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Apprenticeship Completed – Pierre De Waele

Tucked away in South West Flanders in the village of Heestert sits the loft of Pierre De Waele. The loft is a typical, modest back garden loft designed in the way that many Belgian lofts are, and it houses a team of birds that are modest in number but huge in potential and expectation. Pierre is a fancier with a young family and a thriving business as a self-employed plumber; the lofts that sit snugly at the back of his house are there for his enjoyment. When time allows he will be found down the garden losing time amongst the birds and preparing his battalion for the heavy middle distance and Fond races as it is at this discipline that Pierre strives to compete and to be up with the leaders. He expects the birds to do well, not because of an over exercised ego in his behalf, but because he has put together the very best of the bloodlines that dominate this discipline in West Flanders and beyond. He has room for just 8 pairs of stock bird sand he demands a lot from them in a short period of time if they are to keep their place in the loft.

Pierre and Rob Rome holding 2 of the aces.

The birds that Pierre has put his faith in are a combination of Alibaba lines of Silvere Toye, the Rudy line of Gaby Vandenabeele, the Caesaert –Senechal and Etienne Meirlaen bloodlines and more recently a sprinkling of De-Smeyter –Restiaen to add some muscle for the last few races. These have been blended together by Pierre with the performances in the basket being the sole success criterion being used to evaluate the success of a blood line or pairing in the loft.

It is probably only fair to point out at this stage that Pierre is the grandson of Silvere Toye, and as such is part of Belgian Pigeon racing aristocracy – although he would blush at the thought of being referred to in this way. Pierre had a pivotal role at the Toye loft during his youth and right up to the time that health dictated that Silvere had to disperse the crown jewels. He became increasingly responsible for the breeding records and especially in having them computerised, this meant keeping meticulous records and then imputing them in to the computer to aid the tracking and evaluation of each pair. Let us not forget that this all took place when the Toye loft was at the very pinnacle of success and the achievements of race team placed the spot light on the loft where it remained for almost 4 decades. With his meticulous nature and attention to detail Pierre faithfully kept track of what bred what and more importantly he could easily identify a cross or pairing that was breeding the right quality. It was this early schooling in the importance of quality control that has been carried over in to the breeding philosophy that Pierre has maintained in his own loft.

The complete loft set up.

Another benefit of spending time with his grand dad was that it afforded ample opportunities to visit top lofts and handle top performance pigeons. It is well documented that Silvere had a great nose for a pigeon loft and fancier that was on the way up, and who were still sat under the radar of most fanciers. Silvere never missed an opportunity to visit and would strengthen his own bloodlines with birds from such lofts with often devastating results. Alongside this, he was well known for tracking the performance of top birds in the championships and ace bird competitions and approaching the fancier to buy the bird before the official results were known. Often, when these visits were being made and deals struck Pierre would be at Silvere’s side watching, handling top birds and more importantly listening. With an education such as this in pigeon racing you could not help but learn, and consider for a moment the quality of birds that the young Pierre would be having in his hands and the comments and observations being made about the bird. As we will see these did not go unnoticed by Pierre and inform his approach to buying in stock for his own loft.

 

Pierre, Silvere and myself.

You need only to spend short time with Pierre to know that you are in the company of a very talented, determined but unassuming fancier. When you are in the loft with him he pops and fizzes with an intelligent energy, and when he takes a pigeon in his hands you can tell by watching him that he has assessed that bird within 30 seconds. What’s more you know he has a tick list in his head, a criteria that he has worked through with skilled hands, and you just know that this is part of the legacy and apprenticeship served under one of Europe’s finest fanciers. The result of this can be seen in the depth of quality that Pierre possesses within his loft. I should think that there is now no one who knows the various successful strands within the Toye loft, and I include Silvere in this.

Remember that Pierre was increasingly responsible for the breeding records and will recall which key birds stood out as cornerstones in the development of the family. He can still recall ring numbers of key birds and who they bred the best with, I have seen him do this on several occasions and it only reinforces the notion that he knows the family inside out. With this knowledge it is obvious that the very best of the Toye bloodlines would be represented in the DeWaele loft, and it is. But make no mistake, the desire for the small race team to do well that I mentioned at the start, coupled with the lessons learned about the basket being the judge, will ensure that sentimentality has no room here. The Toye birds in the loft are there because they are producing the goods, not because they are his grand dads  - and I have not doubt  Silvere would insist on it being this way.

