I was first contacted in early January by the Bahrain Jacobin Group to ask if I would judge their show on February 27th. At first I said it would not be possible due to my work commitments at home. However after discussing it with my wife she encouraged me to go assuring me everything would be okay in my absence. I then notified the Bahrain Group that I would indeed judge the Bahrain show and the rest is now history. To say I was excited would be an understatement. I had corresponded with so many breeders from the region over the years both privately and through the Jacobin discussion group and now at long last I would get to meet many of them in person. In preparing for my trip I was in constant contact with Ebrahim Yaqoob Youaif and Najeeb Rafie and they took care of all the details and answered all my questions. I cannot thank these two men enough for everything they did to make me feel at ease by having everything arranged for me.
I departed from Winnipeg on February 25th and the temperature was -25 degrees Celsius. Due to a heavy snowfall in Toronto where I had to switch planes my flight was delayed and I missed my connecting flight in London and had to wait 12 hours for the next flight with Gulf air. From the time I left Winnipeg until the time I arrived in Bahrain more than 30 hours had passed. I was very excited when I finally arrived in Bahrain only to find out my luggage was not on the plane with me. Ebrahim was there to greet me and take me to my hotel. When I walked out of the airport it was a very warm + 28 and it felt great. When I stepped into the hotel room I was surprised to see Neil Pratt whom I had first met several years ago when I judged San Bernardino. It was great to see Neil again. Neil was to judge the Bokhara's so we were both excited to get started. Ebrahim went and got some basic things for me to clean up and I had a quick shower and we were off to the show hall. There was no time to rest, the judging had to start and I had 350 Jacobins to go through and one day to do it in. I felt good and was ready and Ebrahim informed me that my luggage arrived soon after we left the airport so it was retrieved and I was able to change my clothes (can't imagine how I would have managed without my blue show coat lol). When I stepped into the show hall I was immediately met and greeted by many breeders who shared the same excitement and enthusiasm as myself. I immediately felt welcome among friends and that is the way it was for the rest of my stay. I soon felt that I did not deserve all the attention I was getting however I must admit it made me feel very good inside. Neil and I were stopped every few minutes to have our pictures taken with different breeders and it was great.
I had a quick look at the judging setup and soon met Najeeb for the first time. Everything looked good to start. A crowd of breeders began to gather in front of the judging area as we prepared to begin. A huge image of Bill Sacher's Ideal drawing was placed near the judging area and my ideal Jacobin portrait was draped in front of the judging pens. The show hall was fantastic, well lit and cool with fresh air. Only the exhibitors were allowed in the show hall at that point due to the large number of people involved I am sure. I was introduced and given a microphone to attach to my coat so I could speak to the exhibitors over the auditorium PA system. A professional photographer was on hand taking pictures which were placed on a big screen TV as a slide show as the show progressed. I then introduced myself and explained what I was about to do. Ebrahim passed me a Red Bull and I powered up and we called for the first Class. It was 11:00 Am and we had 350 Jacobins to Judge and I was told they wanted me to be done by 5:30 PM when the public would be let in and awards presentation would begin. I had my doubts but decided to dive in and see were it got us.
I was informed that there would be no young bird classes since there had already been a young bird show earlier in the year. So there would only be cock and hen classes in 12 colours. We would not judge best of colours, just best cock and hen in each colour followed by Best hen in show and Best Cock in show. This probably ended up being a good thing as I do not think we could have managed with more classes with the amount of time we had. However I will tell you in this report what my choices were for best in each colour and overall champion.
Up came the red hens. More than 40 of them if I remember right. We decided to do them in groups of about 10 at a time and then take the best from each of these groups and bring those back for a final to select the Best Red hen. The quality was excellent and the condition of the birds was very good. I had been told prior to seeing any of the birds that due to the heat the birds would not be in as good a condition as I was used to. As it turned out I was completely impressed with the good condition of the top birds and most of the birds in general. I felt the condition in most cases was very close to what I would expect to see in North America. Overall the feather condition of the birds was not a problem. Due to the limited time I had, I did not spend much time on the bottom end of the classes. Once I had selected the top Red hens and they were brought back for the final placings I had to step back and take in the fantastic sight before me. This was the deepest quality group of Red hens I had seen in one place at one time anywhere. The winning Red hen was a young hen with wonderful extension across the eye and excellent feather quality. She had a nice whip-in and refined body. Her hood setting was excellent and she had great top feather. Her leg setting was excellent giving her great upright station. Her only fault was a break in the chain at the eye. However overall she was an exceptional Jacobin and a very deserving winner of the Powerful Red hen class. This hen was bred in Bahrain by Tareq Al Merbatti and it turns out she is a half sister to last years Bahrain National Champion who was a Red Cock also bred by Tareq.
