Interview with Hugo Batenburg

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El colombófilo holandés, Hugo Batenburg, en su palomar de Klaaswaal


WINKIE: Where does your interest for pigeon racing start?

BATENBURG: My father was a fancier and I grew up among pigeons. So was my grandfather. With twelve years I started to compete with 3 pigeons that my father gave me. Actually, I grew up with birds.


WINKIE: How do you remember your beginnings in pigeon racing?

BATENBURG: At first I was very much in the loft, not in the races. I was always cleaning, at 12 years old, I made the pigeon's nest, and I waited for the eggs to be laid and once they had chicks and it had already been 30 days, I took them in a basket on my bike 2, 3 or 5 km and I let them go and trained. It became my main pastime. I spent all my time training them. I was a postman and for 25 years that has been my profession. That’s allowed me to dedicate myself to the pigeons because I worked very early and at noon I was free for my birds. Then I decided, once I won many competitions and when from China they started to get interested in my birds, to dedicate myself 100% to the business together with my wife Anita. She has supported me every day and, also, she comes from family with a pigeon tradition. She has looked after the pigeons, during the mornings, all the years that I worked as a postman. She was in charge of feeding them, letting them go to train and, today, we do it together.


WINKIE: Have you had a fancier as a reference?

BATENBURG: My father and my grandfather.


WINKIE: Which pigeons are most abundant in your breeding loft, the ones that are native to your area and flight line, those imported from other areas or even from abroad, or a mixture of both?

BATENBURG: I have a mix of everything. I buy large pigeons from outside, which have been champions in internationals like Barcelona, ​​is the case of New Laureaat or Special One. I cross them with pigeons from my area or from other fanciers that I see that they also have good results and I use my best runners in the season.


WINKIE: How do you proceed selecting the breeders?

BATENBURG: Good results first with the yearlings to which I submit two consecutive years to the competitions and, if they surpass with good results the first 5 international races, I send them to Barcelona and Perpignan, and if after the 7 races there is a super result, they pass to the breeding team. I give them three years to reproduce. After that time, they give good pigeons and young birds, I take them out of the breeding loft.

In addition, I have in my possession some of the top birds in international races such as Barcelona. I cross them with the best pigeons that I have to compete and it's about trying and testing but, with good raw material, it is easier for the pigeons to be of very good quality.


WINKIE: Tell us something about your facilities/loft.

BATENBURG: My loft is like a farm. I have five individual boxes for the international winners who are now my top breeders such as the New Laureaat or Special One and they are in a separate place. In addition, I have 24 pairs of breeders that live together. Then, I have my competition pigeon team, about 100 pairs including the yearlings, in total there are 200 birds. I also have 120 yearlings and 80 old birds. All come from the breeders. And to finish 150 young birds but only to train, up to 400 km.


WINKIE: What training and competition systems do you usually use?

BATENBURG: From September to February they do not leave the loft, only in the aviary because there are many falcons and they can be killed by them. At the end of February I let them fly 5 or 10 minutes a day and, since March, I train them 1 hour around the loft every day. The competition season begins, in the Netherlands, the first weekend of April. And then I start with the birds in the fond every weekend, but the results are not very good because they are marathon pigeons, not medium distance. And then, when the first international race arrives, Pau, in mid-July, I give them two weeks of rest and I send them to compete, the 1,000 km and thereafter with the other six international races that are: Bourdeaux / Agen ( 888 km), Barcelona (1,165 km), St. Vincent, Marseille, Narbonne and Perpignan.


WINKIE: What is the type of contest that has given you the greatest prizes?

BATENBURG: I only compete in the 7 major international races. It is the great great fund and marathon. From the middle of July to the first weekend of August these seven competitions take place. Every year I run with my yearlings in Agen and Narbonne. The two-year-old birds will compete in Pau and then separate them into two groups, some going to St. Vincent and others to Marseille (half to one race and the other half to another) and over two years to Barcelona and Perpignan. It is a very severe selection because I lose half of the team.


WINKIE: Do you consider yourself a specialist at some distance?

BATENBURG: Yes, in the great great fund and the marathon.


