Only a few weeks after Jan Grondelaers, nowadays known as ‘Grondelaers and Son’, was celebrated as the Golden Pigeon winner of Belgium in 1989, we made a visit to his beautiful home on the road to As. At the time of our visit Jan had already been receiving some much appreciated help from his son-in-law, André Cardinaels. Jan was suffering from health issues and André now had to do all of the work pretty much on his own, although we should mention that Jan’s advice was worth its weight in gold. They gave shelter to 80 widowers, 25 breeding couples and 140 young pigeons. The season of 1989 had been very successful, which meant that the future of the Grondelaers colony was in good hands. In spite of his severe respiratory illness we were able to talk to Jan Grondelaers, at least, as long as the conversation involved pigeons!
This is what Jan confided to us:
“All you need are good pigeons, and the rest is secondary to that. You should give them as little medication as possible. Personally, I’ve been a regular visitor of my own doctor, but I certainly never spent any money on a veterinarian. However, I did put some Ridsol or Emtryl in the birds’ drinking jar depending on the weather, their condition on returning home or after they had been in their lofts for 5 nights on end. But of course, if your racing pigeons do well rumors will start to spread. In 1963 the police searched my house looking for performance enhancing drugs. I thought it was ridiculous, but had to put up with it nevertheless.
I do, however, believe in the use of vitamins. I use Supradyn, an effervescent tablet. It’s easy to apply and you don’t have to worry about dragging along little bottles and such. I also vaccinate my pigeons against chicken pox and paramyxo. In 1960 I did a large test and had the droppings of each of my 150 pigeons individually examined. Birds that had coccidiosis were quietly eliminated. I learned quite a bit back then. One could say that I had 5 cracks during my career. My pigeons never had any problems. A good pigeon is always healthy. If you ask me, it’s the pigeons that put themselves to their limits that are most susceptible to disease.
The loft probably plays a role in pigeon fancying. I’ve played with 3 different lofts and each time I was among the best players. Oxygen is important, that much I found out. In the winter we feed maximally, in summertime we feed them less at the beginning of the week and feed them more when the time of basketing comes near, but never too little!
The downfall of a pigeon colony is always due to a wrong treatment of the pigeons in the breeding cage. Three years of bad breeding means game over, even for the best loft in the world. Time and again I’ve tried to get the best pigeons. I dare say I never bought a top bird that didn’t breed good pigeons. I never failed, even though I didn’t always get the results I wanted with the first hen. I’d say I have a natural feeling in choosing the right partners.
Incidentally, coupling and breeding is a matter of having a certain kind of ‘feeling’. To me, a pigeon has to have ‘bones’ in its body. If you only get the ones that are weak, you’re on the wrong trail. Also be sure not to get pigeons that are too soft. Soft x soft gives you sheep wool. The Hofkens pigeons were of the hard kind and I crossbred them with pigeons that had soft plumage.
A young pigeon that feels right when I hold it in my hand can stay. I love a good wing, that’s the bicycle of a pigeon. In short, that’s the wing theory. I like a balanced pigeon, with a head that has well-entrenched eyes and a good throat. However, there isn’t a single wing theory that is a 100% right. It’s the entire pigeon that counts and not just the separate parts of it.
There’s one more thing I’d like to mention about powders and pills. Back in the 1960s I thought Hofkens knew a lot more about pigeons than I, but after our first encounter I discovered that he knew even less about powders and pills than I did. In 1959 I had a strong belief in Fabry’s ‘Formapills’. Every single time before the pigeons were basketed each of them was given one of these pills. But this one time a police officer was with us in our porch. I didn’t dare take out my pills and thought to myself: “I’ll give them a pill in the car”. But right as I was putting my pigeon baskets in the trunk of my car, the police officer said: “I’ll ride along, if you don’t mind. I’d like to see how it‘s going up there”. Of course I still had the pills in my pocket. That night I didn’t sleep too well but the next day I still managed to win the 1st in St. Denis.
I’d like to emphasize that the pigeons do not receive any kind of medication on their return from a flight. At that point the hydration level is abnormally high and it could end up being bad for their physical condition.”
