Clandestino Lofts

Breeding and working thief pouters in Australia.


An example of the type of pouter we fly these days. Valenciana x Gaditano

I wrote this article for the ANPA newsletter in February 2010

The Working Thief Pouter


Gary Williams



 All pouter breeds are believed to be descended from pigeons taken to Spain sometime after 711AD by the invading Moors. The birds have since been developed into the various breeds of pouters we know today. Originally used for bringing home birds from other fanciers lofts for food the pure breeds are now predominantly show birds.


Recent History:

However, a fascinating sport has developed during the last 2 centuries that requires a pigeon that can fly well, has a high sex drive, but also have a great sense of self-preservation to prevent it from being trapped into a strange loft. The sport has its origins in Spain but soon spread through Europe and into Great Britain. Each area developed its own type of Working Thief Pouter by crossing available Pouters with homer types to improve the ranging ability and homing instinct of the birds. In Spain the Valenciano was created, in Holland it was the Dutch Tilduiven and in Great Britain the Horseman Pouter. Spanish immigrants to South America took their birds ensuring the spread of the sport throughout Latin America.



The sport of flying Working Thief Pouters is still very popular in Spain ( despite Franco banning it in favour of the Suelta sport using Picas ), in Den Hauge in Holland and in Scotland and border districts of Great Britain. It is also very popular in Argentina, Cuba and other Latin American countries as well as in the USA, in particular those states with high Latino populations like Florida and California.


The Sport:

Although differing slightly from country to country or indeed from one back yard to the next the principles are the same the world over. The cocks and hens are kept in individual boxes out of site of other pigeons. They are individually released with the intention of ranging in search of a mate and then returning home with new mate in tow. Each bird, be it cock or hen requires a high sex drive and a natural instinct of self preservation to avoid being captured in a strange loft. If your birds have those attributes then you will catch more that you lose.


The Working Thief Pouter:

The birds differ throughout the world being mainly cross breeds designed with the sport in mind and not for exhibition. The Working Thief Pouters differ from their show counterparts in that looks are second to ability. Crosses of the various Spanish breeds or Horseman Pouters ( most of which now have a high proportion of Spanish blood unlike their show counterparts ) Dutch Valenciana’s, Holle Croppers, and even a touch of homer blood to increase the ranging and homing ability, may make up the Thief Pouters. 


The Working Thief Pouter in Australia:

Several years ago I was looking at getting back into pigeons after a break of 4 years. I wanted a flying breed as I no longer had the time to travel to shows but I also didn’t want a large number of birds as that would then make it time consuming and also cause potential problems with neighbours. I had previously read on the internet about working thief pouters so I decided I would give that a go. The next problem was getting birds suitable to use as thief pouters. I remembered reading that  the Dutch Thief Pouters had a cross of Valenciana in them and I knew that Mario Fenech had Valenciana’s so it was a phone call to Tassie. Once Mario new what I was after he sent me some Valenciana’s but also gave me 2 cocks that have become the cornerstone of my development of Working Thief Pouters in Australia. The first was a spread brown Marchenero x Valenciana and the other was a red checker Marchenero x Norwich Cropper. Having the birds the next step was what to breed to what. By this time I had joined several Internet Forums dedicated to Working Thief Pouters, the best by far being Doo’s on the Board, run by well know British fancier Graeme Boyd. The fanciers on this forum have been a great help to my subsequent work towards how to achieve the required cross.

One of the key factors when creating a family of Working Thief Pouters is what are we out to catch. As I was the only person flying thief pouters the objective had to be catching ferals and stray homers. Many of the flyers in England have had to resort to flying against strays so they put me on the right path. One fancier in particular, Anthony Keeler, had already created a family of thief pouters, which he called Radar Pouters, and he pointed me in the right direction. Anthony’s birds are a cross of Racing homer, Laudino and Gaditano. I substituted Valenciana for Laudino and the Marchenero cross cocks in place of Gaditano at the suggestion of several members of the forum. They had done something similar, and created a thief pouter with increased ranging ability due to the homer blood, great powers of seduction to attract a mate and great sense of self-preservation to prevent trapping into a strange loft.

This breeding season will give me the birds I require to commence flying the Working Thief Pouters. My intention is to fly about 6 cocks and 8 hens as this is about the norm overseas. I would like to promote this sport in Australia as it is perfect for those that don’t have the time to look after a large team of birds as with other flying varieties or may have problems with neighbors that prevents flying big teams.  Competition would be great but is not essential as there are plenty of ferals out there to catch and you get to interact with those real characters of the pigeon world, the pouter pigeons.




An update to the above article.

In 2011 I moved from Horsham, Victoria to Dimboola, about 30km North West.  When I arrived in Dimboola I found that due to the close proximity of a large feral pigeon population I no longer required the homer crosses, so commenced breeding the crosses we still use today. These crosses are made up of Valenciana and Gaditano and work extremely well for us.

Original Thief Pouter Loft circa 2008 Horsham

Old Loft circa 2011 Dimboola