Time and results have shown that it is the Alibaba bloodlines within the Toye family that has best served Pierre. This line has done all that is asked if it especially as the distance   has increased, and the racing has been ‘sticky’. A prime example of this is Merlot, a stunning blue cock who could pull a car. His sire is via Etienne Meirlaen and comes down from Luka and is a grandson of The Super Marseilles. His dam is inbred to Alibaba and has herself been twice 2nd Provincial from Argenton – and on both occasions claiming top 100 national positions. This little lady represents the very best of the Toye family that excelled at these distances and in trying conditions. It is no accident or coincidence that the man who the records of the Toye breeding loft imprinted in his memory has opted to have this strand of the family in his loft. His decision to pull this blood across the new introduction from a loft that Silvere discovered on the way up was a wise one, but then he has been taught at the feet of a master. Merlot has to his credit 3rd National 16,858 and 1st  Provincial 1,877 birds from Bourges and was brought back out the following year and scored 19th National from Brive against 8, 331 birds. Another of the top racers in the loft also epitomises all that Pierre has learned from his granddad. The 2015 1st Provincial winner from Narbonne who scored 31st National and 85th International is a tank of a pigeon called Axor, and he is result of the old Alibaba blood and a first cross from the top international winning loft of De Smeyter-Restiaen. A case of the student becoming the master – with Pierre using his wits to source from a loft before it went stratospheric.

The complete young bird team.

 

It is clear that Pierre has learned his craft well, and his recent results pinned at the end of this report verify that, and can no longer be viewed as the apprentice. His time growing up around his grand dads pigeons was time well spent as can be seen from his results that include 2nd National Tulle, 3rd National Bourges and 6th National Montauban and he is regularly amongst the KDBD Provisional Ace Pigeon awards. Remember that he plies his trade in the highly competitive West Flanders region and competes against many household names who have a more professional edge and approach than time and space allows Pierre. He is a fearless competitor with his team of 25 racing cocks and a young bird team of around 45 -50. For Pierre, it all boils down to the quality of the pigeon, his expectations are high and it takes a bird with a touch of class to live up to these expectations. However, each year this small loft manages to put together a strong string of results and Provincial and National level. This consistency comes from an uncanny knack of continually bringing in something special to the small nucleus of stock that has been sourced from a top loft and then having the confidence and character to test the offspring hard in the hope that it enhances the loft.

When you speak to other Belgian fanciers about Pierre they all talk of he himself being a loft on the way up, and I think that is very true. I also think that there is a great expectation on this young fanciers shoulders because of his heritage and I have no doubt that there will always be the gentle hand on his shoulder and that soft voice of reassurance that has helped him to where he is now, and will encourage him on to bigger and better things. Whilst Silvere is now without pigeons he is still a welcome visitor to the house and loft in Heestert and will always be willing to run an expert eye over the inmates and share his opinions, but knows that Pierre has the capabilities to build on what he has done. It is clear that although the old master remains as a racing partner in name and presence, it is Pierre who has the reins firmly in his grasp, and I don’t think he will let any one down.

Provincial Top 100 results 2015:

  • 1st Narbone – 849km,  651 birds
  • 4th Brive – 639km, 1330 birds
  • 10th  Gueret – 626km, 1952 birds
  • 12th Limoges – 6o7km, 2953birds
  • 20th Libourne- 703 km, 1145 birds
  • 22nd  Cahors – 711 km, 888 birds
  • 24th La Souterraine - 525 km, 2739 birds
  • 55th St Vincent – 866 km, 678 birds
  • 57th St Vincent- 866km, 678 birds
  • 68th Chateroux- 459 km, 1902 birds.
  • 69th Pau – 877 km, birds
  • 72nd Brive – 639km, 1604 birds
  • 74nd  Agen – 762km,  619 birds
  • 75th Argenton- 486 km,  2264 birds
  • 79th Montlucon – 496km,  1778 birds
  • 96th Tulle- 594 km, 1053 birds

 

National top 100 results for  2015:

  • 31st Narbonne - 840 km,   4,047 birds
  • 32nd Libourne- 703 km, 5890 birds
  • 52nd  La Soutteraine - 525 km 9.760 birds
  • 62nd Brive - 639.835 km ,9049 birds
  • 89th  Limoges – 607km, 15 009 birds

 

Best National results for 2016.

  • 27th  National  Brive 6.946 Yearlings
  • 74th National  Pau, 1.661 Old Birds
  • 99th National Limoges, 6.946 Yearlings
  • 109th National Montlucon, 9.462 old birds.

And from the Regional Blois Young bird race the loft scored 22nd, 71st , 112th, 114th and 115th from 5,364 young birds.

 

 

 

 Drew Callan

 

 

 

 

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