100 years of the Grooters in America

By: Ron West, Southern Rockies Loft

Flying already in the 1850’s, during the still formative era in the development of the modern racing pigeon, Mr Grooters of Belgium put together an unequalled strain of birds that endured for well over a century at the top of the sport. The research of Jules Gallez has turned up an interview with one of the oldest flyers of Belgium, circa 1910, indicating that Grooters' birds are but one step removed from the Ulens, having originated out of that strain but also showing the influence of an early example (cross) of a bird from Brussels and subsequently the Antwerp pigeons. And, by the early 20th century, it was on the Grooters and these early influences that most strains of the modern racing pigeon were based.

In ‘The American Stud Book" (1950 R.B. Dennis) the Grooters are described as “the Grand old family” and mention is made of the ‘Lowe’ Grooters, a 1902 cock imported from England, to Chicago and Milwaukee, where a Grooter hen belonging to Heiden & Heiden was the world 500 mile record holder in that era. These birds are described as authentic and pure. Also mention is made of a very good Grooters family in Indiana belonging to C.D. Fisher and the prowess of these birds at the 600 mile station. Following this are the pure Grooters imported by Henry Schumacher from which the author (Dennis) had his best bird. Follows this are the very competitive Grooters brought to this country by a Mr Parsons and kept subsequently by his son Roy (Roslyn) Parsons in Bangor, PA. Other Grooters mentioned are those of George Turney and his famous Turney Cock imported from England. As of the 1950’s, marking 100 years, the Grooters were still a fine bird that had stayed in a pure state in the USA via the devotion of (as one Old Timer called them) ‘Grooters Men'.

The demise of the Grooters

More than anything, the demise of the Grooters has been due to benign neglect, and has only come about during the last 40 years with the advent of the new fad - sprint and speed bird racing. Fewer clubs fly a 600 mile station and it is unheard of in youngbirds nowadays, and the feeling one can get is that the racing scene is very different now than in the American heyday of the sport, that being the middle 20th century. Clubs no longer ship by rail, there was far less interest in the distance and the race beyond 600 miles is history. With the advent of overnight mail, the futurity is the growing aspect of the sport and the Grooters simply have faded into oblivion. However there is now a reviving interest in the distance race in America.

Will the Grooters become extinct?

Here is a bird that served man in wars, the Franco – Prussian probably, WW I & WW II certainly and is recorded as having flown 600 miles on the day as recently as the 1970’s. My informants tell me the bird in its pure form is extinct in Belgium, perhaps has recently gone so in England with the shutdown of Hammond & Whittaker loft. And here is what we know of the birds in the North America. In Canada they are proposed as an extinct strain, but this is suspect information because the informant on this subject promotes another strain of the birds as the oldest racing birds left. I have no information on the Grooters of Mexico, but there is no reason to suspect they could not have survived there, it is simply unknown whether they have or not. There were pure Grooters in Cuba in the loft of a Mr Reyes in the late 40’s and this is one place it might be investigated and the old Grooters discovered with success because the Cubans still race and the economic embargo has likely prevented these people having upgraded their birds to the extent it has happenned elsewhere. But what about the USA?

Barely hanging on?

As the era of the Grooters drew to a close in the USA, the old ‘Grooters men’ passed away with their oral history. Other than the 1950 American Stud Book by Ronald Dennis, we are not aware of another scribe that took the history down although some attempt was made when many years ago Steve Lawler worked with the late and perhaps last of the ‘Grooters men’ Art Cattucio of Ballston Lake, NY, to try and preserve some of this history. Art Cattucio was mentored by C.D. Fisher who had the Lowe Grooters and Art travelled to Indiana in the late 70’s to interview him at the end of his life. Belatedly, we would propose now to save the strain itsself. The author has letters, papers and perhaps just enough of the pure Grooters birds down through Art, to preserve and perpetuate the strain. Represented in this small collection are the bloodlines of the birds of Lowe and Parsons, the Hammond & Whittaker loft of England, and of Gust Bernard- an emmigrant to the United States and perhaps the last native Belgian to fly the pure strain. These birds and papers are proposed to be loaned to the American pigeon fancy as a living historical exhibit at the World of Wings in Oklahoma City- In 2001 three select pair have been placed there to preserve the strain from extinction. It is intended to fly the youngsters to determine how they compare to the world’s finest in the Pigeon Cernters Gold Band loft. These Grooters are in fact the same blood as described in the 1950 article that follows.


