The world's best allround pigeon fancier?

Jos Thoné, Niel near As (Belgium)


For this loft report a trip to Belgium was made, to probably the best all-round pigeon fancier in the world, or in other words, a fancier that excels in short - as well as middle distance racing. As already can be guessed, the leading figure in this loft report is Jos Thoné, the miracle man from Niel near As.

Racing pigeons dominate his life. Jos Thoné speaking: ,,From the moment I could walk, I was obsessed by pigeons. My dad had pigeons too and I spend most of my time in the lofts. At a very young age already I knew I felt the urge of being the best. The so successful fancier Jan Grondelaers from Opglabeek was my big example at the time. When I was about twelve years old, and I had some time off, I stared through the fence to his lofts, of pure admiration. And as the example for what I wanted to achieve myself.''

From 1977 until 1991, apart from the time he fulfilled compulsory service, he was loft manager of the Peeters-loft in As. In this period he learned the finer skills of the profession, but in those days too he developed an ideal picture in his mind. Before his thirtieth birthday he wanted an own home with a professional loft situation. Because this was no cheap ideal, Jos at one time had three jobs, as loft manager at Thomas Peeters and Sons from As, in day-time deep under the ground as miner and in the evening as computer science teacher at a day release centre. Something Jos also kept from his time as loft manager at Peeters, is his wife Gaby, the daughter to Thomas himself.

In 1989 the time to make his dream come true came and Jos gave instructions to build his present home. Thoné: ,,At the time I had to make a difficult choice. Or get through all the work inside the house entirely and wait building my pigeon lofts for two more years, or waiting with the house and being able to race independently. I chose the last option and this gamble, because a gamble it really was, turned out to be extremely well!

The first two years the birds raced from carton boxes in stead of breeding boxes, but they did so very well that within the two years they brought in enough money to get their own interior as well as the entire interior for my family.''      

Retrospectively he says he must have a guardian anger, because reaching all he has now, certainly surpassed his biggest expectations:

-         As only Belgian fancier he became overall champion in the International Gouden Duif competition twice!

-         He was world champion (Versele Lage) four times, also something no one ever matched.

-         He won (Inter)national Barcelona several times; with yearlings, hens and also International, with partner Willems in 1996.

-         The last nine years he won the overall championship of La Colombophilie Belge six times, a competition in which everyone can enter.

-         In 2003 he won three provincial races (Perpignan, Chateauroux and Vichy) and he won over 30 pure first prizes from 100 until 1,100 km.

-         The last season three National victories were won at other lofts with Thoné birds, with a/o 1. International Dax!!

Jos (42) has two sons, Maxim (9) and Xavier (14). Both are very involved in the sport and they really look forward to succeed their father. But also Jos Thoné's parents can be found at the lofts every day. Since two years they help in the daily care of the colony that contains about 450 birds!! Furthermore Jos has two more assistants. First of all Robert Clemens. He helps especially in weekends, in basketing, clocking the birds, training, etc. Leon Geebelen is also of important assistance to the champion from Niel near As. In the contrary to Robert he is present a lot during the week, mostly from 8.00 until 10.00 a.m. He cleans the lofts and also helps in other small tasks!

Jos manages the whole lot. He decides what birds are entered for particular races, he gives instructions for the medical guidance and feeds the racers during the racing season. That he does not have to take care of 'the small tasks' gives him more room to put his energy in more important affairs.  



Jos Thoné succeeded to create his own exclusive strain in only ten years time! It all started with birds of his father in law, who lived close to Jos. Besides he could count on many friends that welcomed him a good start. Jos: ,,Eventually I was able to start in 1991 with three hundred racing birds. What followed was a matter of racing, selecting and an iron regime. I did not want a situation in which the wood can not be seen because of the trees. And therefor I tried to estimate what was the winning and was the losing side as soon as possible. Without many detours it eventually resulted in useful material! The character to come home soon can not be seen at an eye, wing or throat. That is simply just not enough to race well with birds.''

