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Historic Pigeons

Fanciers sometimes wonder which were the best pigeons in history. This subject is more than often an item in the pigeon press as well.
I am repeatedly asked the same question but then I do not react. Why not?
It is delicate. And why is it delicate? There are several reasons:

Can you compare results achieved in the past with those in recent days? What I mean to
say is: Was the competition in the old days as strong as it is now? Take the famous '45' from Catrijsse. His results (both racing and breeding) were sensational indeed. But what if this bird would have been born some decades later and would have raced against another generation of pigeons? Would the results have been as good as well? No one can tell.

Furthermore the average quality of birds in one area undoubtedly differs from another. Take National Aces in Holland. High prices are paid for them but it is generally known that such birds in most cases are to be found in areas where competition is poor. In several areas it is absolutely impossible to have a national Ace simply because competition is too strong. In a previous article I referred to National Orleans in Holland in 2001. Mr S won provincial 1st against 6.000 birds. In a nearby club he would not have won a prize within the first 10 in the same race as can be seen in the NATIONAL result sheet. So, how strange it may seem, winning a 1st prize against 6.000 birds may be a less good performance than winning a 3rd prize against say 200 pigeons. It all depends on the strength of the competition. But there is more. For example it is quite possible that in say Scotland a fancier has the best pigeon of the world. However it will never get the credit it deserves for the simple reason it is a Scottish bird and not a Belgian or Dutch one.

I remember a Belgian Provincial winner. It was sold like most provincial winners. However in the Steenbergen area in Holland it only would have won a late prize.
The point is our sport is different from others.
Fanciers who live many kilometres apart can only meet at long distance as at Middle Distance they race in different competitions.
As a cyclist you can compete another cyclist, even if he lives on the other side of the world. The same applies to a boxer, a billiard player, an athlete, a swimmer a tennis
layer and so on.
A pigeon fancier is not in that situation. A Middle distance racer in the West of Belgium cannot race against a champion in the East. If he could he might be humiliated by his opponent whereas he may be unbeatable in his own area.
It happens repeatedly that a fancier who wins the 1st prize in his club is beaten by 10 or more birds from a fellow fancier in a provincial race in which their birds meet.
Regarding the best birds I have PERSONALLY KNOWN I have an opinion though.

The best birds I have known myself are the so called 'Olieman' (which means 'Oilman') owned by Mr v d Veken and the '05' from Mr Vermeulen.
The 'Olieman' was called so as he came back from a race his feathers full of oil. He was born in 1973 and was at its best in 1976. Mr v d Veken lived just a few kilometres from Janssen Bros in Arendonk. They had their famous 019 in those days. '019' Was at his best in the hot summer of 1976 too.
'019' Won one first prize after the other and so did 'Olieman' from the same station (Noyon). However Mr v d Veken raced in another club.
If he would have raced in the same club as his neighbours the famous '019' of Janssen Bros would have won numerous… 2nd prizes!
Why 'Olieman' never got the fame he deserved? Simply as he was born at the wrong time at the wrong place. Mr v d Veken was a fancier who did not like publicity and 019 was owned by Janssen Bros.
'Olieman' won 14 firsts in the greatest competition of Belgium (Turnhout area) from Noyon (235 kilometres) and he managed to win 1st prizes 10 minutes ahead against over 1.000 competitors.
Initially Mr v d Veken did not have any babies off of 'Oliemans' as he was sitting too hard on his eggs so that they broke.
Till a fellow sportsman advised him to put sand in the nest bowl so that there was a soft underground and from then on the eggs hatched.
However not one baby of 'Olieman' could win a decent prize so the owner thought he was a poor breeder.
Later on it turned out Olieman's babies were poor racers indeed but… they were excellent breeders. In world famous 'Fieneke' from Flor Vervoort is his blood like in many other famous racers of these days.

Mr. Jos van der Veken, handling 'Olieman'one of the best racers ever.

