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Weekly Edition 042: Saturday 15th December 2001

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Island Ecology
by José P Ribas

Racing Pigeons - Part Two

It was in 1820 that the first news came flying in of a pigeon competition. It involved a new kind of pigeon, the "Belgian" or "Gante" pigeon, the actual racing pigeon, created about five years before by Belgian fanciers and breeders (most probably in Antwerp). 

It was the first time that the competition or races were done just for sport, like an art or science to find out how to train and prepare the best birds to help them to increase their orientation capacity and flying resistance.

Racing pigeons became popular very quickly, especially in Belgium where it is still considered a national sport, with more then 150,000 fanciers and breeders' licences. Though there are less then 10,000 in Spain, a good number of them are in the Balearic Islands.

From there, this new kind of racing pigeon was introduced to Spain, France, England and Portugal, etc., as well as the art and the feeling for the competition.

Soon, and initially with the help of the national armies (all racing pigeons are under the army's control; In case of war or a big national crisis, they can be confiscated and taken under the army's command) new races and competitions were organised in these countries. At first the competition was among different clubs or societies that then competed for the province or county, the winners then competing for national and international titles.

There are different kinds of races and several competitions or championships, differing rules that have been changing with the times, different distances and tests of speed or resistance. There can be one winner of a particular race or the accumulation of points by different birds or in different races.  Judging is also according to the age of the pigeons, whether the race is over land or if the birds have to cross the sea, the importance of the race, local, provincial, national or international.

The most difficult race for the pigeons is over long distances over the open sea, when it is as deep or deeper then 2,000 metres, especially together with strong winds. Then the pigeons seem to lose a good deal of their orientation. This happened in a maritime race organised by the Balearic Federation in July 1957, when a boat took 602 racing pigeons to be released 109 miles out in the open sea, Northeast, towards Nice in France. None of the pigeons came back and this race was cancelled for the future.

Since 1985 the Spanish National Championship has consisted of seven races. Two "speed" races (Velocidad) of more then 200 Kilometres, two "middle distance" (Medio Fondo) races of more then 350 Kilometres, two "long distance" (Fondo) races of more then 500 Kilometres, and one race, "Grote Fond" or "greater distance" (Gran Fondo).

Longer distances, (super-greater distance) of 1,000 Kilometres, or more, can be adapted to special races and international events, such as the one in 1996, one of the longer races organised, so far, by the Balearic Federation, from Lisbon (Portugal) of more then 1,000 Kilometres.

Since 1997, there are in Spain, races on the mainland and races from the islands, which can be a little bit shorter, about fifty Kilometres less, because of the sea difficulty. Also, in the Balearic competition, the pigeons can fly from anywhere in the Continent, most from Mainland Spain, as long as the official distances are respected. But it was not until 1955, that the Balearic pigeons could fly back from a distance of 400 Kilometres, (middle distance) from Lorca (Murcia), so, here we can see how much and how fast the progression has been in those years.

Normally, one-year-old birds start with the speed, in short or middle distances races. The best ones keep competing when they are two years in the long distance and three years for the best ones in greater distance races. Sometimes pigeons are very good at a certain distance, but they don't progress to longer distances.

Next year's World Championship of racing pigeons will be celebrated in Eivissa, with the name of "Eivissa Grand Prix." It is being organised by the local pigeon fanciers and breeders of the three Clubs or Societies on the Island.

The first one to be founded was the "Sociedad Colombofica Ibicenca" in 1927, by a group of friends, old "Colombofilos" (racing pigeon fanciers and breeders) in the City of Eivissa. It was officially registered on the 23rd May 1928, but it was not until the 7th July 1943, after the Spanish Civil War, that it was integrated into the "Federación Colombofica Balear" (Balearic racing pigeons' federation).

Some of the documents of its foundation were lost in those years, but we know most of the names of the pigeon fanciers, Juan Planells Tur, "En Basetas" Juan Planells Cardona, "En Rey" José Prieto Planells, "En Prieto" and Joaquin Rigal Perello. The first president was the local priest Mariano Escandell Roig.

Since then the following presidents were 1930, Joaquin Rigal Perello; 1943, Juan Planells Cardona; 1947, Arturo Gómez Vázquez; 1951, Antonio Torres Marí; 1966, Antonio Roig Miguel and Pedro Planells Ribas; 1977, Antonio Roig Domínguez; 1979, Mariano Torres Torres; 1982, Salvador Roig Planells; 1987, Vicente Juan Ribas.

In the beginning, this group of friend use to meet and do the office work in different bars, "C'as Begaix", "bar Roig", "bar Alhambra" and "bar Pereira" by Eivissa's main square "Vara de Rey" until the society bought their own place, the social club, in Eivissa Town. In 1988, the society changed its name to "Club Colombofilo Eivissa".

