The Best Lizard Canary Show in the World?

Dutch pronunciation is not for the faint-hearted, yet every October you will find English and French-speaking canary breeders gamely trying to pronounce Keijenborg *, the name of an attractive small town in the east of the Netherlands.  Why? Because Keijenborg (also spelt Keyenborg) hosts one of the best Lizard canary shows in the world.  Commonly referred to as the Lizarddag (which means ‘Lizard day’ in English), it is now named the Henk Lenselink Lizard Memorial, after the man who instigated the show in 1993.

It’s an unusual organisation: there’s no club, no membership and no business other than running the show.  It is run by just three men: Hans Hermans, Hans Reijers and Marko Dielen.  The sort of men who put a lot more into the hobby than they take out.  Another three friends pitch up on show day to prepare the staging and cages, and to clean up afterwards; yet as far as I am aware, only Marko actually keeps Lizards!

The men that do all the work: From L to R: Hans Hermans, Marko Dielen, Tans Reijers.
The men that do all the work:
From L to R: Hans Hermans, Marko Dielen, Tans Reijers.

The first show attracted 75 entries; nowadays, it is common to see more than 200 birds on display. In the early years the exhibitors were almost entirely Dutch with a few German visitors. My report of the 1996 show was complimentary about the rowings and the darkness of the legs, but complained about the quality of the spangles. In those days, the Dutch had their own show standard with rowings awarded 20 points, the same as spangles and cap combined, so it is hardly surprising that the birds fell short of British standards.

How different things are today.  Almost a third of the exhibitors come from Belgium and Great Britain to compete against the home nation.  The standard of the birds on show is excellent, and most classes contain around 30 birds, so competition is fierce. Winning a medal of any colour is an achievement against world champions such as Jules Etienne, Fernand Moes and the Leijen-Staal partnership.  Sadly, the Germans seem to have lost heart and stay away, even though Keijenborg is close to the German border.

The judging is done on the continental points system and three judges, all Dutch, are engaged to carry out these duties.  A common concern of Lizard breeders is that, unlike Great Britain, the European canary judges are not specialists.  Most do a competent job, but anyone who has been to World Show will know that the judging can sometimes be a lottery.  The Lizarddag organisers compensate for this by retaining the same judges for many years, and it is noticeable how the quality of the judging improves as they gain more experience.

All the birds are housed in standard Dutch show cages.  They have one outstanding feature that makes them far superior to traditional Lizard show cages: they have a deep bow top so that you get an excellent view of the spangles.  The Dutch exhibitors tend to bring their own show cages, but it is also possible to hire them for the day, which is very convenient for foreign exhibitors.

It is a very sociable event: the centre of the show hall is laid out with tables and chairs for people to sit, eat, drink coffee, chat and joke. People can view the birds at any time, so there is always something to look at and talk about while the judging is in progress.  The fun starts when the birds are returned to the staging after a class has been judged and people rush to see how they have fared.  A quick look at people’s faces tells you all you need to know: despair for many; satisfaction for a few; and for one lucky person, elation.  At British shows, the top contenders are kept in the dark about how their birds have fared until the show opens to the public; here you can feel the tension beginning to rise half way through the morning as exhibitors realise that they are in contention for Best in Show . . .

My show report can be read here.

The great and the good
The great and the good, from L to R: Hans Hermans, Gerrit Staal, judge Hans Stevens, Jules Etienne, Marko Dielen, Pedro Leijen, Hans Reijers, judges A. van Baren and G. Hank

What of the future?  At present, males and females compete in the same classes, but the organisers are considering adding classes for gold cocks and silver cocks, which is bound to be welcomed by breeders.  I hope that the organisers don’t stop there.

The Lizarddag has the potential to become the European championship for Lizard canaries.  There is no reason why it should not attract entries from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark and all the other countries where the Lizard canary is popular.  Don’t believe me?  Look at the support the BVA show in Belgium attracts: 169 exhibitors from nine countries entered 2,200 birds this year – all lovebirds!  Give breeders the reassurance that their birds will be judged by experts and they will come.

Lizard breeders are happiest when a respected member of their own community is involved in the judging.  Detailed knowledge of the Lizard canary is regarded as more important than OMJ qualifications.  Perhaps it is time for the organisers to try another innovation and introduce a Lizard breeder to the judging panel?  I can think of several likely candidates!

For those of you who might be tempted to exhibit there next year, the show will be held on Saturday 29 October 2016.  Veel succes!

Footnote:

*  You can hear the Dutch pronunciation of Keijenborg here

**  and of dag here

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