WINKIE: Do you use consanguinity or are you more in favor of open crosses?

BATENBURG: Yes, I use consanguinity for the breeders, to sell in auctions but not for my team of runners.


WINKIE: Do you have a preference for any line or lines of pigeons?

BATENBURG: I'm not looking at the line, but at the results. But it is true that I have origins in the pigeons of my father, the Witbuik family.


WINKIE: In what cases do you use consanguinity?

BATENBURG: Only for my team of breeders and to sell in some auctions.


WINKIE: What methodology do you use in pigeons since they are born until they are ready to compete?

BATENBURG: In January / February I have my chicks, I let them play in the garden of my house until the beginning of May and at the end of the month I start with small trainings. With the car 1 km, 2 km, 10 km, 20 km. In August the competitions begin for them, I take them every week to the club 100, 200, 300 km until 400 km they train with the club. Compete up to 400 km and for me it is enough until the following year.


WINKIE: What level of demand do you have for the yearlings? In terms of distance, how far do you usually get with them?

BATENBURG: I let them fly the middle distance in mid-August and after these competitions I let them rest for two weeks and they go to Agen (888 km), and they rest until Narbonne, which is 963 km, and there they finish.


WINKIE: Is there any secret to becoming a champion in this sport?

BATENBURG: There is no secret. You have to know that you have pigeons 365 days a year, not only when you compete and, therefore, you have to take care of them all the time. They are like my babies, you have to take care of them and give them attention.


WINKIE: What is essential in a loft?

BATENBURG: The loft as such. It has to be well ventilated and, of course, have good pigeons.


WINKIE: What do you think are the essential characteristics for a pigeon to become a champion?

BATENBURG: That he has a good pedigree, that we see that his ancestors have done well, is the most important thing. But, in addition, it must have a good musculature and good plumage.


WINKIE: What do you feed your pigeons with?

BATENBURG: In competition season twice a day I feed them all they want and in winter only 1 time a day. I am adapting the mixture a little to time, if it is silent, competition, reproduction. And I always use Beyers or Wonder Pigeon and I also give them, twice a week, Belgavet.


WINKIE: Do you follow a sanitary program throughout the year in your loft? How often do you go to the vet?

BATENBURG: I have a veterinarian who is Belgian Piet Blancke, I met him in China 15 years ago and he comes 3 times a year to check my birds and I go to him 3 more times a year. When I think there is a problem with a pigeon, I call him and tell him and we are always in contact.


WINKIE: What requirements must a person have in order to succeed as a fancier?

BATENBURG: Patient and observer with their pigeons and not take more birds than can be cared for.


WINKIE: Throughout your career, what do you think has changed in this sport in recent years?

BATENBURG: Sport as such in the Netherlands is declining. But if you look outside like, for example in Romania, in Poland, in China or Taiwan, it is growing very fast. And that makes me happy. In addition, I consider that the middle distance is not so popular and people tend more to the long distance. The reason is that for the short distance it is necessary that many people have lofts close to each other. But, of course, every time there are fewer fanciers, then it becomes more difficult to compete in this type. For example, here in my town, 20 years ago there were 50 fanciers and now we are only 5. For the long distance the number of competitors is wide because they can be from different zones, the margin is greater.


WINKIE: What is your vision about the future of this sport?

BATENBURG: I think the future goes through long distance races, which can include more competitors.


WINKIE: The pigeon racing and competition in Spain has always been very ingrained, what news do you receive about it in Spain?

BATENBURG: I have read about the derbys in Tenerife and the Costa del Sol. I get the feeling that this type of competition will grow and is a good option for Spain.


WINKIE: What role do you think One Loft Race plays as a type of competition?

BATENBURG: It's not my kind of competition but I think it's good for Spain. And it is the future. When you do not have enough space in your pigeon house you can always send them to another one so they can train and compete. And it is an option for people who want to start in this sport because you do not need a big investment at the beginning, you do not need a loft.


Batenburg and his pigeon,The Special One.

Batenburg in Klaaswaal, Países Bajos.

Hugo Batenburg with his pigeon, New Laureaat.



Hugo Batenburg in is loft

The Special One.

 New Laureaat.