Jos Thoné, Niel-bij-As (B)

His name is a synonym for obsession - for obsession of pigeon racing. He is a romantic idealist in matters of pigeon- sport, an athlete for every discipline, a man who plays everything, from the short distance until the extreme long distance. With his ideas he sets standards in the international sport of pigeon racing. The great Jan Grondelaers named him his legitimate successor many years ago.

What hasn’t he won yet? Everywhere he was on the top of the podium. He didn’t leave anything out. But still, many sports fans will now ask themselves: Just who is this pigeon breeder this book is about? His name is Jos Thoné and his ideas shall be presented here. By the way, the accent is on the second syllable of the name

Thoné. For Jos it is very important that his name is pronounced correctly. Many years ago he was called "crown prince of the Belgian sport of pigeonracing" or "Wonderboy" by various reportages, but whose "crown prince"? "Wonderboy" on the other hand, hits the nail on the head. Concerning pigeons Thoné is in fact a real wonderboy. Years ago - at the beginning of his great career- he said: "I’m going to win the "Gouden Duif" of Belgium." This competition is being called out every year from the well-known pigeon sport magazine "De Duif". The "Golden Duif" is one the most sought after trophies of the Belgian,

Dutch and German sport of pigeon racing. And Jos Thoné didn’t want to win the competition in fifteen years time, but before.

He wanted to win it tomorrow or the day after. And in 1993 he did. In the style of Eddy Merckx, without much showing off, he went after it, and fulfilled himself one of many wishes, which all came true. Actually, one should think that after winning almost everything in the national and also in the international pigeon sport he has "eaten his fill".

It is not the idea of Jos Thoné to quit, or cut down a bit. He is still fascinated by homing pigeons and the pigeon sport. So let us take a closer look at the man from Niel-bij-As. Jos Thoné, born 1961, lives in Niel-bij-As, a small village just a few kilometres away from the industrial city Genk in the province of Limburg, with his beautiful and charming wife Gaby and his two sons Xavier and Maxim. A famous pigeon breeder from Limburg - Can that be? In the story of the Belgian sport of pigeon racing there haven’t been many famous breeders from this area. Traditionally, the Flemings are the ones who are the top of the sport.

But that’s not fully correct, because just a stone’s throw from Niel-bij-As you find Opglabbeek, a place to which many pigeon breeders made a real pilgrimage in the sixties and seventies. In these years, the great Jan Grondelaers lived there. Jos Thoné has been admiring this man, since making the first steps in the sport of pigeon racing in his younger years. Jan Grondelears who has been a legend in the Belgian sport of pigeon racing for a long time was his role model. In his spare time Jos used to ride to Opglabbeek by bike to stand at Jan Grondelaers’ fence looking full of awe at the lofts. He wanted to be like Jan Grondelaers some day. You want to know, if he made it? I’m of the opinion, that Jos Thoné has, regarding the success, outdistanced him.

Jos Thomé, one can only respect that, is very good in his field, be it the breeding or the racing. He is above others in his knowledge about pigeon breeding. He is an experienced man, a thinker, a man always being on the look out in matters of sport of pigeon racing.

Please go on reading attentively and calmly to see what Jos Thoné has to say. Looking at his success, he has to have quite a lot to say.

Pigeons accompany his path of life

Jos Thoné was born in Maasmechelen, a city at the Belgian-Dutch border, just a few kilometres from his residence of today. His parents had been infected by the so called "pigeon bacillus" already and so it isn’t a surprise to anyone that in no time the small Jos was infected, too.

"I became a pigeon breeder because I was sitting on a loft before I could even walk. After my father had taken me to his pigeons as a baby frequently, I crawled to the pigeon loft again and again even before I could stand on my own two legs", Jos says. These first years have influenced Jos Thoné’s life. By the way, his first word is to have been "pigeon". He was not able to get away from the pigeons. Soon he helped his father with the pigeon lofts, and in school his main interests lay in the design and construction of pigeon lofts. In the morning before school he cleaned the lofts and after coming home he could be found at the pigeons again.