Backbone of the colony
Jan Grondelaers has been in the pigeon business for over 40 years. His career achievements are best summarized by giving a detailed account of the supercracks he was able to breed and play over the course of time. These birds are the main theme of the story ‘Jan Grondelaers’: they are the backbone of the Grondelaers pedigree. Jan never tried to achieve quality through inbreed. On the contrary, thanks to a well-thought out process of crossbreeding he was able to get his pedigree to an ever higher level. The cracks or pedigree pigeons that are summed up below keep reappearing in the family tree. The good pigeons obviously come from other good pigeons.
De Chateauroux 6107809-66
Bred through a cooperation with Eugène Mijlemans from Heist-op-den-Berg. A 100% Janssen and grandson of the illustrious Blauwe ‘48. Was a four-time champion in a row and became the 6th ace pigeon of Belgium in two consecutive years. He went to Brussels to represent our country at the Olympiad in the racing class.
His name was given to him by winning the 1st Semi-Nat. Chateauroux in 1968, after having won a victory twice before from the same release site.
De Chateauroux had a stubborn personality: whenever he didn’t want to train during the week, he would win the very same Sunday. Try explaining that to someone.
De Jonge Ijzeren 5211298-73
An offspring of the Ijzeren, who himself was a son of the Dax and a sister of De Chateauroux. De Jonge Ijzeren flew 1st provincial on two separate occasions: 1st Prov. Argenton and 1st Prov. Orléans out of 1,223 pigeons.
De Bourgesi 5211298-73
Descendant of a son of De Chateauroux and a daughter of the Eénoger Hofkens. Won a 1st prize from Corbeil and later 1st Prov. and 2nd Nat. Bourges 1975 against 15,000 pigeons. Became 1st ace pigeon BDS 1975.
De Orléans I 5140730-73
Son of the Gestuikte 338-65 (2nd Prov. Cahors, 4th Prov. Limoges) and the 075-69 (2nd Nat. bourges Hofkens).
Compiegne 1 600 p. Dourdan prov. 1 1,496 p. Orléans prov. 1 3,993 p. Toury prov. 1 1,376 p. Orléans prov. 1 3,744 p. St. Denis 2 1,500 p. Became 2nd ace pigeon Hafo BDS 1974 and 3rd ace pigeon Hafo BDS 1975.
De Orléans I was sold for the total sum of 280,000 Belgian francs (1977) to Peter Trost, a close friend.
De Orléans II 5254072-75
The season after the sale of De Orléans I one of his full-blooded brothers achieved a resounding victory from Orléans against 4,641 pigeons. De Orléans II had a 3-minute lead and was the fastest pigeon of the flight of 20,800 pigeons. Further victories were 1st La Ferté, 1st Silenrieux, but also:
Melun ML 18 1,453 p. Orléans ML 3 1,192 p. Montargis ML 3 1,588 p. Bourges prov. 11 1,100 p. Orléans prov. 12 4,657 p. De Orléans II was also a very good breeder.
De Geschifte 5254064-75
A pure Hofkens from the White pen Paenen x a daughter of the super couple Driebander x Theeuwesduivin. In other words, he’s a full-blooded brother of Hofkens’ world famous Geschifte and was taken from Merksplas as a youngster by Jan Grondelaers.
Among others he won without doubling:
Melun ML 16 1,549 p. Orléans ML 2 1,061 p. Salbris prov. 36 2,964 p. Corbeil ML 9 1,926 p. Orléans prov. 16 1,409 p. Montargis ML 20 1,785 p. Orléans prov. 6 4,614 p. Montargis ML 3 1,588 p. Orléans prov. 4 938 p. These results made him 1st ace pigeon BDS 1977 and 3rd ace pigeon BDS 1978.
De Goede Jaarling 5286418-76
Is a son of the Gebroken vleugel 922-74 (Kellens strain) x Het wit 801-74 Hofkens. Probably the best pigeon Grondelaers ever had.
Corbeil ML 1 2,970 p. Orléans ML 1 938 p. Melun ML 1 2,178 p. Orléans prov. 4 4,296 p. Orléans prov. 1 1,409 p. Orléans prov. 7 4,657 p. Orléans prov. 1 1,868 p. Orléans prov. 4 4,614 p. Salbris prov. 11 2,240 p. Orléans prov. 18 2,569 p.
The Freddy 5187429-79
Is a son of Broer Goede Jaarling 082-78 x Dochter Orléans I 084-76.