Red cocks were the largest class of the show with 61 birds. The quality again was exceptional. The top 10 Red cocks would be competitive anywhere in North America. Outstanding birds and among the group were all the components of the Ideal. The winning Red Cock was another outstanding young bird bred by Ali Rashed Baharin from Bahrain. This bird was very similar to the winning Red hen in style and outline. His top and extension at the eye was awesome. Hood setting and station was excellent. He was a very classy bird and he was a great example of a modern show type Jacobin. Any one of the top 10 Red cocks had the quality to become the cornerstone of a successful breeding program. A real credit to the breeders and exhibitors.
Yellows were another excellent class. Yellow hens had around 25 birds. Although the depth of quality in the Yellow hens was not as good as the Red hens the top 3 hens were very good. The winning Yellow hen was again a young bird. She was bred by Ali Rashed. This hen had perfect feather structure with proper roll and hood setting. In fact I used her as an example to show some breeders the type of feather, with the amount of roll I think is ideal. I would have liked to improve her roses slightly and give her a more upright station but her eye line, top feather and mane was great. She also had very nice colour. A very nice hen.
Yellow cocks presented some of the best birds in the show. Another big class. The top 3 Yellow cocks were exceptional. When I finally got the Yellow cocks sorted out and lined these top 3 birds up I just had to stand back and admire them. They would compare with the best Yellow cocks I have seen anywhere. They were all very similar with near perfect station, feather quality, feather wealth, colour and hood settings. The third place bird was a bit thinner in the mane than the top two which is all that separated them. The top 2 were both young cocks bred by Aqueel Thamer of Bahrain. These birds had great style and showed constantly. The only thing I would do to improve them would be to ad an inch of feather length across the eye line and they would be incredible. The roses and colour was also very good on these two young cocks. I commented that these birds could come to my breeding program any time.
Whites were a very big class. Hens had many nice birds but an old hen shown by Isa Al Khater was an easy winner. This hen was a picture and stood out from the rest. Her feather wealth was great and she was smooth and balanced with good hood setting and very nice station. To improve her I would refine and lengthen her body and neck and give her more top feather. However her perfect condition and overall balance made her easily the best White hen.
White cocks were the most difficult class for me. This was because there was not a great deal of difference between the top white cocks and no one bird was greatly superior to the rest. There were many very good white cocks and I was impressed with all the white cocks that made it to the finals. The winning white cock was a powerful young bird bred by Mohamed Al Room, also known as Nasser from Dubai. This young white cock had such thick feather it was amazing. His mane was very heavy and yet the bird carried it well up off his shoulders. He had a nice hood setting and very nice balanced outline with a great chain. I would have liked to smooth his feather out a bit and lengthened his body slightly but still he had such thickness and carried it so well showing all the time. He was truly a fantastic white and a credit to Nasser. The second place white cock was an old bird shown by Ebrahim Yaqoob. This cock was very similar to the young cock in all respects except the young cock carried more top feather. Still another great white cock.
I was really looking forward to the Black class and it was in the black hen class that I found one of the jewels of the entire show. You will find it interesting that this Black hen did not even win the Black hens. She was a baby in a heavy moult but she just jumped out at me. I immediately grabbed the hen and commented that she was without a doubt the best Black hen in the class but she could not win based on her condition due to the moult. She was so refined and extremely tall with great colour and beautiful outline. The breeder of this fantastic hen is Ebrahim Yaqoob from Bahrain and he deserves special recognition for breeding this superior Jacobin. After I removed this hen I had trouble finding a hen that really stood out. However I settled on a well finished Black hen shown by Isa Zaid that had a nice chain, thick mane and good quality feather. She needed better roses and a more upright station but all in all a well finished hen who was a deserving winner in this class.
