Breed from Leaders Part 1

Breed from Leaders Part 1

Like people, most of our racing pigeons become followers instead of leaders and independent thinkers.  It is a very dangerous and fatal mistake for a fancier, and his breeding program for success in racing, to place these followers in a breeding loft.

Followers are the birds that lack the mental ability to find their own way home.  They follow a group of birds ,and if they are lucky enough to select the right group, they home safely for that race.  If they follow the leaders of that race, they may very well score in the high prizes.  What about the next race?  Can these followers be lucky again and have a good performance next week?  Will these types of birds be able to be lucky 7 weeks in a row to complete a race series?  We know that they have the physical ability to race with the leaders and to perform and succeed in one race.  But can they find their own way home?

These followers are bred and created in certain parts of the world because of the style of racing and land conditions they must fly over in short races.  The birds fly in a so called “bowling alley”:  Large numbers of birds, close together on narrow courses or valleys following each other.  These birds do not have to think or navigate home.  They just stay straight, and the fastest ones win the prizes.  They cannot get lost because there is only one way to fly, and the distances are short (50-100 MILES).  Speed is the only quality that they must possess to win.  These followers can build very impressive race results against thousands of birds in a race season, especially when they fly 2 races a week at 50 miles.

It is easy to breed this type of bird.  We breed speed to speed, and with strict selection standards, we can produce the desired physical qualities needed to breed champions for this style of racing.  In their own country these birds are of great value and have made their owners famous and rich.

However, the honest truth is that they are of “NO VALUE” to the fancier and his breeding program.  A champion pigeon must think and navigate for himself for several hours to home safely.  He must possess the individual thinking skills of a leader not a follower.  The real truth is that these mental capabilities are more important than the physical qualities many fanciers look for in their breeders or birds to purchase.  Without the correct mental skills, no pigeon can ever be a leader.  Even if it has all the physical qualities to be a champion racer, without the compass, homing instinct and navigation skills the bird is worthless.

Breed From Leaders part 1 By Bob Prisco

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  1. #1 by Ghenty on August 29, 2010 - 6:05 am

    Very strangely me and my Grandad were having a very similar converstaion yesterday, just before I read this article. Having raced for a short period of time about 10-12 years ago, and now considering getting back into it, we were discussing the merits of having a lot of pogeons over a select few.

    My Grandad did once win 11 out of 13 old bird races in 1 season with just 9 widowhood cocks, in the 1960’s when the Leicestershire North Road Federation were sending over 2500 birds per week. At the end of that season he was culling any pigeon that had not been in the 1st 5 at least 9 times!! As soon as he moved to a larger premises and had more birds, his results were still strong but nowhere near as good as at the old loft. He put this down to being able to keep more pigeons and as fanciers what do we do…..keep more pigeons!

    I think the last comment saying that we need to condition and prepare them is spot on. I am a big football fan and liken it to the fact that although footballers train for a week to prepare for a match on Saturday (I am talking English soccer by the way)they do not play 4 full 90 minute matches to prepare!! Good quality pigeons with homing instinct do not need 20,30 and 40 mile tosses. They need conditioning, preparation and the best opporunity to make the race work for them. To build up a team of good qualtiy pigeons takes years, not days. We are forever inviting new stock into the loft from here, there and everywhere, never taking into account how they will fit in with our current birds and will they integrate correctly.

    In the conversation that we were having we talked about a good breeder that we had called “Sonic”. His parents were of good stock and although “Sonic” took prizes and flew long distances, he was not outstanding, neither were his brothers, sisters and cousins, but they were always there, able to home from long distances and were very rarely lost. After 4 or 5 years of breeding from his parents, without success, the parents were deemed surplus to requirements. The shock came when the Grand-children of these original birds, predominantly “Sonic”‘s children, really started coming well at all distances. The genes had jumped a generation and we were now talking 10 years dow the line from when “Sonic” was originally born! “Sonic”‘s Dam was a 1983 pigeon, he was 1994, so in theory my Grandad could still be racing 5 or 6 year old sons from “Sonic” and how he wishes he was.

    “Sonic 2, 3 ,4 and 5” all followed and all were successful racers but the gene pool had gone and with new introductions it could never be re-lived. We are now in 2010, 27 years since “Sonic”‘s Mum was born and we could still be racing her grand-children but we are not. I wish we were as my Grandad would undoubtedly be doing a lot better than he is now!

    “Patience is power; with time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown”. An old Chinese proverb that we should all take a moment to think about…….

    Hope you enjoyed my first comment, hope to be making more over the coming months, who knows I may be racing myself again next season!