Chimay 1 391 p. Etampes ML 1 1,817 p. Orléans ML 2 1,588 p. Melun ML 3 2,178 p. Montargis ML 6 1,806 p. Orléans ML 3 1,180 p. Orléans prov. 3 2,384 p. Melun ML 6 1,856 p. Orléans prov. 2 1,931 p.
De Stuka 5185502-79
A great sprinter who won 1st prize no less than 13 times. He is the son of De Prins from Reet, who won 1st prize Vitesse 32 times. His mother is a crossing of Hofkens-Janssen (via Raoul Verstraete).
De Lange 5023879-82
Is a son of the Goede Jaarling 418-76. Won, among other, the 1st Prov. and 2nd Nat. Bourges against 10,000 pigeons. De Lange also won:
Meaux 1 631 p. Toury prov. 2 1,884 p. Montargis ML 7 1,135 p. Melun ML 9 1,772 p. Orléans prov. 40 5,657 p. Montargis ML 5 1,018 p. Orléans prov. 13 5,966 p. Became the 1st ace pigeon BDS 1987, 1st ace pigeon Regina and 1st ace pigeon O-VL Duivensalon and was known as a terrific breeder.
The 1st Nat. Bourges 5131094-84
Is a son of the 564-83, who himself is a son of the Geschifte 064-75. His mother is the Laat Blauw 667-83, a daughter of the 921-75 who is himself a brother of both Orléans I and Orléans II.
As a young pigeon he won:
Orléans prov. 11 9,406 young p. As a yearling he immediately scored:
Bourges nat. 1 10,410 p. After these early victories he failed to solidify his glory, as he had to win but one more 1st prize to become an ace pigeon. All the same, his brothers and sisters are true breeders. This is true not only in Grondelaers’ case, but in the case of many different pigeon fanciers all across the world.
The eternal champion
To Jan Grondelaers playing well was always synonymous to the achievement of titles: both championships and ace pigeons. According to Jan, a good pigeon is an ace pigeon and not a pigeon that has its ups and downs. The entire story on Jan Grondelaers can be summarized with a series of tremendous ace pigeon titles on a national level:
To really name all of the championships ‘Grondelaers and Son’ won over the past 20 years would take us too far. Nonetheless, we present to you a few exceptional performances:
‘Grondelaers and Son’ became a four-time all-round champion in the De Reisduif-competition. In the tough BDS-competition Jan Grondelaers achieved, from 1972 onward, the title of All-round Champion of the Flemish region 10 times, of which 5 times the title of All-round National for both regions in Belgium.
In 1989 ‘Grondelaers and Son’ won the Gouden Duif (‘Golden Pigeon’). In the very same year they won the Auto in the LDS-2000 competition. Thrice they became the All-round Champion East Flanders Duivensalon, and three times Jan Grondelaers represented Belgium on an Olympiad in the racing class:
In pigeon racing there is but one witness to the truth: numbers. Grondelaers was able to achieve many fantastic results, one after the other. The number of small and big victories since the beginning of his famous pigeon career could at the very least approximate 1,000, that’s what we estimate. The senior years of his career the victories are as follows:
1985 18 x first prize 1986 15 x first prize 1987 17 x first prize 1988 16 x first prize 1989 22 x first prize 1990 19 x first prize 1991 8 x first prize 1992 8 x first prize 1993 16 x first prize
40 years of super performances
