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Jos Thone – The crowned prince of the belgian pigeon racing

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Author: Antonescu S. Gyany  

It is not easy at all to write an article on the man about whom all journals and magazines are only writing exaltedly about, a pigeon fancier whose fame has long surpassed the borders of Belgium for some time. Dirk Rijkenbarg, a master of pigeon fancying prose, once said that he encountered a “Crowned prince” in a place named As of Limburg – Belgium. Other reporters labeled Jos Thoné as the wonder-boy or the wizard of As. A thing is certain: Jos Thoné is one of the great talents of pigeon sport.

For Jos Thoné, pigeon fancying ceased to be a hobby and became his whole universe, from which he extracts his passion to live. If you want to enter this universe and discover its mysteries, you need to take a short trip back in time, to the beginning years.
Jos Thoné said that “I was interested in pigeons since I first started to walk. At least that’s what my father says, who is also a pigeon fancier. I could not be taken out of the pigeon loft. On the way back from the school towards home, I was riding my bike like crazy to get to the breeding grounds more quickly. I was busy with caring, feeding, releasing the pigeons, essentially with everything. Once these activities completed, I was going to the boarding spots to help with the preparation of boarding baskets, their cleaning, and the preparation of the timers. I was often the only child among all those adults, but I did not care, as long I was working with and for pigeons.”
The future great champion felt already the flames of an immense passion which would consume him and that pigeons will play a determining role in his life.

Since he was still a child, Jan Grondelaers of Opglabeek, one of Belgium’s great champions, became Jos Thoné’s model. He, more often than not, was seen looking through the fence to the pigeon cages “pure and simple out of admiration and as an example for me, for what I wanted to accomplish later.”

A great deal of pigeon breeding experience was acquired during the time he spent in the loft of Thomas Peeters, the man who would later become his father-in-law. There he worked as a disciple and later he became the manager of the loft. Under his leadership, these breeding grounds has known several remarkable successes, among which: in 1986, at the international contest of Barcelona, he had 5 pigeons in the first 100, and two years later they went on to win the National Title at the General Champion K.B.D.B. category (national champion) of Belgium.
After serving in the Belgian army, Jos Thoné became more obsessed than ever about pigeons and started to set his goals concerning the building of his own house, which, of course, included a loft. About this issue, Jos Thoné remembers: “I knew that fulfilling my dreams would not be easy and that it would cost me a lot of money. As I was not expecting money to fall out of the sky, it determined me to work hard, and at some point I had three jobs simultaneously: I was loft manager at Thomas Peeters, cleaning up during the day, but a pigeon fancier can spend this time more profitably, for example while observing and handling the pigeons. Thus I have automatized the entire cleaning process. All the flooring is made of wooden grates, in the boxes there are metal grates, and everywhere, underneath the grates, there are conveyor belts which remove droppings – the perfect solution.”
The cages are arranged as such that you can walk through them from one section to another.
Widows are kept behind the widowing section. Underneath he designed separators in order to avoid visual contact and to prevent lesbian tendencies and their mating. For widowers, there is a heater in each box, because it appears that males are more sensitive to humidity than females.
In eac section there are sliding doors through which the birds are allowed to exit for their flights; they are opened wide when pigeons are returning from contests, allowing them access to the boxes and thus minimizing the time needed to enter the cages.
In each section of the cages there are various types of feeders, according to the necessities: in the breeding section there is a feeder with a 25kg capacity and pigeons are eating as much as they like, while in the widowers’ section there are individual feeders. The other sections are fitted with common feeders. This is due to the fact that for Jos Thoné the process of feeding the pigeons is of great importance. In this matter, he claims that he doesn’t have a general rule which he follows, but rather he goes on instinct.

The quantity and quality of the food plays an important role in pigeon breeding. When it comes to food mixes, Jos Thoné does not worry and leaves the mixing of the different seeds to the producers. He always buys prepared bags of seeds from the most important producers, such as Versele-Laga or Cerafin.
