Although the town of Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape is better known as the home of the famous Volkswagen assembly plant, the small flocks of racing pigeons that encircle the skies above prove that avian interest has not been overwhelmed by the industrial revolution. Pigeon racing is a serious pastime in the Eastern Cape.
The early days
Tommy van Zyl is a self-employed building contractor who first engaged his passion for racing pigeons from a neat garden loft in the backyard of his Uitenhage home in the autumn of 1983.
He is a member of the Racing Pigeon Club, under the banner of the competitive Eastern Province Racing Pigeon Union. This organisation has about 320 participating members entering thousands of racing pigeons into competitions during the racing season, beginning in May/June and ending in October every year.
Due to the nature of his work has little time for racing pigeons, and having sustained a leg injury during a nasty motor car accident, his general mobility is impaired. For these reasons he cannot handle many pigeons, and therefore specialises as a small-team fancier. To enable him to give the birds the necessary attention, he only keeps about five breeding pairs and an average of 50 pigeons in the race team. Keeping such a small race team, Tommy needs to send individual birds to race events more often than is the norm. Many of the same birds are thus entered into races week after week, and some are raced on alternative weekends.
This method is very near to the German system, in which birds are raced week after week. This is the gene pool that has proved to be very successful in tough young-bird racing in Europe. It came as no surprise that Tommy managed to breed Ane, the best South African bird in the points league of the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race this season.
Ups and downs of a small-team fancier
It is difficult for a small-team fancier to win the points averages in an organisation when the birds are not often given a rest. While quantity does not mean quality, it is not to be concluded that the fancier with more birds will keep inferior pigeons. Pigeon racing is an expensive pastime, and one would expect the competition in general to house experimental recruits of indefinite quality.
Fanciers who keep larger race teams of high quality have an advantage. When they have an unexpected disastrous race weekend, small-team fanciers need to rest their birds for a longer period to enable a complete recovery.
Tommy needs to keep birds which recover faster than usual, and has to select for this criterion. takes time, and he has to be careful to avoid sending a super-racer to an event before it is ready for the task.
Despite the handicaps, Tommy has won no fewer than 10 race events on club level over the last two seasons. He has also won the Union middle-distance points league on one occasion, and also scored third in the combined points league of the Union. As a role-model, Ane stands the breeding of the best overall South African pigeon in the Sun City Million Dollar Pigeon Race. Pedigree of Ane Ane’s pedigree descends in part from a cock known as “35” and a hen known as “26”. This matched pair stands at the base of Tommy’s success in pigeon racing. “35” was a Union winner bred from the Leeu Gamka cock, also a winner, and a Chris Jonker hen. “26” was bred from the Oscar de Vriendt /Firens/ Putterie bloodlines and was one of the best racers ever to cross the skies in the pigeon history of Uitenhage.
Ane’s sire is a winner over 620km which descends from the bloodlines of two deceased fanciers, Ronnie Croxford and Chris Jonker. It has 25% of the old Croxford bloodlines and 75% of the Chris Jonker line, which is a blend of Putterie/ Slimme/Oscar de Vriendt and Catrysse origins. In the Ronnie Croxford origins there was a key foundation bird known as the Leeu Gamka cock, band number 17883/1968. This was the foundation bird that created the successful family in Port Elizabeth. At the base of the Chris Jonker side was the key foundation bird, The Rock. Ane’s dam is a blue hen, band number 24903/2000. She won three race events and scored 14 times in race competition. She is the best racer ever owned. Her sire is a direct descendant of the above bloodlines, crossed with winner Herman’s Hen. dam in turn is a hen from the Huyskens Van Riel bloodlines, and also a Union winner. On the paternal and maternal side of Ane’s pedigree are multiple winners on Union and Federation level. One needs nothing less to breed this kind of quality.
Well done, Tommy! – Thomas Smit For more information contact Thomas Smit on (011) 680 4778 or e-mail [email protected]