When I was just entering my teens in the 1950s I first became aware of the name of Hansenne, for within a valley of the Sperrin Mountains, some members of the two local pigeon clubs which included my father had representatives of this pigeon strain. Little did I know then that this was considered one of the great distance strains. In fact, I was ignorant of the meaning of the word 'strain' and of the country of its origins, Belgium.

In my recall of a period of time long gone, I wonder how the Hansennes managed to play a part in the sport in a small valley beyond the foothills of the Sperrins. Where did they come from? Who brought them? Yet they succeeded in channel races from Milford Haven, Bude and Penzance. So in researching this article I am now more informed about the strain although still ignorant of their origins in Ireland. For, alas, generations of local fanciers from the area have since gone to that big loft in the sky and I am bereft of their knowledge.

Alexander Hansenne was from Verviers in Belgium and before he died in 1903 he had molded a strain of outstanding racing pigeons. In fact, the late A.H. Osman attributed the Hansennes as being the primary base of the then emerging English strains at the beginning of the last century. In his writings, the same authority believed that Hansenne was the greatest long distance racer of his day.

Some of Hansenne's best birds included 'Le Criquet', hatched in 1877, and as a racer was 1st National from Paris, 1st from St. Benoit and 3rd from Tolosa. There was also an outstanding racer known as 'Calvi' who amongst other successes was 1st from Calvi. There was also the great 'Le St. Vincent ' which was 2nd St.Vincent and 1st St. Benoit and Agen respectively.

Alexander Hansenne was known to have bought up more than one loft in his pursuit of a particular bird or birds, culling the others in the process. Where breeding was concerned, he had a policy of never breeding off a cock until it was raced hard at the longer races. As a family, they were composed mostly of dark checkers with traces of bronze and short in legs and necks. Chest wise they were not so broad as other families of the time. His commitment to the long distance races was extreme by reputation and there is no doubt although he would not have been aware of it, that this contributed to the advancement of the long distance and marathon type of pigeon racing which we are witnessing today.

The Hansenne bloodline lies at the base of many of the old Belgian, British and other world strains. Indeed this maestro was a pivotal figure in our sport and Wanroy, and Aarden, etc, and others of today owe much to this outstanding pioneer.