‘Meulemans saw the light’
Pigeonfanciers, especially from the USA and Taiwan like to talk about ‘strains’ and ‘families’ when pigeons are the subject. I am also often asked what ‘family of birds’ I own when people are interested in my pigeons or see my results. And I always think this is kind of funny. I am not interested in a family or strain! I want to be a winner in the races! In Europe are very few fanciers who have their own ‘strain’. That means very few champions!!! I always mention the late Gust Hofkens and his auction a nice example of what I mean.
I have known Hofkens quite well, I have known his birds and I have the auctionlist. Though people from all over the world claim to have ‘pure Hofkensbirds’ Mr Hofkens himself got his birds from everywhere and most of his winnners were products of crossings. That means children of pigeons he imported! So we got the following funny situation:
Many of the birds which were auctioned after his death were pigeons which Mr Hofkens had purchased himself. People who bought these birds in the auction would call them ‘Hofkenspigeons’ or ‘Hofkensstrain’ later. The crazy world of pigeonsport!
Money does not stink, some people in Holland and Belgium are aware of the fact that foreign buyers want related birds: pigeons of a family. When foreigners want pigeons from Mr ‘X’ they want them of the same type and preferably also the same colour as Mr ‘X’ flies. Having a loft full of look-alikes is impressive and it sells. But how many fanciers in Europe do have their own ‘family’ of related birds? How many do have a loft full of look-alikes? I know some but they are not champions but ‘sellers’. And crazy enough they DO sell. Inspite of the fact that they are losers in the races others want their birds and some of those sellers make good money. Just because they have what naive buyers want: Birds of a family. For this you should know that in Europe there is not much money in the races. If in Belgium or Holland pigeon-people want to make money then they have two possibilities:
Race good sothat foreign buyers will come or… Have a strain sothat… foreign buyers will come!
One of the few people who had his own family was Karel Meulemans from Arendonk. I said ‘had’ because this was in the past. And in the past he also was a poor racer. But, according to Meulemans, the fact that he was a poor racer was his fault in the first place and of the people who wanted his birds in the second place.
Let’s listen to what Karel Meulemans, a monument not only abroad but also in Holland and Belgium, says about this.
Karel Meulemans speaks:
‘It is the foreign buyers who are to blame for the fact that I have been a poor racer for many years. They all wanted descendants of my famous ‘Basic Couple’. The more they saw the same bird in the same pedigree the hotter they became to buy. If, for example, they saw in the pedigree of a bird 3 times my famous pigeon called ‘Kadet’ among the grandparents or greatparents than that was the pigeon they wanted to buy. They did not even want to see the bird, the pedigree was good enough for them. And I was an artist in the circus. Or better the clown! Because what did I do? I kept my family pure. Do you understand what I mean when I say that the foreign buyers are to blame for my poor results in the past?
The turning point in my career was in the eighties. I thought by myself: I make lots of money by selling. But does this money make me a happy man? No it does not! So the hell with all that money. The hell with all those buyers, the hell with my family! It does not satisfy me. I put the money on my bank-account and will never see it for the rest of my life. I do not want to be laughed at after the races as a loser any longer. God dam it, I want to be a good racer or if possible a winner! A man that other people respect not because he has a famous family of birds in his loft but a team of winning birds.
The turning point
Later, in August 1995, something strange happened. Karel Meulemans, (‘the breeder and not the racer’ as people said) won a 1st National. People frowned! Meulemans who won a National Race? He was the last person they expected to do so. For me who know Meulemans well this was not so much a surpise. He had been doing well in more races before, mainly at long distance.
How come? Why did he have to wait decades to be such a succesful racer as he was in the days that he formed partners with Wouters and Marien? In the late eighties he began to forget about keeping his family pure, he did not care about selling pigeons so he forgot about money and began to import birds in order to cross these with his own. And within a few years he found himself not only a better racer, but a winner, even on National level. People who saw the photos of his winning birds or handled them raised their eye-brows. ‘These were not birds of the old Meulemans-family?’ They were right! Indeed they were not. They were products of crossings! In 1999 Meulemans even became National Champion long distance in his section.
Just a smile
Now that Karel is going so well he is a happy man which stands to reason. We talked about his rocketing career after so many years of keeping pigeons. ‘I saw the light. Just in time’ Karel smiled the way only he can smile. I saw that descendants of my pigeons were winners at many other places, but they were all crosses: So products of my pigeons crossed with other blood. So what did I do? I began to import birds and did the same as others did with my birds. I crossed them.’ In the past you saw in the Meulemansloft lots of birds of the same type: Pretty big and wonderful eyes: They were clearly birds of one family. Nowadays you see other birds: winners! - Among them dark coloured birds carrying the blood of Mr Schellekens from Holland.
He also has red birds. But not ‘recessive’ reds. When I asked him ‘where are those famous recessive reds which Americans advertise?’ Karel smiled again the way only he can smile. Some years ago he did have some of those ‘recessive’ reds. They could not find their way home even from 50 kilometers. The red ones he owns descend from a bird which he imported from Geroges Bolle.
You see blue coloured birds and white flights: They are descendants of a daughter of a bird from Leo Broeckx’ which represented Belgium at the Olympiad in Gran Canaria.
Furthermore he was very succesful with a descendant of the famous ‘Couple 17’ from Dutch Mr Pieterse which is described in the Janssenbook I wrote. So what is the message?
The magic formula to breed winners is the following: There is nothing wrong with a lot of related birds in your loft or a so-called family. But such birds should be crossed to get those winners.
Houben, Verbruggen and the late Grondelaers. Great names who deserve their fame are, apart from Meulemans also Houben, Verbruggen, Bolle, Grondelaers, Engels and some handfuls of others.
Especially Jef Houben I know quite well. He is a smart old fox but a good and honest man who has been a succesful racer all his life. His is the same story as the others. Most of his winners are descendants of birds like ‘Artist’ and ‘Sony’ but… crossed with imports. Jef never kept this a secret. Big shots like the late Grondelaers and Verbruggen share his opinion!
So, dear reader, I have a piece of advice for you: ‘Do you want to make money by selling? Have a family of birds of the same type and the same colour. But… Do you want to have winners? Cross your birds. Breed many babies, train many babies, get rid of many babies and forget about the rest! It is the shortest and easiest road to succes. But be careful. Most fanciers in Europe also realise you should import birds now and then. But they often make the same mistake.
When buying birds from Mr ‘X’ they want just as many cocks as hens in order to be able to mate them among each other. This is wrong! It is too long a way to find out what they are worth. When you import birds cross them with your own proven winners or breeders. This is a much faster way to find out what the imports are worth. Or should all those champions be wrong???
The Dutch National Pigeon Magazine NPO had a so called milennium-inquiry in December 1999. The 36.000 subsrcribers of this magazine were invited to tell who they considered the best long-distance racers in history, the best author in history, the best pigeon in history , the best pigeonbook in history and more of such questions. They considered the best breeding couple in the 20th century the ‘Basic Couple’ of Meulemans. Would they all be wrong too?