 Historically this club has been highly successful in provincial, national and international competitions and championships.

In the provincial competitions, the "Club Colombofilo Eivissa" have been the Balearic champions in the following years:

1957: Concurso Regional Velocidad Maritime. From Elx, (Alacant) (middle distance, maritime speed) Winner. Pedro Planells Ribas.

1958: Concurso Regional Velocidad. From Elx, (Alacant) (speed, middle distance) W. José Escandell Torres.

1962: Concurso Regional Velocidad Maritime. From Elx, (Alacant) W. Miguel Tejada.

1963: Concurso Regional Fondo Terrestre. From Cabeza de Buey, (Badajoz) (long distance) W. Jesús Ferrer Salleras.

1964: Concurso Regional Fondo Terrestre. From Cabeza de Buey, (Badajoz) (long distance) W. Antonio Torres Marí.

1973: Concurso Regional Velocidad. From Purchena (Almeria) (speed, middle distance) W. Pedro Planells-Pujol.

1981: Concurso Regional Medio Fondo Terrestre. From Murcia, (middle distance) W. Antonio Ribas Juan.

1983: Concurso Regional Gran Fondo. From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Antonio Ribas Juan.

1985: Concurso Regional Gran Fondo. From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Juan Roig Torres.

1986: Concurso Regional Velocidad. From Lorca (Murcia) (middle distance) W. J. Vilas -V. Escandell.

Concurso Regional Gran Fondo. From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Jorge Fernandez Riera.

1987: Concurso Regional Fondo. From Lorca (Murcia) (middle distance) W. A. and J. Roig Dominguez.

1990: Concurso Regional Fondo. From Almendralejo (Badajoz) (long distance) W. Torres Gotarredona.

1991: Concurso Regional Gran Fondo. From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Pedro Planells Ribas.

1992: Concurso Regional Velocidad. From Lorca (Murcia) (middle distance) W. Juan Tur Ribas.

Concurso Regional Velocidad. From Lorca (Murcia) (middle distance) W. Vilás- Escandell.

Concurso Regional Gran Fondo. From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Pedro Planells Ribas.

1998: Concurso Regional Fondo. Juan Torres Costa was the winner by regular points.

"As Balear de Velocidad" (Balearic champion, speed title and award) to the bird 175.142-96, of the breeder Antonio Costa Escandell.

"Prestigio de Velocidad (champion speed award, middle distance) to the bird 175.207-96, of A. and J. Roig Dominguez.

In the National Competition, there are also several important results, as Spanish Champions in 1960- Concurso Nacional Fondo Maritimo. (Long-maritime distance) W. Manuel Garcia Tur. Bird- 60.653-58

1970: Concurso Nacional Fondo. "Copa S. E. El jefe del Estado". From Salobreña () (long distance) W. Costa-Vilás. Bird- 67.790-68

1973: Concurso Nacional Fondo. "Copa S. E. El jefe del Estado". From Montoro (Córdoba) (long distance) W. Juan Torres Costa. Bird- 65.941-69. 

1983: Concurso Nacional Gran Fondo. "Copa S. M. El Rey". From Badajoz (greater distance) W. Antonio Ribas Juan. Bird- 168.429-82.

In special tournaments, such as "Derby Nacional de Fondo" in 1988, (long distance national derby), A. and M. Torres were the champions.

"Concurso Especial de Ayamonte" (Huelva) (over 800 kilometres.) W. Jesús Ferrer.

"Concurso Especial de Sines" (Francia) (over 900 kilometres) W. Antonio Torres.

1996: Concurso Especial "Larga Distancia", organised by the Balearic Federation, over a 1000 Kilometres, from Lisbon (Portugal) (greater distance) with 130 pigeons, 87 of them from Mallorca, 43 from Eivissa, Angela Costa Ferrer, was second.

The "Club Colombófilo Eivissa" have also participated and organised important and popular events, such as the "VIII Exposición regional" (the exhibition of the winner-birds and the awards ceremony) in 1972, again in 1977, the "XIII Exposición regional" and the "XII Expocisión Nacional" and again, together with the other two clubs of the Island, the "XXIV Exposición Nacional" in the Hotel Abrat, in Sant Antoni. In 1998, the "XXXIII Exposición regional".

The Spanish racing pigeons' federation, "Real Federación Colombófla Española" have honoured the "Club Colombófilo Eivissa" with the silver and the gold medal for consistency. (The Information about the "Club Colombófil Eivissa" is from the book "Un siglo de Colombofilia en las Baleares" by Sebastian Mas Veny. Palma de Mallorca. 2000).

All Pictures © Gary Hardy (1988 to 1990)

José P Ribas

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