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We present you: Michel Vanlint

It was 2002 (time flies) that I got a phone call from Willem De Bruyn.
”Have you already heard about Michel? He’s coming back, he bought a house in Zoutleeuw where he will start racing the pigeons.”
And indeed I already heard about it.
Who is Michel?
Well he’s a Belgian, who moved to Taiwan in 1982 and there he started doing business in pigeons and the specific products. There he got married with a Chinese girl but now he felt it was time to come back to his roots, the origins of our sport.
At this moment it’s already three years ago and these origins are shaking by the way he races his pigeons. Not just on local or regional level he scores but he won on national level too.
So that’s Vanlint.
Results of which we can only dream of but to him it’s reality and that’s why Willem, Herman, Bas, Gerard and I decided to pay a visit to the new lion of Flanders.

We all got to know a real perfectionist who leaves with his basket to win. And we don’t know many people like that.
We want everybody to know that this didn’t happen just like that and that’s why we want to tell you a short history.
Like nobody else Michel knows that you have to “be in a perfect position” and you can only do this with pigeons of great quality on a perfect loft.
So at first he pointed the area of Putte where we already find many national winners. This location had to be good but here he couldn’t find anything he liked and he decided to start again in the picturesque Zoutleeuw, only 3 kilometres away from the Herbots family and very near to the border of the province of Limburg.
A very nice house in the centre of the town but that wasn’t so important to our “lost son” (how he likes to call himself). What he mostly liked was the workshop at the back of the house, which was very suited to build a loft on.
A loft in shape of an L, like it was with the Huyskens-Van Riel colony and …most important build in an eastern direction.
The whole was bought at a Belgian prize and every fancier in the area told that it was impossible to play well on national level. Michel didn’t like this very much but he thought of it as a challenge.

De Bruyn had advised Michel to play the double widowhood and so the loft had to be build in function of this system. At first it all had to be drawn perfectly and then they contacted Van Ostaeyen, who had to build the loft. He was honoured that he got the chance to do this job but we don’t know if he still was so lucky at the end.
Michel: “Sometimes he must have gone mad. I wanted everything to be perfect and I was rather demanding. I wanted an agreeable loft without draught but with a lot of oxygen.”
Now, three years later, Van Ostaeyen feels very well because his lofts are highly spoken off the last few years.
Of course it’s not only the loft that does it all, you also need very good pigeons and this wasn’t very difficult for Michel with all his contacts.

50 birds arrived from Willem De Bruyn (not asked for and for free), 24 of the Herbots Brothers, 15 of Oliviers Devos and another 18 of the De Keyser Brothers by Herbots.
In fact there were even more who wanted to help him but they hesitated.
Of course at that time nobody knew what he was up to.
His fellow fanciers were very glad with the new one and they hoped that he would win his prizes, so he wouldn’t give up.
But already very soon, Vanlint scared them of.
He was the only Belgian fancier who succeeded to classify a bird within the first 100 on all four National flights.
What astonished them most was that he played his youngsters every week again, not making notice of the weather or the distance.
At the end of 2003, everybody got over their fear and they all learned to live with the fact that he was fabulous. But at that moment they all thought that these birds were burned out as youngsters so they wouldn’t be able to score a single prize as yearlings.
That’s what they thought!
But then there was 2004.

At the beginning he already scared them by choosing another system; double widowhood.
Playing with as well the cocks as their partners.
This was well known in Holland and Germany but not in our own country.
But Michel just astonished them again. Where other fanciers give their birds some rest after a tough flight. In Zoutleeuw they couldn’t because also as a yearling bird they had to fly every week again. Just like they do in Holland.
In between the national flights they even got a short distance flight of 400 km, a distance which many of us are afraid of.
Vierzon, Bourges, Blois, Chateauroux, again Bourges, Montluçon, La Souterraine, Argenton, Limoges, Toury, again Bourges, Toury, Argenton, Bourges, La Souterraine. It was all on the menu of these yearlings.
Only half a year later the concurrence couldn’t keep up and the journalists didn’t find the words to write in their papers.
That’s why many other fanciers searched for that one flight where he wasn’t super and that’s what they talked about, no longer about his success, because here they learned to live with.

