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"Buffalo Bill’s Lofts" are tucked into a narrow courtyard alongside Lou and Dona Coletta’s handsome home on Garrow Drive in Antioch, California. The average person would never guess that behind the cedar fences lining the back yard are four lofts of racing pigeons. Not just any racing pigeons, but birds that have made Lou Coletta’s name well known among racing pigeon enthusiasts due to the extraordinary success of their progeny in major futurities around the world. At any given time, these lofts have approximately 60 racers placed in futurities around the United States and other parts of the world, such as China and South Africa. Anyone paying attention to the top spots on the race sheets for these special races has seen Lou Coletta’s name appear time and time again.

Lou grew up in a close-knit neighborhood in Brooklyn NY, and became interested in pigeons when he was eight years old. Lou was encouraged in the early years by a fancier who lived down the block by the name of Mike Langella who flew under the loft name, "Sunrise Loft."

Lou flew pigeons in Brooklyn as a young boy until he went into military service. While he was stationed in Germany, his mother took care of his birds. One weekend in 1957 Lou and couple of his buddies decided that they would take a few days leave and decided to travel to Belgium. Little did Lou realize the impact that this short trip to Belgium would have on his racing pigeon career. By a stroke of luck, or divine intervention, Lou and his buddies stumbled upon a pigeon auction, but not just any pigeon auction. Lady Luck had brought Lou to the final sale of one of the world’s most famous lofts, that of Huyskens and Van Riel.

Extremely inbred

Lou had heard of Huyskens and Van Riel but he had not realized how fantastic their pigeons were until he found himself in the thick of a mob of fanciers bidding like crazy on a group of slick looking dark checker pigeons. It didn’t take Lou long to figure out that if he wanted to rise to the top when he was able to resume his racing career, he’d better not pass up this golden opportunity, so he bought three birds. Only after the auction was over and he had refused several offers to buy the birds he had just obtained did he find out that his birds were direct descendants of the world-famous "Blisken" and "Steek."

Lou sent the birds to his mother, and when he returned home began his racing career anew. The progeny of those three birds founded Lou’s loft. They were easily better than anything he had ever flown before. In fact, they were so good that Lou decided that he needed no other bloodlines. They won at short and fast and long and hard. From those early years, Lou has progressed with these birds, keeping them extremely inbred, a practice he continues to this day.

About Jeff Van Riel, Coletta says, " He was a master breeder. I follow his breeding techniques completely." Coletta has kept the birds so intensely inbred that an unusual feature is now showing up after sixty years--a rare bronze coloration, whose source is a 1938 hen called "The Bronze Hen." She was given this name, Lou says, by Huyskens and Van Riel themselves, since it shows up in the pedigrees of some of his birds.

"When I flew in New York, I earned All American honors and Combine Hall of Fame awards. I also won lots of races and futurities, all with this same family of birds. They were as good as any pigeons on Long Island in those days and they did all that I asked them to do. I got out of the sport in 1978-1979," Lou says, "and at the time of my final sale, I gave my dear old friend Mike Langella my two Hall of Fame winners.

"When I came back into pigeon racing 14 years later and 3,000 miles from New York, I immediately tried to get my old blood back. I got descendants of my Hall of Fame winners from Mike to restock the loft, and I got birds back from other friends in the sport who had acquired birds at my final sale, guys such as Dick Lisicki and Fred Calderone in New Jersey. Fred had bought my foundation pair, and from them he had bred ‘329’ in 1979. Ralph Leggio had purchased ‘329’ from Fred Calderone’s final sale. That foundation pair had bred 51 winners, and they’re responsible for hundreds of winners through their grandchildren. Ralph was good enough to send me ‘329’ and ‘239’ (his daughter) and ‘1770’ (his son). With those three pigeons, I told my wife Dona in 1993 that we’d be on top again in two years.

Some big years...

"I had Don Hart breed me six young birds. One of them is my best foundation hen, ‘Judy Hart.’ Another is my ‘453’ cock, a great pigeon who produced ‘Dream Girl.’ Another was the mother to my China winner, which was ‘0789’ and was sold last year. These bloodlines went back to George Shilton’s ‘523,’ a son of ‘Blisken.’ With this handful of birds, I started inbreeding and re-creating my HVR family.

I’ve only done new introductions in 1996 with ‘Super 73’ blood from Campbell Strange, so that now I basically have two distinct families. I’ve kept the families intact. I will build around the ‘73’ bloodlines as a separate entity, and I’ve done some successful crossings between the Huyskens-Van Riels and the ‘Super 73s’, but I would not destroy either distinct family. For race purposes, I’ll send them out as crosses. But the birds are kept in separate lofts as separate families."

Lou’s preferred breeding method? Brother to sister, father to daughter, and mother to son. His birds are basically bred for futurities, especially the 400-mile young bird races, where he scores extremely high. In old bird races, though, his birds are doing well on 400’s, 500’s and 600’s, even as yearlings.

"1180" is one of Coletta’s foundation cocks. He came from Dick Lisicki and when blended with the ‘Judy Hart,’ (Shilton 901-523) blood this pair became one of Lou’s foundation pairs.

"I have a bird that Gayle Renfroe flew well with, a straight ‘Super 73.’ The mother is ‘6812’—a wonderful daughter of ‘2778.’ I’ve had a couple of offers for her, but I doubt I’ll sell her. She has bred a lot of tremendous pigeons, and there are some excellent breeders down from her. Johnny Matthews in Louisiana has a son—‘1007’-- that has bred lots of winners for him crossed with Van Riels and produced a champion racer in the Texas Center. He won Kenneth Smith’s one-loft race in Louisiana with one. When Johnny first bought the birds from me, he won 11 of 11 young bird races and has won 6 or 7 races in 2000. He purchased both families from me, and I told him how to mate them. He’s happy with them."

 
 
 

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