Doing things the professional way

It’s no longer possible to be competitive in South African pigeon racing without world-class quality pigeon stock, but there are ways of acquiring this without breaking the bank, says Thomas Smit.

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You might consider yourself merely a ‘hobbyist’ when it comes to pigeon racing, but the truth is you’ll only really enjoy your hobby if your standards are raised to a professional level. In this respect, it’s like golf. To enjoy yourself, you don’t need to be a professional player, but you have to have some prowess, as it’s no fun ending up in the rough most of the time.

The first step in learning to think like a pro is realising you can’t change a mule into a racehorse with special nutrition. The fact that pigeon racing has become a rich man’s sport isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the sport as a whole benefits from the expertise high-flying business professionals bring to the table. Champion fanciers used to say: “Get rid of your good pigeons and get better ones.”

Well, since the inception of the annual Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race in 1996, which sees the best pigeons from more than 40 countries shipped to South Africa, times have changed. ‘Better’ birds will no longer do – only world-class pigeons will. Research shows that most, if not all, top South African scores in international competitions hosted on local soil have been achieved by birds with a blend of genetic material from overseas.

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Pedigree matters
As an example, let’s examine the pedigree of Queen of Hearts, the first SA pigeon home in the 2012 Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race. It came 5th overall and was entered by Cape Town pigeon fancier Saville Penkin. There’s a touch of the local in her gene pool, but for the most part she is a European breed. Some of the base pigeons in Queen of Hearts’ pedigree include:

  • Ace pigeon B76-5254064 (twice in the pedigree).
  • Daughter of six-time Konkurs winner, B80-5078274 (twice in the pedigree).
  • Nat Bourges winner B82-5315329.
  • Kleinen (B73-3459253), from world-renowned breeder Silvere Toye.
  • Daughter of Ace pigeon DV07001 87 235.
  • Ace pigeon DV08260 91 807.
  • De Schone Merx B88-6420926 (Janssens).
  • Brother Nat Bourges winner, B88-5327135.

Interestingly, Queen of Hearts’ parents did not match her performance level. The reason, of course, lies in her top-class genetic make-up. It’s just too good not to resurface again and again in any generation.

Here’s the kicker, as they say. Yes, pigeon racing is a rich man’s sport, as seen in the fact that the German pigeons that came 1st and 2nd at Sun City this year were jointly auctioned for just over R600 000. But get this – Queen of Hearts, which, as we’ve seen, has an amazing pedigree, went for only R12 000. Hardly an astronomical figure. The lesson: it is possible to buy quality without breaking the bank!

Contact Thomas Smit at [email protected]. Please state ‘Pigeons’ in the subject line of your email. Tel: 011 680 4778.