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|News > Ludo Claessens|
from Belgium and Europe
Alone at the Top
by Stefan Mertens
|Putte: You can group pigeon fanciers into different categories. From "no-prize-winners" to "good fanciers." From "good fanciers" to "champions." From "champions" to "World champions." And when you have done that, you still have one fancier left, a wonder child, a talent on a matchless high level, namely the one and only Ludo Claessens from Putte (Netherlands). A Picasso, if you want to call him that, or a Mozart in the pigeon sport. His career as a fancier seems like a fairy tale in which a prince sees everything he touches change to gold.
This is a story which we want to tell you in two parts. The first part will be about the history (until 1995) of the Claessens pigeons. This we will base on a very good article from Sportblad De Duif (the best-selling pigeon newspaper in Belgium, owned by Jan Hermans - Waalre, Netherlands). The second part will be about the period from 1995 until 2001.
The Garden and Lofts
I: THE HISTORY OF THE CLAESSENS LOFT UNTIL 1995
Putte is a little village just over the border between Belgium and the Netherlands, on the Dutch side. And Ludo Claessens was born in that border village. His father was Belgian and his mother Dutch. So Ludo was born into an international family, which was not so unusual in that environment. Ludo received his father's nationality and will keep it, although he has lived his entire life in the Netherlands. A Dutch Belgian, he even joined the Belgian army.
Ludo grew up in the Antwerpsestraat in Putte near his grandparents. His grandfather from his mother's side was Louis Sebrechts, a fancier with nice results. Young Ludo was his grandfather's best friend, and as a little child was already in his grandfather's lofts. There, he became infected with the famous virus we all know-namely the pigeon virus. When Ludo got older, he partnered with his grandfather, and they raced together until Ludo was 23. After that, grandfather raced on his own until the age of 85, with a lot of success.
"Grandfather Sebrechts taught me how to handle a pigeon," says Ludo. "He was a real pigeon psychologist. The most important lesson I got from Granddad was that I must feel like a pigeon. Knowing what makes a pigeon happy or sad." Ludo will never forget his grandfather's lessons.
From his grandfather he also learned that you always have to look out for that superb pigeon. Good pigeons come out of good pigeons. Super pigeons come out of super pigeons.
From the period that he raced in parthership with his grandfather, Ludo can name all the best pigeons. "If you want, I can also mention the ring numbers!" he says. There was "De Rappe," an unbelievably good widower, and don't forget the "Schouwveger" (strain Van Gils and Son - Merksem) through Gaston Cruysweegs. The favorite was the "Hugo," a widower with Huyskens-Van Riel blood through Hugo Kuilen. In 1972, they bought a young pigeon which had flown extremely well by Thijssen. It was loft broken and won the 38th prize against 1050 pigeons on a very hard Ruffec race. This position says more when you know that there were only 53 birds home on the same day.
HIS OWN WINGS
Kids become big, and just like pigeons, one day they fly out of the nest. In 1974, Ludo married Marja and they bought their own house, with a pigeon loft. Ludo started with five pigeons which were from his grandfather. Among those five pigeons was "Het Donker Thijssen." And the new member of pigeon club "De Grensduif" won in his first year four first prizes: 1st Orleans, 1st Moulins, 1st Ruffec, and 1st St. Vincent.
In the period that Ludo was in partnership with his grandfather, there was a certain fancier named Gaston Cruysweegs, who was nearly unbeatable. Winning the first five prizes against thousands of birds was nothing unusual. Ludo says that he looked up to that man, considering him an idol and wanting to race like him. For years, he was the best fancier in the area, so it is logical that Ludo went there to invest in some pigeons. Pigeons like "De Rappe" and "De Schouwveger" came from Cruysweegs. Gaston Cruysweegs had pigeons from Louis Vermeyer, Brothers Van Gils and Stan Raeymaeckers.
"Cruysweegs knew something more about pigeons," says Ludo. "I must admit that all the pigeons we bought from him were top birds. We raced them on the nest until about 350 km, but now and then I basketed a pigeon for the long distance."
In 1974, Ludo went to Gaston for more birds. Now, he bought an egg from his best breeding couple. With the eye of a champion, Gaston looked at both eggs and asked Ludo if he wanted a cock or a hen. Ludo couldn't believe his ears and answered, "Give me the cock." And indeed, a cock came out of that egg. That cock received ring number NL 238915/74 and would change Ludo's life, because he was a real top breeder. He quickly received the name "Fokstier," because with a lot of hens, he produced super birds. Altogether, he gave 17 or 18 1st prize winners. We think about the "08" (2599108/77) who won four first prizes and second prize six times.
"De Fokstier" was first paired up with the best breeding hen in the loft, "Donkere Thijssen." From that couple came the "Groten Bonte," who won the 28th national Orleans. "The Fokstier's" best breeding results were with a hen bought from Smijers. It was at a local celebration of a championship, and Smijers had two birds for auction. There was a hen with nice racing results and a blue hen which had not flown so well. Ludo chose the blue hen. Nobody understood, but the future proved Ludo right. That hen, "Oud Blauw Smijers," became a real top breeding bird. With the "Fokstier" she became the mother of the "Witpen Orleans" (81/8191863), who won the 5th national Orleans and became grandfather of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd national Orleans.