1959 1st Luik Chateauroux 1960 1st Prov. Chateauroux (12 min loose) 1st Orléans 2000 p. 1961 1st Prov. Bourges (7 min loose) 1964 1st,2nd,3rd en 4th Prov. Corbeil 1st and 2nd Prov. Orléans 1st Prov. Toury 1965 1st Prov. Salbris 1968 1st Prov. Chateauroux 1st Semi-Nat. Chateauroux 1972 1st Prov. St.Vincent 1st Nat. St.Vincent 1st and 2nd St.Denis 3,000 p. 1973 1st Prov. Brive 1,900 p. 1974 1st Prov. Orléans (fastest of 21,700 p.) 1st Prov. Dourdan 1,496 p. 1975 1st Prov. Bourges 1,700 p. (7 min loose) 2nd Nat. Bourges 15,000 p. 1st and 2nd Prov. Brive 3,700 p. (6 min loose) 1st Prov. Orléans 3,700 p. (3 min loose and fastest of 19,800 p.) 1st Prov. Pau 1976 1st Prov. Brive (24 min loose) 1st Prov. Bourges 1st Prov. Narbonne 1st Prov. Argenton. 1977 1st ML Toury 1,376 p. 1st Prov. Clermont Ferrand 1978 1st Prov. Limoges 5,200 p. 1st Nat. Limoges 1st Prov. Orléans 1,409 p. 1st Prov. Orléans 4,657 p. (fastest of 20,800 p.) 1979 1st Prov. Orléans 1,868 p. 1st ML Montargis 1,185 p. 1st Prov. Argenton 1st Prov. Orléans 1,223 p. 1980 1st and 2nd Prov. Brive 641 p. (15 min loose) 1st Prov. Argenton 1st ML Etampes 2,287 p. 1st and 2nd ML Orléans 1,938 p. 1982 1st Prov. La Souterraine (6 min loose) 1st ML Melun 1,886 p. 1983 1st Prov. Orléans 3,056 p. 1st Interprov. Vierzon (7 min loose) 1984 1st Prov. Argenton 1985 1st Prov. Bourges 1st Nat. Bourges 10,410 p. 1987 1st Prov. Bourges 1,060 p. 2nd Nat. Bourges 10,163 p. 1st Prov. Tulle 1988 1st ML Orléans 1,969 p. 1989 1st Prov. Argenton 1,103 p. 1st Orléans 2,045 p. 1st Prov. Limoges 830 p. 1st Orléans 2,222 p. 1st Argenton 1,603 p. 1990 1st Prov. Limoges 986 p. 3rd Nat. Limoges 9,672 p. 1992 1st Prov. Limoges 1,256 p.
To try and sum up each and everyone who plays well with pigeons of Jan Grondelaers is an impossible task. One could just as well start counting the people across the world who play with pigeons of Janssen Arendonk. The comparison isn’t even that far-fetched, because the one thing the Grondelaers have in common with Janssen is the fact that they breed so damn well. This is hardly surprising when you take a look at how much Janssen blood is present in the Grondelaers.
We will thus restrain ourselves by presenting just a few champions that made it to the absolute top with the help of Grondelaers pigeons. To avoid any bias on our part, we will present the champs in alphabetical order:
Heinrich Bayer (Grevenbroich), Henri Custers (Meeuwen), Bernd Haas (Holfeld), Herbots (Halle-Booienhoven), Peter Jansen (Kleve), Rudi and Agnes Köhne (Duitsland), Torben Mortensen (Denemarken), Félix Pauwels (Herne), Roger Persoons (Halen), Pros Roosen (Kermt), Jean Stevens (Ruisbroek), Georges Zurstrassen (Hulsberg), …
Heinrich Bayer from Grevenbroich
This year Bayer won the 1st national Angoulème against 21,111 pigeons with a Grondelaers pigeon. Rudi and Agnes Köhne won the 2nd national on the same flight, again, with a Grondelaers pigeon.
Henri Custer from Meeuwen
Even though Jan Grondelaers has said goodbye to pigeon racing, he remains a loyal visitor of his friend Henri Custers. From 1980 onward, Custers collected as many Grondelaers pigeons as he could and is now profiting big time. His ace pigeon 5205727-89, for example, is a pure Grondelaers. This ace became the 1st ace pigeon provincial KBDB 1992 and 5th national ace pigeon KBDB. This ace represents the strains Goede Jaarling, Oude Bourges and brother 1st Nat. Bourges. But Henri also knew great success with a grandson of De Chateauroux and the Dax, both in racing as in breeding.
Bernd Haas from Holfeld
Haas won the first 8 prizes from Sinsheim 1993 with Grondelaers birds against 8,000 pigeons.
From Humburg he won against 1,938 p.: 1-3-7-11-12-13-15...(74% prize) From Metz he won against 5,283 p.: 1-6-22-30-31-33...(63% “) Again from Metz against 4,409 p.: 1-2-3-6-12-15-17... (70% “) From Sezanne against 1,066 p.: 1-2-3-4-7-15-16-17...(75% “) From Le Mans against 1,581 p.: 1-7-8-9-13...(72% “)
He would pledge allegiance to Grondelaers pigeons for his entire career.
