A Breeding Hen Destined To Become An American Legend
By Alex Cornella

85 GFL 557 Janssen Slate Hen

Irma was 10-years old and quite plump when this photo was taken. If you look in the seminal book by Ad Schaerlaeckens, "Janssen Brothers Arendonk: The Greatest Pigeons Fanciers of All Time," you will find a photo of the Old Merckx on page 122. It bears a striking resemblance to this photo of Irma.

Special thanks to Gerald Hebert for providing background on the Janssens in Irma’s pedigree as well as the inspiration for compiling the performance record of the offspring of this exceptional hen. Also many thanks to Mike Ganus for selling me a once-in-a-lifetime breeder.

Irma’s roots are grounded overseas at the Janssen brother's loft in Belgium. Remember the famous "019?" His mother,"Kweekduif van '67," was actually one of the best producing hens in the brother's loft at the time. She produced, Belg.73-6736019 BC C, the best racing cock the brother's ever owned, Belg.73-6276348 BC H grandmother to Jonge Rocket, Belg. 73-6276349 BC C sire of "Schouwmen", and Belg. 78-6789364 BP C sire of "Adriaan" when she was paired to "Oude Merckx.”

Mike Ganus' "969" (Irma's sire) is known as the best breeding son of the "019" in the U.S., but do you know "969" is also bred from a son mated to a grand daughter of "Kweekduif van '67?" That makes "969" a half brother to Janssen brother's "Jonge Rocket." "Kweekduif van '67" was used as mate to all the best Janssen super stars, when mated to "Jonge Merckx `70.” They produced Belg.75-6743170. He became the father of Ad Schaerlenkens’ 1985 National Orleans winner. Amazingly Ad won National Orleans again in 1996 with a grandson of the 1985 winner, linebred using the same breeding formula. "Kweekduif van '67," when mated to a son of "Jonge Scherpe," produced a super breeding hen "Schoon Blauw `76:" "Kweekduif van '67" when mated to "Goede Jaarling `72" produced another super hen "Klein Blauw `78 (Belg. 78-6121300). The "Klein Blauw `78" was a very good racer and a striking beauty. She was the mate to "Jonge Merckx van `70". Many of the present-day Janssens are down from this pair.

After he completed the Janssen book, Ad Schaerlenken received a gift, Belg.80-6305981, Blue Check hen and daughter of "Jonge Merckx" and "Klein Blauw `78," from the Janssen brothers. Belg.80-6305981 was later sold to Mike Ganus and was the mate to "969." This mating of a grandson mated a granddaughter of "Kweekduif van '67" resulted in Irma.

Following is her short pedigree:


969 Blue
80 Belg 969


Princess Blue Check
80 Belg 981


80 Belg 019
Young Merckx


75 Belg 335


70 Belg 257


78 Belg 300

I bought Irma in 1985 at Mike Ganus' loft as a young bird, along with four other pigeons. Ganus had recently acquired "969" and at the time his birds were still affordable. Ganus pointed to a little slate hen in the flypen and said she was a good one. I was attracted to Irma because of her slate color and I liked the way she felt in my hand. At that point in my pigeon career I barely knew who Old Merckx and his now famous sons were, so the notion that she was a granddaughter of 019 did not have the least influence on my decision to buy her. I put the hen in the basket along with the other birds I selected and took her on the plane with me back to New Jersey. The rest is history. Her offspring form the nucleus of our Janssen stud and I am quite fortunate to have had this daughter of "969" in our loft. Her brother, Assured Gold, was reportedly sold to a Japanese fancier for $70,000 and now that I have had an opportunity to assess her value as a breeder I can say she was one of a handful of bargains I ever bought in my life.

Irma was only bred to two cocks: Iacocca and Godfather. Iacoca (85 GFL 50 Blue Check) was down from the "Old Sheerpen" and "Roodoger." Godfather(87 WHC 1217 Blue) was a grandson of 019.

I bred Irma from 1986 until she became infertile in 1993. She died on January 7, 1996. 71 youngsters were taken from her. I lost quite a few off the loft and in training to birds of prey, I suspect. In fact, not many of her youngsters proved to be good racers for me. More than half her youngsters were sold, given as gifts and donated to auctions.

Pigeon flyers are notoriously poor communicators and poor record keepers. Only a handful of the flyers who were lucky enough to get Irma’s children ever reported back to me on their results. I suspect that a good many of them did not really appreciate the true value of Irma’s children. In all honesty, I have to admit that I did not truly appreciate her great value as a breeder of superb breeders until very late and wish I had kept in better contact with flyers who received her youngsters as well as had kept more detailed records.

Her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren have been winners and diploma winners in the toughest competition. Her offspring excelled in the short and middle distances, although there were a fair number of diplomas in 300-mile youngbird races, which to my way of thinking are the equivalent of a long-distance race for old birds, as well as diplomas in the 400 mile and 600 mile old bird races.

Suffice to say I can document that Irma’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have won a total of 138 club, combine and futurity diplomas. I am sure there are more out there, but I don’t have the data in hand. If you own descendents of Irma and have not been in touch with me for a while, please contact me with your results.

Following is the breeding record I have been able to piece together from my own records and from feedback I have received from other flyers.

1986 - Mated to Iacocca - 6 youngsters banded

1987 - Mated to Iacocca - 11 youngsters banded

WAYN 7442 BC H - gifted to John Schaper, Wayne, NJ

1988 - Mated to Iacocca - 10 youngsters banded

LLF 802 BC C - sold to Andy Miner, Methuen, Mass

A fantastic breeding cock that is still producing at 14 years of age.

LLF 803 BC C - Sold to John Florek, Benld, IL

CJC 851 BC C (Iaccoca II) - sold to Mike Marquez, Kamuela, HI

90 IND 2584 - sold to Craig Cipolla, NY

1989 - Mated to Iacocca - 7 youngsters banded

IND 2204 - Sold to Dick Follis, Des Moines, IA

1990 - Mated to Iacocca - 15 youngsters banded

IND 2561 - Sold to Roland Nice, New Lenox, IL

IND 2562 BC H (Chris) - Stocked

Bred when paired to Adriaan:

1991 - Mated to Godfather - 6 youngsters banded

22793 BLWF C - Sold to Tim Kirschner, Cleveland, OH

22706 - Sold to Tim Kirschner, Cleveland, OH

  • 2nd club, 47th combine vs. 1655 birds, 100 miles
  • 2nd club, 27th combine vs. 1864 birds, 150 miles
  • 1992 - Mated to Godfather - 6 youngsters banded

    I 430 (Sonny) - sold to Carl Szentendrei, Round Lake, IL

    1993 - Mated to Godfather - 11 youngsters banded

    NWJ 301 BC C (Vito) - Sold to Mark Gabiola, Idaho

    NWJ 319 BC H (Connie) sold to Bill Jeffries, Fenton, MO, in 2000