Thief Pouters II: "El Hembreo" The Use of Hens as
by Josť V.Joya Villegas, Dos Hermanas, Sevilla,
Among southern Spain's pigeon
fanciers, El Hembreo is the name given to a sport practiced utilizing
hens of the different breeds of Thief Pouters. It is in part the
antithesis-or maybe the compliment- of the suelta of male birds, which
is sometimes referred to as El Celo, or "The Rut" (see
accompanying article). Except for some towns in Cadiz province, the hen
suelta is not so popular as the cock suelta, but perhaps its practice
should increase since it helps to select the breeding hens after testing
them severely, and also because it is positively entertaining. The
following is a synthesis of two articles by Don Josť Joya describing
the sport. Mr. Joya, a teacher by profession, is one of the most
knowledgeable pigeon men that I know- a teacher at that, too- and a dear
El Hembreo consists of flying a single hen that has been separated from
her mate for about ten or fifteen days. She should be two or three years
old and have shown a remarkable homing instinct, by being overprotective
of her nest or by any other such signs of fondness for her home.
The day to let her fly may be either chosen at random or previously
appointed by a group of neighboring fanciers. It is best to select a
time when there is a good number of young males flying. She will fly
among all of them trying to find a new mate for herself. Soon, she will
choose a suitor to her liking and attempt to drive him to her loft while
the chosen cock, in turn, tries to entice her to his own. Sometimes,
there may be interference on the part of other birds, but at the end the
suit is reduced to the original hen and a single cock. Then, it may take
some weeks before one or the other "surrenders" and enters the
Under identical circumstances, hens have less of a
"conservation" instinct than cocks: they give up first and are
trapped more easily. To make up for such a handicap, the fancier
practicing the hembreo may play an ingenious trick: he prepares a relay
team of three hens of the same color. When the first one starts to show
symptoms of weakness and seems about ready to turn herself in into her
antagonist's home, her owner retires her and lets loose the second hen.
Since she is of the same color as the first one and flies in the same
circuit, the male bird will not mind the change. But by now he is a
little "burnt out" whereas the fresh hen works at the peak of
her power. Naturally, if the process is repeated once again and the
third hen comes into play, chances are that the potential seducer-unless
he be a truly exceptional cock-will be finally deceived, seduced in
turn, and trapped in the hens' loft.
By means of the hembreo game, fanciers trap other people's pigeons.
These are sometimes returned in a friendly way, among jests and bragging
and perhaps a little embarrassment on the part of the owner of the
captured bird. In earlier times, a symbolic, pre-established fee had to
be paid as ransom for the captive. On some occasions, however, the
trapped bird was instantly killed in the presence of its owner, who
swore to seek revenge in the future.
Translated by Jose Morales.