Looking at continental lofts visited by Les J Parkinson
I often hear that fanciers like to see photo’s so I have a few more loft photo’s but this week they are all from the continent starting with Joop Koch. I have brought this one out because there are some real good pigeons that have come down from Joop’s pigeons that have won big and you can see where many of today’s winners come from including the hen to the late Derek Woodward’s Golden Pair. One thing about knowing Hans Verschueren at the time was that I got to meet the top Continental fanciers. On our last trip, Elizabeth and I had the pleasure of meeting one of the best in Europe, Joop Koch, winner of National Championships in Holland, as well as being a past winner of the Versele-Laga World Championship. On our arrival I was amazed, because I expected the usual Continental lofts but saw a British back-garden set-up. These are no fancy lofts but lofts that the pigeons race very well to and win from against the best. Joop’s house was like many in Britain with a front and a back garden, which is the pattern of most lofts that we visit. Here is an every-day fancier who came good at the highest levels of competition, with a loft that we all like to see because it belongs to a working man. It proves that you do not need elaborate, expensive lofts to win quality races; all you need is common sense and good pigeons. On top of that, Joop is a real down-to-earth fancier who met us talking a great deal about his pigeons and showed us the top-recorded pigeons in Europe for the previous. Joop started up like many more members of the sport, an injured stray that he picked up in the street. Joop treated her, found her a mate and he started on his way to the Dutch National Championships plus the World Championship that have made him a household name in the sport. Along the way there have been many more achievements, including some by Joop’s well-known pigeon, “The President” which won a lot and was the fastest pigeon of Oost-Brabant on 4 occasions over 8 weeks, competing against 20,000 birds in each race, what a class pigeon. At the time of the visit he had a team of 15 pairs stock. There was also a racing team consisting of 40 widowhood cocks and 6 hens, specially prepared for the long-distance events. Going back to the early days the origin of the pigeons goes back to 1973, with the first stock coming from Jan Zoontjes, then after that some young birds were brought in to keep the lines going. After a few years, Joop brought in further stock from Wal Zoontjes, who had a top-class team of pigeons. He later brought in further additions that had the pigeons of Jan van Steensel of Arendonk in their pedigrees, with the origin being Houben x William Geerts. He also had a few pigeons from Stan Raemaecker, which are the Chanel x Jose lines of Jan van de Water of Eindhoven and Heesters Bros of Reusel stock. For the very long-distance races, Joop has brought in the Frans van Welbakel lines, which are more for the 2-day races. With these lines the loft is now made up of 60% Jan & Wal Zoontjes, 30% Houben x Geerts from the Jan van Steensel loft, 5% Stan Raemaecker lines and 5% Heesters Bros. The long-distance birds of Frans van Welbakel of Holland are kept pure. For his future stock, he likes to put the best racers to stock as soon as their career on the road is finished. One thing that I did pick up on is that he makes a point of giving the cocks a different hen each year.
We now move on to Stanislas Hollevoet who we met on one of our trips to the continent get better as we are now meeting more and more of the top fanciers, the National winners, some names we have never heard of before but nevertheless they are top fanciers. I went to this loft with Frans Rigole who took us to visit Stanislas. We have been going somewhere new on each trip and what makes it better is the more we visit the continent the more you can communicate, even though I cannot speak the language, which I am told is one of the hardest to learn. As I pointed out earlier Frans Rigole took us on this visit and although not fluent in the English language, he is getting better which means our communication is more understandable. Stanislas is the fancier who raced the excellent “Witpen 137” who at the time was reported to be the best modern-day long-distance bird in Belgium. Now whether other’s agree is always another matter but this pigeon did put up the performances. For those performances, "Witpen 137" became one of the famous pigeons in Belgian pigeon history. To achieve that accolade his performances include 5th National Limoges 11,799 pigeons, 8th National Limoges 10,737 pigeons and 4th National Cahors again in excess of 11,000 pigeons, the National Championship. He is also responsible for many winners through to National Level. To achieve his success Stanislas looked for the best pigeons available and settled with a loft who have introduced many top National and International lines, these are the birds of Taverine-Rigole and 85% of Stanislas’s loft is based on these lines. The late Gust Taveirne and Frans Rigole who still keeps the pigeons live in Koolskamp. They became the best of friends and even his famous "Witpen 137" mentioned above is a direct Taveirne-Rigole pigeon and that is the reason he set’s his loft’s on their pigeons. Fanciers do not always set their stall out for one family of pigeons so Stanislas brought in the bloodlines from other famous lofts such as Julien Vaneenoo, Etienne Devos, Ivan Delrue, Jozef Vandewalle, Gregoire Callebaut, Jean-Luc Ampe and Emiel Denys. But the confidence that Stanislas has in the Taveirne-Rigole is obvious because every year Stanislas used to by around 100 youngsters direct from the Taveirne-Rigole breeding lofts and raced them all with