In March 2001 Elizabeth and myself were invited to the Bruges Championship presentation where as reported earlier in
the year we had an excellent time. At that presentation there were many top names from the Bruges area, names that are well known in many of the pigeon households in the UK and even around the World. One such fancier who has risen to he top of the tree in this top competition is Filip De Prol from Zuiddammestraat in Belgium. He is married to Gerda and father of the 10 year old Cedric. Filip was born in 1963 and took up a living as a metal worker and has been racing pigeons since he was 8 yrs old, those first days were with his father. Filip looks set to become one of the new generation of names that are linked to the highly successful performances in the pigeon Capitol of the World racing with the KBDB. Filip is one of the youngest fanciers in the region of Bruges and until four years ago was keen on the sprint races but that has now all changed. Changed because he has started to compete on a more serious footing with the middle and long distance races where he can gain much more satisfaction for the effort that he puts into the races. Filip and his father, Arthur were very successful in those speed-competitions in that Bruges region but then Filip decided to make changes and concentrate on the middle to long distance events. The changeover took place and unlike many who try to transform their system Filip had no problems at all.
The first birds that Filip raced were from his father Arthur De Prol and like any fancier looking forward he strengthened his loft with pigeons specifically for the middle and long distance races. Therefore he went to some very successful fanciers like the legendary Maurice Mattheeuws of St-Kruis-Brugge plus other fanciers such as Kyndt Roland & Son of Snellegem, Chris Hebbrecht of Evergem, Lucien Staelens of Wevelgem and Roger Vandycke of Lissewege.
These pigeons proved their worth right from the start and Filip became one of the top fanciers in the 2000 season. He put together the following results,
"The Bieke" being the best of the loft with some of here best results : Chartres 10/ 267, Blois 75/ 1.133, Bourges 11/ 477, Tours reg. 13/ 519 prov. 143/ 2.829, Tours reg. 5/ 386 prov. 118/ 2.774 and Tours reg. 16/ 173 prov. 111/ 1.677. Last year he bred two super pigeons with the first being
"The Madonna". She won the first prize in the prestige's Bruges' Championship for East and West Flanders. She also flew the following races, Chartres 3/ 817, Blois 1/ 752, Bourges 1/ 321, Tours 2/ 191, Tours 8/ 185, Blois prov. 15/ 5.878, Bourges prov. 15/ 3.580, Arras 11/ 321. The second super pigeon was
"The Dromer" whose best results include Clermont 3/ 635, Tours 3/ 193, Tours 6/ 191, Blois 9/ 742, Tours 15/ 299, Chartres 22/ 817, Tours 27/ 516 and Blois 59/ 942.
It is only 4 years since Filip started competing in the middle and long distance events but nevertheless he can already show that his success in the sprint races can also be achieved in different championships.
The peak results were 1998: 1st Champion long distance youngsters Union Gistel, 1st Champion long distance youngsters Fondclub Union Gistel, 2nd Champion yearlings in Oostkamp, 3rd Champion olds bird in Oostkamp.
Then in 1999 he qualified as follows :1st at the Championship for long distance youngsters Fondclub Union Gistel, 3rd at the Championship National Fond trophy youngster of the Bruges Championships, 4th at the Championship Flanders Cup youngsters (818 participants), 5th at the Championship Duivenkrant Bourges and Argenton (+/- 6.000 participants).
In 2000 he was 1st at Ace bird youngsters Bruges Championships and both Flanders, 4th at the Championship for long distance youngsters Union Gistel, 8th at the Championship for youngsters West Flanders and the Interprovincial Championship.
Finally in 2001: 6th at the Championship for youngsters West Flanders and Interprovincial Championship, 6th at the Championship for youngsters Super Cup West Flanders, 11th at the Interprovincial Championship and 27th in the general West Flanders and Interprovincial Championship (with every week up to 800 participants).
The following year in 2001 the
Young birds continued to perform with, Chartres (207miles) 275 yb: 5., 7., 8., 12., … (19/41). Chartres (207miles) 267 yb: 1., 9., 10., 12., 17., 19., 21., 26., (22/ 37), Blois (264miles) 1.133 yb: 2., 9., 25., 33., 55., 75., … (28/ 38). Tours (288miles) 386 yb: 3., 5., 6., 7., 15., 17., 19., 33., … (16/ 29). Tours (288miles) 519 yb : 6., 7., 8., 12., 13., 21., 25., … (17/ 31).
