National champion Mark Skovbo

Danish Champion Middle Distance Open: Mark Skovbo, 190 “Ikast”

By Michael Th. Larsen

The season of visits to championship lofts began for me on the third Saturday of September, where the journey took me to central Jutland – specifically to Bording, where this year’s Danish champion in middle-distance resides. This article will focus on Mark and his journey to the fantastic results the loft achieved in 2021. There are many funny and good stories to tell in this context, and I will try to share them with readers on the following pages.


A small loft with significant results

Fortunately, the myth that top results are created through quantity is just that – a myth. Instead, the quality of pigeons and the effort put into care, training, and overall pigeon management are crucial. Mark’s loft serves as a prime example of this. The season started with only 30 racing pigeons on the total widowhood, and by the end of the season, there were 28 pigeons remaining. Interestingly, the two lost pigeons both failed to return on the last middle-distance race in week 32. Before the season, Mark had carefully assessed the loft’s chances for success in the season’s races. Normally, the focus is on the small middle-distance races (all members can participate with four birds), but with a strong team of new, exciting pigeons that needed thorough testing in middle-distance races, the emphasis this year was on the open middle-distance races. Mark set an ambitious goal before the season to achieve a TOP-10 placement in the open Danish championship, and it can now be concluded that he succeeded admirably! Mark mentions that he is a middle-distance enthusiast, partly because the loft’s size doesn’t allow for larger participation in longer distances and partly because middle-distance races perfectly suit his temperament, which doesn’t have the patience required for working with long-distance pigeons. Mark also notes that he found great joy in Friday submissions for short middle-distance races, making it possible to enter pigeons in races every week throughout the season.


In addition to the coveted Danish championship title, Mark’s loft achieved several other impressive results during the season. It included four section winners, one of which was also the Prov. winner – the loft’s first ever. The other three section winners were also the fastest in the entire Group 6.


Mark naturally wins the open championship in middle distance in Section 61, and the 1-year championship in Section 61 also goes to Mark.


Regarding Ace pigeons, the super cock 190-19-335 holds the title of 1st National ace pigeon in the DdB’s all-round competition. On the sectional level, this translates to rankings of 1, 5, 9, and 10 for males and 1, 4, 6, and 8 for females, with the female 190-19-291 being the winner. This remarkable performance, in addition to the impressive overall championship results, testifies to the high quality of the loft’s top pigeons.



As mentioned, the pigeons fly on the total widowhood system. In 2021, the system was practiced “dry,” meaning racing pigeons were not paired with youngsters before the season. Instead, they were paired three weeks before the first race and allowed to lay eggs. After 3-7 days of incubation, the pairs were separated again, and the widowhood system was started and continued until the end of the season. The dry system practiced in the 2021 season was actually an exception from the usual practice on the loft, where racing pigeons are winter-bred together with the breeding pigeons. However, before the season, it was agreed that Mark’s good friend, Lasse Rasmussen from 055 “Vejle,” would test the entire round of winter youngsters from the breeding loft to test them primarily in DdB’s young bird races. Therefore, it was decided to forgo pairing the racing pigeons. In 2022, Mark plans to return to winter breeding for both racing and breeding pigeons. It’s worth mentioning that Lasse achieved several top results with these winter youngsters, which, considering the challenging program and distances around 400 kilometers, performed well throughout the season. The total system is practiced roughly according to the common pattern with some unique features. Males and females train separately around the loft for about an hour each morning while the loft is closed. They are kept indoors in the evening, and they are always kept indoors on Sundays after Saturday’s races. Sunday is a rest day, allowing pigeons to recover after the Saturday exertions. Mark trains the pigeons for 12-15 sessions before the season, starting with a 12-kilometer trip and gradually increasing the distances up to 35 kilometers. During these training sessions, the pairs are briefly closed together before basketing, and they are separated immediately after returning from training. Males and females are released alternately, with a five-minute interval, so that each pigeon is received by its mate every other time they return. This way, pigeons maintain good motivation, and they don’t consistently return to an empty nest. Before basketing on Thursdays, the pairs are not together, while on Friday basketing, they spend up to an hour together. According to Mark, the relatively long time spent together creates a calm atmosphere among the pigeons and lets them settle before basketing. Overall, Mark is very meticulous about basketing pigeons, always preparing them well in advance so that they don’t experience unnecessary stress during basketing. Upon returning, the duration the pairs spend together varies, assessed on a case-by-case basis, without specific consideration for whether a pigeon returns to an empty nest before its mate. However, looking at Mark’s close returns in races, any potential waiting time is also very limited!


Widow hens stay in a loft right next to the widow cocks, and during the season, the hens sit on regular perches without any arrangement to isolate them. The cocks stay in the breeding section all week, with access to the entire nest space and their inverted nest bowls. When males and females are released for training around the loft, it happens from their respective sections, so there is no rotational principle between the male and female sections for the total pigeons.