Right away Jos had the ambition to win. Not in one single category, but in all. The birds were raced again and again and selected on the distances for which they were particularly bred. In the meanwhile a clear view developed about the birds that brought him to where he now is: clear on top with his own strain. A special place is reserved for the already legendary 'Poco', the small hen ringed B92-5000631. Jos: ,,In her year of birth I made her race about 5,000 kilometres! Amongst them were two races above 700 km. The last race was Brive (720 km). Only a few birds managed to reach their loft on the day of liberation that day. As I wanted to go to the club with the clock (it was already pitch-dark then), I heard a pigeon trying to get in. I heard it because I made an alarm, otherwise I would never had noticed it. It was 'Poco' . . . the bird that had never excelled before but with this showed its great character and definitively ensured its spot on my loft.''

Everyone with a bit of sense for pigeons knew it for sure: 'Poco' had made too many kilometres at such a young age and was finished for the rest of her career. As a racer she would be useless from then on. But how surprisingly to everyone, already within the year this hen would astonish the pigeon world again. In 1993 she won first prize International on the leaden race of Barcelona in the yearlings category. In 1995 again she shocked the world by winning 1st National on Barcelona with hens. And again it runs in the blood and 'Poco's family kicked up some more rows. 'Polanova' won 1st National Barcelona (yearlings) 1994. In 1996 Thoné won 1st International Barcelona with partner Willems, the bird 'Gerda' being fastest. 'Arnold' was given to Valentin Vanheusden as an egg, in 1997 he won 1st International Barcelona.       

These birds became fundamental for the overnight Thoné strain. Before some of them were sold, they were first paired up to each other, their parents and more superb birds. The youngsters of these pairings are the present stock birds.

For the shorter distances Jos has other birds as his disposal. Jos: ,,The bird that a became a golden breeder to me was 'Superman' (B82-5192253), the best National acebird middle distance of Belgium KBDB in 1986 for Jacques Debacker. He is a bird of Janssen origin. But 'Mooiste Reus' (B90-5105244) too was a bird of such calibre. He was still such reinforcement through his father in law from the absolute beginning. And not to forget of course 'Napoleon' (B93-5010004) - a Grondelaers-bird - and 'Milton' (B90-5109916). This last one came direct from my friend Dirk Leekens. Furthermore I started crossing the lines of 'Mooiste Reus' (the ancestor to all my grey birds and of heavy overnight origin) to my 'Poco'-line. These crossings appeared to be excellent in heavy oneday races. One of the best examples is my 'Kleine Molenaar' (B98-5075521), the cockbird that became 1st provincial acebird long distance, 1st provincial acebird marathon and that won 1st provincial Marseille in 2000.

Furthermore I bought a DNA tested (by pulling out a plume of the parent and its descendant it can be ensured the full hundred percent if the birds really is bred from chosen parent) son to the 'Nationaal I’ of Schellens through Herbots. The 'Nationaal I' won 1st National Bourges, 1st provincial Orleans 4,701 birds and a total of five times first. I used his son, my B95-5055105 'Sars', this year for the first time on the Artificial Insemination method. He is truly a top bird. 32 of his youngsters I entered in racing this year. On a certain race I won the first nine positions, with six direct children of him amongst them. One of his youngsters that was a product of AI is my B03-5071667, that I appropriately called 'Artificial Jutta'. She was one of the best birds of Belgium this year.''

And this quote most certainly is no exaggeration, as can be seen at its great list of honour, only as a youngster 'Artificial Jutta' won a/o:

Date    Race            Birdage          Prize

19/07   Chateauroux          630          2nd

26/07   Bourges                 987         29th

03/08   Mettet                1,557         16th

17/08   Chimay               1,291         4th

23/08   La Soutteraine    1,235         13th

06/09   Vichy                    913         1st (2nd National from 11,510 birds!)

