Cornella Family Loft
Copyright 2001 Alex Cornella
Article reprinted with permission
by Alex Cornella
This article was originally written in 1988 and published in the American Racing Pigeon News.
The purpose of this article is to rekindle interest in the Fabry family of pigeons originated by Georges and Victor Fabry of Liege, Belgium. It's no exaggeration to state that this single loft has been a tremendous influence on the sport all over the world. The fabulous Fabrys have been successful in Canada, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Great Britain, throughout Europe, and of course here in the United States.
Since it's virtually impossible to set forth the entire Fabry story spanning the better part of the 20th century in a relatively brief article, I will confine myself to years prior to 1972, the year Georges died. Although son Victor continued in his father's footsteps, I am primarily interested in the bloodlines dating back prior to 1972.
Georges' father was a fancier of Tumblers and Pouters, providing Georges his first pigeon as a boy. However, his real start came in 1913 when he moved to Liege to establish his pharmacy business. He set up a loft over his shop and introduced Hansenne pigeons. At the time Alexandre Hansenne was probably the best fancier in the world. This is an indication of one of Georges Fabry's patterns of behavior -- acquire pigeons only from the very best lofts. It also reinforces another important point...
The word "strain" is often misused and Fabry's methods are a good illustration of this notion. The dictionary definition of strain connotes a race or a family traced back to a common ancestor. If you use this yardstick, you will be hard pressed to find a family of birds that can accurately be described as a strain.
Art Rochol of Milwaukee confirmed this view. He bought pigeons from the Fabry loft for more than 40 years, often buying a draft of 50. Art said, "There's no such thing as pure strain. The best lofts of Europe cross in other families to get results. This has been the case with the Fabry pigeons. Every ten years there has been a complete turnover in bloodlines."
Fabry was extremely successful between the wars with the Hansennes competing in a center of some 3,000 flyers, winning first champion in 1928 and 1929. Between 1931 to the start of World War II the Fabry Loft won many championships and prestigious national races including nine prizes in the National Angouleme and the gold medal for the highest number of prizes with an entry of twelve birds.
Belgium was occupied by the German Army during WW II and many of Fabry's pigeons found their way to Germany where they became popular and had an impact for decades. In 1976, 500 West German fanciers turned out for a Fabry auction of 60 pigeons and by some accounts Victor Fabry earned $25,000 from the sale.
Many good pigeons were destroyed during the war, however Fabry managed to save his best pigeons. In addition to the Hansenne family, he introduced Bricoux. In 1951, he obtained a hen from Vanbruaene and one from De Scheemaecker. Then in 1958 he purchased six birds at the L. Collaer clearance sale.
While Fabry continued to add blood from the best European lofts and blend them with his family, he also made it a habit to buy back Fabry birds from lofts where his family won big prizes. Col. Croft Grantham, Jr. of Alexandria, Va., has been a Fabry enthusiast since he was stationed in England in 1954 and has visited Fabry's impressive home and loft numerous times. According to Grantham, "By buying pigeons that won for other fanciers, Fabry was able to maintain the family and produce a consistent type of pigeon. He always brought in hens and crossed them onto the old bloodline, thereby maintaining the conformation."
The period after World War II began a golden era for the Fabry pigeons in which many key birds were born that influenced the racing pigeon sport for decades. Heroine, a blue check hen, was born in 1947 and she distinguished herself mightily as a racer and breeder. She won 1st National St. Vincent (yearlings) in 1948, a distance of 945 kilometers in bad weather. She beat the 2nd-place yearling by over two hours and was 4th overall against 2,200 pigeons. Mated with Frank, who won 1st Interprovincial Angouleme in 1946, Heroine produced Porthos in 1950, the winner of two million Belgian francs in two years. This is the same Porthos who is the grandsire to the Janssen Brothers' Halve Fabry, an important bird in the pedigree of many Janssen pigeons. But more about the Janssen connection in a minute.
The year Porthos was born another key pigeon was also produced. She was named Zotteke and she bred supreme youngsters with any cock. The most famous of her sons were Monty, and Aiglon. An exceptionally good racer and breeder named Fangio was bred by Barnum. Fangio was an all-around bird who did well at every distance and won Fabry one million Belgian francs over a period of four years.
There any number of additional superb Fabry pigeons that could be metioned: Mac Arthur, Vierzon, Bon Blue, and so on --but no discussion of the Fabry pigeons of the post-World War II era would be complete without mentioning Mouchete and Mosquito.
Mouchete, born in 1960, was another versatile pigeon who excelled at all distances. Among his many credits was 1st Interprovincial Chateaurous, 514 kilometers. This blue cock was the exemplar of beauty as well as brawn, a trait common to most of the Fabrys. Mouchete was 1st Belgian pigeon at the 1965 London Olympiad and 1st at the 1965 Peoples Show.
Finally, the dark-checker cock Mosquito was without a doubt the best long-distance Fabry of the 1960s. One of the best pigeons in Belgium in his day, Mosquito won three top National prizes and passed his breeding and racing along to children such as the famous Petie Breton, as well as his grandchildren. The Mosquito bloodline was responsible for the 1983 and 1986 winners of the Rocky Mountain Challenge Race. Moreover the Mosquito bloodline was highly prized in Japan and next to impossible to find today.
He believed the loft should face southeast and good ventilation was necessary. The sun should shine into the loft and when you enter the loft you should not be able to smell pigeons. It should be free from all odors.
Fabry was a believer in cleaning the loft twice a day. This level of fastidiousness is understandable when you consider three large lofts occupied the second floor of his house. In his heyday, he kept as many as 150 youngbirds, yearlings, and widowers in the second story loft.
Behind the house, a stock loft holding 20 pair could be found. As a general rule, old cocks that had performed well went into stock. However, younger birds were stocked if their children excelled.