The old pigeons is normally not trained when the season is on, they train around the loft and participate in races every Saturday. However, this practice was changed mid-season this year when something happened in the garden that scared the pigeons. They seemed very restless and refused to land after loft training. The cause was never found, but Mark observed that the pigeons subsequently reacted to even the slightest abnormal movement. Therefore, he decided to change the home training to basket training. Thus, in weeks 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31, pigeons were trained on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in weeks with Friday basketing at 35 kilometers from Give, considered to be on the perfect flight path to the loft. In the first weeks, this training method had a significant impact on male results, while later, females took over in terms of top results. In week 32 – leading up to the national championship final – pigeons were not road trained. If there is a lack of motivation, Mark uses the trick of releasing males and females for joint morning training around the loft on Wednesdays. After the training flight, the pairs are together for 2-3 hours. The trick seems to work, as it has provided Mark with a male section win on two occasions and a female section win once.


Feeding, Health, and By-Products


The pigeons are fed with mixtures from Beyers, and the feeding program consists of three mixtures: Galaxy Sport Light, Galaxy Sport Energy, and Premium Koopman. On Saturdays and Sundays, a mixture of these three products is fed, while on Mondays and Tuesdays, 100% Galaxy Sport Light is provided. Additionally, upon their return, supplements in the form of peanuts are given to replenish the pigeons’ depots as quickly as possible after the race. During the remaining week, a mixture of Galaxy Sport Energy and Premium Koopman is fed. Males are provided with constant access to food in the trough, which is replaced twice daily. Females are also fed in the trough and have access to the food for one hour in the morning and evening, after which any remaining food is removed. Preventative treatments are given before pairing, including a full treatment against trichomonas, and in the week leading up to training, treatments for fungal infections are administered. The treatment against trichomonas is maintained with treatments every second or third week during the season, and as needed, treatments for respiratory infections are also administered. The latter treatment was given twice in the 2021 season, both times when the pigeons either spent an extra day in the baskets or the weather was hot.


The program for by-products is carefully scheduled. Upon the pigeons’ return on Saturdays, Tollyamin and Probac 1000 are added to the drinking water, while on Sundays, an addition to the grain consisting of TurboXcell, FuelXCell, and Probac Energy is provided. On Mondays, the same products are mixed with the grain, and for the remaining part of the week, only clean drinking water and grain without supplements and by-products of any kind are given. In general, Mark’s philosophy regarding by-products is that they should primarily ensure the pigeons’ recovery after weekend races rather than building them up for the challenges of the next weekend. Therefore, the products are introduced at the beginning of the week.


The Young Birds


There is room for approximately 45 young birds in the young bird loft, and this number constitutes the annual addition of young birds. Mark emphasizes that during home training, the young birds should fly well and preferably disappear from the loft for about an hour during daily exercises. Once the young birds have started their home training successfully, they are considered ready for basket training and receive about 10 training sessions before being sent on the first race. Mark prefers that the young birds participate in races, especially because, in relation to the total system, it is necessary to ensure reasonably intact pairs throughout the season, which is challenging if losses among the one-year-olds are too high. This strategy is evident in the 2021 statistics, where only two pigeons were lost throughout the season – both on the last race.


The Loft


The racing loft is built in Belgian style by Jan Pedersen, 216 “Aulum-Vildbjerg.” It is equipped with a section with 20 nests for widowhood males, and next to it is space for widowhood females with conventional perches. In front of the loft, aviaries are set up so that the pigeons can bathe and get fresh air without the risk of bird of prey attacks. Like many others, Mark faces this problem, and therefore, the pigeons are kept indoors from the end of the season until spring when the preparation of the pigeons’ condition begins. The racing loft faces south and is characterized by a good and dry environment with excellent ventilation. Two rows of roof tiles in the front of the loft have been replaced with transparent roofing material, allowing sunlight to enter the space and ensure a bright and warm climate for the racing pigeons. The young birds are in a separate loft next to it, with 55 perches available, while breeding pigeons are housed in an aviary behind the racing loft, providing space for approximately 20 pairs.


The Pigeons

A few years ago, Mark and Christian Hansen had a conversation about Belgian sprint lofts, which compete every week against many thousands of pigeons in large releases. In these releases, pigeons have to spread out over a quite extensive geographical area, and the races are conducted simultaneously over relatively short distances between 80 and 120 kilometers from the legendary station Quivrain. At the same time, Christian shared an experience he had in connection with the release of pigeons in a sectional race. According to Christian, one could observe how the race was “already won at the release” when a small group of pigeons quickly oriented themselves and took the direct route back to their home loft, while others spent minutes fumbling around in larger or smaller flocks. This conversation led Mark to think that top pigeons in these short races with many thousands of participating pigeons must possess a very special and refined sense of orientation combined with innate speed. There is no time to waste in these types of races – neither in terms of wrong direction, speed, nor entry into the loft. Pigeons that consistently performed well in these races must, in Mark’s opinion, be excellent to work with in the loft to strengthen the crucial traits that many pigeon fanciers dream of.


