Despite his age, Gilbert is still racing at the highest level. But his hobby has been getting increasingly difficult and demanding, hence his decision to end his career in style and to sell his entire pigeon collection.
Plain luck or an eye for talent…
He has seen quite a few truly gifted pigeons in his day: the famous "Wandelaar", which used to walk across the entire roof of the loft before coming inside, and whose descendants proved very gifted, "Louis" (won more than 80,000 Belgian francs in two weeks' time in the 1980s), "Passaat", "Tornado", "Den Disten", "De Vanhee" and "Bleken", as well as "De Marcel", "Goen" and his sire "Oude Kweker" in recent years. Or how about the latest introductions "Den As" and "Fijnen", just to name a few. Perhaps Gilbert has been fortunate enough to breed many very talented pigeons. But if there is one fancier who knows how to make his own luck, it was Gilbert Devriendt. He was clever enough to always keep his eyes open for potential reinforcements. He would not hesitate to invest in the best of the best. Just look at some of his introductions in recent years: Gaston Van de Wouwer (Berlaar), Norbert & Stefan Ally (Aarsele) and Willy Claeys (Handzame), as well as Johan Delanghe (Oostkamp) and Roose-Pyra (Bekegem), just to name a few. Whenever he visited the loft of a fellow fancier, he knew how to pick the most talented of the lot. You need an to have an eye for talent to do that.
Halted by health problems
Bredero used to say " 't kan verkeren", which translates as "things can change", and there is no arguing about that these days. Gilbert Devriendt (who races as Decru-Devriendt, as a sign of respect towards his former teammate Decru from Koekelaere) had had another very strong 2019 season, so he decided in September last year to continue racing for one more year, despite his age. But he had to change his mind: today, in late 2020, he is about to sell his entire pigeon family. The reason is that he had some serious health problems in June: severe heart problems, a dangerously low pulse and irregular blood pressure. This led to fatigue and physical issues. Add to that the coronavirus, the heatwave and the health struggles of his wife, and you understand why his pigeon family was suddenly less of a priority. His son Dirk did what he could to help out, but the daily caretaking, maintenance and analysis could no longer be maintained. Still, there was one thing that filled the Devriendt family with joy and positive energy: the moment the pigeons arrived home from their weekly flight. Unfortunately, running a pigeon family was no longer feasible. Instead, one of the leading names of West Flanders will be selling his entire pigeon collection. Not many pigeon lofts have managed to win several provincial first prizes against thousands of pigeons in Zone A1, often for several weeks in a row.
Fanciers from abroad had noticed this as well. Soon, players from Poland, Italy, China, The Netherlands etc. were interested in obtaining pigeons from this loft.
A wild month of August in 2018...
The numbers speak for themselves.
What did 2019 hold in store?
We take a look at a few results from 2019, which had clearly been a great season as well.
Despite the late start to the season (corona) and a limited number of old birds' races (just 7 weekends), as well as the health problems of Gilbert (and his wife), the team still had some fine consecutive results:
They did quite well this year, especially for someone who runs a pigeon loft in the town of Sint-Michiels Brugge, which does not put you in an advantage, quite the contrary. And we did not even factor in Gilbert's age and his physical condition (like we discussed earlier).
To begin with, his loft sits right next to the woods of the Tillegembos, which means that attacks from birds of prey can happen every day. Gilbert would sometimes keep his young birds inside for an entire week to protect them from sparrow hawks and peregrine falcons. Not an ideal situation.
Another thing to consider is that his pigeon loft is unusually small, being just 7 metres in length. He has one old birds' lofts with space for no more than 15 pigeons, one young birds' loft and a loft for 8 breeding pairs, where he breeds one round of youngsters for an entire season. In other words, he does not breed a second round.
This pigeon breed was founded on a crossing of direct pigeons of Gaston Van de Wouwer (Berlaar), Norbert & Stefan Ally (Aarsele) and Willy Claeys (Handzame). In fact, he obtained four direct pigeons from Gaston Van de Wouwer that are still the cornerstones of this family today, while producing great results in other lofts too.
The pigeons of each of these fanciers are particularly well suited for the longer middle distance. These different bloodlines combined really well. In fact, 90% of Gilbert's pigeon family originates from these crossbreedings.