Yearlings and old birds were raced on widowhood. Young birds were trained up to 250 kilometers. Each year Fabry selected the 26 best young cocks and moved them into the yearling section where they ultimately raced to 300 kilometers. He did not consider their performance as youngsters or yearlings to be terribly important. Conformation, bloodline and health were paramount. The main thing was to teach them the widowhood system and give them a few races under the belt.
At the end of the first racing season the best yearlings were transferred to the main team. From there they competed in the big National and Provincial races, again on widowhood. Cocks were not permitted to breed before racing season. Instead, after the season they were allowed to raise one or two youngsters before being separated. Contrary to most widowhood flyers, he did not believe in breeding his widowers before racing season because this method helped the cocks maintain their form longer.
An hour of exercise in the morning and an hour in the early evening was the routine Fabry followed.
The Fabry birds were given a diet of 20 percent wheat, 50 percent barley, 10 percent peas, and 20 percent corn in the winter. The summer diet consisted of 23 percent wheat, 30 percent corn, 30 percent peas, 10 percent millet, and 5 percent sunflower seeds. For racing season the diet was made up of 15 percent wheat, 40 percent corn, 30 percent peas, 10 percent millet, 5 percent sunflower seed and a little hemp a few days before a race. Finally, when birds went through the moult they received 15 percent barley, 25 percent corn, 25 percent wheat, 5 percent sunflower seed, 5 percent hemp, and 25 percent peas.
Fabry advised against overfeeding or underfeeding. His rule was to feed enough so the birds had a slight edge on their appetite.
THE JANSSEN CONNECTION
Fabry pigeons have crossed well with any number of well-bred families. My own experience bears this out, having produced excellent performing and breeding pigeons by crossing Fabrys with Janssens and Meulemans. But the results of crossing them with Janssen's have been outstanding as any number of American flyers will tell you. This is a favorite cross for Clair Hetland of Golden Valley, Minnesota, owner of Foy's Pigeon Supplies. As an example, his Janssen-Fabry cross won in the 1985 Minnesota State Race making over 1300 yards per minute flying an airline of 488.411 miles.
In 1994 I bred a Janssen-Fabry blue hen with band number 928 that I sent to a 300-mile Central Jersey Combine race that had more than 3,000 young birds competing. My first bird home was Home Alone, my good Janssen cock who has amassed a tremendous flying record. Twenty minutes went by and 928 came not looking the least bit tired or interested in trapping. I figured there was no point in clocking her since so much time had elapsed after I clocked Home Alone. As it turned out, Home Alone won the combine by 30 minutes and the 928 would have been 2nd combine, 10 minutes ahead of the next bird. That was a hard lesson learned. The story of 928 does not end there. In 1998, I bred her to de 2000,one of my best performance Meuleman cocks, taking only two children from the mating. They were both blue hens. I kept one for myself, who won a first club, and I gave one to my good friend Gerald Hebert of Louisiana. Gerald's 928/de 2000 daughter has turned out to be one of the most consistent breeding hens in his loft.
As I noted earlier, the Janssen Brothers' Halve Fabry was a grandson of Porthos. The Halve Fabry was responsible for a number of important Janssen pigeons, including the Oude Witoger of 1965, winner of ten firsts. The Halve Fabry is also the great grandfather of De Oude Merckx, a superb racer and breeder.
But the Janssen-Fabry connection doesn't end here. According to John Keller of Baltimore who has extensively researched the Fabry pigeons, "The Janssen Brothers are believed to have bought many pigeons from Fabry over the years."
FABRYS IN AMERICA
Countless American fanciers have done very well with Fabrys. Rochol won 32 diplomas with them in 1987, including 300-mile young bird and old bird races.
Grantham has won out of turn in the Washington, D.C. area. His Fabry loft has won more than 24 average speeds and 226 races.
Of particular interest is Grantham's system of flying celibate hens. This system has been especially effective in long distance races. In 1987, Grantham won a 500-miler that saw only four birds home on the day with such a hen. Grantham also took 1st, 4th, 6th, and 8th in the 600-mile race with his Fabrys.
Of course, Fahy Robinson is famous for his Fabry family. Bob King, Jr. (who imported many important Fabry champions and supplied great Fabry pigeons to Ganus before he turned to Janssens and other lines) and many others, including myself, have done well by this family. The straight Fabrys do especially well in the long-distance races and in tough weather when all the speed families have exhausted themselves and gone down.
In closing, I must mention what is probably one of the greatest Fabrys every breed in this country--Mike Ganus' 180. This check splash cock carrying Barnum bloodlines in his veins is the prepotent sire to more than 30 1st place winners and hundreds of diploma winners. This is a conservative estimate because Ganus sold many youngsters off the 180 and could not possibly track the records of all his children and grandchildren. A Maryland flyer wrote Ganus to inform him a 180 son won 15 diplomas. It's quite possible 180 and his children are responsible for several hundred to a thousand diplomas.
I handled 180 when he was 14-years old. He felt like a pigeon half his age and I was fortunate to have obtained two of his sons to form my own line of Fabulous Fabrys. I have placed my Fabrys in a number of lofts that have reported back excellent results. For instance, Jack Banks of Methuen, Mass. had three generations of 500-mile winners from one of my Fabrys. And Bill DeRossier of Andover, Mass. won 1st North Section, New England Concourse with a Cornella Family Fabry. Finally, John Florek of Benld, Ill. bred six 1st place winners, including 1st combine with one of my Fabry cocks.
The Old-Line Fabry bloodline dating back to pre-1972 is difficult to find
today. However, if you are lucky enough to get your hands on good ones, they
will certainly add toughness and vigor to your breeding program. -- AC