With Mark’s loft located as one of the southernmost in the competition area, it was interesting to focus on pigeons with a sharp ability to hit the mark in orientation and not get carried away by flocks further north, where too much time would be lost. This idea had to be put into practice, and in this context, Mark noticed the highly popular pigeons from Dirk Van Den Bulck – perhaps Europe’s “hottest” sprinter name in recent years. In the winter of 2018, Mark invested in a pair, and already in the first year, four daughters were bred, all of which proved to be good in breeding, including the hen “Marble.” This laid the foundation for the “Bulck adventure” in Mark’s loft, and in January 2019, Mark obtained 12 offspring of this lineage from a German loft for the sectional club’s auction. In connection with this auction, Mark initiated a partnership and breeding collaboration with Folmer Mikkelsen, who flies in 013 “Svendborg.” Together, they bought a pair at the auction, and most importantly, it marked the beginning of a strong collaboration and friendship, which today involves 30-40 pigeons in a joint breeding project focused particularly on Bulck pigeons. In this context, it should be mentioned that pigeons of the Van Den Bulck lineage account for 7 out of 10 shares in the Danish Championship. Mark had done the math and could tell that without the presence of Bulck pigeons in the loft, the first place in the Championship would have been exchanged for a still respectable but less glorious position as number 12!


Mark explains that Bulck pigeons have contributed very positively to the loft’s old family, showcasing excellent temperament and a strong dynamic. These pigeons exhibit great enthusiasm for flying and a will to “pull through” during home training. This dynamism positively influences the flock mentality of the pigeons, raising the level for the entire racing team. These are genuine sprint pigeons bred to perform over relatively short distances. Therefore, it’s relevant to ask how these pigeons fare when the difficulty of the races increases. At Mark’s loft, we can observe that they have handled the Danish middle-distance program with flying colors. Furthermore, Mark mentions that, for example, at Team Eriksson in Odense this season, there is an ace pigeon performing on the long-distance, indicating that Bulck pigeons can excel over longer distances.


In this presentation of the stock on Mark’s loft, we have emphasized the significance of Bulck pigeons and their impact on the development of results, but the original base of the loft should also be mentioned which consists of pigeons from Ebben and the old Grondelaers/Verstrate blood, which Mark has successfully worked with for many years. Additionally, there is a crucial breeding hen from the Dutch top loft Stabel & Zn., which, when paired with three different males have bred top birds, she is the mother of the super flyer 2553 3×1 section winner. This hen unfortunately got lost on the extremely challenging Bremen race in 2020, but 348 from Stabel has produced two of the year’s championship pigeons among them 291 1 ace hen section. The collaboration with Stabel & Zn. has resulted in an agreement where Mark receives two offspring from her every year to be tested in Bording, after she moved back to the Stabel loft, to breed even more top birds.


Mark mentions his occupation as a pigeon photographer as a welcome opportunity to have many top pigeons in hand during the winter. Aside from the pleasure of handling these pigeons, it also provides valuable insights into how the very best pigeons look, and Mark doesn’t miss the chance to leverage this experience in his own work with the pigeons. The breeding work can be exciting and challenge our perception of how top breeding pigeons should look. Mark shares a fun example: The father of the 1st National ace pigeon in 2021 was bred in 2018 from a closely inbred pairing of two pigeons from Ebben. This male was not well-built, and it didn’t help that he was born with “curls.” Arne Fjord, Mark’s former clubmate and mentor in pigeon racing, saw the pigeon, wrinkled his nose, and recommended Mark to remove the pigeon as it did not meet the standards. However, Mark was curious to see the pigeon’s development, especially since it was a product of inbreeding. During the winter, he got the idea to “pair the ugliest pigeon in the loft with the most beautiful pigeon,” the latter considered to be the Bulck hen “Marble.” This resulted in “Rode Kittel 335,” which in 2021 achieved the title of 1st National ace pigeon. A funny story that illustrates the need to be cautious about evaluating pigeons solely based on their physical characteristics.


In conclusion, this presentation of Mark gives insight into how he works with the pigeons and, most importantly, how he has built an extremely sharp population of pigeons through skilled and focused breeding efforts, placing a strong emphasis on top bloodlines. The upcoming season in 2022 is set to be exciting, with the talented Bulck pigeons gaining further foothold in the loft. It is highly convincing that the man behind the pigeons is ready to defend the title with a dedicated effort. Congratulations on a fantastic season, Mark, and thank



Mark concludes the conversation by expressing his appreciation for the pigeon sport and the many friendships he has formed over the years. He notes that he has received a lot of help and support from fellow pigeon enthusiasts, and he is grateful for the positive atmosphere in the sport. According to Mark, the pigeon sport is a fantastic hobby that provides joy, excitement, and camaraderie, and he encourages others to get involved and experience the unique world of racing pigeons.


In conclusion, the visit to Mark Skovbo’s loft was an enjoyable and informative experience. Mark’s loft may be small, but it has consistently produced top results, proving that quality is more important than quantity. Mark’s passion for the sport, combined with his meticulous approach to care, training, and management, has contributed to his loft’s success. The future looks bright for Mark and his racing pigeons, and it will be exciting to follow their journey as they continue to pursue ambitious goals in the world of pigeon racing.