But, of course, the nutrition program is designed in accordance to the weather conditions, to the health status of the pigeons, the distance category where they will race, the motivation system and, last but not least, the category in which they belong (males, females, youngsters). For example, speed pigeons should not always receive Sport food because they do not use up all their energy, and a Diet-mix is more indicated, with the Sport food being used a day before the race. However, if the pigeons are going to participate in a difficult race, such as a long-distance contest, Sport food or shedding mixes (another type of food with large amounts of energy) should be used two days in advance. To these seed mixes or in their drinking water, Jos Thoné adds, according to the necessities, amino-acids, vitamins, yeast or other products to shape up pigeons or to protect their health.
Also, one needs to observe the behavior of the pigeons as well. If they are circling around you, too little food was probably used; if they are not obeying, too much food was given. The art here is to accomplish a good compromise between these situations.
The pigeons’ health status is, as I have mentioned earlier, a major factor in attaining performances. That is why the cleaning of the cages, the feeders and the waterers is done with great care, as they are always disinfected, and twice a year a complete disinfection is performed. For the prevention or healing of specific illnesses, Jos Thoné regularly administers anti-Trichomonas and anti-Coccidiosis substances, vermicides and vaccines for the prevention of paramixovirosis and Salmonella etc. All these are given under the careful guidance of the veterinarian, who inspects the birds weekly. In this way, Jos Thoné knows permanently which of the birds should be boarded for contests and will most certainly obtain good results.

Jos Thoné is known as a perfectionist, who leaves nothing to chance and who yields the maximum efficiency out of his birds. “Since the beginning, I wanted to compete as efficiently as possible. It is a concept I adhere to even today. I wanted race pigeons who are all very good flyers. I also wanted to test them to the limit and keep only the very best. In my opinion, being tough with your birds is not a problem as long as you are providing them with adequate conditions. Thus, only good birds can stay. Adopting this quality criterion, I have reached the point where I can breed top fliers out of all my couples.”
Currently, while most pigeon fanciers are trying to specialize themselves and focus on a certain race category, Jos Thoné is dissenting and considers pigeon sport as a whole, starting with sprint races and ending with very long distance races, with youngsters, yearlings, males or females.
The organization of cages and the preparation of pigeons for the racing seasons are in accordance to his principle to compete in all categories.
In fact, the flight cages are divided in four sections: A, B, C and D. Each of them is made of 16 boxes of widowers. Section D is for those widowers who are participating in local races on distances ranging from 100-120km to 300-400km. At the end of the flight season, they can be sent even to some classical 500 or 600km races (Bourges, Argenton, La Souterraine).
Section C is for middle-distance pigeons for races such as Bourges, Vierzon, Limoges, and Section B is for long-distance pigeons, thus for one-day races: Brive, Cahors, Montauban, and Narbonne. For the preparation of this latter category, the pigeons are introduced in races such as Montargis (391 km) and Orleans (435 km). In section A there are great distance pigeons, who participate in two-day races: Pau, Marseille, Perpignan and Barcelona.
Yearlings share the same space with old birds but they will follow a more relaxed program, as they are carefully watched as they are developing and competing.
As aforementioned, widows are kept in a cage behind the section dedicated to widowers, separated by sliding doors. This system is very practical because the males and females can be easily put together and then separated again.
When it comes to motivating pigeons, Jos thinks that it is best to use the appropriate motivation method for healthy birds, the so-called moral stimulation, without attempting to force things. That is why he plays with widowing, in other birds he exploits lesbian tendencies, and with other birds plays naturally. But all is done following tedious observations, after hours, days and weeks of keeping an eye on the pigeons’ behavior.
Mating pigeons takes place first at the end of November when all birds are mated, the yearlings, old birds and breeders. Different from other breeders, Jos Thoné allows also yearlings to raise babies in order to verify that, in the future, the pair can be used for breeding. Outside weather plays an important role in choosing the exact moment of the separation of the pigeons, because if the weather is too cold, males cannot enter the excitation state and are hard to motivate; if the weather is too warm, couples should be separated earlier.
A new mating takes place in early April. The pairs are allowed to lay eggs, to hatch them and raise the babies for ten days. Jos Thoné does not agree with separating the couple two days after hatching, but rather uses this ten day period to train them harder, in order to prevent weight gain.
Once the weaning takes place, Jos Thoné uses the darkness system. Thus, all windows to the cages are covered in dark drapes from 5 p.m. until 9 a.m. This method was adopted from the Dutch and proved extremely efficient in preventing shedding.
