Interview with Jos Thoné

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El colombófilo, Jos Thoné, en su palomar en Bélgica.

WINKIE: Where does your interest for pigeon racing start?

THONÉ: 230,000 fanciers existed in Belgium before the Second World War, which means that in each family there was a specialist. Everyone had, at least one person in the family, who was engaged in pigeon racing. I am one of them. My parents, both of them, have dedicated themselves to this. They are over 80 years old and still take care of their pigeons. My grandparents, my great grandparents, were also fanciers. I carried it in my blood. I have grown up surrounded by pigeons. My family has been doing this for more than 100 years. I think that when I was in my mother's belly I was already thinking about cleaning the loft. Until I was 16 years old, I was at home with my parents, in our loft, learning from them.

 

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

THONÉ: When I was 16 years old we moved to this town where I live and the famous one, Tomas Peeters, one of the most important fanciers in Belgium, lived here. I begged him to let me be the boy to clean his loft. Tomas asked my father, but the poor man had enough with his loft, so my father proposed to Peeters that I should do it. And it cost me to convince the person who would later be my father-in-law, Peeters, but he accepted that I worked in his loft. A few months later, when I had already done the cleaning of the loft, my father-in-law came and said: "wonderful, I have the Wonder boy, who does everything and is very good".

The story was complicated the day I met Mr. Peeters' daughter, Gabrielle. She came home from a camp and we saw each other and we fell in love. From that moment I could no longer separate myself from the Peeters family. At first it was hard for them, because their little daughter was in love with the boy who cleaned the poop of pigeons and were not happy with the idea. But, on the other hand, I was a wonder boy who took care of the pigeons, the garden, everything and they did not want to lose me. At first, they decided that I had to leave the loft because the relationship between us could not be. But finally, thanks to my mother-in-law and my wife's grandmother, I was able to stay with the Peeters. They considered me too good and decisive to let me go. So they accepted our relationship.

I was in the Peeters' house for 15 years, working with them in the loft and it was in 1991, when we built our house and started on my own. That year, in 1991, I won everything that could be won. I was so motivated to fly my own pigeons that I conquered the podium. On the other hand, my father-in-law, when I left the house, the competition team was not complete, and they did not reap so many awards.

My father-in-law gave me 20 young birds to start and, thanks to the friends I had made in the world of pigeon racing during all those years competing with Peeters and Sons, I went one by one choosing and buying birds to make up my team of pigeons. I knew the system, the bloodlines and I built one of the best loft of the moment. All this made me succeed on my own. Every challenge I've always tried to achieve, I've been very ambitious and that's why I won everything, in every discipline. I come from a very humble family, with few resources and to achieve what I have achieved with effort, it is a great honor for me.

 

WINKIE: Have you had a fancier as a reference?

THONÉ: My parents and my father-in-law.

 

WINKIE: The lineage of your pigeons makes your offspring are highly valued, how would you summarize your trajectory until you get to have these champions?

THONÉ: Before, during the time of my father-in-law, you could have a bird all round, that is, from 100 to 1,000 km. But nowadays the sport has become so professional that it can not be done anymore. There are birds for each type of discipline, food for each type of bird, different training if it is a long or short distance. I have 4 birds in 4 pigeon houses for 4 different disciplines and it is with them that I build the base of my reproductive crew.

100 to 250 km, the fastest, 250 and 500/600 km, between 600 and 900 km and then the long distances, very long, Barcelona type. Why am I so good, because I make my long distance faster or my average distance stronger, I mix the lineages to get different birds, depending on the type of race that I will run. Maybe this is my greatest capacity, I have the possibility of doing this because I have different bloodlines.

Kajo is my bird for speed, my Sedna is my example of extreme long distance, The Crow, which is in the breeding station Winkie and is for long distance, Avril is my bird short distance, Jutta is my medium distance ... and what I do is play with them, mix bloodlines, when I reproduce birds. To win in the competitions you need to have good specimens and to have good birds you have to know how to play well.