Until about 1977, Jos played together with his father in Maasmechelen. Here, the family Thoné was among the better racers, but they didn’t belong to the top. Before Jos could play at his own account, there were still many years to pass. Because secondary he also had to come to terms with his vocational training. He studied computer sciences in Hasselt and later gave seminars in this subject in the afternoons and evenings. So during the day he had a lot of spare time to spend with his beloved pigeons.

The day came on which the Thoné family moved from Maasmechelen to As. And accurately there the well known loft from Thomas Peeters and his son existed.

In that time, the Peeters had won the 1st prize national of St. Vincent for the second time. The work was too much for Thomas Peeters and he was desperately searching for someone to take care of his lofts. So Peeters asked Father Thoné. But he declined because he was not keen on constantly scraping droppings in a loft not belonging to himself, but made the suggestion that Jos could do the job. When Thomas Peeters came to know that Jos was just sixteen years old, he was quite sceptical. But he recruited Jos who, from this time on, had to keep the Peeters’ pigeon lofts clean. In other words: He had to scrap droppings. Surely, it was not a nice job. But Jos did not only learn cleaning the lofts, he also got to know the pigeons. Soon he was more familiar with them than Thomas Peeters himself, and so he became the driving force behind the scenes of the famous loft Peeters & Son.

Thomas Peeters had six children, three daughters and three sons. By the way, the youngest daughter, Gaby, was to play an important role in the life of our Jos.

The most well-known son of Thomas Peeters is Dr. Norbert Peeters, the worldfamous pigeon veterinarian. Jos quickly felt at home at the Peeters. They were very satisfied with his work. But after approximately six months, Jos showed almost more interest for Gaby than for the pigeons. He was in raptures about Gaby and the pigeons.

As a retrieval of his honor, one should point out that Jos never neglected his duties at the lofts although being very much in love. In 1988, Gaby became Jos’ wife and later on the mother of his two sons. Up to this day, his rapture about Gaby and the pigeons hasn’t been limited in any way.

Thirteen years, from 1977 till 1990, the young Jos was employed by Thomas Peeters. At first he was happy to clean up the droppings on the pigeon lofts of his father-in-law. But very soon, they recognized the true talents of Jos and made him loft manager. For Jos it was an interesting and at the same time an instructive period.

His father-in-law, Thomas Peeters, was a famous pigeon breeder and his brother-in-law Norbert a worldfamous veterinarian for pigeons. Jos learned a lot in As but his thirst for knowledge was insatiable.

Because of him being a hard-working person, having ideas and a feeling for the pigeons Jos could contribute in an essential way to the world success of Peeters & Son’s loft. Great national flights were played in an exceeding way, important championships were won and in this time the great "Diego Armando Barcelona" (B83- 5060602) was born and played.

From 1985 on, this bird which exceeded everything flew top prizes in Barcelona four times in a row. In 1985 he won the 14th international against 17.060 pg., in 1986 the 9th international against 18.076 pg., in 1987 the 622nd international against 21.545 pg. and 1988 the 295th international against 21.194.

In the years in which Jos Thoné worked as loft keeper or loft manager, the loft Peeters & Son achieved great success. Two times they could place the 1st national Ace Pigeon of Belgium and once they got to be general Belgian champion. On top of those prizes one can add more than 20 provincial victories, a 1st prize national Montauban and a 1st prize international of Lourdes, altogether something to be proud of.

Jos hadn’t just gone through an apprenticeship, but had produced a lot of ideas in various areas. Looking back Jos says: "I worked hard. In scraping droppings I was the master. The whole lot of dung would be as high as the highest hill in Belgium, besides the Ardennes. More than 1000 pigeons had to be taken care of every day and the lofts were being scraped two times per day. I often thought that that didn’t make much sense and asked myself if there weren’t any other possibilities." Years later, at his own lofts, Jos realized the solutions, he had been already thinking of at that time. But later more to that.