These bloodlines were further strengthened with pigeons of Johan Delanghe (Oostkamp), Koen Goubert (Brakel) and Roose-Pyra (Bekegem).
Roose-Pyra has been very positive about these joint breedings with Gilbert. In 2016, when they agreed to breed pigeons together with "Van de Wouwer 3" (the third pigeon that he obtained) they had not expected this Van de Wouwer x Roose-Pyra combination to lead to such spectacular and exceptional ace pigeons. The loft of Roose-Pyra promptly won a provincial ace pigeon title with "Den Dirk". And the second generation of descendants was very successful as well. For instance, racing bird BE19-3013819 was very strong this year, so much so that we are confident he will take a top result in the upcoming provincial and national championships 2020 as well.
When it became obvious that "Van de Wouwer 3" had some exceptional breeding potential, many fanciers started to show an interest in this bird. That is why Gilbert and Dirk agreed to sell their bird in the spring of 2019, but not before they bred one last round of youngsters from this top breeder, paired to several renowned breeding hens. However, this young generation has not been used in the breeding loft just yet, with one exception. Be that as it may, these descendants have the appearance of very talented and powerful birds.
Meanwhile, the Roose-Pyra combination also gave a number of pigeons to Decru-Devriendt. In a way, it is unfortunate that these joint breedings have only recently been put to the test. The results were very promising but Gilbert's health problems have prevented these developments from going any further.
A third important influence in this breed comes from the pigeon family of Norbert & Stefan Ally, which were very successful in 2020. Gilbert obtained several good quality pigeons from them over the years, and the other way round. For instance, he gave the Ally family a hen from the third round, "Lucie", and she did really well. She is now a member of the breeding loft.
It is unfortunate that Gilbert did not try his luck in longer distance races. His many successful seasons in the middle distance were rather addictive, and an attempt at longer distance racing did not seem necessary or useful to him. Still, several other fanciers (Norbert and Stefan Ally, Descheemaecker-Vanhauwaert and others) have successfully basketed descendants of Decru-Devriendt in longer distance races.
Due to the limited number of widowers that can be kept in his loft, he was also hesitant to basket pigeons for longer middle distance races, given the higher chance of pigeons getting lost. If you rely on no more than ten top quality pigeons, you don't want things to go wrong. In that sense it is unfortunate that a provincial winner from 2018 (the 506-18) still went missing on that disastrous race from Fontenay in 2020. Gilbert immediately decided to no longer basket racing bird "As" (587-18), which had had two exceptional seasons in a row, for races with unpredictable weather conditions, and to end his racing career a bit sooner. He also noticed that fewer and fewer pigeons were being basketed (< 100 p.).
A fourth important influence: the Decru-Devriendt lofts are also home to a number of pigeons of Willy Claeys from Handzame, who relies mostly on the bloodlines of Antoon & Hilde Reynaert (Passendale), with "Figo" as their top breeder. Willy is for sure one of the strongest players in West Flanders, and many neighbouring lofts consider him a great champion. Willy and Gilbert exchanged quite a few pigeons in recent years, for instance a sister of ace pigeon Mertens, winner of 11 first prizes. And it led to great results for both of them. To give you an idea: three brothers and one sister (574 -16, 882-16, 883 -16, 892-16) from a crossing of Van de Wouwer x W. Claeys are proving to be very valuable breeders for Decru-Devriendt, with different partners. For instance, his champion "De Fijnen" comes from one of these three brothers. And the dam of the the As bloodline of the 587 - 18 is a direct Willy Claeys.
Among the stock pigeons that have been on board a lot longer are two champions with several victories to their name. Over the years, they also provided other fanciers with top quality descendants, including Erik Rossel from Gistel. These two pigeons are called "Marcel" (from the Adhemar breed of Verschuere in Kachtem, with renowned sock dam and sire "Wendy" and "Goen") and "Oude Kweker" (related to a fantastic breeding hen of the late Georges Lidou). These were great racing birds, and two very successful breeders as well. The descendants of both these breeders have in turn proven to be excellent breeding and racing birds.