  2. #2 by Tom Makowecki on August 22, 2010 - 10:01 am

    PigeonRacingFan :

    jerry soignier :
    More so “flock mentality” and lack of confidence.!-Chris

    Jerry your quote “More so “flock mentality” and lack of confidence.” fits my way of thinking much more than anything else……NOT all pigeons have the confidence to simply “go home” – regardless of what the other birds are doing……These birds ARE THE ones that win the speed races…they have the confidence and the ability to ignore the other pigeons and simply race for home. There is no doubt that a pigeon motivation has a lot to do with this but not all pigeons have the condidence to leave a flock – in the dust!
    These are the true champion pigeons and they can be found eaier in speed pigeons than any other……….Now if we are lucky – they also have super homing ability (to know where home is when they are many hundreds of miles away from home) and super strength – to be able to fly for hour after hour on the long races. DON”T FORGET – they need our help to condition and prepare for these LONGER races !

    As Piet DeWeerd once wrote, “the white black birds”!!!!
    Rare – but they do exist and more common than when he wrote those words.

  3. #3 by PigeonRacingFan on August 21, 2010 - 12:30 pm

    jerry soignier :

    Quite some time ago, a friend told me he would gladly have a follower in a one loft race if it CLUNG to the right bird or group of birds.

    I like that saying alot, I guess I wouldn’t mind followers either if they stuck with the winners lol great comment Jerry!

  4. #4 by jerry soignier on August 21, 2010 - 11:12 am

    Great subject matter Bob. And equally so of Tom’s response. Maybe we should dwell a bit on what constitutes a leader and a follower? The race sheet? Maybe and maybe more than we at first see?Quite some time ago, a friend told me he would gladly have a follower in a one loft race if it CLUNG to the right bird or group of birds. This comment has given cause to much thought over the years. I’m a one loft racer so my interest lies in that game. A group of say 12 birds are coming in for the first drop. three birds hit the boards first displaying and atitude of being able to fly the race again. Just a split second, the other 9 light and from the rear of this group one sprints through the trap as though it’s tail is on fire.
    The race is paying on “the drop”. Which is the better bird. Give me the 3 that led the pack to the board.
    Like Tom, I do not think this is a case of homing ability, or learned patterning. More so “flock mentality” and lack of confidence. The land speed record breaker in our above illustration exerted extra effort to stay with the leaders and once home dashed to the “safety” of home.
    So how do we go about determining the leaders from the followers? And can we successfully parlay these the traits of a follower into wins through our breeding program? Your comments solicited. Very good topic that has not been overly analyzed.

    • #5 by Mark Del Pico on September 30, 2010 - 4:45 pm


      Trying to get in touch with you. Send me your email or home phone.

      Mark Del Pico

  5. #6 by PigeonRacingFan on August 21, 2010 - 10:59 am

    Tom Makowecki :

    Lastly – I would like to say that the “best speed pigeons” are the furthest thing from followers as one can find. They orient quickly and they leave the race point quickly – something we want in all of our pigeons !

    Nice insight on the article Tom!

  6. #7 by Tom Makowecki on August 21, 2010 - 9:53 am

    I woukld like to clarify a little bit. I personally do not value pigeons in my own loft that cannot race well from longer races ( +10 hours on the wing) These races test the true strength and ability of a pigeon.,,,,,,,,,,,and they gain my total respect…Because most clubs in North America have race schedules with races from 100 to 500 miles…..I want pigeons that can DO IT ALL!
    But the best speed pigeons and the best long distance pigeons – can do it all.
    THEY just have to be TOP pigeons!
    Lastly – I would like to say that the “best speed pigeons” are the furthest thing from followers as one can find. They orient quickly and they leave the race point quickly – something we want in all of our pigeons !

  7. #8 by Morne on August 21, 2010 - 8:22 am

    Then your real pigeons are the ones which get good results on the longer races where the birds are more spaced out. The fitter ones are in front and the lesser ones are at the back?

  8. #9 by Tom Makowecki on August 20, 2010 - 2:03 pm

    It would be of more value to name these “bowling alley” places. I get the feeling – that this is a shot at the “speed pigeons” of Belgium….I don’t believe they compete in a bowling alley, but I do not know oif any other country that has as many speed races and where fanciers can make some money from pigeons.
    In 1971 – I bought my first pigeons from Belgium…pigeons which had been only raced from distances of 150 miles and less………..These were Janssen Brothers pigeons. These pigeons won for me upto 517 miles by as much as 1 hour in front, and yet they were “speed pigeons”…By the way – this blood still wins at all distances.
    In the last several years – I decided to try some more “speed pigeons” from Belgium. They have been an immediate hit and I could not be more pleased. These pigeons posess quick homing abiliy, strength and stamina……..don’t be fooled to believe that speed pigeons cannot do it all…..
    I won’t go as far as to say they are all good but do not pass these “short distance birds” by………they are as good or better than many…Most of todays top pigeons are descendants of speed pigeons !

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