Navigating the Sport: The Art of Selection in the World of Pigeon Racing
Jan de Wijs
With an overwhelming passion and a wealth of experience, I, Jan de Wijs, invite you to dive into the fascinating world of pigeon enthusiasts. With over 40 years of experience under my belt, I can confidently say that there's not a single aspect of this sport that hasn't challenged me. And today, I want to discuss with you one of the most intriguing and sometimes perplexing dilemmas we all face: the art of making selections.
In the world of pigeon racing, selecting the best pigeons may seem like a straightforward task at first glance. One would think it's easy to distinguish the top performers from the less promising ones, but in reality, it's not always that simple. We all understand the fear of letting go of a potentially outstanding pigeon, a sentiment we know all too well. In an age where we can effortlessly travel to the moon, it remains a mystery who can definitively separate the good pigeons from the less talented ones.
It's important to recognize that no one succeeds completely in this endeavor, not even renowned newspaper writers, champions, veterinarians, or judges. We all face the challenge of making the right choices:
- Choosing between that one brilliant pigeon that never quite lived up to its potential and the less attractive bird that consistently reached the top.
- Deciding between the pigeon that arrived early four times but missed eight, and the pigeon that won ten prizes but never finished first.
Sometimes, making these decisions feels as arbitrary as blowing dandelion seeds in the wind. We all make mistakes. I've personally discarded numerous pigeons that I later regretted letting go, just as I've kept pigeons that weren't worth it. And I'm certainly not the only one who makes such mistakes.
How often do we hear stories of people rising to greatness in pigeon racing because they received an exceptional pigeon as a gift? No serious enthusiast would ever part with a promising pigeon if they knew its true potential.
Can we then conclude that we all make mistakes when selecting pigeons? Perhaps. But our goal should be to make as few mistakes as possible.
In our sport, retaining or letting go of just one pigeon can have enormous consequences. Many have become champions with only one or a few exceptional pigeons. It's important to emphasize that there are very few genuinely good pigeons. Even for the most successful enthusiast, a handful of top pigeons forms the foundation of their success. In fact, remove the top three pigeons from the greatest champion, and see where they stand. Selecting pigeons is least problematic when you have a few standouts and the rest perform moderately. However, it's a massive challenge when your entire loft isn't performing, especially with young pigeons.
Sometimes, you witness the opposite scenario: pigeons, especially young ones, collectively perform exceptionally well, and within a few years, there's almost nothing left of that success.
If you have pigeons that aren't performing, don't immediately seek new ones. This may be due to other factors, such as lighting, drafts, or even a lack of a good atmosphere in the loft. Small, affordable adjustments to the loft can lead to significant improvements. Acquiring new pigeons should be a well-considered process. It's a mistake to solely focus on names and breeds without thoroughly researching the breeder's performance. Often, people also forget to check the number of pigeons the breeder has raced.
A common mistake is acquiring new pigeons without first getting your own loft in order. New pigeons won't thrive amidst a collection of weaker or unhealthy pigeons.
Sometimes, pigeons suffer from health issues like "head disease," for which there is no specific cure. Prevention is the best approach here.
In pigeon racing, the power of the natural environment is often overlooked. Oxygen is the cheapest medicine that can free pigeons from head problems, especially in winter, and help build their immunity.
Wild pigeons rarely have runny noses. Excessive use of antibiotics can actually lead to chronic head problems. An experienced veterinarian may sometimes recommend a separate aviary as a last resort.
If all your pigeons are healthy except one or two, the best advice is to get rid of those weak individuals, regardless of their lineage.
In pigeon racing, it's all about the skill of navigation. Pigeons that fly with the wind at their backs demonstrate their mastery of this art. It's important to look for pigeons that can quickly break away from a large flock after release, as this is all about navigation. Nest-bound and loft-bound pigeons often have an edge.
Ultimately, our choices should be based on performance or the lack thereof, above all other considerations like physical characteristics, lineage, and appearance. Playing and observing is the only way to uncover the true gems.
Until the next blog,
Jan de Wijs
Blogger & Racing Pigeon Expert