14/09   Chimay                  365        4th

21/09   Chimay                  766        16th

The 'Sars' was paired back to the old basic lines (Grondelaers, 'Superman' and 'Mooiste Reus') and like this he forms the present day top colony for races from 100 up until 700 km.

In big lines, this is the base that created the ambitious beginning in this so successful era.

When Jos is in the vein for talking, there is no stopping him anymore. Some questions were asked him and hopefully the answers are educational:



How do you prepare your birds for the racing season?

,,I have 44 pairs of breeders and 64 pairs of racers at my disposal. The racers are divided over four sections of each 16 birds. Three lofts are for short-, middle- and oneday long distance; one section is for the overnight racers. The middle distance racers are paired up in December, to raise two youngsters. They are re-paired in March to breed a few more days and like that they start the season. The yearlings are first paired up in March and they get to raise one or two youngsters. The overnight racers do not get to raise one single youngster and they are paired up in the beginning of March, after a few days of breeding they are separated and in the beginning of April this ritual is repeated.''



What is your medical guidance like?

,,In short I try to maintain the natural health of my birds as high as possible. If at any occasion I do need a medicine, I will only give this for a period as short as possible.

Ten to fifteen years ago there were supplements like Suanovil, Linco Spectine and some more things for the bronchial tubes. By know you do not see the wood for the trees anymore. I also hate it when I go to a veterinarian and he gives me a medicine without description of the contents. That certainly does not give me a pleasant feeling!

My system is mainly based on the throat-smear I have done about one to three times a year. Not the traditional, but the so-called 'SWOB' smear. Herewith some slime in the front of the throat is taken and send to the University of Liege and is examined there bacteriological. When my birds have any problem the result of this examination tells me exactly what the problem is and, more important, they give me just the right medicine that solves just that particular problem. Many medicines do not work anymore because the birds became resistant to it.

Furthermore I am guided by the BIFS (Birds Insemination and Fertilisation Station, situated in Veldwezelt – Lanaken) and their system is based on decreasing medication.''


So you want to say that your birds never get a 'blind' cure anymore?

,,After five years of research I found out that always the same birds get cancer. But what was obvious?? They are not always the bad ones . . . I was advised to give a cancer cure during the season three or four days every three weeks. Thanks to the product called 'Vior', that stops cancer developing itself, I was able to extend this to some more than four weeks. Besides, it is also good against illnesses at young birds, but that really has all to do with bad nutrition.''



With your top breeder 'Sars' you use Artificial Insemination. What gave you that idea and how does it work?

,,It is like this. With the help of science I can force time. First it took me five years to breed fifty youngsters from a topper, no I do that in one year!! Of every ten birds 'Sars' breeds, he gives one real topper and with that he is by far the best breeder I ever had. So now I have five super birds from him every year. How it works? The partners of the hens I breed with are made infertile and about six to eight days after pairing I must take the hens to the veterinarian, in my case BIFS, to inseminate them, and so on. The most important thing is only to do this with a real proven breeder! Otherwise the danger occurs you have too many descendants of a second class bird. During the winter months 'Sars' has problems fertilising the eggs - therefor his name - and because of the artificial taking of sperm from him, I can still breed youngsters of him in this period. AI has many advantages.''



What were the main factors you paid attention to in building your loft?

,,To me it is very important that I can take a maximal profit from my birds and (partly) therefor my loft is made in a way that enables me to race total widowhood.

I always try to send the entire pair to one race as much as possible. It does not matter at all that sometimes circumstances make you place one of the partners with another one, in the contrary! Besides, when the partners must wait for each other a long time this is mostly on heavy races and than they really do not feel the need of seeing each other right away. The front of my lofts point towards south-east, and here I house my widowers. One section, in the middle, is only used to let in the hens. They are housed at the backside of my loft in an open aviary. The loft is five meters wide. The measurements of my sections are quite small, what forces a good band between the birds and me. A loft in which the temperature fluctuates too much is never good. In my loft every widower gets an individual heating-plate in its breeding box. Cocks in the widowhood system are very susceptible to cold and moist. When the weather conditions ask for it, I want to be able to take action. A good ventilation is very important too. The saddleback roof of my loft is covered with roofing tiles of 'Pottelberg', that are ideal for pigeons and ensure just the right ventilation. In extreme cases I always have the aviary ready!

