Youngbirds + 3
Recently, in response to one of my articles, someone wrote me and stated:
"The reason more fanciers breed for the shorter distance bird is that is where the most races are performed."
Concerning this argument, I can only point out that thirty years ago this was not the case. Many clubs had several 500's and two 600 mile races. Breeders didn't start breeding the short distance birds because there were so many short races, quite the contrary (in my opinion), there was a great influx of short distance imports in the 1960's - 1990's and the general inability of these birds to compete beyond several hundred miles led to demands for shortening of the distances flown so that this type of bird can compete in more of the race schedule competitions and have a greater impact on overall average speeds and champion bird awards.
One could just as strongly differentiate from the above observations, that the reason there are so few long distance race stations today is that, the birds people are breeding today are not capable of flying the race schedules of the past and therefore, these flyers have to continuously eliminated the races that are at distances from which their birds are no longer capable of competing.
Evolutionist would have to scratch their heads at this one. Here it is 85 years since the Ft. Wayne club had a bird that flew 1000 miles twice in the same season with only three days rest between races. Yet, for all our breeding, do you really think your birds fly faster than 25 years ago? I don't. Evolutionist might wonder why so "few" of today's birds are capable of flying a race schedule that 25 - 75 years ago was as common "as pie".
One might just as validly say that many American racing pigeons have lost the ability to fly beyond 350 miles.
Interestingly, the only segment of the European sport that is not shrinking is long distance racing. Look and you will see that races shorter than 400 miles have had a steady decline, but when you look at the numbers for Cahors, St. Vincent, Barcelona, Pau, Marseilles, Bergerac, Bordeaux, etc., you will see that the overall competition is holding steady even increasing.
From the 1890's - 1970's the USA was the Mecca for long distance racing for the world. Now many in the USA are chasing after shorter races and using stock derived from a segment of the European race scene that is the fastest dying segment of their sport.
In 1979, Milt Haffner said, "In the last 18 years, I have shipped a total of 66 birds to 1000 mile race stations and of this total of 66 birds. 48 have returned home. This is quite a good return home percentage."
Unfortunately, many in the USA today are getting no better returns from 200 mile race stations. I don't think this can be considered an improvement in the sport. Rather, it seems to me that our sport has made a wrong turn somewhere and we have de-evolved our birds.
Some do still breed the long distance bird, but many just do not have either the patience, ability or desire. We have simply chosen to breed for traits that have now resulted in vast numbers of birds unable to home outside of flocking. We are now losing as many birds at 300 miles and less than we ever did at 500 miles and more... This is not an affirmation of the breeding abilities of today's fanciers.
If you prefer the shorter races, there is nothing wrong with that. Only, have open eyes to what has happened to our sport these past 40 years. Unlike Europe that is still capable of maintaining short middle and long specialist, we in the USA are a much smaller pool of flyers and for most clubs to survive we will have to depend on "all the flyers" to fly all the schedule. Sure you can lower the bar and continue to shorten the race distances, or you can realize that we have de-evolutionized our birds and (in my opinion) compounded our losses.
I believe, we need a renaissance of middle and long distance flying. I do not believe any good can come from losing the long distance flyer and their birds. If you want to help the sport in the USA, make the effort to breed 20% of your birds to be middle / long distance flyers and join in the camaraderie of flying the whole race season even if you are not yet competitive at those distances. Rise to the challenge don't lower the standard. In Europe they know this, they respect the distance bird. If you desire long life for our this sport and rewarding competition for all those who aspire within it, you will make the sacrifice to ensure that all who enjoy our sport, long, middle and short specialist alike will have adequate competition and opportunity. We are friends and comrades. We need each other.
Don't let someone who can't fly past 400 miles push your club to eliminate yet another long distance station from the race schedule. These are usually folks who are so determined to be the overall and average speed champions, that they will eliminate what they cannot excel at in order to always be the top dog in a more limited competition. Stand up to this trend.
Nurturing the sport starts in your own club and it starts with sacrifice. If you don't have birds capable of winning the long ones, go out and get them. You won't find them at your club's youngbirds kit auction. You are going to have to go out and locate these birds. You will only need one good pair to cross on your existing family to start seeing results.
Distance is a patience game. You can't hurry it, but you can master it. There is a reason why the Barcelona International winner will sell for about 4 to 6 times the amount that the 1st National Ace Sprint Champion will sell for, its much harder to come by. Think about it!
I have an old issue of the American Racing Pigeon News from October, 1980 and reading it shows the following:
The Lehigh Mountain Combine flew a 500 on May 17, a 500 on May 31, a 500 on June 14, and a 600 on June 27. As a side note Randall Berky won both the short (100 - 300) and overall (100 - 600) Combine Average speeds. Apparently, they did not have a long average speed.
An advertisement for G I Lofts of Tony and Mary Hatchard, showed that the Missouri-Illinois Combine had at least 3- 500's and 2 - 600 mile races.
The Buffalo Combine schedule was 100, 150, 3 x 200, 300, 400, 2 x 500 and 600 miles.
For many organizations today, the old bird race series is just their youngbirds schedule with three races over 350 miles added on, and there is great pressure to get rid of one or more of these longer races.