Black cocks were nothing short of incredible. Probably 30 or more Black cocks. The top 6 Black cocks were all great birds. When they were thinned out and I had the top three birds placed in front of me I was breathless. These were among the best I had seen anywhere. All 3 were almost clones. The top 2 were bred by Mohammed Al Room (Nasser) from Dubai and the third was bred by Marwan Suhail also of Dubai. The winning Black Cock had it all. He was a picture of class and elegance and towered to the sky demanding the attention of everyone. He was truly a proud and noble pigeon who never, and I mean never stopped showing. Everything was right with him. Feather wealth, hood setting, top feather, outline and all the fine little details like roses, refinement, pants, it was all there. I knew this bird would be tough to beat in the finals but there were many more birds to come and one never knows how birds will act when it counts the most.
From here the classes began to get a bit smaller. Splashes had some very nice birds but a Red Splash cock shown by Mohammed Yousif was another easy winner in the Splash cocks and would have been Best Splash. He was extremely refined with wonderful extension at the eye and stood very tall. One of the very nice birds in the entire show.
Andalusians had some nice birds. Winning Andalusian was a cock shown by Mohammed Al Room. This was a very smooth bally bird with upright station and excellent finish and good colour. He could have used more feather length.
Best Almond was an Almond hen shown by Marwan Suhail. This hen lacked break but had the most impressive outline of any hen in the show. She was extremely tall and slender with a wonderful contrasting massive eyeline. She did however lack thickness of feather particularly in the mane. However an excellent powerful hen for any program. The Almond cock shown by Jaffer Molani was another nice bird. He had thick, smooth feather and good colour but was not as refined as the hen and lacked the added extension and top feather she had.
Browns were a nice class. A well balanced Brown cock with nice colour, great station and nice rolling feather shown by Mohammed Al Room won this class. A Khaki cock with excellent profile was second in the class and would have won if not for his erect hood setting. This Khaki impressed me as one of the best I have seen in this colour and was shown by Najeeb and Abdul Nasser.
Bars were a small class that lacked depth of quality. An outstanding Cream Bar old cock easily was best Bar. This bird was very good. Tall, big eye line, refined body, good hood setting and nice colour. One of the really good creams I have seen. This bird was shown by Abu May.
When the Opals were brought up I had my first look at some of the birds I had been excited to see for the first time and they did not disappoint me. The quality was splendid and the top birds were as good in quality as many of the top birds in the standard colours. It was a joy to handle these fine pigeons. These opal birds were presented in many different expressions of the colour and all were very pleasing and interesting to see in person for the first time - both soft and brilliant expressions were present. The Best was a very nice cock shown by Nedhal Hassan and also impressive was the hen shown by Adel Fateel. A wonderful group of Jacobins.
When the reduced classes came up that I got to see some of the finest work I have ever laid eyes on in the breeding of Jacobins. These top reduced birds were of great quality. The Best was a Cock bred by Marwan Suhail and he was a wonderful image of what a modern show type Jacobin should be. He was tall and classy with real style. His feather was smooth and he had a very nice top and eyeline. His colour was so soft and pleasing to the eye. A real treasure. The winning Reduced hen was shown by Mirza Aif and she was equally impressive. She had fantastic extension at the eye with a wonderful hood setting and incredible top feather. She was also very refined in the body and wings but not quite as tall and showy as the cock. She had the most beautiful soft powdered blue colour.
My overall impression of the Reduced and the Opal Jacobins I saw was that without a doubt the best quality in these colours is in the Middle East. A true credit to all the breeders in the region.
A.O.C. was not as strong a class as many of the other colours but there were some interesting colours shown in this class. Best Cock was shown by Adel Fateel and Best hen was shown by Ali Al Turaifi.