Already in his younger years, Jos Thoné aimed at calling a house and a pigeon loft with only the best pigeons his own, when he would be 30 years old. But for that plan one needed money and so there was the problem. Jos couldn’t expect anything from his family. He didn’t have any rich relatives, who could have helped them. Jos and Gaby had to go it alone. There was no other way than saving as much as was possible. At times Jos had three different sources of income. He took care of his father-in-law’s pigeons, worked underground in a coal mine and gave computer- science courses in the evenings.

In 1989 at last, Gaby and Jos could begin with the construction of their house and the pigeon lofts. They had been presented a piece of property at the Kruisstraat in Niel by Gaby’s father Thomas Peeters and had saved the necessary seed capital. Out of financial reasons neither the house nor the pigeon lofts were fully completed for the time being.

Jos also wanted to play with pigeons, wanted to have success with his own name. And he was to succeed. In the beginning of 1991, the pigeon lofts at Kruisstraat 7 were partly completed. They were immediately occupied with juvenile pigeons, and so Jos Thoné could, for the first time in his life, play on his own account. It got to be a starting like in a picture book, just like our Jos Thoné liked it. Right on the first Sunday he won a 1st prize. With his young team he achieved four provincial victories in 1991: 1st of Reims (227 km) against 4.208 pg., the 1st of LaSouterraine (611 km) against 1.269 pg., the 1st of Argenton (576 km) against 2.958 pg. and the 1st of Vierzon (495 km) against 646 pg. It couldn’t have worked out any better.

It was the beginning of the unstoppable rise of Jos Thoné. Years would follow, in which he would outclass the wthe whole Belgian sport of pigeon-racing-elite.

Jos Thone: House Husband and Pigeon Fancier – Perfect in every respect

Maybe it’s a good idea to deal with the person of Jos Thoné a bit more intensively at this part. In 1988 – as already described – Jos married his Gaby. After the wedding Gaby decided to carry on working in a bank, as it was her profession. Jos was agreed, they made a special arrangement: Since this time, Jos cares about the household and the two sons’ education. He is a perfect house husband - as I experienced more than enough by myself.

It’s your turn now to guess whether he took the role of the house husband because of his wish to play with pigeons. His life as a house husband  made certainly advances to his passion of playing pigeons. Maybe it was only the cherry on the top to achieve complete success. There are no limits for specs.

Jos Thoné is a pigeon enthusiast who cannot be measured by ordinary standards. In his thoughts about the sport of pigeon racing he is ahead of the times. It can be recognised in many small details. At the Kruisstraat, nothing is left to chance. Jos Thoné is keenly ambitious, he absolutely wants to win and it seems as if he can transmit his will for victory onto his pigeons. He goes to any lengths for them and it often appears as if his pigeons do the same for him, their master. After the flight is ahead the flight, that’s an old pigeon fanciers’ sagacity. For Jos Thoné as well. Whereas the last flight hasn’t been finished yet, he is already mindful of his next challenge, with all its consequences concerning the preparation and provision of his animals.

For all professionalism, Jos still works wholeheartedly. He is an animal lover. He loves his family and his pigeons above all things and he attained what he had wanted. He is a lucky person. Many pigeon breeders assume that he’s a great player only for long distances. If it is only dealt with his successes superficially, one can reckon this opinion to be true. But in reality nothing is less true. Jos Thoné won the world championship of Versele Laga four times. In order to succeed in this championship, you have to score in competitions of all distances. Jos participates successfully in flights of short, medium and long distances. He’s an allround-player for distances from 100 until 700 kilometres. Additionally, he has got his special pigeons for the extreme long distances, those above the limit of 700 kilometres. In all categories, he is triumphant. Jos Thoné is perfect in every respect.