February 1985

An American Strain

by Bob Kinney
Silverado Racing Lofts

Without a doubt, one of the greatest losses we suffer in the U.S. is a lack of distinction for developing our own families or strains of birds. It's not because we don't, for many of the prominent lofts around the country have them to some extent or another. It's not because these birds aren't comparable in quality, for most are even superior. Genetically, many are more "pure" than the most famous European strains.

It's hard to say the reasons for all this, but it's my feeling that the primary one is our vast geographical area. Besides a vast difference in terrain, race conditions, & so on, the fame of individual lofts and birds has little effect on other flyers outside the immediate area; therefore, as a point of reference, we call them by the European names. Some families do gain national prominence and we end up with the Rotundo Bricoux, Calia Janssens, Vernazza Janssens, Lorenze Stassarts, Gault Haveniths, McCrudden Gordons. Ahlstrand Gordons, and Heitzman Sions.

To date, only one strain has gained and retained its individuality and is recognized as an American strain. These are obviously the Trentons. Their ability has been a legend for decades on the long races. Nor do I think they are a dead strain. I know where many fine ones are housed and several lofts that fly them successfully.

I firmly believe that a loft of birds unflown for a couple or three generations may as well be destroyed. Even with expert selection there is no way to judge what is in the head and heart except by racing the birds. It's one thing to select a brother or sister to a good racer that's unflown for stock purposes and quite another to select a young bird from unflown parents which in turn are from unflown parents off of some famous racer as a stock bird. It's a shame to believe it's possible.

I had the pleasure the other evening of looking over the stock birds of another AMERICAN STRAIN in Hackemer Lofts. Before getting into the history and background of this family, I should state that they are scattered in small quantities from coast to coast. So that you have some idea as to their national reputation, they have won the Disney 600 in California, been the strain to beat in New York, and have been instrumental in Horst winning All American Awards.

The birds are medium with very soft feathers and two outstanding features - actually three. First, they have an abundance of soft supple muscle. Second, their eyesign is consistently superior. I don't just mean that each bird has good eyesign, I mean that each bird has a wide inner circle that is serated or roped and the color variety is outstanding, which is crucial to their maintenance of quality. The third thing is that virtually each bird in the breeder loft is a multiple diploma winner; many are first combine winners from 200 to 600 or brothers and sisters to these that have won diplomas as well.

They are all related to one extent or another. The current foundation hen has bred 25 individual first place winners. I handled her and 8 first place winners directly off her plus three other of her children out of the 12 to 15 pair used for stock. 3503 is a daughter of hers that is destined to be the next foundation hen, having already bred many winners.

They fly all distances and speeds, but excel at 1000 to 1400 yards and 100 to 500 miles. The colors are BB, BB Splash, BC, and a couple of dark checks. There are no reds in the original birds. In one well-known Chicago loft, a red grizzle cock was crossed in. Then the birds were inbred again for generations with outstanding results, but this is the only known existence of a few reds in this strain that could be called straight.

These birds cross super well with about every family of birds, but it isn't necessary due to the expert breeding that's been done to maintain their racing integrity.

The Manor Loft Fabrys flew a lot of this blood in their birds. Vic Giovenko of Ohio flew the family with great success and after his death and dispersal sale many lofts are flying up a storm with his birds. In Hawaii the birds are known as Magers and most of us know how they fly over that tough course. Ed Minvielle has a son of the STAR PAIR in Louisiana that's bred a number of first combine winners. A famous loft in Buffalo has used them as a cross.

The birds are the Ghesquieres, then called the Spannenbergs, and now called the Hackspans. Their origin was with Ernie Ghesquiere. Ernie's sister Mary was married to Paul Veegaete. Ernie had moved from Detroit to Chicago and his birds originated from Paul and from his brother in Detroit. Ernie and his brother traded birds over the years but kept virtually no records. The only known cross put into the Ghesquiere Brothers birds was the Johnny cock from McNamara, which was famous in Chicago and which was a Vermeyen.

Ernie Ghesquiere was the undisputed great of Chicago. He totally dominated the races, particularly the 300's where the money was, from about 1944 to 1952. Back in those days Chicago had 350 to 450 lofts shipping the races and during those years, George Spannenberg started acquiring birds from Ernie Ghesquiere.

Spannenberg was a master record keeper, flyer, and breeder. When he started flying the Ghesquieres, their reputation was at 300 miles; he took them on out and dominated the 500's with them. Each time he'd take a first 500 with one, before he'd even call it in, he'd call Ernie Ghesquiere and tell him. Ernie would say, "Well, the parents are off of such and such and so on." Spannenberg made notes of all these instances and before long knew the winning bloodlines of the Ghesquiere family better than the master. This is how he pieced together the family until he could make pedigrees which later proved invaluable to the existence of this family.