Brothers Herbots from Halle-Booienhoven
Filip Herbots, who of all the super strains he’s witnessed primarily plays with Grondelaers and Stoces
In 1992 he won the 2nd national ace pigeon KBDB Hafo with the help of a pure Grondelaers, namely De King, and with an unbelievably strong record.
In 1992 he won without doubling:
Momignies 17 589 p. Soissons 11 604 p. Soissons 4 Pont St.Maxence 16 361 p. Marne 1 358 p. Etampes 14 1,451 p. Chateauroux 2 324 p. Argenton 2 2,278 p. Toury 54 1,126 p. Etampes 6 1,078 p. Argenton 42 3,330 p. Bourges 2 173 p. Etampes 1 235 p. Argenton 1 291 p. La Chatre 1 111 p. In total: 5,296km/prize in one season.
Father of De King is a brother of the 1st Nat. Bourges.
In 1993 a pure Grondelaers, who went by the name Musketier IV 938-91, won Herbots the 1st national from Argenton. The Musketier is a descendant from the son of the Goede Jaarling x a sister of the 1st Nat. Bourges.
Peter Jansen from Kleve
In 1992 Peter Jansen took 3 of his pigeons to the Olympiad. His loft predominantly consists of Grondelaers pigeons.
Rudi Köhne from Inden-Pier (GER)
Rudi won the 2nd National Angoulème in 1993. It‘s a well-established fact that he only plays with Grondelaers pigeons. Victories of 1993:
Cambrai 1 4,116 p. Pont 1 3,767 p. Etampes 1 2,171 p. Tours 1 7,473 p. Etampes 1 2,440 p. Poitiers 1 5,652 p. 2 31,002 p. Angoulème 1 15,206 p. Angerville 1 6,102 p. Mons 1 3,977 p. Moreover, Rudi Köhn was a twofold winner of the ‘Golden Pigeon‘ in Germany.
Torben Mortensen (Denmark)
Mortensen lives in Aarhus, on the eastern coast of Jutland. Since day one he‘s known the road to Opglabbeek where he always finds birds of premium breeding quality. Incidentally, these pigeons made him the national champion of 1983 and 1986. By now we‘ve lost track of all the titles he‘s won on grand/middle distance.
Félix Pauwels from Herne
According to Félix Pauwels himself his bird collection consists of up to 80% Grondelaers and 20% direct Janssen pigeons. The Janssen and Grondelaers are apparently two kinds of birds that naturally fit together. But as soon as you find out how much Janssen blood is represented in the Grondelaers it doesn‘t really seem all that extraordinary anymore. Pauwels got no less than 4 daughters from De Chateauroux, 2 young from the Orléans I and nesting sister of the infamous Geschifte. Combined with his own Janssen pigeons Félix Pauwels bred one of the fastest pigeon families of his country. In any case, he reached a climax with a national ace pigeon KBDB in 1982. In 1991 his fast Grondelaers pigeons won him the Belgian Championship Vitesse.
Roger Persoons from Halen
Roger was among the early vanguard of Grondelaers admirers. One could say he‘s a true friend to Jan. Thanks to a grandson of De Chateauroux Persoons won 2nd prize against 17,000 pigeons. That‘s right, from Chateauroux!
From a daughter of the Orléans I Roger bred his own little phenomenon, the Geschifte 807-83. This bird was an unmatched flyer, winning first prizes seemingly effortless. When breeding he did just as outstanding, since he‘s also the father of the Viking 340-87. The latter would win 10 first prizes in 2 seasons time, of which one was the 1st Orléans against 2,704 pigeons and a 1st Bourges out of 1,007 pigeons. Viking‘s mother was a daughter of the Goede Jaarling. Things really couldn‘t go wrong for Roger. The Viking honorably became the national ace pigeon of 1989 on the middle distance with a never before seen coefficient.
