By: Liam O Comain
When one gets involved in discussing the sport of pigeon racing the name of Jan Aarden is sure to appear, especially in relation to the long distances because the strain of racing pigeons created by this master has been immortalised by some due to the impact it has made throughout the world. But who was this Dutchman credited with being the creator of a great marathon strain - a man whose bloodlines run through many of the winners and others to the fore in the Barcelona International and indeed many national and international winners throughout the world of modern pigeon racing?
Jan Aarden was born in the city of Oosterhout on the Sixth of November 1893 to Martinus Aarden and Lucia Schoenmakers. There he attended school at the Abbey of St. Paulus. From his earliest days Jan had a great love for animals and birds and in particular racing pigeons. The love of the latter was kindled by a Fr. Paulus who kept some racing pigeons in the Abbey grounds and, needless to relate, the young Aarden in due course became the "boy manager" of the good Father's stock. There his passion for the thoroughbreds of the sky intensified and by the time he was 18 he was a member of a racing pigeon club in Oosterhout, where in a short period of time he owned a loft of good short and middle distance racers.
An early influence upon Aarden was the family of Oomens from Breda who were the long distance stars of the Netherlands prior to World War 2. Aarden developed a close friendship with the father of the family and in due course owned some of their birds.
After Jan's marriage to Janntje Akermans on the twentieth of July 1916, the Aardens moved to and lived in the village of Teteringen for almost four years. Aarden built a loft and moved his pigeons there but because of family commitments and the First World War there was a lack of success. In 1921 the family moved again, this time to Steenbergen, followed by another move to Grintweg in 1924. This was not to be the last removal for eventually the family settled finally in Steenbergen.
The early nineteen twenties saw another important influence bearing upon Jan in the person of his son Anton who was also interested in the sport and who at the age of 18 joined with his father in a combination. Anton's influence led his father from the shorter to the longer races and although the results were not outstanding Aarden, through his skills and patience, began to build his wonderful strain.
By the end of 1930 in the breeders of Jan Aarden was the blood of Ost-Roe alongside stock from Henrey Rey and a super hen from Leo De Cock. The Ost-Roe bloodlines belonged to Jules Roeckaert - the former title he used for sometime. Here I relate to the colour of reds in the Aardens which raises some eyebrows to the extent that there is disbelief that red is a colour truly representative of the strain. Research however confirms that reds were at the basis of the strain through the stock of Rey and Roeckaert. The most prominent of the former's loft was Ouden Vassart - a red which Rey purchased at the auction of Pauwels from the Sas of Gent. From Roeckaert Aarden bought for stock a light checker Belske, whose father was Leon, a red cock from Leon Van der Saude. Perhaps this may lay to rest the suspicion surrounding the Aardens of red or mealy plumage.
With his natural talent and genealogical knowledge coupled with an emphasis on inbreeding Aarden used the stock obtained from Roeckaert, Rey, and others to build and experiment. Initially, he paired the Blaue Ost Roe to the Oude Rey duivin, which showed the spark of genius for he had immediate success with this pairing. Their famous product was the great Fietsvlieger who, as well as being a winner on the road, bred some outstanding birds. Mated to Dikke Blauw, his outstanding nestmate, he bred the Schone Blauw - a pigeon who excelled at winning first prizes at racing. When pairing the Reydoffer with Belske Aarden produced another great pigeon in 46, who won many races. A full sister of the 46 namely Orleanske won from Orleans three years in a row. From the pairing of Vetkonk from De Cock with the Fietsvlieger Aarden bred Verkeeroe Duivin, one of the best racing hens in his loft if not in Holland. The Dikke Blauw was also mated to Roeckaert's Duveltje and produced the Mooike, another famous representative of the strain. The above were in the main Aarden's basic couples and indeed Mooike, Dikke Blauw, Schone Blauw and the Verkeerde Duivin won prizes from a very tough race from St. Vincent. From this and other results Jan Aarden realised that he owned pigeons of excellent quality.
The major influence however in the development of the Aarden strain and the consequent dynasty was Zilvervosje. This light check hen with a reflection of silver in her wings was a wonderful breeder as well as a racer. Her bloodlines are there in the families of the great Aarden fanciers like Muller, van Agtmaal, van den Burgh, van der Wegen, van den Eijnden and the Kuypers, as well as being the grandmother of Ko Nipius's second national Barcelona. In fact her contribution to the development of the marathon pigeon in Europe is immense.
Thanks to Steve Patrick of Patrick Bros, who won the English NFC Pau National with an Aarden, I can state that the Zilvervosje is a daughter of Slaper (H 46-270518), which was of Schouteren bloodlines. Other research confirmed that another Schoutern pigeon was the other parent. This fabulous hen when mated with Zesentachtig ( H 47- 433486), also known as 86, bred Late Meesters (H 49-525758), a pearl of a pigeon. (The famous 131 was a great granddaughter of Late Meesters). The latter appearing in the pedigrees of many of the best modern representatives of the strain. The late partnership of Eijerkamp- Muller confirms that Zilvervosje was the foundation bird of their family. The sire of van Wanroy's the Spin is a grandson and the dam is a granddaughter of Zilvervosje. And of course the Spin was the foundation bird in the families of Kuypers Brothers and Peter van den Eijnden. Aarden's famous 37 was a grandson of the hen. In turn 37 was the grandfather of Giel van Agtmaal's 500 as well as the grandfather of Jan de Weert's 131. Surely two of the best of the Aarden dynasty.