Perhaps there are other small collections of documentably pure Grooters left in the USA, and if so, we would like to hear from you and appreciate any help, especially from the surviving pigeon corps veterans concerning the history of the Grooters, any documentation, memories ect. In the meantime, it would do well to reflect on this.. if there is no effort to preserve the living history of the sport, is it not merely probable but also just, that the sport and ourselves are in time forgotten? These Grooters so carefully preserved by the generations of men who loved them are deserving of survival as a strain representing a century and a half of pigeon racing history. My graditude goes to the World of Wings Pigeon Center whose General Manager Randy Goodpasture has taken an active interest in these historic birds. A very interesting historic article follows.

reproduced from “The American Stud Book” by Ronald B Dennis (1950)

The Grooters are one of the most colorful and consistent families ever introduced into America and any book would not be complete without a chapter on this grand old family. The first authentic and really important importations of this grand strain were made by two fanciers, Art Licht of Chicago, Illnois and the late Henry Schmacher of Los Angeles, California. Mr Licht did a grand days work when he brought into America the famed old Grooters cock 6800. 6800 was by far the most authentic and most consistent Grooters stock cock in England, and his prodgeny have won thousands of dollars all over the world. 6800 was bred in 1902 by W.E. Lowe of England; he was a blue cheq cock with pied throat and wings; he was never a racer but as a sire he produced for Lowe ‘Success, Consistence, Determination, Warrior, Perseverance, Whitethroat and Waratah; between them they crossed the Channel 41 times also 12 times 468 miles and 12 times 634 miles. Later on, old 6800 along with some more of the originals from Lowe were sold to Licht & Gaulke Brothers of Milwaukee

The Lowe Grooters have done well in the United States, the old 6800 Grooters were behind the stud of Heiden & Heiden of Milwaukee and responsible for their Lady H; the World’s 500 mile record holder. 6928 was another grand Lowe Grooters, a big blue cheq wft hen from Lowe’s ‘Blue Determination’ 9210 blue cock and 03-9636 blue cheq hen ‘Success.’ C.D. Fisher of Indiana has the Lowe Grooters blood in his noted family of Fisher’s Grooters and their reputation for long distance speaks for itself.

Henry Schumacher’s first pure Grooter importations were direct from C.E.L. Bryant of England and consisted of the famed pair ‘Favorite’ RP-990 and ‘Gem’ RP-460; Favorite and Gem were the closest GR-10 Grooters to be brought over and left their stamp here in America. Other noted stock birds brought over by Schumacher were the noted NURP-24-2434 Blue cheq cock bred by Bryant of England and RP-21-RD-32 red hen bred by bred by George Turney of England. 2434 produced many outstanding birds in America amoung them being 951, a black velvet hen; who won average speed 100 to 350 miles all by herself, she in turn produced the author his noted ‘Nortorius’ AU 40-2487 1st 410 miles only daybird all pools, clocked in every race 1st ect. 2434 was mated to the 32 Red hen and together their prodgeny has been the most consistent and successful Grooters family we have had in America.

Another important stock cock brought over by Schumacher was RP 21-177 a mealy cock bred by George Turney and sire of winners in England before coming to America; where he left many outstanding prodgeny as stock birds. 177 was sire of Schumacher’s noted stock cock AU 30-3249 mealy cock who produced so many outstanding pigeons; he was also sire of AU-29-1966 blue cock who is sire and grandsire of over 11 winners.

The blood that Schumacher seemed to relish was GR-10 red cock bred by H. Ince of England own son of G-9 & G-10 both by E.&O. Grooters of Belgium; GR-10 was the most successful Grooters cock in England for a period of over 15 years, he lived to be 20; and became known all over the world for his successful prodgeny. Old GR-11; GR-12; Van Op, Noel, Paddy, Bleu de Herve and other great Grooters stock birds figured in the Schumacher family and it is little wonder that the Schumacher Grooters have gained such repute here in America and in foreign countries; as Schumacher was truly the master breeder of the family and the success of his pigeons will long be remembered here in America.

