Ad Schaerlaeckens


“ I can usually select the bad ones, but not the best.”


When I go to some of the few live auctions still available. I find It fascinating, to observe how some people handle the birds and how they look at the pigeon’s eyes.
Even more interesting is to see which pigeons “go for” the most money and for which pigeons there is little interest.
There are some, who are not interested in how a pigeon handles and only study the pedigree, most, however, look at both. That is, both the pigeon and pedigree are looked at. The lineage is often viewed first.


Fanciers who have had public sales are often dumbfounded bythe purchasing behaviour of their fellow fanciers. Pigeons of which they had high expectations frequently sold for little and of course vice versa.
It is impractical to accomplish, but wouldn’t it be instructive if three years after such a sale to do an evaluation. I am confident that at least 80% of the pigeons sold, all of which were projected as being supers in the sales catalogue, would be no more than worthless grain eaters.
Do you know what else is interesting? When speaking with top champions, they state, almost without exception, that they know little about pigeons and that breeding a champ is mostly luck. That’ why they breed so many pigeons.


I’ll list several cases to show what I mean.

– In the twilight of his career, Klak had the “613” his then best pigeon. The father of the “613,” should have been removed from the loft because it was so ungainly, but nobody wanted it. Just as Klak was at the point of getting rid of him, one of his other cocks was taken by a bird of prey. Now he was one cock short. Misfortune for one was luck for the other. The father to the “613” could stay. The result is known.

-Dirk van Dijk’s Kannibaal is an icon in the pigeon sport. Here chance also played a prominent role. At the time, Dirk had an excellent mealy cock. However, to his great sorrow, he was lost from a race. Another cock took his box and mated with the mealy’s hen. They became the parents of the Kannibaal.

-One of the foundation pigeons of the Geerinckx loft was a hen from the Keirsmaeckers loft. Keirsmaecker held a sale, but there was no interest in some of the pigeons. Luc took one of the unwanted pigeons, a hen home, and she became a foundation breeder.

-At a W. de Bruijn sale, T. v t Ende bought several expensive birds, but also some very inexpensive, birds for which there was little interest. The inexpensive ones became his best.
And I could continue.


You can’t do without, a lot of luck in the pigeon sport. But, on the other hand, to say that no one knows anything about pigeons is also an exaggeration. This is demonstrated by the fact that often it is the same fanciers “who have all the luck.”
Personally, I can’t pick out the “good ones” but, I can pick out the worst ones, and that is a huge step forward. Some pigeons have significant faults,  so substantial that we know they can’t be decent pigeons. Below I will point out some qualities that may possibly indicate a good pigeon.


When I pick up a pigeon, I get a general impression, before I look at the eyes or open the wing. That first impression is often the best. In particular, I pay attention to the balance. A pigeon must feel balanced in your hand.
Almost unconsciously I press lightly on the breastbone. If the pigeon opens its beak, or worse yet, you hear a grunting type of sound, you know you have an inferior pigeon in your hands. This is a pigeon with a weak bone structure as well.
Often this pigeon also has a bad vent. The vent bones must feel firm, not pointy and rubbery, and as close to the end of the keel as possible. A short back wing is also essential.


A good pigeon, definitely one for flying middle distances and further, has to have good feathering.  A thick feathering, silky soft and a thick wing. Not dry feathers that easily break.
The flights, except for short distance pigeons, should have shafts that aren’t too wide, but also not to thin and sharp as scissors, positively not the last ones, they should be flexible and well shaped.
Almost no one believes in the “eye theory,” and neither do I, yet I do look at them. Not for their colour, but in particular I look at the pupils. I like to see that they are focused frontwards and react to brighter light.
Last year I visited two fanciers, who I think are two of the very best in Belgium.
The pigeons were somewhat disappointing, but they had bright, expressive eyes such as I have seldom seen. Any further it is difficult for me to put into words what I like to see in a pigeon eye.


-A broad, full back with the tail pointing down, as we often used to see, are now of a bygone era. Nowadays I prefer pigeons that are boat-shaped, like Jan Hooymans “Harry.” Many don’t appreciate this type of pigeon, but I do, he is precisely the kind I prefer.

-The back doesn’t have to be broad, but must be strong.

-And muscles? They are essential, but I don’t know anything about them.

-Pigeons should also have a good throat (this is the top of the windpipe (epiglottis) at the bottom of the oral cavity), but we have to be careful. Judging throats is always just like taking a snapshot at any moment in time, as Jan Zoontjens taught me, and he is right.
A pigeon you have chased  or is ready to lay will have an open gasping throat, so don’t judge too quickly.
The pigeon’s condition is also essential when assessing the throat.
A pigeon with an open “gasping throat” all year round, away with it. This is a poor pigeon.
Of course, vitality and natural health are also essential. In fact, I firmly believe that these are more important than any physical qualities.


Having said the above, it may seem more straightforward than it is.
The problem is that a lot of crappy pigeons also have the above mentioned apparently good characteristics.
Hence my earlier comment: “ I can usually select the bad ones, but not the best.
Ad S