The other flying miracle I have known personally was as I said '05' from Vermeulen. He was a man with money who bought good birds wherever he could and whenever he could. What he did was mate the most expensive cocks with the most expensive hens, the best against the best, at least theoretically.
Then one year 2 pigeons were left after the birds were mated. Birds he had got as a gift and they formed a couple. Vermeulen never knew why but he kept babies off of this pair, one of them was '05' a bird which was almost unbeatable. I remember that one day he won the 3rd prize against over 600 birds and fanciers reacted 'see, also 05 is just a pigeon and can fail'.
To find a good mated hen for '05' Vermeulen went to Klak and Janssen Bros.
He showed Klak his '05' and asked him if he could him a hen for it.
Klak's reaction was: 'I do not have a hen which is good enough for such a cock. Then Vermeulen went to Janssen Brothers and asked the same question.
Adriaan, the best connoisseur of the brothers looked at the bird carefully, then shook his head and said: 'We ourselves do not even have a cock like this, not to speak about a hen to pair with.'
'We do not know anything about pigeons' people say and writers write.
But there exceptions as it seems such as Klak and Adriaan Janssen.
Foreigners might have expected names of other birds but fame and quality are two different things in our sport.
Both 'Olieman' and '05' are history but recently my attention was drawn by another sensational bird, one which is still alive but already a legend as he had an enormous impact on long distance in Belgium.
Its name is 'Klein Geschelpt 13', the owner Mr Robert Dobbelaere and son Chris.

I had heard so much about Dobbelaere's results at long distance that I went there, despite a drive of about 400 kilometres. On my way to his place I found that he lived in the Mecca of International long distance.
Nearby Dobbelaere's home town I saw signposts everywhere on which names of towns in which the greatest champions of all time had lived or still live.
Fanciers such as Delbar, Vereecke, Desmet, Bostijn, Stichelbout, Vanbruane, Descamps van Hasten, Catrijsse, De Vriendt, Desmet Matthijs, Carteus, Huysentruyt, Decroix and so on and so on.
It was the descendants of their birds and those of other locals that created the modern long distance bird.
Also Jan Aarden, the Dutchman, got the pigeons which made his name world famous in this very area shortly after World War 2.
Dobbelaere is not a great talker but for that he has his son Chris and… his pigeons. They do the talking by results so outstanding that Dobbelaere was the man to be beaten in any long distance race in recent years.
I will give a summary of their performances most of them on National level. 'National' refers to the whole of Belgium (pigeon country number one), provincial to Flanders, famous all over the world for its long distance flyers.


1990: 3rd National Champion Long Distance KBDB.
1991: 9th National Champion Middle Distance KBDB.
  8th National Champion Long Distance KBDB.
1992: National Brive 21.012 pigeons: 1st and 2nd.
  1st and 4th National Ace pigeon KBDB long distance.
  12th National Champion Long Distance.
1995: 1st National Champion Long Distance KBDB.
1996: 2nd and 3rd National Ace pigeon Long Distance KBDB.
  6th National Champion Great Long Distance KBDB.
  Three 1st prizes provincial and three 2nd prizes provincial.
  3rd National Cahors 9,043 birds ('Herkuul' 92-3153113) and also 4th National
  Narbonne 6.092 birds (again won by 'Herkuul')
  11th International Dax 6,491 birds ('Primus' 90-3180399).
1997: 3rd National Champion Long Distance KBDB.
1998: Reserve pigeon Olympiad.
  12th World Champion Long distance V.L.
  2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, 11th Provincial Ace Long distance.
  8th National Ace pigeon Long Distance KBDB.
1999: 2nd Provincial Ace Pigeon.
  4th Over All Champion of National competition 'Belgische Verstandhouding'.
  1st prize National Souillac 6.035 birds.
  3rd prize National Limoges 10.737 birds.
  2nd prize Provincial Tours 4.800 birds.
  3rd prize Interprovincial Barcelona. 2.101 pigeons.

Unfortunately we do not have an up date of last year. The Dobbelaere family are so busy receiving visitors from all over the world who want to see their birds that they did not find the time yet to up date their bookkeeping.