We can think of many examples to illustrate the breeding value of the Decru-Devriendt pigeon family. We list a few fanciers that have had great results with these bloodlines. Of course, we start with Norbert and Stefan Ally and their "Lucie" hen and Willy Claeys & Roose-Pyra with "Van de wouwer 3". And we also thought of the following names, in alphabetical order: Cokelaere Willy (Moorsele), Delanghe Johan (Oostkamp), Descheemaeker-Vanhauwaert (Veldegem), Goubert Koen (Brakel), Hallaert Wilfried (Lichtervelde), Hubrecht Eddy (Sint-Andries), Kamerman Janneke (Nederland), Kindt Filip (Zedelgem), Peiren Noël (Zedelgem), Poppe Walter (Zelzate), Rosseel Erik (Gistel), Vandekerckhove Mario (Ingelmunster), Van Steelant Freddy (Torhout), Verhelle Roger (Zedelgem), etc.
Achievements of fellow fanciers...
The Decru-Devriendt has been very pleased with the achievements of other fanciers with their bloodlines. Here are a few examples:
Willy Claeys from Handzame won the following prizes with two youngsters that were bred from two hens of Decru-Devriendt:
The 061 – 19 wins: Arras 91/512, Clermont 46/908, 85/745 and Pontoise 6/927, 11/343, 67/270, 95/398, 22/318 and 2/195.
The 050 – 19 (from a different dam) did even better, winning: Arras 60/512, Clermont 53/752, 44/830, 3/1132, 14/908 and Pontoise 5/927, 38/343, 14/270, 1/398, 3/318, 44/195
Willy Cokelaere from Moorslede obtained two cocks of Decru-Devriendt in 2018, and two young sons did really well in 2019.
The 624 – 19 wins: Clermont 53/157, 24/193, 3/350, 25/607, 27/689, 16/531, 24/466 and Pontoise 5/675, 88/295 …
The 653 – 19 wins: Arras 61/200, Clermont 14/157, 19/607, 35/306, 33/256 and Pontoise 11/675, 34/415, 5/322, 35/295 and 56/240 …
Wilfried Hallaert from Lichtervelde bred a young cock from two pigeons of Decru-Devriendt, which performed as follows:
The 940 – 19 wins for instance: Arras 23/125, 12/288, 28/663 and Clermont 39/373, 1/593 and 61/752.
And let's not forget the following fanciers…
Roose-Pyra from Bekegem won a provincial title in the "allround category olds+YLs" in 2018 with "Dirk" (from a joint breeding). And in 2020 they scored with a grandson of "Van de Wouwer 3", with racing bird BE-3013819 winning the following prizes: Clermont 2/300, 2/437, Fontenay 1/278, 1/1.637, 1/499, 1/3,363, 1/118, 1/1,313, 1/190, 1/2,177, 2/107, 2/1,409, 2/210, 2/2,180 (including doubles), Pontoise 3/746. We cannot of many equally gifted pigeons...
Norbert and Stefan Ally from Aarsele obtained "Lucie" from Gilbert, and a hen from the third round did great in provincial as well as national races. She also became a very important breeder for the team later on. Yhey ended the season on a high note, with a descendant of "Van de Wouwer 3" winning a 1st Blois of 692 young birds.
Van Steelant Freddy Torhout
He did great last winter with a number of pigeons that were lent to him, especially one that came from a crossing of "Willy Claeys x Delanghe".
Poppe Walter Zelzate
The old “Dirk”, a four year old cock that Walter received a while ago is still doing fine: hei s still going strong in the old birds' category; his worst result is a 17th, his best a 2nd place from Orleans (17th provincial).
Koen Goubert from Brakel
He obtained pigeons from “Van de Wouwer I” and “Van de Wouwer II”, and they bred a hen that did great as as young bird: Nyon 1/362, 1/377, 3/450, 4/586 etc.
This combination basketed the Decru-Devriendt" bloodlines for longer races, and with success
And the list goes on...
This is what ending your career in style means for Gilbert: his pigeons excelled one more time on the very last day of the season, as if to honour their "commander":
Wijnendale-Torhout : Pontoise 249 pigeons (240 km)
1st place Roger Verhelle. Sire: a direct Decru-Devriendt cock on loan (588 – 19: brother “ace pigeon 2018”)
2nd place Filip Kindt. Sire: a direct Decru-Devriendt cock on loan (352 – 19 : “Johan x Freddy”)
Ruiselede: Blois (Montoire) 238 pigeons (400 km)
1st place “692 -20” Norbert and Stefan Ally. Sire: descendant of “Van de Wouwer 3”