A phenomenon with no airs or graces
To visit Günter Prange is to visit one of the absolute icons of German pigeon racing. During his career, he has won everything there is to win, from the local to the national level. In addition, last year, he won the Golden Pigeon of Germany for the fourth time, having previously been crowned winner in 2000, 2001 and 2003, and thus placed himself in the illustrious list of quadruple winners consisting of Kees Bosua (Netherlands) and Jos Thoné (Belgium ).
Sitting at a table with Günter in the barn under his pigeon lofts with the heater on is very pleasant. Tea is put on the table and gradually Günter starts getting up on his soapbox. Günter comes across as a man devoid of pretensions, who wants to win for the sake of winning, but would rather stay out of the spotlight. Whoever challenges this former boxer in sport, will soon notice that Günter still has a heart for sports, which he now showcases through his pigeons.
The basis of the present strain in the Prange loft was formed by pigeons from Maurice Delbar crossed with pigeons from Cornelis and Gerard Koopman. The basic cock was a son of the 'Beatrix cock' x 'Daughter Sultana' from Koopman with ring number NL94-2227959, who, among others, was the father of: '330 who scored eight victories and '146 who got six victories, but—above all—the famous ‘Ringlose Nr. 12 ' (‘Ringless No. 12), who became the father and grandfather of three national ace cocks. Given these successes, it is no surprise that almost every breeding pair in Günter’s stockloft includes a child of ‘Ringlose Nr. 12' as one of the partners. Günter was also very successful with a daughter from ‘Our Louis' x 'Sister Eric' from Koopman and son. This hen—linked to 'Ringlose Nr. 12’—was mother of the 2nd National Ace Pigeon of Germany in 2003.
Nowadays, Günter is continuing on this basis by crossing the children of top pigeons with descendants of ‘Ringlose Nr. 12 '. In recent years, for example, he has introduced birds from Franz Revermann, Gaston van de Wouwer, Dirk van Dijck, Andre Bellens, Gert-Jan Beute and Van Leest-Peeters. Günter also prefers bringing in pigeons from one of his own descendants, albeit only in part. That’s why he bought birds from German top talent Dirk de Beer who resulted from pairings between ‘Ringlose Nr. 12' x daughter of 'Kleine Dirk' (Koopman) and a brother of 'Olympiade' from Gust Janssen x a daughter of ‘Kleine Dirk’. This means the input is related to Günter’s basis, which is largely based on the Koopman pigeons.
Nowadays, Günter concentrates mainly on widowhood with cocks, although in the past he also raced hens—and did so very successfully. At that time, the cocks and hens were played in individual names and several times this also meant that he won the first two places in the championships. To make things easier for himself —and to keep envy under control—Günter abandoned playing with hens quite some years ago.
The widowers always get to see their hens for 15 to 20 minutes before basketing. Once they are lying quietly in their breeding tray, Günter puts them in the basket, and then allows them to stay alone in the dark of the barn for some time, so that they go into the baskets nice and quietly.
Günter’s racing lofts sit on top of the shed in the garden behind his house. They are spacious, airy lofts in line with the idea having a box in the barn. The lofts are also consistent with the importance Günter attaches to fresh air. Based on this idea he lets the birds run loose a lot during winter, and, when the pigeons are in, the windows are fitted with nets. Although this means that the pigeons sometimes nearly get blown out of the loft during strong winds and seek shelter at the front of the loft under the window, Günter swears by this method.
Given that Günter approaches all aspects of pigeon racing very thoroughly, he also aims for simplicity in all that he does. That is why he was looking for a base mixture which he could give to his pigeons all year round. He found the right mixture—consisting of as many as 20 ingredients—from Belgian firm Beyers. Beyers has now put this mixture on the market under the name Prange Grand Prix.
Prange Grand Prix is an all-round mixture which can be fed to pigeons all year round. The basis of the mixture consists of small Cribbs corn, dari and safflower. The high proportion of hempseed in the mix—a massive 9%—s striking. Günter is a strong believer in hempseed and even adds more hempseed during breeding and racing periods given its high content of fat and proteion.
In terms of supplements, Günter swears by his own product for supporting the health of his birds; the well-known ‘Prange Suppe’ (‘Prange Soup’). This is given to the pigeons 2 to 3 times a week. In addition, he attaches great importance to the use of animal protein to aid a speedy recovery. On the day after the pigeons return home, he therefore mixes in Powerplay (which he obtains directly from Isostar before it is processed for human use), with egg powder from Johannes Jacob into the food. When the pigeons are ready for further flights during the season, Günter gives his birds additional amino acids.
In the medical field, Günter monitors his pigeons closely. He does not do this by regularly administering treatment to his birds, but rather by getting his pigeons examined every three weeks and only acting on medical advice. The checks are carried out alternately by Dr Fernand Mariën and Dr Nanne Wolff, who are both consulted every six weeks.
Günter is a fancier with strong views and during our conversation he dubs two things which some regard as being essential to success, as nonsense. The first involves the role of money in the sport. Günter indicated that he thinks it nonsense to spend a lot of money on pigeons. The fact that he is right on this point is not only evident from his own results, but also from the results of many others who have a small budget, and yet have been extremely successful. Good birds can also be obtained thanks to friendship or by reading scores carefully.
And finally, Günter Prange’s best 2010 results, which were achieved with just a limited group of cocks raced on classic widowhood:
09/05 Hilden (168 km) 1908 p. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-19-79, etc. (17/24)
30/05 Koblenz (261 km) 1724 p. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-27-43-95, etc. (15/23)
20/06 Achern (453 km) 4122 p. 1-2-3-4-14-16-30-46, etc. (09/12)
27/06 Müllheim (544 km) 3406 p. 5-7-10-19, etc. (08/09)
17/07 Koblenz (261 km) 634 p. 1-2-3-4-5-10-14-20-38-62-79-82 (12/12)
24/07 Chalon (660 km) 2063 p . 1-3-6-11-22-58-66-234 (08/08)