The fairy tale like career of this loft is the story of just one pigeon 'De Kleine Geschelpte' ('the little Checker'). It is mainly this one and only bird which made the name of Dobbelaere spread like wild fire.
'De Kleine Geschelpte' was a good racer but as a breeder second to none.
His children were not only better racers than his father, they were better breeders as well. A study of the pedigrees of their best recent racers shows that every further generation seems to be better than the previous one.
Dobbelaere got the father of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' from De Baes who had the Stichelboutbirds. De Baes is one of those many fanciers who never got the credit they deserved. The mother of 87-3206313 came from Houtekiet who had the Noel Peiren birds. How good these are every Belgian knows.
As I said 'De Kleine Geschelpte' was a real good racer but not sensational. For that reason Dobbelaere did not breed many babies off of him in his younger years. Moreover he was raced then.
I was so lucky as to handle him and noticed that despite his old age (1987) 'De Kleine Geschelpte' was still very vital.
The first impression is 'how small this bird is', the following 'and what an excellent balance and speaking eyes he has.' They seem to radiate intelligence.
It was because of this that Dobbelaere decided to try out his youngsters later on.
Then he found what a terrible mistake he had made.
He should have bred far more babies off of him before but fortunately it was not too late yet.!
A strange thing is also that 'De Kleine Geschelpte' was a Middle Distance bird whereas his descendants do better at long distance, up to Barcelona (more than 1,000 kilometres). His most famous son is 'Noel' (B-90-3180408).

'NOEL' B-90-3180408
'Noel' was bigger than his father, a real Dandy and already as a baby he was Dobbelaere's favourite. However when being raced one disappointment followed the other: 'Noel' did win not win one single prize.
Still Dobbelaere decided not to eliminate him and raced him as a yearling. It was the same song though. He arrived too late from every race.
'Was I so wrong?' Mr Dobbelaere wondered and decided to give him one more chance in the last race of the year. That was from Narbonne, 850 kilometres and guess who was his first bird? 'Noel'!
Robert told his son: Winning a good prize from such a distance in such hard weather cannot be a coincidence and he was not eliminated.
'Noel' showed his gratitude for not being killed.
The year after, In 1992 he became 1st National Ace. The best bird of a country in which then about 80.000 fanciers raced pigeons.
The results in 1992 were so exceptional that Dobbelaere stopped racing 'Noel' and he put him directly into the breeding loft.
But he did not stay there for long.
After a bird has won the title National Ace in Belgium everybody knows what happens next, especially if long distance is concerned:
Fanciers from all over the world queue up to buy it. Dobbelaere did not even think about selling him till he got such a high offer that he could not resist it and 'Noel' was sold. Meanwhile he had given several super birds and so had his father 'De Kleine Geschelpte'.
One of them was 'Herkuul' (halfbrother 'Noel') who was 3rd National Ace in 1996. For a 3rd National Ace whose halfbrother was 1st National Ace even more buyers are interested who are prepared to pay even more money. 'Herkuul' however was not sold though.

All those who wanted to buy 'Herkuul' had the same question on their lips: 'Dobbelaere must be nuts. Why sell 1st National Ace ('Noel') and reject a fortune for 3rd National Ace? This question also intrigued me and I asked Dobbelaere.
'I should not have sold Noel either' he said. 'It was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life'. Looking at the results of the children of 'Noel' I understood what he meant.
'Noel' the superior racer and son of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' was not only Belgians best racer at Long Distance, as a breeder he was also outstanding.'Noel' (90-3180408) became father of excellent racers and breeders such as:

  • 'Raket' 93-3080101 which was 8th National Ace Long distance in 1998 and was the runner up for Olympiad in Blackpool.
  • 'Robby' 93-3080234 who won 2nd prize Poitiers 3.552 birds before he got lost.
  • 'Tornado' 93-3189976, father of 1st National Argenton yearlings in 2000. 'Tornado' is one of the basic breeders now.
  • 'Schone Noel' 93-3333752, father of stars such as 'Baron' and 'Express'.

As mentioned before 'Noel' was not the only super son of 'De Kleine Geschelpte'.
Moreover just one champion does not make his father a super breeder and 'De Kleine Geschelpte' WAS a super breeder. 'One swallow does not make spring' is a saying in Belgium. A summary of the children of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' is no less than amazing.

