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Ludo Claessens:
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.


 






Ludo Claessens











The Garden and Lofts
PART I: THE HISTORY OF THE CLAESSENS LOFT UNTIL 1995

GRANDFATHER

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.



 




Widowhood loft



















ON 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.

GASTON CRUYSWEEGS

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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Ludo doesn't slack on winter care! 

THE 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.





Blauw 84



Bliksem



BlueMoon



De Groten



De King



Rode Katoog



Rood 71



Rood 93



Super White



Ten



Yeti

















 


"KNAP BLAUWKE"

"Knap Blauwke" was a welcome addition to a strongly inbred family. But the first youngsters didn't fulfill the needs of Ludo Claessens. That changed when he coupled her in 1987 to the "Witpen Orleans" (son of the "Fokstier" and 5th national Orleans). The couple stayed two years together and produced four top cocks, namely the "Blauwe 58," "Blauwe 59," "Bonte Ekster," and "911."
Of these four top breeders, "Bonte Ekster" produced two birds that flew extremely well. "175/89" won 1st Creil 1061 pigeons, 5th national Chateauroux 9183, and 15th national Orleans 8090 birds. "De Witneus 53" won 1st Creil 1323 birds, 1st St. Quentin 427, 2nd Creil 1412, 3rd Creil 1606, and 3rd Creil 2046. Afterwards, he moved to America.

"911" won two first prizes and became father of "Platkop," 1st Creil 1331, 3rd national Orleans 8210, and 5th national Montargis 2147 birds. From a sister of the "Platkop" came the 5th national Orleans and the 5th and 7th national Chateauroux.
"De Blauwe 59" (8885159/88) - His children won 2nd national Orleans, 1st Creil 1045 birds, 1st Orleans 4947 birds (3rd national), 2nd Chateauroux 2989 birds, and 1st Chateauroux 2930 birds. His most famous son is the "Supercrack 69" with 1st Etampes (quickest against more than 70,000 birds), 1st provins 2231 (quickest against 25,000 birds), 2nd Reims 2763 (after loftmate): 3rd Montargis 692 birds (after 2 loftmates) and 5th Creil 2735 birds.
"De Blauwe 58": -- Nest brother of the "Blauwe 59." He is father of a 1st, 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 9th national Orleans. A daughter of his won the 1st national from Orleans in rayon 1 b and got the name "Het Nationaaltje." After that she was sold to Taiwan. And what do you think about the "Favoriet" who is a son of the "Blauwe 58"? 1st Provin 1974 birds (quickest among 25,000 birds), 3rd Orleans 4481 birds, 8th Compeigne 4196 birds, and 9th Creill 3334 birds?

Just to remember, we are talking here about four sons of "Knap Blauwke," who was bought for a few Belgian francs at the Lier Market.

"KLAK"

In 1981, Ludo got a pigeon from "De Klak" at his loft. "De Klak" is a top fancier in the Netherlands with a lot of Janssen pigeons. It went like this. Chris Adams (Bergen-Op-Zoom), a good friend of Ludo Claessens, was a very good friend of Jan Hermans (the owner of Sportblad De Duif - Belgium). Ludo went once to Jan Hermans to select the birds, and one week later Jan wrote in his magazine, "I've got already a lot of so-called 'selectors' but how Ludo selected in my loft is really unbelievable."
Chris Adams got from Jan Hermans two original pigeons of the "Klak" which were close family to the "Oude Merckx" van Janssen. It was a hen which Chris Adams coupled to a son of his best breeding pair. And Chris gave Ludo a youngster out of that couple which was banded with a special ring series, F194/81. Believe it or not, but Ludo had won the lottery again. The "F194" won as a two-year-old bird three weeks after each other 1st Corbeil, 1st Melun, and 1st Corbeil provincial against 2200 birds. The "F194" produced three super breeding hens, namely "Dik Licht 56," "Klein 54," "and Klein 53." "Dik Licht" is grandmother of three national winners from Orleans. Her son "Late Donkere" is father of "Red Arrow," while her daughter "Donkere Witpen 72" with two different cocks produced two different national winners, namely "Het Nationaaltje" and "Dream."

THE TOP BREEDING PAIR

Ludo Claessens has no fixed breeding couples. He likes to change. A big advantage is that all stockbirds are flying out, so it is no problem to couple a breeding hen to a yearling bird. But one couple stayed together for three years, namely "Dik Licht" (inbred F194 with his granddaughter) with "Donkere 65" (inbred "Fokstier").

In 1990 that couple launched the "Donkere Witpen 72" into the world. She became mother of two national winners. Her nest brother won 2nd provincial Bourges 2952 and 4th provincial Etampes 1029 birds. Children and grandchildren of the "Donkere Witpen" put the following results on paper: 1st Chateauroux 2898 birds, 1st Nivel 2355 birds, 2nd Chateauroux 2069 birds, 3rd Orleans 3919 birds, 1st St. Ghislain 2626 birds, and of course the already mentioned 1st national Orleans 7406 birds, and 1st national Orleans 8210 birds.