 

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?

THONÉ: In my breeding loft, I have my four lines of pigeons, Avril, Sedna, Kajo, Jutta and The Crow (now in Winkie). I cross them based on the type of characteristics I want for the bird that goes to a competition class or another.

 

WINKIE: How do you proceed selecting the breeders?

THONÉ: The whole selection is based on results. If the lineage has to be good for long distance or medium or speed, so should the results. Then I observe them and I see that the qualities they have are good for what I want to raise at that moment.

 

WINKIE: Tell us something about your facilities/loft.

THONÉ: When I worked with my father-in-law, I had to clean a lot and transport many pigeons. My father-in-law used the old widowhood system. The male stayed all the week alone in the nest and before going to the race he was put with his female for a while and so came home faster with the incentive to see his partner. He was motivated in that way.

Well, I had to transport these females to the males, before they left for the race, and then return them to the loft. This was a lot of work. Then, when I started on my own, I wanted to speed up the work.

That is why, I have a special loft system. The hens are in the back, and the cocks in the front. In this way, I do not have to be transporting the hens in boxes when I send the cocks to fly. Simply, I open a trapdoor and the hens enter with the males, they look at each other, and I take them out again.

Also, I built a type of pigeon house in which there is a kind of container on the ground, a deep hole, in which the poop is accumulating and does not stay stuck in the floor of the loft. That container I clean once a year. Therefore, the work of cleaning the excrement every day, I save it. Clean the corridors, feeders and drinkers but through this container on the ground, the poop is stored there and as there is a lot of ventilation, it dries and moisture is absorbed.

In this way, I have more time to work with my birds and not use too much to the issue of cleanliness.

In addition, I was the first fancier who invented the total widowhood system, in which males and females go together to the races. In this way I need half of the birds, because they all compete, both males and females.

 

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

THONÉ: I use the total widowhood system. I did not invent it, but I was the first Belgian fancier to apply it. In the morning, the hens train first 1 hour, each morning, then the cocks do, also for 1 hour. The cocks train twice a day, one hour at a time. One in the morning and one in the afternoon.

 

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

THONÉ: I compete in all disciplines and I have won everything from Olympics, national, provincial, international, long, medium and short distance, with cocks, hens, with yearlings, with young birds and with old pigeons. I have won all kinds of discipline.

 

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

THONÉ: I like to compete in all disciplines and I have won everything but the longer the distance is, the more important the pigeon is. The further away, in terms of distance, you compete with a bird, the stronger and more capable the bird is. I could say that I have a special weakness for long distance birds. In birds of speed, the fancier can influence more, with training, but in long-distance specimens, it is not so much the trainer as the bird itself, its physical qualities, its plumage and musculature.

 

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

THONÉ: With the purpose of competing, open crosses is the most suitable but, if you look at my pigeon house, you will see that consanguinity develops a lot. Because you have to always look for the best one, depending on the type of flight you want it to make. In this case, consanguinity is important. An example, Sedna is very good for the extreme long distance, in this case, you will always see his blood in my pigeons competing in long distance. In this way, for the competition, in some way, I will use consanguinity.

 

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

THONÉ: Mine. I have Avril and Kajo for speed and short, Sedna for the extreme long distance, Jutta for the medium distance and for the long distance is The Crow.

 

WINKIE: In what cases do you use consanguinity?

THONÉ: For the breeding loft and also for the runners team.

 

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

THONÉ: After 30 days, I separate the parents' chicks. They learn to drink for themselves, to eat for themselves and, in the following month, they begin to fly around the loft. When they have about 3 months I start with the training; 1 km, 5 km, 10 km and then with the club. It is the club that takes care of the rest of distances, to train.