Upon cleaning I hardly waste any time. The floors as well as the boxes are provided with grates. And also the 'big cleaning all the way' in winter I dropped this year. As I fear that by doing that, some very important and favourable elements of the whole environment of the loft are wasted.

Below the grates I have basements of 90 cm deep. They are not only effective in catching the droppings, but they also ensure the dust to disappear.''



You recently put your own mixture of food on the market. What can you tell us about this system?

,,The idea of developing an own feeding system came to mind especially to prevent illnesses at young birds. Because what is often the problem? At some time youngsters do not want to train anymore and what does the fanciers do? Give them a light mixture . . . and that is one of the biggest mistakes you can make in pigeon racing, the intestinal tubes of the birds bolt and at that time the notorious young bird illnesses strike.
I composed a not too light mixture so that it can already be given in breeding. I slowly start giving this mixture to all of my birds. In some situations however I do it slightly different:

- Three days before the eggs hatch of the first youngsters until about three weeks after weaning, 15% of Liege mixture (based on peas) is added, only when it is cold outside because then you notice at your birds they really are in need of protein. In the summer months this Liege mixture is left out entirely already. 

- The last three to four days before basketing on a heavy overnight race about fifteen percent of extra's are added: cribs corn, maize, some peanuts and some pealed cereals: sunflower pits, oats and rice. This to replenish the fats some more, with my youngsters I did the same thing for the 'Nationals'.

- The first days of the weeks the hens get a purifying mixture.''

Probably curiosity about the composition of the 'Thoné-Special mixture arose now. The Beyers firm supplies it and its composition is: 25% cribs maize, 33% peas, 3% sorghum extra red, 2% barley, 1% linseed, 2% pealed sunflower pits, 5% saphlore pits, 6% dari, 10% paddy rice, 12% wheat and 1% sesame seed.



Some more questions:

What kind of supplements do you give to your bird? Do you find it important to basket your birds every week or is frequent rest more important to you?

,,I give my birds fresh grind once a week. When the youngsters covet they get pick-stone. Once in a while I put some mineral-powder over the food, but tight rules for that I do not have. Beer-yeast whether or not in combination with milk-yeast I also like to give them. Furthermore I use several supplements I got of BIFS from Lanaken: T-Cur, Oligo-fertile, Vior and Perform-oil. All products that support the natural health.''

,,I am not blind however. Last year I gave Aviol and I raced superbly. This year they took Aviol out of production, I did not gave it but performed just as well. The main thing is to own top bird and all the rest are matters of secondary importance.

If it is perfectly healthy, a short-middle distance bird is basketed every week. The oneday long distance birds are entered once in every two weeks and the overnight racers are basketed once every three or four weeks.

Some fanciers say that their birds really must be entered every week, except the overnight racers of course. That is real nonsense. Every good bird sometimes has a moment that it is tired. At such a time the bird really needs its rest.''



Competing against Thoné is almost impossible. The following results prove that:

21-6 Melun (Mine-area Federation) 208 birds            18 entered, 17 prize cards


28-6 Orleans (provincial yearlings) 7,272 birds            44 entered, 27 prize cards


28-6 Montauban (provincial old birds) 918 birds    5 entered, 5 prize cards

12.-23.-31.-126. and 169.

28-6 Nanteuil (Great Region combine) 6,005 birds    118 entered, 49 prize cards


5-7 Melun (Mine-area federation) 585 birds    59 entered, 28 prize cards


12-7 Orleans (Mine-area federation) 798 birds    105 entered, 53 prize cards


19-7 Chateauroux (provincial) 630 birds    22 entered, 13 prize cards


19-7 LF Bernard (Mine-area fed. young) 200 birds    59 entered, 41 prize cards

1.-2.-3.-4.-5.-6.-7.-8.-9.-11.-12.-13.-15.-16.-17.-etc. (30 birds in the top 34!)