In 1991 they delivered the 4th national Orleans against 8210 birds. That was in fact equal with the 1st national because there were three loftmates who were ahead of them.

In 1992 the "Katoog" came from this couple. He has unbelievable race results with the following toppers: 1st Etampes 1073 birds, 1st Etampes 1963 birds (quickest against 25,000 birds) and 1st Orleans 4947 birds (4th national).

A brother of the "Katoog" produced the 1st St. Ghislain against 4368 birds and a sister of the "Katoog" produced the 1st Creil against 2321 birds. What a family!

That "Donker 65" can breed super birds is a common fact. Coupled with a half sister of "Dik Licht," namely "Klein 54" (also a daughter of F194) came the "1st Gouden Crack van 89" (hen 8926177/89, 5th national Orleans 8210 birds and 7th national Chateauroux 9108 birds) and the "Gouden Crack 1992" (2nd Etampes 1873 birds and 3rd Chateauroux 2989 birds). We repeat, what a family!

"DE VOSKES"
And then we come to what Ludo calls his best pigeon line-"De Voskes," the red pigeons. That color goes back to an old red Horemans pigeon (B69-6582499). That pigeon was bought in 1975 through Gaston Cruysweegs. Gaston paid 1000 Belgian francs for that cock which was sitting among 400 other pigeons. "The old red cock was a very nice bird," remembered Ludo. "It took a long time before I could buy that pigeon from Gaston Cruysweegs. Ludo put the red cock in the breeding loft and another miracle occurred. The famous red family was born.

"Red Arrow" -- 1st national Orleans 5445 pigeons, 3rd Reims 2774 pigeons, 6th Nijvel 3363 pigeons, and 9th Chateauroux 1777 pigeons - is the 9th generation of red pigeons coming from the old Horemans.

In that chain of nine generations, we want to spotlight some birds. "Rooie Orleans" (1st Orleans 2610, 1st St. Quentin 384 (fastest pigeon of 20,000 birds). A son of the "Rooie Orleans" was paired up with one of the daughters of the "F194," namely "Klein 54." Then here came "Vos 28" (8664528/86) who won 3rd Limoges 1640 and 4th Compeigne 1209. What is more important is that Ludo paired him up to a nest sister of the 1st national Orleans 1987, which was inbred to the "Fokstier." In "Vox 28" there was also a little blood of the "Fokstier." So a new top pair was born. In 1990, they launched "Voske 54" into the world.

"VOSKE 54"

That red cock was not a big pigeon. But when you look at what he flew and what his breeding results are, then you won't believe your eyes. "Voske 54" is father of four provincial winners. He is also grandfather of "Red Arrow" (1st national Orleans 1995). "Voske 54" produced good pigeons with a lot of hens. With a granddaughter of the "Witpen Orleans" (you remember, father of the twins "Blauwe 58" and "59") he produced "Voske 88": 1st Chateauroux 3069 pigeons and 4th national. Later she became the mother of "Red Arrow."
In 1992 with a daughter of the same "Witpen Orleans," "Voske 54" produced a beautiful nest pair, namely "Vos 91" and "Donker 92." "Vos 91" won 1st Chateaurous 4506 pigeons and 1st Creil 1968 pigeons. His nest sister won 4th Chateauroux 2898 pigeons (after three nestmates) and his son won 1st Chateauroux 2069 pigeons.

After the national victory with Orleans, Ludo did something he will never regret in his whole life. He coupled the "Donkere Witpen 72" (mother of "Het Nationaaltje") with "Voske 54." The miracle happened and a new national winner came from this couple, namely "The Dream": 1st national Orleans 7406 pigeons and 2nd quickest against 193,500 pigeons.

"ROOD 93"

99/99 64 493 "Granddaughter Katoog"
La Souterraine 1st out of 155 birds, 2nd out of 2507 birds, and 8th out of 7525 National; 10th Chantilly out of 1296 birds, 33rd Creil out of 7332 birds, and 104th Bourges out of 2476 birds.
"Rood 83" is already mother of "Rode 70" (NL 00/00 77 670), 1st Nijvel out of 2348 birds (equal first), and 15th Heverlee out of 3242 birds.

"YETI" (NL 99/99 64 498) 1st Morlincourt out of 3669 birds, 1st Orleans out of 193 birds (2nd prov. out of 3574), 1st Creil out of 374 (5th prov. out of 7332), 2nd Creil out of 227 (25th prov. out of 4867) (equals first), 5th Provincial Etampes out of 5494, and 12th Provincial St. Quentin out of 2008 birds.

Ludo Claessens remains the Picasso of the racing pigeon sport.

This article is in two parts. To go to Part II, click here.



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