Further research showed that Zilvervosje was the granddaughter of the Oude Witpen, a famous breeder of Toon Stoffelen. And that the Bontje Aarden, dam of Ligtenberg's 10, was a granddaughter of Zilvervosje. Bear in mind also that the Bontje Aarden was the mother of Janus van der Wegen's Oude Doffertje. The list appears to be endless re the breeding influence of Zilvervosje but, as stated, she was also a very good racer. Some of her triumphs included the following: 3rd nat. Dax (1949); 2nd nat. Dax (1950); 55th nat. St. Vincent (1950); 7th nat. Dax (1951); 47th nat. St.Vincent (1951).
Although a reserved person Aarden made some friendships which added to the building of his strain. One of those friendships was Piet de Weerd, the world famous pigeonologist, whose knowledge and advice Jan pondered. Another fruit of their friendship was the so called 'Piet de Weerd pigeon', perhaps Aarden's main breeding hen, of Delbar / Deguffroy origin. In fact the Delbar's played a prominent part in the Aarden's origins for some of the early breeders carried the blood of this strain. Now during research for this article I encountered material suggesting Aarden was the builder but de Weerd was the architect of the strain. Whatever the merits of the suggestion there is no doubt that Jan Aarden was a master of stockmanship, visiting good lofts and obtaining the best upon which to build. Like all great creators however, he knew that genius can involve the experience of others.
The success of the developing Aarden strain caught the attention of Jan's fellow fanciers in Steenbergen and many were purchased, resulting in the area becoming the hot bed of long distance racing in Holland. This also contributed to the evolution of the strain. A few of the latter around the period after the Second World War until 1960 included Toon and Piet Ligtenberg whose famous hen Oude Witpen when coupled with another Aarden were the parents of two of the most famous representatives of the strain - the famous number 10 of Ligtenberg and the fabulous Oud Doffertje of van der Wegen, the latter being the foundation of the van der Wegen strain while number 10 became the father of the famous Dolle of Marijn van Geel - the origin of the van Geels.
Alongside other Steenbergen fanciers who set the sport alight with Aarden stock where Toon Toffelen, Jan van der Par, Jan de Weert and van Agtmaal. The latter being credited in some quarters with being a better racer of the Aardens than the great master himself. Another important input to the Aardens was the great Jan Cools. A good friend of Aarden's, Cools owned some good pigeons of the strain and they shared breeders with each other resulting in the production of top class performers.
As the strain developed it dominated the races from Dax, St. Vincent, Bergerac and Barcelona, among others, taking Europe by storm and extending beyond to become a truly world wide family. Piet de Weerd helped in this context by buying good representatives of the strain and selling them off to others. Another important contributor to the success of the Aarden dynasty was Piet Lazeroms from Zegge. This Aarden specialist bought out top lofts of Aardens and through this he owned the best of the strain. In turn Lazeroms was used as the main source of the Aardens by the best fanciers in Europe and elsewhere. For example, Van Peperstraten and de Heyde. The latter built his loft on his famous Klapper which he had got from Lazeroms. There's also the exploits of Van Zelderen who won five nationals with Aardens. Recent examples are Theo Ernest whose Barcelona successes are based upon the Aardens and also the Brugemann Brothers whose famous loft is foundered upon another Aarden source - Hein and Hub Oostenrijk. Nor should the exploits of Jac Stekatee of Bruinisse be overlooked for he formed one of the top Aarden studs of the 1990s. His Golden Breeder 788 is considered one of the best of the Aarden dynasty as is the highly thought of 60 of another Aarden ace, Cees de Jong. Then there are the world known breeders and racers of Polder and de Vogel of today...
It should be noted that most authorities place Aarden's 37, 38 and 49 as the most famous birds of his loft.The three were brothers and sisters bred from Rinus Meesters cock bird the 86 and Zilvervosje. The 49 was 7th National St.Vincent for Aarden and he was the sire of Aarden 1 which was the Stam Vader of the Van Den Burgh lofts. Aarden 1 sired Aarden 2 who sired the winner of 1st National St.Vincent in 1975. The 38 won 6th National St.Vincent, 28th National Dax and 45th National St.Vincent, as well as being the grand dam of the famous 500 of Van Agtmaal. The 500 was responsible for many winners for Ligtenburg and in turn for the Dolle and the Lange of Van Geel.
Finally, it should also be noted that the Devriendt strain via a sister of The Pau who was 1st National Pau and 2nd National Bergerac within two weeks was an input to the Aardens as well as Stichelbauts from Michael Descamps. Interestingly one of the latter inputs was the dam of Oude Ijzeren of 54 which was the sire of the Ware Ijzeren of 57 which was the 1st National Ace Pigeon and literally responsible for scores of winners. This great pigeon was a dark cheq pied and many are of the opinion that in it lies the origins of Pied Aardens.
It would appear to be the case that the few mentioned adherents of the Aarden strain were fired by the master in their pursuit of excellence. I say a few for there are many, many more who could have been named who in their own way as breeders or racers contributed to the development of the strain. In his early days in the sport Jan Aarden could not have imagined what his love of racing pigeons would lead to, for arising from the strain which he produced there now exists a dynast y- the Aarden dynasty of long distance and marathon thoroughbred racing pigeons. Therefore, what better memorial to Jan Aarden but to ensure that the strain which he moulded and which became a dynasty will continue to overcome distances, mountains, seas, and other obstacles on the way to nest or perch. Thus, all today's Aardenists will continue the work of the master from Steenbergen