Pros Rossen from Kermt
Competitively Pros Roosen was a rival to be dealt with, but in ordinary life he was a good friend of Jan Grondelaers. Since 1970 he‘s had Grondelaers pigeons in his strain. The most succesful input, however, was a granddaughter – ring 5289872-74 – of Jan‘s Dax. Coupled to one of Van Sweevelt‘s cocks this hen bred the illustrious Lokeren, Pros Roosen‘s unequalled strain pigeon. The entire world is certainly familiar with the Supercrack 327, the most famous son of the Lokeren. Again, summing up his entire record would take us too far. In any case, here are a few top victories of 327-78:
Montargis 1 1,215 p. Vierzon 2 2,245 p. Salbris prov. 2 2,240 p. Orléans 2 1,223 p. Orléans prov. 3 4,954 p. Melun 3 1,848 p. Orléans 4 467 p. Vierzon 6 1,698 p. Orléans prov. 7 4,859 p. Montargis 9 1,274 p. Montargis 10 1,806 p. Even in offspring Lokeren was prominently represented. Several times he reappears in the family trees of the Olympiad pigeon 5328321-90 with which our nation was represented in the racing class at Las Palmas in 1993. Even in the family tree of the Kleine Orléans 977-90, who won Pros the 1st national Bourges of 1993 against 10,688 pigeons, the Lokeren appears 3 times. Due to a granddaughter of Grondelaers‘ famous 398 Pros won his ‘Argenton‘; worth 7 first prizes one of which was the 1st provincial Argenton.
Jean Stevens from Ruisbroek
Just like many of his peers, Stevens collected a sheer number of direct Grondelaers pigeons, each one descending from the best Grondelaers. These pigeons would repeatedly allow Stevens to annihilate his competition on middle distance races. Take for instance the race from Dourdan where he played against 334 pigeons and won 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 14th prize, and so on (with 13/18). On a different Dourdan with 224 played pigeons, he ‘only‘ won the first four prizes. But even when races got harder and more remote the Grondelaers pigeons performed as usual, just like that one time from Limoges in 1990 where Stevens surpassed the entire flight of 920 pigeons.
Peter Trost from Aalen (GER)
Peter always bought the best of the best from Jan. The purchase of Orléans I was naturally quite spectacular at the sale of 1977 during the relocation of Jan Grondelaers. The Orléans I was and remained a formidable breeder. Coupled to a daughter of the Goede Jaarling the Brave Blauwe DV0978-81-235 was born in 1981. This supercrack won among other:
Alzeg 1 1,462 p. Bingen 8 1,321 p. Grinstadt 1 2,000 p. Grut 1 960 p. Luik 7 1,350 p. Grut 3 680 p. De Panne 1 493 p. Bingen 12 1,131 p. Fair to say he had the Grondelaers style. By the way, from Bingen Peter Trost won against 1,928 pigeons: 1-2-3-4-5-6-8-9-12-15... thanks to a certain input from Jan Grondelaers‘ pigeons.
After his succesful career he moved the Brave Blauwe to Opglabbeek. Upon arrival he was renamed to Brave Peter.
Georges Zurstrassen from Hulsberg (NL)
Through a friend from Rotem Zurstrassen ended up at Jan Grondelaers‘ place. As soon as he played Jan‘s pigeons his results skyrocketed. However, when he put the nest sister of the Gebroken Vleugel to work in the breeding cage, his pigeons performed like never before. Without any effort he would win championship title after title like it was nothing. “Only the good pigeons count”, Grondelaers would have said.
Opglabbeek is a small town in Limburg near the Dutch border that will probably never hit the history books. Even the shutdown of the coal mines hardly made the news or affected the tuneful accent of the people of Limburg. Even today daily life goes on uninterrupted and this will probably be the case for the remainder of this century. But still, in the history books of pigeon racing Opglabbeek is printed in bold. Not just the Belgians but the half of Western Europe knew exactly where Limburg was located and what meaning it had to all pigeon fanciers, for it was along the road to As that Jan Grondelaers lived in house no. 48. It was right there in Limburg that “Strong Jan”, as they called him, played like a real champion and dominated the entire pigeon racing scene for a period of 40 years.
In an outstanding career with a 1,000 first prizes, 40 provincial victories and national triumphs from Limoges, St. Vincent and Bourges former butcher Jan Grondelaers is to be presented as the undoubtable national victor of the postwar pigeon sport. “Strong Jan” won about everything there was to win. He bred numerous cracks and made hundreds, if not thousands of people the happiest and luckiest pigeon fanciers in the world.