We will not mention all his results but some of them stay in our head like Pithiviers (1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 10, 12, 13 etc against 1,070 pigeons), Argenton (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, 16 against 641 pigeons) . We can go on like this but we will stay with the National and Semi National flights.
- Semi National Argenton 6,986 pigeons: 1, 7, 9, 11,18 etc
- Argenton National Yrl. 3,949 pigeons: 3, 9, 12, 24, 37, 45, 46, 47.
- National Argenton youngsters 23,010 (!) p.: 13, 21, 45.
- National La Souterraine 3,096 p.: 1, 4, 8 etc (577 km).
- Same flight but zone C 1,564 p.: 1, 2, 5, 18 etc.
- National Vichy 2,460 p.: 1, 2, 9, 26, 45, 46, 47.
Mostly flights of 500 km with those “over raced” youngsters of 2003
The people stood there and looked at it, almost paralyzed but all sure about one thing; it couldn’t get worse for them.
Vanlint knew about it and laughed in his own way and then came 2005.

Again some results:
- Toury: 572 yrl.: 1, 2, 3, 4, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21, 23 (25/46).
- Chateauroux 330 hens: 1, 2, 3, 6, 14, 21, 23.
- Chateauroux 678 yrl.: 1, 3, 4, 5, 12, 14, 15, 16, 20.
- Bourges 1 NATIONAL 21.940 yrl.: 1, 5, 7, 8, 9, 38 etc.
- Bourges 1 NATIONAL 5,759 hens: 1, 3, 4, 17, 21, 45, 91.
- Bourges 2 NATIONAL 32,762 (!) youngsters: 1 !
In three years time he competed to14 national flights of which he won 7 (hereby 2 with hens), classified 19 pigeons in the top 10 and 70 in the top 100.
”Never done before” was what all Belgian newspapers mentioned.
The correct number of pigeons I don’t know but I think it was an average of about 30 per flight. Besides there are so many super results of which we can’t talk here because it would be too much of good information.
What kind of birds they are?
Well again we can’t tell.

- ‘Barbara’ B-05-2190504
‘Barbara’ won the National flight from Bourges against 32.724 p..
”That time I was lucky” smiled Michel. She fell on the wrong antenna, which she never did before, immediately was clocked and that was necessary too. The 2nd prize winner followed in only 4 seconds.
She was very well motivated because she was paired to one cock together with another hen and the boss played the game too. She left in the basket as jealous as possible.
The father came from Verbeke-Limbourg, her mother out of the famous ‘155 Herbots’.

- ‘Adonis’ Nl-03-1141085
‘Adonis’ won National La Souterraine, (3,150 yrl.) and 14th National Vichy (11,448 p.), a De Bruyn bird out of his ‘Olympic Zeus’.

- ‘Anita’ Nl-03-1141112
‘Anita’ won National Vichy, was Olympic pigeon and again a direct De Bruyn out of the ‘Gilbert’ and a hen which is a daughter of the 96-5660145 of me.
‘Anita’ also won Toury (1,984 p.) and Argenton (629 p.).

- ‘Bea’ B-04-2105478
‘Bea’ won National Bourges (21,940 p.). Her father comes from Maurice Vandevelde, the mother is Herbots Deno and granddaughter of the 2nd National Dax of J Wolters.

- ‘Amos’ Nl-03-1141081
He’s Semi National winner from Argenton (6,900 p) and again a De Bruyn out of ‘Jaap’ (best young bird WHZB 1996), race De Wit Brothers.

- ‘Brian’ 04-Nl-2055223
‘Brian’ is the National As-pigeon BDS Middle Distance 2005.
Another De Bruyn out of his Nauwelaerts cock and the 01-402, which is also mother of ‘Anita’, so for 50% Schaerlaeckens (descendant 96-5660145).

- ‘Angelo’ 03-2266281
A blue white feathered cock of De Keyzer, Boortmeerbeek, is another star on the loft (1st Sens, 2nd Bourges, 3rd Bourges, 3rd Toury, 4th Limoges, 5th Pithiviers, 6th La Souterraine).

- Bianca’ 04-2200620
She became 6th national Ace-pigeon KBDB Large Middle Distance and 2nd National Ace-pigeon BDS Middle Distance. She’s from Sterckx Begijnendijk.

Michel must be the only Belgian fancier who follows this system. The hens are all locked in in little boxes and the cocks can stay on their shelves (in front of their boxes) till Wednesday.
The advantage of this system is that you can play ALL your birds EVERY week again.
Concerning the results there is not that much of difference except with flights with a bad ending or postponed releases. In these circumstances the cocks are not as strong as the hens, they get much more stress and they need more time to recover.