success. He does this because he is not "a breeder" himself and does trust the excellent judgement of the T & R partnership. One thing these lofts are known for and that is the hard selection done each year, they have to meet a high standard or they are out. No ifs or buts at these lofts, only the very best are retained. Only the best yearlings can stay in the long-distance team. Stanislas does not only select on results; he is also taking note of the general health and condition in which the pigeon arrives from a race, and also how fast the pigeon recuperates after each of the races. They go twice on the big Chateauroux races and even at that early stage of the season Stanislas is already selecting his most promising yearlings. Afterwards he puts them on the National Limoges race where they have to justify their presence in the lofts. The prize winners from this race have earned their box for the following season, of course there are always going to be those who do not win prizes in Limoges that do give Stanislas a few doubts. These are then sent to the National Narbonne race for the last selection of the year. This is considered to be a very hard race for yearlings, even so last year he was 22nd National against 6.929 pigeons. The 2-years old birds participate in 3 National long-distance races which are Angouleme, Limoges and Souillac. This is another race where Stanislas’s strong selection process is brought into play because he makes another selection before a pigeon is allocated a nest box in the long-distance old birds loft. System. After the racing season has finished Stanislas lets the widowhood cocks fly out all day and lets them sit on eggs twice for10 days each time. This practice is followed after what he considers is “Golden” advice from his long time good old Gust Taveirne, this is done to stimulate the moulting process. They are not allowed to rear youngsters because they lose too much energy, energy which they need during the moulting period. Then at the end of November Stanislas pairs his widowhood cocks up at the same time that the breeders are put together. One thing that Stanislas did point out was that he does pair the yearlings up one week earlier because they always need more time to "settle" into their box . When the youngsters are 14-days old they are put on a separate loft together with the hens, this system ensures that the breeding does not take too much out of the racing cocks. Then halfway through March, Stanislas re-pairs the widowhood cocks, they are paired up again to sit on eggs for a 5-day period and after that they are pre-paired for the racing season ahead of them.
The Malfait family loft
The Malfait family is one that I have come across on several occasions when visiting Belgium. I am aware that this family won the Dax International with "De International" but I have never really written about the family and their system. Anyone who has visited them will say "What system" exactly, these lofts are as simple as they come and for the hard-bitten enthusiast who likes everything spot on the only thing that I can say is stay away from these lofts. One thing that I am sure about after this visit is that no matter what you do with the pigeons or for the pigeons all you need are good pigeons. The family run a car sales and repair business, which is where one of the lofts is situated, from the outside the loft looks fine above the garage showroom, and everything is normal. I have seen some laid-back pigeon fanciers in my time but these lads beat the lot. We were invited into the lofts and I looked round thinking to myself "How often does anyone come up here" time had stood still in this loft and for anyone who has a chest problem around pigeons this was not the place to be. But hang on a minute these fanciers have a loft that has achieved greatness and have a top-winning National and International loft. Multiple National performance pigeons have and still are going through these lofts with the latest being "Bettini" a top racer who has still got a lot to offer as he is still only a 3y blue cock who was hatched in September 2001. Who is "Bettini" you may ask, well this is the pigeon that was 1st Belgium National 3rd International Dax to the two UK pigeons. "Betini" is not a one-off performer because these are a few of his results. As a yearling he was 238th prov 4,943b. 530th National 24,479b Limoges. The following year he started to prove just how good he could be with 5th Region 20th prov, 87th National 4,101b Castres. 9th Reg, 38th Prov 83rd Nat 195th International Dax 19,420b. 1st reg 4th prov 13th Nat 29th International Perpignan 16,800b. The following year saw him come home with 102nd reg 153rd prov 180th National Pau 2,118b. Also a winner of 1st reg 1st prov 1st Nat 3rd International 17,416b. 5th Asduif Entente Belg. 12th National Asduif Grote Fond. 1st Euro Diamond Pigeon Dax. One thing that I did not hear was how he had fared in the club races; only the top races were mentioned. The breeding of "Bettinni" is out of the top drawer being bred from a son of "Olympiade Gran Canaria" top National performer and sire of 1st International Dax. The dam of "Bettinni" is a daughter of "De Limoges" top winner and nest mate to the 1st International Dax winner. "Olympiade Gran Canaria" is the dominant breeder and racer being a winner of 42nd Nat La Souteraine. 64th Nat Dax. 70th Nat Perpignan. 78th National Cahors. 91st National La Souteraine. "Canaria" is also the sire of "De Narbonne" 61 prizes. De Montauban" 89 prizes. "De Cahors" 91 prizes. "Pandoer" 43 prizes "Joris" 70 prizes and "Worldchamp" 29 prizes so has a good line of winners and not a one off like so many National performance pigeons are and they still figure in the breeding of many winners today.
