Leo Van Rijn the undisputed King of the Dutch pigeon sport
I have always had the greatest admiration for men with a small basket and big results and this is most definitely the order of the day for the phenomenon and fanatical fancier who is the victorious Van Rijn from De Lier in the Southwest of Holland , a stone’s throw away from the port of Rotterdam.

The lofts at De Lier contain no more than 24 cocks raced on the classic widowhood system which, by modern Dutch standards, is a microscopic amount of pigeons, and yet these pigeons don’t just race - in fact they set the heavens ablaze for Leo, who is a master in the art of motivating pigeons. He is a fancier of the old school, in as far as he has a finely tuned instinct for quality which enables him to produce pigeons with the capacity to excel in the premier races the Dutch pigeon sport has on offer!
Like the majority of fanciers the roots of my passion for pigeon racing stems from my father who, today, is as fanatical about what the great Piet De Weerd referred to as “the Racehorse of the sky” as he was when he first began racing competitively at the tender age of seven years old under the tutelage of an elderly neighbour by the name of Syd Brown. It is fair to say that our present partnership owes the late Mr Brown a great debt for, without him, me and Dad would not know anything about the sport that continues to enrich our lives to the present day! Throughout his years in the sport my Dad has encountered success right up to National level. Winning the British Barcelona Club's Nantes race back in year 2004 with a pigeon that I had the great honour of naming 'The Don', some events are such turning points in our lives that the good Lord permits us to recall every microscopic detail in a fashion similar to the masters of the renaissance who have a clear image imprinted upon their minds eye long before the brush and paint touch the canvas. That moment was special to me for several reasons, firstly I had seen my Dad win one of the premier clubs in the country and the hard work and dedication that such a task requires and I had the exhilarating thrill of seeing a National winner hurtle home to victory. Truth be told, I think this event is the reason for the vast extent of my obsession with racing pigeons; the greatest and most rewarding drug there is!
'The Don' contained the premiere bloodlines of a fancier with an outstanding reputation for excellence at the very top of the Dutch pigeon sport, a reputation that has gone from strength to strength season after season, while many pretenders to his crown have fallen upon their swords, leaving the one and only Leo Van Rijn to be crowned the undisputed 'Pigeon King' of the Netherlands . Leo van Rijn, like most boys of his generation was already fascinated by nature. There were no X-boxes or other forms of technology to pollute the minds of the young in those far-off innocent days. So it was easy for a young and inquisitive mind such as Leo’s to be captivated by the spirit of competitive pigeon racing which marks his native Holland as a hotbed for our beloved sport. In a recent conversation he told me that one of his father’s employees introduced him to pigeons. The close contact with a living animal plus the racing aspect made pigeon racing and all it entails an intoxicating passion for the young lad from De Lier and the rest, as they say, is history. Over time the name Leo Van Rijn was to become a name linked with top performances, reaching the attention of one of the true characters and astute stud owners ever to come from the British Isles - the late Mr Eddy Wright of Fountainhead Lofts - a man we had the privilege to call a dear friend. I believe if my memory is correct it was in the late 80s to early 90s that Eddy Wright and my father first visited Leo's lofts. At this time he was already considered a champion, thanks largely to the successes of his tremendous pigeons such as 'The King', best middle distance pigeon of all Holland in the prestigious WHZB competition , which roughly translates as “who has the best”. Well in the 1991 season it was Leo and 'The King' who reigned supreme .This truly remarkable pigeon scored top prizes in his racing career, racing against the top lofts in the Netherlands, against something in the region of 30 thousand pigeons . I am sure readers will appreciate that as a writer there are not enough sufficient adjectives in the English language adequate enough to describe this excellent example of a true champion and typical example of the competitive strain that is the racing pigeons of Van Rijn. These pigeons don’t just win, they break and indeed make records. There is no doubt in mind that these birds and the fancier behind them are amongst the very best in the history of pigeon racing anywhere in the world. One might say that the lofts of our subject are steeped in Royal blood, as is proven by the standard of top quality racing pigeons Leo has had over the years. Believe me, my friends, once you have seen these pigeons work their magic it is something that you will remember for a lifetime. Over the years the colony Van Rijn has continued to grow in strength with an array of stars that have helped to cement the name firmly at the very top of the podium of professional pigeon racing.