A master of the general category, Jos Thoné might be mistaken for somebody who uses the same type of birds for all categories. But that assumption is false. On one hand, Jos tuned a line for sprint and middle-distance, and on the other hand, a line for long and great distances.
For short and medium distances, “SUPERMAN” B82-5192253, an exceptional pigeon who won 1st place Ace Pigeon in the National K.B.D.B. contest in 1986, is one of the founders of the middle distance line. At his acquisition from De Backer, Jos went with his old friend Dirk Leekens, whom he whispered: “I will not leave this place without buying this bird.” He never held before a bird so spectacularly built and with such a phenomenal musculature. A large number of Jos’ birds for short and medium distances have the blood of “SUPERMAN,” whose ancestors come from the Janssen-Arendonk pigeons.
Many high class pigeons are part of SUPERMAN’s group, with exceptional results both in contests and as breeders:
•    VOLARE B93-5010151: 1st place Provincial Pigeon-Ace K.B.D.B. 1994, 1st Place National Pigeon-Ace 250 km Ave Regina; “Volare” is the grandfather of “Arnoldus” , co-winner of the World Championship 1996.
•    ‘DESPERADO’ – (currently in the loft of Gyany A.)
•    DESPERADO B96-5078335: 1st Place Bourges/1308 p.; 2nd Bourges/5187 p.; 6th Bourges/39114 p.
•    SUPERMAN II B88-5100722: won more than 40 prizes
•    HASHIKO B92-5000878: 1st Provincial Pigeon-Ace Long Distance L.D.S. 1993; is the grandmother of “Arnoldus”;
•    KABILA B97-5166439: 1st Provincial Bourges in 1997/3727 p.
•    SORA NAOMI B92-5000016 (“Naomi” won 1st place in the South Africa race)
•    SINGAPORA B96-5078278: 1st Provincial Vierzon 1997
•    KARIDA B93-5010014: 2nd National and 8th International San Sebastian
•    CRAYONNE SUPERMAN B89-5010100 (father of “Hashiko”): 1st Pigeon-Ace Long Distance L.D.S. 1990, etc.
A direct son of “Superman” is “DE DEEN”, a pigeon who proved a great breeder. Together with “MARQUISE” B92-5195802 (1st Provincial Pigeon-Ace middle distance K.B.D.B. 1993, 1st Interprovincial and 11th National Bourges / 67.985 p.) has proved to be one of the Jos Thoné’s golden couples. Some of the pigeons whose father is “De Deen”:
•    FORTUNA B93-5010010: the winner of a car and 1st Provincial Pigeon-Ace middle distance K.B.D.B. 1993; is the grandmother of “Sheila”, 1st place Orleans / 10.037 p.; ”Fortuna” is the daughter of the “De Deen – Marquise” couple
•    MARCO B95-5119749: 1st Pigeon-Ace Middle Limburg, yearlings middle distance in 1996
•    NICKY B95-5119887: 1st Provincial Limoges 1995 – (currently in the loft of Gyany A.)
•    TARA B95-5119252: 1st at the Great Assembly of St. Witz in 1997/2139p.
Superman and De Deen are, thus, golden lines who continue even today to prove their value.
Another golden line in the actual meaning of the word is the “NAPOLEON” B93-5010004 line.
This pigeon is not only a great flier, but also a high class bird when it comes to its character and build, being one of Jos Thoné’s favorite birds.
As a youngster, “Napoleon” won 1st place in contests with various launch sites (Reims/6459p., Marne/1514 p., Sens/371 p., Crepy/101 p.), and is the winner of Olympia Cup Johnson Kiang 1994. As such, he was immediately put in the breeding cage due to his value. Both him and his sister, “Nefertete” B93-5010028 (1st place National Bourges 1996-females and 3rd place National / 28.706p.), his babies and then his descendants proved capable of winning a large number of prizes. “Ulla” B95-5119889 (daughter of “Nefertete”) won 1st place Provincial Limoges 1996, “Theresa” B91-5332643 (”Ulla’s” half sister) won 1st place Provincial La Souterraine 1997. Also from the “Napoleon” group is “Isis” B92-5335457, a female pigeon who scored 36 results in the top ten places, of which five were 1st places. All in all, a great line whose ancestors include the famous “Goede Jaarling”, “Orleans I” and “Orleans II” from Jan Grondelaers, some of the best birds of those times.