  • Herkuul 92-3153113 (mentioned before).
    'Herkuul' was 3rd National Ace pigeon KBDB in 1996. He won National Cahors 9.043 birds 3rd, National Narbonne 6.092 birds 4th and so on.
  • Blacky 92-3153114, the nest brother of Herkuul.
    Blacky won 3rd National Brive 4.931 birds.
  • Kartouche 93-3080149.
    Kartouche won 15th National Brive 4.179 birds, 11th National Brive 3.979 birds, 21st National Limoges 9.222 birds and 23rd National Limoges 8.883 birds.
  • Limoges 89-32020073.
    5th Ace bird over 2 years (1990-1991).
  • Cobra 96-3074225.
    Cobra won 4th Provincial Tours 2.031 birds.
  • 'Son Kleine Geschelpte' 95-3333758
    This bird was never raced but what a good breeder he was. He is father of 'Rex' 97-3213019 who won 1st NATIONAL Souillac in 1999 (6.035 birds). 'Rex' is father of 'Athos' 99-3111844 who won 2nd Provincial Blois 802 birds, 2nd Dourdan 703 birds, 84th National Bourges 5.708 birds and so on. Furthermore 'Son Kleine Geschelpte' is father of Aramis 99-3111843 who won 3rd Provincial Tours 2.867 birds
  • 'Sister Kartouche 93-3080150
    Is another daughter of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' which bred one winner after the other. One of them is 1st National Perpignan in 2000 in the loft of G Carteus.
  • Isaura 94-3182872
    This daughter of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' is mother of Eenwitpen (95-3220858) which won 14th National Narbonne 7.691 pigeons.
  • 'Belle' 96-3288582
    She is mother of 'Ramses' 99-3111854 who won 1st National Argenton 3.496 birds in 2000. 'Ramses' was 2nd Ace KBDB Middle Distance East Flanders.
    'Belle' is also mother of 'Fabian' (98-3001340) who won 44th National Brive 22.026 birds(!) and 107th National Souillac. He was 11th National Ace KBDB West Flanders in 2001, of course at long distance.
    Also Tobias (98-3001241) is a son of Belle. He won 21st Interprovincial Blois 7.377 birds and 30th Interprovincial Tours 3.600 birds.
  • Flora 97-3298902.
    It never ends indeed. This daughter of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' is mother of Camino 98-3001259 which won 30th National Souillac 7.154 birds, 40th National Cahors 9.989 birds and 59th Semi-National Brive 6.793 birds.
  • Also birds such as 'Den Donkeren' 95-3220892, 'Emperor' 98-3001273, 'Show' 96-3074234, 'Poupette' 93-3080213 are children of the wonder bird 'De Kleine Geschelpte 87-3206313".

It might be boring to read the figures mentioned above. But what do terms like 'Super bird' 'Breeding Miracle' and so on mean if they are not supported by facts? Talk is easy, show up with results is another thing.
For sure it will not be easy to come up with a bird that is still alive whose descendants did so well as 'De Kleine Geschelpte'.
Of course also in pigeon sport one sometimes needs luck.
Dobbelaere's luck was that he could breed more children off of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' than would have been possible with most other birds.
The reason is he is a real 'womaniser'. As soon as his hen laid eggs these were put under a 'foster couple' and the hen was taken away.
Unlike most other cocks 'De Kleine Geschelpte' immediately accepted any another hen and within two weeks he had another pair of eggs from him. There are not many cocks like that.
Some cannot forget about their hen for weeks. As 'De Kleine Geschelpte' seemed to like any hen Dobbelaere had lots of opportunities to try out new crosses. He mated him with the best hens of his own loft and with hens he bought.
An explosion of real super birds for long distance was the result !!
About Dobbelaere you cannot say that he can excel because his birds lack competition, on the contrary. See the names of the big shots in his area referred to before.

When studying the results of the off spring of 'De Kleine Geschelpte' superlatives fail to describe the quality. A bird like him is a dream, a once in a life time pigeon, a money maker. Robert Dobbelaere had confidence in him, he did not lose patience and was paid back for it more than he could ever have dreamt of.