Two aspects are very important here: a good climate at the loft and the training.
What we still need to mention is that the birds are sitting on grids, that he uses heating elements by humidity and Michel hates draught.
Besides a very hard program, the birds have to fly every week at least 460 km, they have to train at home and … twice a week he takes them away himself.
Cocks and hens arrive together but they are separated immediately and then his wife pushes them into the right section with a stick.
”Driving them” is only necessary when they train well at home, otherwise you will push them even further away, according to Michel.
The youngsters have to do each and every 4 of the national flights and if they don’t succeed, they have to leave.
When it comes down to “selection” too many fanciers are seduced by the beauty of a pigeon, Michel thinks. They all try to breed dandy’s which miss muscles and that’s what they need when they have to fly 1000 km (training included) a week.
The fact that he doesn’t have many lost, is possibly because a lot of training and playing.
The so-called unfavourable position (provincial), all to the east side, could become an advantage on the national flights, so he thinks. His pigeons have to leave the mass to get home.

‘The lost son’ thinks everything ’s important, also the feeding.
Michel wants his pigeons to eat a lot because they have to reload their batteries in very short time. But they need “light food”, so he doesn’t like the peas.
When he mixes some medicines in their food, they don’t like it very much and so there’s a separate trough with ‘pure food”.
After the training, the pigeons come inside on a loft with closed nest boxes. The idea behind all of this is that the birds eat more than with the nest box open.
Because he gives a lot of supportive products, the pigeons don’t get often clear water, the drinking pots are cleaned three times a day. Beer yeast is one of his favourite products, the other products are innocent and probably unnecessary but he feels good only by giving them.
This is the same with the massage in warm water after every flight.
When a pigeon arrives very tired, he always watches closely which grain the bird chooses first and this is what the animal gets extra.

The medical part is very short.
He cures against paratyphus with Emdotrim (based on Trimetropim-Sulfa), the young birds get 2 vaccinations against paratyphus (Colombovac PT) with three weeks in between.
Not necessary according to many fanciers but Michel thinks it’s important.
Before the season he cures very carefully against cancer and the heads are kept clear (with antibiotics). This is very important because you can only start a good season with healthy pigeons.
To keep the heads “clean”, he drips them three times a week with a light antibiotic.
He’s very afraid of the “cancer” and so he always cures them for two days after they get home.
It’s a lot, he knows, but it’s necessary when pigeons have to spend two nights in a basket. He also thinks that all fanciers should keep something against adeno/coli so he can intervene when something comes up.

- To give the pigeons a bath after every flight?
- To clean the drinking pots three times a day?
- To have air-conditioning on the loft
- To drive them away twice a week?
- To get up to check if there’s no draught on the loft
- To drip them three times a week?
- To vaccinate the youngsters twice against paratyphus?
- To wear different shoes on every section?
- To disinfect the shoes of all visitors?
Is it all necessary?
Of course it isn’t.
If that was it, it was easy.
Superior pigeons are at the base of this success.
This we found out on our way back home. Then we visited somebody who kills us all on the short distance. A loft with a lot of draught and no sign of drops, training, vaccinations and all those cures and by-products.
Michel Vanlint found his way to Rome with pigeons of great class and a perfect guidance. But there are many ways to Rome, luckily.

So it’s not true that Vanlint is a magician who can make crows to win.
We already talked about position but there are some things that people forget if other score that well.
All you need are GOOD PIGEONS.
Think about the Dutch specialists with youngsters, their successes wouldn’t have nothing to do with quality but there would be a secret.
Till their secret “the darkening system” got known and they all started to breath again.

Now they could compete again with the same weapons. .
But what changed? Nothing at all.
The specialists remained the specialists because they owned better pigeons.
Vanlint bought and received some excellent birds and bad ones, but these soon disappeared by his system..

Critics always think that you can demand of your pigeon what he demands of it If he would succeed with the average pigeon, he wouldn’t spend any money to others.
A circle has to be round and the most important part is quality.
That’s what I think of it all after a visit to the “magician of Zoutleeuw”.
To shout about “the position”, “secrets”, …are always there when there are people who win.
This only lasts till they don’t have the pigeons anymore and no secrets either.
Already after the war the Janssen Brothers heard nothing else till half of the world started to score with their pigeons!
I know many fanciers who would want to race like Vanlint but there is always one thing they forget; YOU NEED THE QUALITY BIRDS!