One thing that stood out was there were few birds to be seen, no overcrowding, no fighting for perches and no stress on the inmates. In the loft above the garage I looked into the sections that are covered from the corridor by curtains. In those sections there were hardly any pigeons at all, in fact I noticed only one to the second section and three in another, they were all the same. Between the lofts there were only 7 old birds and 5 yearlings with a team of 25 young birds. At the time we were there they were in tough competition competing against such fanciers as Marc Pollin, Roger Florizoone, FVW, Phillip Norman, Noel Perrin etc. Their training like all that they do is nothing special because when they start racing the pigeons there is no further training participated in at all, there is also nothing special with the racing as they race the traditional w/h and no hens are raced at all. Feeding is always everyone's own preference and here they purchase four brands and mix them all together and simply chuck it on the floor amongst the deep litter that is there for the season. The lofts are all dry so the system of cleaning out only once each year is not too bad, problems only arise when damp gets into deep litter and that does not happen at these lofts. Drinkers are also not what most expect either but the pigeons look healthy and win which is all that matters. My conclusion after this visit was that most of us are too fussy about how we look after the pigeons and there is probably a lot more time spent with them than necessary after all good pigeons will win no matter what.
Whenever we go over to see Frans Rigole and his family, we very often end up at another loft somewhere around the country, this time it is Roger Vandycke. On this trip we had been to one loft but had trouble finding it so Frans decided to try out one of these satellite systems that take you to the door and it worked, so this trip was far easier than the last one that we made. We hear so much about the continentals so any loft visit is taken seriously and then we make our own judgment on the loft as an individual and not on what has been written in the fancy press. If you take a trip to Belgium then you should look at the lofts that are not written about too much because you can find some good winning lofts that are not heard of. Neither Frans nor I had been to this loft before so did not know what to expect, Frans had selected the loft for a visit because at the time he had won 1st National Asduif G. Fond. Anyway as we drew up in front of the bungalow we could just about see the lofts at the bottom of the garden so I thought "Yes a traditional type English loft" you know the lofts across the bottom of the garden with an aviary. We were invited in and sat down for a cup of coffee; I made sure that I sat where I could see the lofts and birds. By the way I must mention that we had taken Derek Woodward with us on this trip and with him only having a limited amount of experience with trips to Belgium it was mostly new to him. One of the hurdles was that Roger did not speak English and Frans can get things over but when he is in the company of other Belgium fanciers he does tend to forget and in this case Derek, Elizabeth and myself talked mostly between ourselves. To be fair with the number of times that we have been to Belgium I should have at least tried to learn the basics of their language. The continentals have always had an advantage in this area because they do learn more on languages at school, when I was at school there was no such thing. This learning curve for the continentals has always been to their advantage and it is good to know that they are always prepared to learn our language. The point being that we should learn more than we do and we would probably understand more on the pigeons that they have, it’s alright if they speak English but they do not all so at times we miss out. As mentioned we sat having a coffee and I was looking at the lofts through the window, fine the tradition lofts were there but when we walked outside into the garden and turned around there they were the Belgium lofts that we used to see years ago but not so much nowadays. The main widowhood loft was there above the living accommodation and I couldn't wait to go up and see them. First, we had a look at the garden lofts that were for the hens, stock birds and young birds with all having plenty of space. We then went into the garage and up the steps into the widowhood lofts and the first thing that I noticed was how clean they were, it was as if everywhere had been hovered but we knew that it had not. We went along the back of the widowhood loft to an entrance at the end that led us into the main compartments for the cocks. Again, there was plenty of space and the birds looked very well indeed, the conditions of these lofts obviously suited the birds. The first introductions were from Deschmidt Bros of Knokke, these pigeons were successful and won Roger the General Champion in his local club during 1970. Roger soon found that he wanted more from his pigeons, the distance races beckoned so he went out looking for additional birds. Those birds were from Descamps Van Hasten and Noel Peiren who were well known for their top-class pigeons in the distance events. The next few years saw Roger's enthusiasm and performance improve in these events and by the end of the 70's he became one of the best long-distance racing lofts in the area. The 80's saw the birds getting better and in 1985 he had a very creditable performance from probably the most prestige's race on the continent, the Barcelona International. Just four birds were entered for this race that produced the excellent result of 3rd 21st 89th 689th National against 8467 birds. The international was also an excellent result with 5th 34th 136th 1082nd International 17.060 birds and remember from an entry of only four birds. Roger sold these birds to Japan, which then led to him having his present home built, and as you can see from the photo it was with pigeons in mind. I must also add that Roger did not sell the stock birds as they were retained for the future. The new house and loft were built with a team of 60 widowhood cocks in mind and that is the team that he now has to race. The 90's saw a further change for the pigeons housed because Roger became friends with Gaston Devooght one of Belgium's most famous names in pigeon racing circles. It did not take long for these birds to record wins that were of the calibre that Roger always aimed for but then tragedy struck. Roger let the birds out for their daily exercise and there was a sudden change in the atmosphere and the fog rolled in. somewhere in the skies were 27 widowhood cocks and some were top class National performance pigeons. These were the pigeons that Roger was building his new team on but not one came back. Roger then decided to bring in a few more pigeons and went to a few well-known lofts such as Desmet-Matthys, De Smet, Verscheure and further introductions from Noel Peiren and Gaston Devooght. No matter what family of birds Roger has turned to them have performed well for him, this is the sign of a good fancier.