Champion racers

Free State pigeon fanciers Jaap and Japie Pretorius had an amazing season last year. Thomas Smit reports.

This super hen is from the Figo lines that Pretorius Loft acquired to strengthen the gene pool of its champion lines.
Photo: Thomas Smit

Father and son team Jaap and Japie Pretorius of Pretorius Loft have belonged to the Bloemfontein South Pigeon Racing Club (BSPRC) for the past seven years. The BSPRC is one of 14 clubs in the Bloemfontein Racing Pigeon Federation (BRPF). There are 120 active pigeon fanciers who enter about 3 500 pigeons per race event each Saturday. Both Jaap and Japie have received their national colours for distinguished performance in the sport – Jaap in 1998 and son Japie in 2012.

In fact, it’s said the loft’s 2012 results have rarely, if ever, been seen in the BRPF. Jaap and Japie had already signalled they meant business with their partnership back in 2010, when Pretorius Loft was the federation’s runner-up points league champion. The following year, it owned the first two champion long distance pigeons in the BRPF. In addition, Pretorius Loft pigeons showed themselves to have a high ‘hit rate’. This means that, if we’re talking percentages, the birds are veritable point-scoring machines. Such lofts are hard to beat.

Top form
When Pretorius Loft won the first three positions in the first two races of the 2012 season held from Middelburg, it was clear its pigeons were on top form. The loft went on to be named overall federation and club champion, and short, middle and long distance champions in the club and federation. Its blue hen Katrina was the BRPF’s short distance champion pigeon and the blue hen Sandy the middle distance champ.

In addition, Jaap and Japie owned four of the top 10 federation champion yearlings, nine of the top 50 federation overall champion pigeons, 10 of the top 50 federation short distance champions, three of the top 10 federation middle distance champions, six of the top 50 federation long distance champions and nine of the top 50 federation open series champion pigeons.

The foundation stock of Pretorius Loft includes the following:

  • The Gaby Van Denabeele strain in which the foundation pigeon Wittenbuik features prominently.
  • Pigeons from the Netherlands champion Gerhard Koopman, including offspring from his sensational breeders Kannibaal and Kleine Dirk.
  • Pigeons from Bertie Kamphuis/Janssens imported by Robert Swanepoel.
  • Offspring from Belgium champion Norbert Sierens.
  • Pigeons from the old Oscar lines crossed with the new introductions.

Performance Breeding
Pretorius pigeons are performance-bred to a winning foundation through line- and cross-breeding. As a rule, Jaap and Japie don’t practice inbreeding. Although they prefer medium-size pigeons, Jaap and Japie have found that a number of their top racers are bigger. They use these larger specimens in matings with the smaller pigeons to strike a happy medium when it comes to weight and body conformation.

The pigeons are raced according to a natural system, which means the sexes are mixed. Should they mate up and go to nest they’re allowed to race from there. The main thing is that the pigeons are content and happy in the loft, say Jaap and Japie. The racers are road trained from 40km every afternoon and home trained for 30 minutes in the morning, except on basketing days. Depending on the weather and the workload of the previous week’s race, the pigeons not in a race on Saturdays will be road trained from a distance of about 1km.

Advice for Beginners
Jaap and Japie advise beginners to obtain the best quality pigeons with the highest performance hit-rate they can afford.
“Also, put your faith in a mentor you can trust to guide you in the smaller details of your pigeon racing career,” adds Jaap.