In the 2014 season a beautiful blue hen with all the classic attributes that are the calling card of his winged warriors, with the number 653 on her band, set the skyline of De Lier alight with prolific performances. She would later be known as 'Marja 653' after she won the 1st Ace pigeon in the mighty WHZB 2014. As previously stated the WHZB is a jewel in the crown of pigeon racing in the Netherlands and quite simply only the best of the best are capable of winning this great title. Now let us take a closer look at some of her racing results :
26-07-2014 Asse-Zellik 123 km 5 - 4815 p.
16-08-2014 Peronne 247 km 8 - 3678 p.
23-08-2014 Roye 275 km 39 - 3225 p.
30-08-2014 Pt.-St.-Maxence 321 km 22 - 2655 p.
07-09-2014 Moeskroen 153 km 6 - 2185 p.
She truly is a hen to be proud of and one that most fanciers are only capable of dreaming about, but as a wise man once said “if you can dream it you can do it” and when it comes to the sport of pigeon racing , Mr Leo Van Rijn really is the man with the Midas touch!
Within these lofts is a solid foundation of producers. This highlights the fact that not only is the winning of major prizes a top priority for this fancier but he also wishes to secure the genetic future of the colony by ensuring he has enough first prize winners present in the breeding loft. This is something he has down to a fine art indeed. The base of the Van Rijn birds stretches back to the 1970s and it is this line that produced the famous 'Benjamin', a 1994 pigeon who raced with great success but proved the old adage of “racing is silver but breeding is gold” and 'Benjamin' certainly proved to be worth his weight in gold when he was moved into the breading loft . His name runs like a golden thread linking the dynasty of Leo van Rijn with sporting success. There are a great many fanciers within the British Isles who owe this champion breeder a debt of gratitude, as thanks to him their lofts have won some of the greatest races in the top and strongest competitions that the British fancy has on its racing calendar.
Leo was the proprietor of an extremely successful glasshouse business. Throughout this time he continued to dominate the Dutch racing scene. Retirement from his business commitments has now enabled him to devote his time to his life’s passion; pigeon sport at the highest level. In turn his pigeons have responded in their hallmark fashion by winning top prizes in strong and challenging competition. Nine times out of ten the bigger the number of birds the better these remarkable specimens of pure racing machines perform. They seem to thrive in tough competition and when the going gets tough the Van Rijn birds get going. To prove this let’s have a look at some of the successes achieved by Leo with his old pigeons in the 2017 season - they are simply sensational!
1-2-3-5-13-16 etc against 4084 pigeons
1-2-8-14-34-39 etc against 8471 pigeons
1-2-26 etc against 8543 pigeons
1-2-7 against 3874 pigeons
'The Benjamin' a top Van Rijn pigeon, and arguably one of the greatest breeders of all time!
It has been my absolute privilege to pen this Pigeon King exclusive article on a fancier I regard as one of the great masters of our beloved sport, who despite his tremendous levels of outstanding success season after season and all that it brings, has remained humble and always enjoys the simple aspects of pigeon racing like talking with his many friends who share his passion for the great and wonderful sport. Leo, my friend, I wish you many more happy and successful years at the top. You are a man of honour and a true professional.
In my time as a scribe I have written many articles and I have enjoyed them all, but this article has presented me with one of the greatest challenges of my writing life for the simple reason that it has taken me many nights of reading through Leo's outstanding results to try and present my readers with the very best. This is something of an impossible task as never in all my years as a fancier have I encountered such a successful continental loft which really can be classed as truly successful small team fanciers. I could have filled volume upon volume of results of the phenomenon of pigeon racing that is Leo Van Rijn, but such a task would, I am sure, take me a thousand years. Yes he really is that good. No. Forget 'good'. He is a fanatical fancier who strives to push the boundaries of sporting excellence further than those around him each and every season. Without doubt he is the very embodiment of what it takes to succeed in today’s highly contested pigeon game. It was the great fancier and writer of yesteryear King Jack who said, “be bold be determined be dedicated!”. These truly are qualities deeply rooted within the mind, body and soul of this successful star of global pigeon sport .
There are no quick roads to success nor magic potions that turn pigeons into champions. Only with a solid foundation of stock, a good routine and strict selection policy can a fancier be propelled towards the realms of success, and this is something the marvellous Mr Van Rijn seems to have grasped from his formative years in the fancy, and which he continues to cling to until this very day .
With such an infectious degree of passion for the sport it is in no way surprising to me by any stretch of the imagination that Leo has had so much success against some of the greatest fanciers in a nation rooted in the glorious history of our captivating hobby.
The king himself Leo van Rijn surrounded by his beautiful trophies ; symbols of a glittering career at the very top of professional pigeon sport. Nobody does it better!