 

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

THONÉ: The speed pigeons reach up to 500km as yearlings and long distance specimens up to 800km, based on the lineage. It always depends on the type of discipline for which I prepare my pigeons. A bird is not the same for speed as a bird for long distance. The pigeons that I take to compete for very short distances only demand them up to a certain kilometer that is not beyond 300 km because what happens is that if you push it to reach 800 km, it loses strength and intensity and no longer It is a bird for short distances. In Belgium it is different from the Netherlands in terms of the requirement of the yearlings. Here we give them a little more time to prepare ... in the Netherlands it is likely that a yearling will reach 900 km, as is the case with the pigeons of Hugo Batenburg.

 

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

THONÉ: There are three things that are very important and without which you can never be a champion: good pigeons, good loft and a good fancier who knows how to train. You can not have one thing without the other. My secret is to try to be perfect in these three ideas; pigeons, loft and pigeon fancier.

 

WINKIE: What is essential in a loft?

THONÉ: Win.

 

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

THONÉ: That comes from a good lineage, it is very important, the pedigree.

 

WINKIE: What do you feed your pigeons with?

THONÉ: I follow the instructions of Beduco (Beyers) and I trust them fully.

 

WINKIE: Do you vary your diet during competitions and trainings?

THONÉ: Yes, I adapt the food to the different times of the year. I asked, a few years ago, to the company to create a type of mixture to give my pigeons and this is called: Premium Thoné Olympic. It is a versatile blend of cereals that ensures optimal absorption while providing the nutritional value that the birds need. All year long I give this same mixture. Only when it is time to moult, I give my pigeons a special mixture to stimulate the moult, in reproduction time I also offer them a mixture of proteins so they have reserves, at race time I give them more sugar and when they go in the long run distance I give them more fats so they have more energy. But the base of the whole year is the Premium Thoné Olympic.

 

WINKIE: Do you follow a sanitary program throughout the year in your loft?

THONÉ: Yes. My brother-in-law, Dr. Peeters is a renowned veterinarian and lives very close. My pigeons go through regular checks to see that they do not have any kind of disease. The relevant vaccines are given and everything is correct.

 

WINKIE: How often do you go to the vet?

THONÉ: Before the competition, before the breeding, before the moult and during the season, when I see that something is wrong with one of my birds, I go to the vet.

 

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

THONÉ: A lot of dedication and do not include more pigeons than you can take care of. It is important that you like what you do.

 

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

THONÉ: With globalization, everyone has access to everything and there are no secrets. We had to work very hard to get where we are now, the people of my generation. We had to win and show that we can do it, to gain respect. Now there are very young and modern fanciers, who get one or two victories and jump, immediately to fame at the top, but you need to keep it and have proof. Sometimes, fame goes very fast and in my opinion that is not good. But the best thing about this globalization is that, for example, now in Spain, a loft that is doing well, is known very quickly in the rest of the world. And this is very positive.

Another important thing to note is that, if there is no money involved, it becomes difficult for the sport to survive. In my time it was done as a hobby, as passion, but today we have too many distractions and if there is no money, there is no time for it. It is for this reason that the One Loft Race is the future in Spain, for example.

 

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

THONÉ: Without money there will be no survival of the sport. My job now is to give something in return to this sport. I have been and am very happy doing what I do and earning my living with the pigeons and now I want to thank them and the sport for all the good things I have received. And in what way? Well, contributing to its expansion and promotion around the world. I think one of the measures would go through, whenever a new fancier is interested in the sport give eggs and pigeons for free so you can start, you do not have to pay big fees for the club and things like that. Put it easy at its beginning. In some countries like Romania, Poland is raising the sport a lot.

 

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

THONÉ: I'm up to date with what's happening. I try to keep informed of what happens in Spain and, above all, when one of my pigeons competes in Derbys.

 

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

THONÉ: The Derbys are a showcase to attract amateurs who want to be in contact with the sport. It is a way to start in it without spending a lot of money. You can see how your pigeon scores and how it is known in various places and do not need to make a large investment and, in addition, you can earn money with it. I think they are the kind of competition that a country like Spain needs.