In 1952 Ernie Ghesquiere sold out at auction. The birds went for such high prices that no single loft purchased a dominance of the family; but George Spannenberg had a nucleus already and was flying up a storm on the long races. Five friends and training partners of Spannenberg's purchased birds at the Ghesquiere sale and each became a master in his own right with these birds. They were George Zahnen, John Trybus, Bob Bach, Wally Mager (shoot - I forgot the fifth) - but anyway, as time passed, these greats quit, died, etc., and in each instance George Spannenberg acquired the best 2 or 3 birds in each loft to add to his already awesome family.

George Zahnen died in 1966 and Al Moncada and Spannenberg bought the entire loft. Spannenberg kept 2 and sold 9 to Horst Hackemer. Moncada and Spannenberg then sold the rest. When John Trybus was on his deathbed he gave his best two hens which had originated from Spannenberg back to George. Before Bob Bach up on Northwestern University sold out, two birds went to Spannenberg. The same thing happened when Wally Mager quit.

It was one thing to get these birds back from his friends, but you have to remember it was George Spannenberg who was the meticulous record keeper and knew the bloodlines of each acquisition as well as the racing and breeding records of each of these individual birds. He took his already incredibly dynamic Ghesquiere family and fortified it with the very finest birds from five lofts that were all related to his and who had become ace flyers in their own right.

The Spannenbergs were famous even to a teenager such as I was back in the 60's down in central Illinois. If I only knew then what I know now!!

Horst Hackemer knew then what I know now! In 1952 and the years thereafter, every night at 6 p.m. Horst was at Spannenberg's loft. He learned how to clean, feed, water, race, and breed birds. He'd get an egg, a five-day-old youngster, and so on until his loft consisted of the cream of George Spannenberg's loft. When George sold out in 1976, Horst purchased the whole works. which included breeding records, race records, and sales records of the birds.

The STAR PAIR was 73 JRF 5871 and 74 JRF 4714. This pair bred 21 first place winners which are now selling here and there at over $1000 each due to their breeding records. 5871 was bred by Spannenberg off of 71 LF 279 which was bred by Horst. 279 was off a cock bred by George Zahnen and its dam was the best hen Horst ever owned (she flew 6 races and won 5 first places). 279 was a gift from Horst back to Spannenberg and she went on to breed not only the STAR HEN, 5871, but also many other good breeders.

The STAR HEN is now mated to a brother of 4714, and in the last two years this pair, STAR PAIR II, has bred four more first place winners.

In 1971 Horst added a cross into the family. The bird was the Harper "Feather Foot Hen". She was a Fabry and daughter of the "Gentleman," a famous cock owned by Walter Keeger. The Harper "Feather Foot Hen" won first at all stations from 100 to 600 in good and bad weather. Horst bred four young off her mated to his best Ghesquiere cock. Three of these four youngsters won firsts! Once they were bred back to a Ghesquiere they were sold. (Fact is, Clarence Miller, the winner of the Great Lakes Classic Race this year, got a couple of them, but I don't know if he still has the bloodline).

Back to the present. The current foundation hen, 5871, has many children that are replacing her. Probably the most notable is 77-3503. She won first on the Lake County Auction Race in 1977, and some of her most notable winning young birds are: First 400 Chicago Open 1983, First Elgin Auction Race, First Lake County Auction Race. There are 8 or 9 other first place winners off her or more.

78-5109 is another daughter of 5871 and 4714. She flew 10 consecutive young bird races and besides winning a First Combine at 300 miles, sending Horst to Europe one time, and NEVER out of the money, she has bred winners!

This could go on but we all know the incredible flying record of Horst Hackemer, as well as his honesty and integrity in the sport. This American Strain holds its own along with his European birds in compiling that flying record.

Very few birds go from the United States to Europe, but several years ago, 2 eggs made their way to Belgium. This fall, the recipient of those eggs, Gust DerBoven, a prominent Belgian flyer who won 13 firsts & 2 provincials this past flying season, returned to visit Horst again. He wanted to see the parents of his "Americans," as he affectionately refers to them. They were out of two Registered AU Champions, the "Good Brother" and the "5109 Hen".

Gust decided he wanted to buy both birds. Horst said "no," since it is his practice to sell only youngsters, not breeders. After more urging, Horst agreed that one bird could leave the breeding loft. After scrutinizing flying and breeding records for 2 days, the choice came down to the "Good Brother" and the "Violet-Eye Cock," a full brother of "5109". The final choice was made scientifically by drawing a number out of a hat.

And so the "Good Brother," a Registered AU Champion, made his way across the Big Pond to Belgium as a representative of an American strain, the Hackspans. Naturally, he will be known there as THE AMERICAN!