The 2012 season thus far has been dogged by bad weather and an unusually persistent easterly air flow over the British Isles. The old saying is "that when the winds in the east 'tis no good for man nor beast" - well that may be true on most occasions for most animals but one animal in particular has thrived under these conditions and that is none other than "Champion Cracker" a yearling blue pied cock bred and raced by Plymouth fanciers Steve and son Lee Luscombe. In the BICC Falaise National Cracker showed the other 3,636 competitors his rear view when under the influence of a strong easterly breeze he won 1st West Section 1st Open. Two weeks later, Cracker was at it again in the BICC race from Alencon when, for a short time he was thought to have "done the double" and won 1st Open for the second time. However, this was not to be as a clerical error in transcribing the phone in times was spotted and Cracker was relegated to a lowly 3rd Open!!
The following is the story of this remarkable pigeon and his fortunate owners.


Steve Luscombe started in the sport in 1962 keeping some street pigeons in a makeshift loft constructed from old doors. Steve's father had kept pigeons in his early years as had Steve's uncles , and it was on his regular visits to his uncles' lofts that kindled the pigeon bug in the young Luscombe.
Since those early days things have changed considerably as the present day Luscombe loft is an impressive 65foot L shaped concrete block structure.
This has a flat roof into which clear panels have been inserted to ensure that plenty of sunlight enters the loft producing a light and comfortable home environment. Vents have also been incorporated into the roof allowing air to flow unobstructed from the loft front taking stale air out through the roof vents. An internal corridor runs the full length of the loft allowing access to each of the six sections. There are two sections each for the old bird round about team, young birds and stock birds and the whole is completed with a large aviary at one end. Steve's friend Steve Weir who built the loft, has also included a corn store and look out section which has running water provided for ease of management.

Champion Cracker 1st BICC Falaise & 3rd BICC Alencon for Steve Luscombe of Plymouth

Champion Cracker 1st BICC Falaise & 3rd Open BICC Alencon

Steve & Lee Luscombe 1st BICC Falaise & 3rd Open BICC Alencon

The home of Champion Cracker

The Paul O'Leary stats file mentioned in text

The range of lofts of Steve Luscombe


The loft is cleaned thoroughly twice each day except for the stock birds which are kept on deep litter. The twenty pairs of stock birds and 18 pairs of round about racers usually breed around 100 young birds annually. Both the stock birds and racers are normally mated over the Christmas holiday period.
Once their domestic duties have been fulfilled the racers are separated and the home exercise routine begins. This takes the form of two one hour exercise periods for both the cocks and the hens each day. When Steve thinks they are ready for training they get two short tosses out to 15 miles before racing begins and very few if any thereafter.
The racers are fed at the rate of 1 ounces per bird per day and this amount is divided into two meals one after each exercise period. Peanuts are added to the racers' diet in the build up to the longer races. However, the amount fed may be adjusted as Steve sees fit The food is all provided by GEM corn of Southampton and Gem Best All Round is the mainstay of the Luscombe pigeons' diet. I should point out that the stock birds are fed ad lib in a hopper and there is no rationing with these.
Young birds are raced on the darkness system and this certainly doesn't seem to have harmed Cracker's career thus far!
All birds get the usual grit and mineral supplements and Steve is a great advocate for Cider Vinegar and Garlic administered via the drinking water.
This is kept to a minimum but the Luscombe racers do get a canker tablet given individually, every three to four weeks when racing.

The main bloodlines housed are Eric Cannons and some Busschaerts plus a few Janssens. These are inbred and Steve isn't too worried about their handling abilities or looks - just how well they race or breed. The following is an insight into the breeding and preparation of Champion Cracker:-
Champion Cracker is bred down from two top performing distance hens as he contains the bloodlines of Bob Brown's Tarbes hen as well as Steve's brother Terry Luscombe's, five times Tarbes hen- these being a combination of Janssen and Busschaert pigeons.
Raced on the round about system, this National [ almost double National] winner was mated in December, reared a pair of young birds and was then separated and placed on round about.
Champion cracker was bred from a hen (GB08S17775) that was loaned to Steve for ten days by his brother Terry of the Luscombe &Allen partnership. Two eggs from her were then fostered which when hatched produced Champion Cracker and a hen which Steve ringed with an old ring so that he could not race her and immediately placed her in the stock loft. Steve now wonders if she could be a racer too but he will never know because she is staying put in the stock loft!

GB08S17775 was bred from Terry Luscombe's long distance hen[GB 08 X 84027] which flew the Chanel with the NFC and recorded many prize winning performances including 1st club ,1st Fed 1st Combine as yearling & 2nd sect 3rd Open Poitiers NFC and 2nd sect 11th open Tarbes NFC when she was found in the loft by Terry's wife feeding GB08S17775.
GB08X84027 in turn was bred from two gift pigeons from Dave Sterry of Plymouth who had won them on a coach trip visiting lofts in Belgium and Holland. Dave advised Terry to try the pair in his stock loft due to not having any room at his own loft at that time. One of the pair was Peter Gjibel and the other was Gebr Bastiaans.
The sire of Champion Cracker was a gift pigeon from Bob Brown of Plymouth which was bred from blue pied cock GB06N 33280 which is Bob's best breeder and he in turn was bred from GB02P03507 Bob's best performing distance hen which flew Tarbes five times winning the best averages over four year period in the NFC She is Stichelbout x Busschaert.
The above mentioned two hens - GB03X84027 & GB02P03507, not surprisingly, were two of the best performing hens in the country according to Paul O'Leary's stats at the time.
There you have it then a brief insight into the breeding and conditioning of a truly remarkable racing pigeon which has set the pigeon racing scene in the UK alight in the early part of the 2012 racing season. Congratulations Steve and Lee on producing a great young racer. Let's hope he has many more years of successful racing left in him. Finally, my thanks to Gemma Jane for the photos that accompany this article.

Gareth Watkins