as well,” says Saban.

There was a hard (head)wind and it seems that the national top prizes were won by fanciers from all parts of the country. It was an exciting moment for Viviane and Saban, when one of their pigeons arrived home last Saturday, at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. “She did not hesitate to enter the loft". Their pigeon Şimşek (Turkish for blizzard) was clocked at 16:04’40” with a velocity of 1148.12 m/min and Saban is now one of the fanciers with a national victory on his list of achievements. “There are not many races like Bourges in one season”, says Saban respectfully. “This is a reward for hard work and patience.”

Şimşek in the loft

Not a surprising win

This national win is obviously not a one trick pony. In addition to this victory he has already achieved high prize percentages, provincial first prizes and several other top prizes. One of his best pigeons of 2011, Peri (Turkish for fairy), is now housed in his breeding loft. She has won a provincial first prize from Montluçon last year and she won an impressive national tenth prize against 22,672 yearlings. It is no coincidence that she is a granddaughter of another outstanding pigeon; the provincial winner from Bourges 2008.

The pigeon family from Saatdützen is in a great shape and we wonder if they might be able to win another top prize this season...