Another group, small for now but select nevertheless, is that of “MOOISTE REUS” B90-5105244, exceptional for its contest results but also for the feather coloring (cuckoo). Among the results of the “Sjaloom” B93-5010473 female, the granddaughter of “Mooiste Reus”, we can list: 1st place Soissons/735 p., 1st Sens/135 p., 2nd La Souterraine/271 p., 3rd Argenton/1790 p., 4th Orleans/1578 p.
We can also talk about here about the “MILTON” B90-5109916 group, a high class flier for one day races, who was raced by his friend Dirk Leekens. His results include, among many others: 1st place Provincial Argenton, 1st Provincial La Souterraine, 1st Pigeon-Ace light long distance 1991, 1st Pigeon-Ace long distance 1992. “Milton” is the father of “Sheila” B97-5166322 (1st place Provincial Orleans/10.037 p.) and of “Didlinde” B92-5000527 (2nd Semi-National Argenton); is the grandfather of Tara (1st place St. Witz), of the 1st ranked provincial Clermont-Ferrand an of 1st ranked Provincial Pigeon-Ace long distance marathon.
After ending his sports career, this pigeon was moved in the loft of Jos Thoné, in the breeding section, where he was mated very successfully with birds from the “Napoleon” group.
When it comes to birds for long distance and great long-distance, Jos Thoné approached things from a completely different perspective. Even when he used to be the loft manager of Thomas Peeters, one of Jos Thoné’s favorite birds was “DIEGO ARMANDO BARCELONA” B83-5060602, shortly “Diego Armando”. Between 1985-1988 he was one of the best fliers in Europe, winning in 1985 10th place National / 8.647 p. and 14th International / 17.060 p. Barcelona; the reconfirmation of his qualities came next year, when he ranked 4th  National/8.886 p. and 9th International / 18.076 p. Barcelona. Acquisitions from Peeters included, besides “Diego Armando,” one of his brothers, then his parents, which were initially promised to a foreign buyer. Even today, Thoné thanks his lucky stars for taking the decision to make these purchases.
“Diego Armando’s” father, “OUDE DIEGO” B82-5248481, a lovely male, of a dark shade and with a strongly pigmented eye, became the founding father of an inimitable long distance line in Jos Thoné’s loft. This male is descending primarily from the pigeons belonging to the Kuypers brothers (see the pedigree of “Poco Diego”). The future would eventually prove that not many other males produced better long distance pigeons.
Because “Oude Diego’s” blood runs in a ratio of approx. 90% in the veins of long distance pigeons, we will only limit ourselves to mentioning a few males and females which are direct descendants.
“Broer Diego” is a brother of “Diego Armando” and the father of 1st place Provincial Bordeaux (1st National yearlings Bordeaux) and an ancestor of the famous long distance female belonging to Jean Duchateau from Spouwen.
“Stradivarius” B91-5080212 won 2nd place Provincial La Souterraine / 1776 p. and ranked 2nd  Semi-National Pigeon-Ace long distance 1992.
The other pigeons proved fully their flying capabilities and, more than that, their breeding qualities, fully contributing to the development of Thoné’s colony.
“San Sebastien”, “Sandora”, “Stradivaria”, “Klein Zwart”, “Anoek”, “Image” and “Paola” are females with outstanding results. Only “Cindy” was placed directly in the breeding cage without previously proven contest results, because of her breeding capabilities.
But one of these superb female pigeons stood out in an exceptional way, founding the line which bears her name: “POCO DIEGO” B92-5000631.