At this time I was asked to select the Best Hen from the 12 colour classes. The birds that stood out were the Red, White, Almond, Yellow and Reduced. The reduced hen was not quite as smooth and tall as the others and the Yellow hen was smoother with even more top than the Reduced but was just not as showy as the other 3 hens. The Almond hen was the tallest hen with the most dramatic outline with body to feather ratio making for a remarkable contrast in profile, however she did not have the roll and thickness to her feather and was thin in the mane compared to the other 2 hens. She also lacked break in her colour so I put her down to 3rd in the hens. It was now between the Red and the white hens and I really had to put my thinking cap on as I tried to point score these hens in my mind. The white hen was in perfect condition and was thick feathered all the way around. However she did not have nearly as much feather length and top as the Red hen. The white hen had nice station but was short in the neck and body and stood flat footed. The Red hen had more top and eye line and a longer neck which showed a better whip-in. She got up on her toes and really presented herself with class. She had a break in her chain at the eye and was slightly thinner in the mane. However when I looked at how slender and elegant she was and at the tremendous feather length she presented and carried so well I could not help but be impressed. The feather quality and colour on the Red hen was also very good. When I put them side by side the Red hen was much taller, had a narrower body and a much bigger eye line. At that point I knew the Red hen was the bird that best represented the modern show type Jacobin and I awarded her Best Hen in Show.
Then up came the cocks for Best cock in Show. Among these were many world class Jacobins. Quality everywhere. Immediately the Black, White, Red, Yellow and Splash cocks stood out as the cream in this class. Although he was very refined with a wonderful outline the splash did not have the wealth and roll to his feather and did not show quite as well as the other four. The Yellow cock was a real beauty. He was smooth and tall with nice roses however he did not have the added top feather and eyeline that he needed to beat the other three. The white cock had a massive amount of feather. His mane was thick and full and he had good station. He needed more length to his body and could have been smoother in his feather fit which is not always as easy to see in a white. He was a fantastic Jacobin but on this day he could not beat the Red and the Black he was up against. The Red had a huge eye line and a slender body. He had great top and hood setting and very nice station. Fantastic chain and good hard feather. I would have liked to see a bit more roll to his feather and a thicker mane however he had real class and was very impressive in the show pen but not a complete in all the fine details as the Black. The Black was magnificent. He towered in the show pen and he was perfection from every angle. Mane, chain, hood & top. Station, rose, colour, refinement and attitude he had it all. If I could have added slightly to his feather length in profile across the eye he would have been close to perfection. This bird without a doubt was the finest Jacobin in the show in my mind. Grand Champion was the Black and reserve Champion of the show was the red cock. I found out after the show that the Champion Black was also carrying reduced- WOW!
Just before the Championship Judging began the doors were opened to the public and the crowd watching grew to a very large group. It was very satisfying to hear the applause when the class winners were selected. The judging was completed at 7:30 PM. Following this awards presentations began and lasted for some time with dignitaries and club officials doing the honors of presenting the awards. Neil Pratt and I were humbled to be given special awards from Minister Rajab on behalf of the King of Bahrain. It just proved to us how respected the hobby of pigeon keeping is in the region and it made us very proud to be a part of it. At the same time we felt envious that we do not enjoy the same respect from society at home. It gave me new strength and desire to promote the hobby and I am thankful for that also. I have told the story of my trip hundreds of times since I have returned to Canada and I never tire of it. It makes me so proud to be a pigeon fancier.
It was a great honour for me to be asked to judge this show. I hope those watching enjoyed it as much as I did. I tried to take the time to explain the details I was looking for and also to explain that there is much more to a Jacobin than just profile. They are a multi dimensional creature. In order to be appreciated you must study them from above, behind, in front and from the side. I took the time after the show to speak with and study the birds with many breeders and the great questions asked proved to me that the breeders are on the right track. I also met many breeder who know exactly what they are doing and the quality of birds they are breeding proves this and I am sure I did not say much that they did not already know.
Following the show an entirely new adventure began. The great food, loft tours, more fantastic Jacobins, meeting many great breeders, laughter, discussions, experiencing the wonderful Arabic culture first hand, and so much more, however that will be a whole new article.
In closing I was treated with respect and kindness and there is nothing more anyone can ask for. Thank you to the Bahrain Jacobin Group for this wonderful experience. I hope some day to return to this beautiful country filled with some of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. You have enriched my life and some day I hope to return with my children so they also can come to know my friends in person and can experience a wonderful culture as I have. I have come back to Canada with respect and admiration for the breeders, the country and the culture. It never ceases to amaze me what these birds have done, and continue to do, to bring us all together.