The amazing Gibbs brothers

Living legends in the pigeon racing fraternity, twins Bob and Eddie Gibbs have decided to retire from the sport at the age of 84. Thomas Smit reviews their remarkable careers.

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After what amounts to a lifetime in the sport, twin brothers Bob and Eddie Gibbs are retiring from pigeon racing. At the age of 84, both reckon they’re due for a break. The pigeon loft in the brothers’ backyard stands empty, as all the pigeons were sold and are now enhancing the gene pool in the lofts of other fanciers in South Africa. Bob and Eddie are well-known for their top breeding hen, The Blue Diamond, a daughter of the famous click pair, the Spritzy hen and the J&B cock. But before teaming up, the brothers practised the sport from separate lofts.

Bob raced from his home in Doonside, on the KwaZulu-Natal south coast, and Eddie from Robertsham, Johannesburg. It was a dream come true in 1995 when Bob sold his property and moved in with Eddie. They joined and participated in the Transvaal Racing Pigeon Federation (TRPF) and Golden Reef Pigeon Association (GRPA) as “Villa Patience”. Later on, they focussed on the GRPA, also known as the “Specialist Club”.

Life before Villa Patience
Bob entered his first pigeon race in 1942, when he was 16, and Eddie’s first race was in 1960. Both are well-travelled, especially Bob, having visited lofts overseas. In 1973, for example, he attended the Düsseldorf Pigeon Olympiad and visited the then largest breeding station in the world. Owned by Mons de Scheemaeker in Belgium, it housed around 30 000 racing pigeons. He also visited the famous Janssens brothers of Arendonk, Belgium, several times. He describes the look and feel of the Janssens pigeons as being like peas in the same pod, with the most supple muscles and velvet feather quality. That their genes haven’t weakened despite excessive inbreeding makes these birds a genetic wonder.

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Parallel glories
Prior to teaming up with Eddie, Bob won the Yearling Point’s League Averages and the Yearling Derby. His racing team was regarded as one of the best on the KZN south coast. He also won numerous champion trophies, including the Jaapie Breedt Trophy for the most wins in the same season. And in March 2007, Farmer’s Weekly featured the Bold Blue Pied five-time winner Bob brought with him from the coast. Meanwhile, Eddie enjoyed numerous successes in Gauteng, and winning a TRPF federation race with a Silvere Toye/Schoeman Putterie cross was a highlight. When they teamed up, the brothers seldom kept more than 50 to 60 pigeons in their racing section and 20 stock pigeons in the breeding section – as they’ve always believed a smaller team can be better managed.

De-stress with pigeons for a long life
Eddie treats his birds well, almost like children, as he believes tame pigeons are stress-free, happy pigeons. His birds would settle from the sky on his outstretched hand, and he attracted media attention with this amazing ability to bond with his pigeons. The babies would be taken away from the parents at around 14 days of age and hand fed.

Thereafter their training began. Both Bob and Eddie say they’re blessed with super health. This they credit to not smoking, not drinking and de-stressing with racing pigeons. And they say a large part of their success is due to ensuring their birds also remain healthy and the lofts clean. After all, they say, sick pigeons can’t win races. E-mail Thomas Smit at [email protected] or call 011 680 4778.