As I have mentioned before, all pigeons had to prove themselves and there was no mercy in their selection and training. That is how, in the year in which she was born, “Poco” raced for over 5.000 km, including two races of more than 700 km. The last race of that year was Brive (720 km), a very difficult race, where only a few birds managed to return to their lofts in the launch day, before dark. Jos Thoné waited impatiently for his birds to return before dusk, and then went to take the timer to the club. It was already dark outside. Right at the moment when he was getting ready to return the pigeon timer, he heard the noise of a pigeon trying to get into the loft through the hatch. He went to the section for racing youngsters and, to his great surprise, he found “Poco”, a pigeon who flew through the night. From that moment on he knew that such a bird with a strong character will bring him many satisfactions. And right he was, as “Poco” only started to unveil her surprises. The first one, of great importance, came the next year, as yearling. Although many would think that she could not yield results because she flew heavily as a youngster, Jos Thoné had so much confidence in her that he registered her for a very difficult race such as Barcelona. Flying through deadly heat, “Poco” took 1st Place International Barcelona yearlings 1993. Thoné was not expecting it and, at first, he did not understand the exceptional value of this female.
The year 1994 would prove to be full of satisfactions at the Barcelona international race. This time, the female which placed Thoné on 1st place international yearlings was “Polanova” B93-5010190, from the same line as “Poco”. “Poco” did not let him down, as she ended the race within the first 100 pigeons.
In 1995, because basically all members of the “Poco” family started to show real qualities, Jos Thoné decided to move “Poco” to the breeding cage. However, he decided to enter her in one final contest. “Poco” was mated with another male because the previous one did not return from the race, but she fancied well the new male, being crazy about him and even crazier about the nest. In this state, she was shipped to Barcelona. A small dot in the sky approaching the loft with precision proved to be “Poco,” entering the hatch at great speed. When Jos realized that she was 1st National Barcelona 1995, he could not hold back his tears, in one of the crowning moments of his career.
“Poco Diego,” bred and raced by Jos Thoné, is the flagship pigeon of a new generation of super-fliers for long and very long distances.
Meanwhile, it was proven that the “Poco” line is best fit for races on very long distances and Barcelona is a contest which fits perfectly to its character. In this sense, the international victory at Barcelona 1997 / 24.949 p. belongs to “ARNOLD” B95-5052496, whose owner was at the time V. Vanheusden from Diepenbeek. “Arnold’s” father, named “Kirui” B93-5139333, is a half-brother of “Poco”, and “Arnold’s” mother, named “Roxy” B92-5038266, is a half-sister of “Poco”, both of “Arnold’s” parents belonging to Jos Thoné. Other stars from the “Poco” line, besides “Hillary” B94-5018817 and “Caprice” B94-5328243 (both direct daughters of “Poco”), are “Wilbert” B90-5105104 (1st provincial Cahors 1992, 1st Regional Brive) and “Butterfly” B92-5000538, the half-sister of “Wilbert” (1st Brive 1996, 1st Argenton, 3rd Orleans, etc.). Other two exceptional females are “Madira” B94-5018743 (5th international Barcelona – females 1996 and 14th international / 20.129p.) and “Chica” B94-5018845 (7th national and 12th international Barcelona 1996 / 20.129 p.
But the full list of the pigeons belonging to the “Poco” and who had incontestable racing results is very long and cannot be presented here.
To the Barcelona quartet also belongs the “GERDA” female B94-5315093. She was crowned during the Willems-Thoné partnership and, following the 1st place International Barcelona 1996/20.129 p., she was sold for a record sum. “Gerda’s” parents remained, however, in the Thoné loft: her father “Jewel” B93-5086159, and her mother “Kincora” B89-5123540.
Jos Thoné is the kind of pigeon fancier whose performances cannot be attributed to chance, to favorable conditions or coincidences. In support of this stands proof the plethora of prizes and titles he won with his pigeons.
It seems that Jos Thoné fulfilled many of his goals. He lives in the house of his dreams with his wife Gaby and their two sons Xavier and Maxim, he built his super-loft and was rewarded with the most important titles and prizes. What more could he want? Jos Thoné answers this question with his well known charm:
“You are right. When you add it all up, it seems an impressive record. But let us not forget that, in the end, I am a passionate pigeon fancier, whose enormous pleasure is the return from a race of motivated pigeons, and the observation of their growth from newly hatched babies up until they become the splendid contest or breeding pigeons. Above all this is the fact that pigeon sport is in continuous development, and in order to stay on top you have to improve permanently. Stagnation means decline and this applies also to racing pigeons. As such, I want to create the perfect Thoné bird; this is my fundamental dream.”
Jos Thoné proved many times, without exaggeration, that he fully deserves the title of “crowned prince of pigeon sport.”


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