And what do you think about the nestmate of the "Witpen Orleans," who won a 1st Chateauroux by more than 15 minutes against 2557 pigeons? Good enough for the 2nd national prize. And since that moment, every year Ludo is the man to beat on the national Orleans race.
THE "VALEN MICHIELSEN"
In 1978 Cruysweegs bought a late bred (6115575/78) from a Belgian fancier. The cock came out of a cock of Michielsen (Brasschaat) and a hen from Van Alfen (Merksem). In other words, a very good bloodline. Cruysweegs tried to break this cock to his loft, but he didn't succeed, and one day the cock stayed away. But a day later, that cock entered the loft of Ludo Claessens. Ludo took the cock back to Cruysweegs, and Ludo was so impressed with the qualities of that cock that he asked Cruysweegs to let him know if he wanted to sell that cock. In 1982, Cruysweegs phoned Ludo to say if he was interested in the "Valen" he could buy him together with his hen (a half sister of the famous "Fokstier"). And what had never succeeded with Cruysweegs was "Bingo" with Ludo from the first time.
The first youngster which Ludo bred out of the "Valen" was the "Rooie Zot" (8215829/82). That cock won 12th La Souterraine out of 1523 birds and 12th Orleans out of 3060 birds. He flew super until Bergerac, a very long-distance race. But that was not all. The "Rooie Zot" was also talented in the breeding loft. His first youngster was the "Witpen Zot" (8364098/83), good for the 2nd national Orleans, 1st from 4998 birds with five minutes in front. The mother of the "Witpen Zot" was a daughter of the "Fokstier." So we had a son of a half sister of the "Fokstier" with a daughter of the "Fokstier." And you are wrong if you think that "Witpen Zot" was the only super bird that came out of that couple. What do you think about his sister "Rooie Zottin" (8664554/86): 1sst Criel 2304, 2nd Compeigne 1348, and 1st Etampes 400-this as a yearling hen against widowers.
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TASTE OF THE INBRED
The success of the "Zotten" line and the "Fokstier" line was a motivation to do more and more inbreeding. The "Witpen Zot" became the partner of a granddaughter from the "08," a brother from his mother. That granddaughter was "Donker 40" (8414940/84), which won 1st against 4061 birds. That inbred couple-"Witpen Zot" and "Donker 40" would make Ludo world famous, because their daughter (8722902/87)won the 1st national Orleans with seven minutes in front, and in rayon 1 b (only bird entered) against more than 9000 birds. The hen that won the 1st national disappeared off the stage but made way for her nest sister "Donker 03" to become a top breeding hen. Top birds like "Voske 54," "The Dream," "Red Arrow," "Silver Boy," "Voske 88," "Voske 91," and "Donker 92"all have "Donker 03" in their pedigree.
The mother of the national winner was also mother of the "Donkere 65," this in combination with the "Witpen Orleans" (brother of her grandfather). "Donkere 65" won 5th Melun 1815, 12th Orleans 6217, and 2nd national Chateauroux 11,692 birds. "Donker 65" was again a breeder of pure gold because pigeons like "Gouden Crack 89," "De Katoog," "De Donkere Witpen," "Het Nationaaltje" and "The Dream" all have the "Donker 65" in their pedigree.
I THOUGHT I COULD DO IT
Ludo began to get a feeling that breeding top birds with this bloodline was a piece of cake. And when he bought a bird to cross in, it was always "Bingo." Even more national and/or provincial top prizes were close at hand. A little detail: in the winter he had only 24 birds in his loft. Ludo explains, "I don't know how I do it, but I think that I have something in me that says these are top birds, and these are second class." Take as an example the story of Lier-Market.
In 1982 Toine Musters, a good friend of Ludo's, was visiting. Toine asked if Ludo had something to sell. Ludo, who had only 20 birds, couldn't spare a single feather but invited Toine to go to Lier Market. (For our American friends, Lier is a town in Belgium where in February, March and April thousands of young birds are sold. That pigeon market has fanciers from Belgium, the Netherlands, England, France, Germany, etc.)
"There are good pigeons everywhere," said Ludo, and together they went to Lier. Ludo didn't quickly find what he was looking for, but after a few hours of searching they had bought five youngsters.
When Ludo and Toine came home, they had a second look at the youngsters, and Ludo said that a certain little blue hen was really a top bird. Toine, who was so happy that Ludo went with him to Lier wanted Ludo to keep that blue hen for himself. And again Ludo was right, because that little blue hen put the following top results on paper: 1st St. Quentin 801, 1st St. Quentin 2221, and 1st Orleans 7100. That little blue hen got the name "Knap Blauwke" and had ring number 6322858/82. The breeder of "Knap Blauwke" was Eddy Meyen from Geel (Belgium). Afterwards, Ludo visited that fancier, where he could even have bought the parents of "Knap Blauwke." But Ludo didn't buy a single bird. They didn't have the qualities of "Knap Blauwke."
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To see a family tree of Ludo Claessens' pigeons, click here for a PDF file or click here for a GIFimage. Note that either is a large file, so kindly be patient as you wait for it to load.
This article is
in two parts. To go to Part II, click here.
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