Inbreeding is then broken with either a less-related bird within the same gene pool or a bird of a different strain. Fanciers from another school of thought do not believe in breeding with related birds and are continually buying top birds and using them for cross-breeding – an expensive method, in my opinion. If the passing-on powers are not preserved, one is forced to buy top breeders again and again.
Breeding for winning genes
Many European fanciers breed from birds from the same ancestral gene pool. This could be described as breeding to winning genes, using the offspring of a few selected champion breeders and racers. The focus is more on breeding from champion pigeons as opposed to following a certain pattern of breeding such as line-, cross-, or inbreeding. Once it is discovered that a certain pigeon owns extra passing-on power, its offspring will be selected to breed closer relatives together, thus building a winning family.
Superior individual foundation birds of different origin will be noted in the pedigree of a successful racer. While successful fanciers endeavour to build around the gene pool of a great pigeon, they often introduce offspring from other fanciers’ great breeders to enhance the quality of their own.
Two celebrated SA breeding birds are The Hawk cock and Spritzy hen, both breeding champions with different mates – yet they are not the product of a certain breeding plan, but were most definitely bred from birds with winning genes and passing-on power. Spritzy’s sire was imported from Europe, while her dam was bred from a combination of older South African strains also descending from Europe.
Money buys the feathers
Winning European birds are immediately in demand the minute they score well in a classic race event. The birds of numerous successful fanciers are in great demand all over the world. When one buys from them you are placed on a waiting list for two to three years, and need to pay in advance.
Once these birds are successful, the buyers cash in on the commercial potential. They offer pigeons for sale from the original source, not always at a better price, but more readily available. In addition there are agents who can locate what you desire for a handling fee. It is often said that you can buy the leaves of the tree but not the fruit, implying you cannot buy the champion itself but only its offspring.
Champions also breed mediocre birds, and one needs honesty from the seller or agent. Importations from the direct offspring of foundation birds in Europe are not available for less than R20 000 to R30 000 and more – if available. If a fancier has gone exclusively commercial, you may get a one-off opportunity at a lower cost.
An exclusive opportunity
Since the inception of the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race in South Africa in 1996, birds coming in from more than 30 countries of the world are placed on action after the race each year. The first 100 birds back from the final race are auctioned in the Sun City Super Bowl and the remaining birds are placed on more than 50 auction venues across the country, available on your doorstep.
Besides the occasional bird that auctions for R10 000 or more, most of the better birds are auctioned in the R2 000 to R5 000 bracket. was personally involved in the purchase of a bird at the auction of a German pigeon which sold for below R2 000 at the auction in Schweizer-Reneke last month. It is a direct relation to a bird that sold for almost R200 000 last year.
The champions from all over the world only enter their very best birds for the Million Dollar Race. Most of these birds will never be otherwise made available for sale, and buying them here saves one the importation cost and a lot of paperwork.
Famous European fanciers
On top of the list is Koopman & Sons from the Netherlands, followed by Peter Fox from the UK, who keeps Koopman’s birds. On their heels is Gaby Vandenabeele from Belgium. Other world-renowned fanciers of note are Karl Heinz Lang, George Oswald, Werner A Waldow, Wilfried Muehlenstrodt and Karl-and Timo Wagner (all from Germany); Marc de Cock and Manfred Tihen (Belgium); Hans Eijerkamp & Son (Netherlands), Jos Vercammen and Kevin Roosens (Belgium), the lofts of Her Majesty the Queen (UK), Silvere Toye (Belgium), Tse Ping (China), Two Toms 11 Lofts (US), Walter Hoesli (Switzerland), R Pincak (Slovakia), Graeme Sullivan (Australia), Fahy S Robinson (US), MC Hansen (Denmark) and Tom Sit (US). Space prevents us from mentioning more names. For information about the auctions of the Sun City Million Dollar Race, call Marion on (011) 680 1118.