19-7 LF Bernard (Mine-area fed. old) 165 birds            14 entered, 10 prize cards


2-8 Perpignan (international yearlings) 4,534 birds            19 entered, 10 prize cards

18.-56.-92.-163.-317.-471.-510.-549.-926. and 1,089.

Provincial against 445 birds he started with positions 1.-5.-7.-15.-etc.

23-8 La Souterraine (Federation) 174 birds            35 entered, 19 prize cards


31-8 Chimay (Mine-area federation) 608 birds    71 entered, 35 prize cards


6-9 Vichy (national) 13,510 birds                44 entered, 26 prize cards


Provincial he started with the positions 1.-13.-17.-18.-39.-54.-56.-etc.

Since 1991 Jos Thoné's birds won over 400 National top hundred positions, including 3 x 1st, 5 x 2nd, 7 x 3rd, etc. On International races over 200 times a Thoné bird won a top 100 quotation . . . Did anybody do better??



Already mentioned before is the absolute world class bird 'The Artificial Jutta', but of course some more exceptional birds house the Thoné loft. Mentioning them all would take pages. Because Jos has many birds, of course he has many top birds. Still it is not the quantity that makes him the great champion.

His strain of birds breeds extremely well and ensures top birds in every generations. The pictures of the birds on these pages certainly confirm that. One of them is the top breeder B97-5008933, a son to 'Arnold', the 1st International Barcelona 1997 winner. The dam to 'Arnold' is a half sister to 'Poco' and his sire is bred from a half brother to 'Poco' . . .

The 933 is sire to 'Evita', 1st provincial acebird long distance in 2002. Her list of honour shows top prize cards like a/o 25th International Marseille (hens) against 3,618 birds, 4th St. Vincent 609 birds, 12th Montauban 918 birds and 4th Narbonne 452 birds.

'Faldo' (NL98-5075839) is bred direct from the sensational 'Poco' as he was paired to 'Kirui', the sire to 'Arnold'. He is sire to 'Pichon' (B00-5041991), a top racer as well. She won a/o 96th provincial Cahors 1,470 birds, 189th National Barcelona 13,021 birds, 142nd National Perpignan 7,198 birds, 3rd National Cahors 549 birds, 131st National Barcelona 11,806 birds and 278th International Perpignan hens against 3,934 birds.

The topper 'De Witte Meeuw' also can be categorised under the new generation top breeders. His sire is 'Kleine Molenaar' (B98-5075521), 1st provincial acebird long distance in 2000, 1st provincial acebird marathon 2000 and 1st National acebird Televie in 2000. He won a/o 1st provincial (548 birds) and 37th National Marseille (4,093 birds), 51st International Bordeaux against 11,644 birds, 51st National Montauban against 7,220 birds and 76th National Perpignan against 6,246 birds. His dam 'Godiva' (B98-5075638) is of a seldom class too. She was winner of 1st provincial (1,378 birds) and 9th National Bordeaux (3,651 birds), 1st provincial (709 birds) and 11th National Perpignan (6,246 birds), 27th National Barcelona against 13,021 birds and 36th International Bordeaux against 11,644 birds. On this race from Spain she won 25,000 Euro of price-money!!

Furthermore there are many other birds that won several National top 50 positions!



'Back to the future' was something a reporter wrote that visited Jos Thoné ten years ago. And on the day of today still, this quote still applies to Jos. He is far ahead of his time and is always one step ahead of all his concurrence. With his 42 years he is one of the youngest legends in modern pigeon sport. His unbridled devotion, perfectionism, intelligence and ambition guarantee success for the coming era. But he is also a role model! Like Jan Grondelaers once was his great role model, he is himself now a role model to many young fanciers. And role models are indispensable in every sport.


Text and photography:

FALCO EBBEN All rights reserved