Other important importations into this country were made by Mr. Parsons of Bangor, PA. Mr Parsons was a friend of the famed Ince of England and when he came to America he brought 8 pairs of Grooters from Ince to establish his lofts. Mr Parsons had great success with this family and won many 1st. His son, Mr Roslyn Parsons following his fathers footsteps also acquired the Grooters, importing his first pair from Mr J. Ford of Devonshire, England; they were NURP-25-3272 & NURP-25-351; they were bred down from Bryant’s GR-14 & GR-16 and old GR-10; and were nearly of the same blood as those imported by Schumacher. Mr Roslyn Parsons has had grand success with these Grooters as 351 bred his eight 500 mile daybirds with different hens and the family nearly all the blood of 351 has won him hundreds of diplomas since 1932 and 26 average speeds, truly a remarkable record.

Lately Mr Parsons has introduced some Grooters from Mr Petch of England embracing many of Petch’s most noted winners such as ‘Recount, Blue Peter, Dauntless, Lady Trixie, the Barcelona Hen & others, Parsons Grooters are in and were in many of the top Grooters studs: Mr Banks of Canada, the late Mr Reyes of Cuba, have and had Parsons Grooters in their studs and have shared many successes with this blood

Other important introductions were made after World War II when the noted Red Cheq Cock now known all over the country as the ‘Turney Cock’ & his mate were brought to the U.S. by myself; The Turney Cock is the only close descendant of ‘Old Boef’ Ernest and O. Grooters champion racer and stock bird to be found in the world today, his mate 990 a red cheq hen was bred from Turney’s old 277 & 28; close to Bryant’s old 1096, 1698, 1350, 501 & GR-10. The Turney Cock 278 was bred by the late George Turney of England from his old 43 & 784; 278 is own grandson of Bryant’s famed 2008. The Turney Cock is probably the closest linebred Bryant Grooters cock living in the world today. Other introductions were made by Arbutus Lofts of Maryland; these birds were from Hale of London, and contained the old Ernest Grooters White Throat family, being of the Clambeaux Grooters; Clambeaux was a cousin of Earnest Grooters and had one of the greatest studs of this strain in the world

The Grooters are known for their consistency from 100 to 500 miles and blend very well with the Wegges, Hansennes and Gits. All in all though I give Schumacher the most credit for his importations because they were the most authentic pure Grooters outside of old 6800 ever brought to America; his 177 & 2434 above with 32; were of the following blood; 177 was bred by Turney from a pair of Grooters bred by C.E.L. Bryant; 177’s sire was RP-15-561 blue cheq cock, his dam RP-17-765 red hen; 561 was from 1965 & 201; 765 from 965 & 645; 1965 was bred from Champion 408 & 92; 201 was own daughter of the famed GR-10 & 156 known as the ‘Bleu de Herve; 965 was from GR-10 and 671 and sold for $160.00 at Capt. Jackson’s sale; 645 was bred from 1437 & 145; who won over 10,000 francs racing. NURP-24-2434 blue check cock was bred by C.E.L. Bryant, imported by Henry Schumacher; 2434 was bred from 472 & 2333; 472 from 71 & 818, 2333 from 840 & 606; 71 by GR-10 & VN-14; 840 by 350 & 642; 606 from 1452 & 806 daughter again of old GR-10. Schumacher Turney Hen RP-21-RD-32 red hen was bred from RP-13-1360 black check cock and RP-17-1754 red hen both by Bryant; 1360 was from 260 and 156; 1754 from 367 and H-806; 260 from 137 & 50; 156 from Van Op and VN-14; 367 from 181 & 145; H-806 from GR-10 and 604.

Thus we see that the cream of the old original O. & E. Grooters were in America; today we still have them in their purity as when imported winning 100 to 500 miles; AU-40-1248 blue cheq hen won 1st 500 miles day of toss for Schumacher; she was a great granddaughter of old 177 on one side and of 2434 & 32 on the other; this grand hen is owned by Tom Walker of Crestline, Ohio at the present. Mr Walker has had 500 mile daybirds as youngsters from his Grooters which embraced Schumachers old 177 and his family of pure Grooters are one of the finest in the country today.

By Ronald B Dennis, 1950, from his ‘The American Stud Book’