Yearlings: Arras (64miles) 158 yl : 1., 3., 4., 5., 10., 13., …(8/ 26), Chartres (207miles) 135 yl : 1., 3., 5., 11., 14., … (13/ 25). Blois (264miles) 524 yl :4., 5., 7., 10., 11., 30., 41., 47., (12/ 23). Blois (264miles) 1.076 yl : 1., 5., 14., … (8/ 18). 2-years birds: Limoges (282miles) 432 2-yrs : 12e and 14e (2/ 2),
Old birds: Arras (64miles) 100 old birds: 1., 5., 6., 8., 12., 14., … (7/ 20). Chartres (207miles) 174 old birds: 1., 2., 3., 5., 12., 15., … (11/ 22), Blois (264miles) 422 old birds: 9., 47., 47. (3/4). Tours (288miles) 273 old birds: 5., 7., (1 and 2) (2/ 3), Tours (288miles) 365 old birds: 2., 7., 12. (3/ 6), Châteauroux (311miles) 705 old birds: 4., 43. … (9/ 9),
One thing that Filip does not consider when racing is setting out to win the averages because that can quite easily result in poorer performances by your loft.
The racing system is widowhood as expected with the majority of continentals choosing to race this way.
The lofts are wooden structures and have tiled roofs but Filip points out that there are many fanciers who do not have tiled roofs and they do in many cases race much better. I had to smile at the comment regarding the lofts and what they are made of, "The most important thing is what you have under the roof, there you need the quality". The approx. total length of the lofts is around 35 yds, this is made up of 9 separate lofts. There are no grilled floors here and they are cleaned out twice each day during the racing season but for breeding and the winter months they have a bedding of straw. When that bedding goes down the pigeons stay in until March, they receive no exercise at all, Filip does not use a heating system therefore the straw does suit the pigeons. The pigeons are all paired up on the 25th November and rear a nest of young than at the end of the season the top widowhood cocks and breeders are allowed to rear a nest of late breds. Filip does house 25prs of stock birds where most of the rearing is done, however he does like the pigeons to have plenty of room and you should not overcrowd them. The breeding is always done where possible by pairing winners to winners and while on the subject of breeding, if Filip has a big hen he just pairs here to a small cock and as far as he is concerned the problem is solved. The present day family that Filip races consist of De Prol Arthur of Assebroek, Maurice Mattheeuws of St-Kruis, Kyndt Roland & Son of Snellegem, Chris Hebbrecht of Evergem, Lucien Staelens of Wevelgem and Roger Vandycke of Lissewege. All additions to the loft are based on the fanciers performances in recent years, the modern day winners are what any winning fancier requires.
This is a versatile family of pigeons that are raced every week, the young birds are also raced every week between 250 & 300mls. These pigeons can win from 140mls through to 450mls, to race further I would need a different type of pigeon even so he does not believe that there is any difference in competing in the short or longer races they all need looking after. The widowhood cocks are fed twice daily with one soupspoon of feed both morning and evening.
Here are a few questions that were put to Filip:
Q. Are there any special treatments that you give your birds once the season has finished what do you recommend the readers to do with the birds?
A. I use Aviol 2 days a week for 6 weeks and "tarwekiemolie" for breeding.
Q. If your race team went off form during the season what action would you take to restore their condition?
A. I consult a Veterinarian because they are the people who can solve your problems.
Q. Do you give any special treatments when the pigeons return from the race as a precaution against anything that they may have picked up in the basket?
A. Every week a cure against tricho + some vitamins.
Q. If random drugs tests were carried out on your pigeons, would it reveal any substance, illegal or otherwise?
A. No drugs or other illegal substances on my pigeons. On the control this year my tests were negative.
Q. Do the pigeons need any special treatment on their return from the race to help them relax. Is any such treatment needed for the short or long distance races or the hard races compared to the easy races?
A. Every Sunday I give (myself) after the race each pigeon a bath for 1 minute.
Q. Do you use any preventative medication?
A. Trichomonas and ornithose, regularly by return from race.
Q. What do you think about the vaccination programme for the pigeons and do you think it affects the pigeons long term?
A. paramixo and pox and personally I do not think there is any disadvantage on long term to the pigeons.
Q. Do you attach any importance to grits and minerals or can the pigeons get what they want they are out of the loft?
A. I believe that it is very important and give them twice a week grits and minerals.
Q. Whenever I have visited a loft fanciers always look at the pigeons eye. Do you consider that the eye has any importance in (a) the breeding, (b) distance races (c) sprint races. (d) the pigeons health. Or do you steer clear of the subject and if so why?
A. I cannot believe that there is any importance of the eyes for breeding, distance or sprint races.
Q. What criteria do you set down for the pigeons you winter with your thoughts on the following seasons racing and breeding?
A. Avoid to heavy feeding because if the stock birds are heavy they do not go to nest as well as they should do.
Q. Is a favourable loft location the single biggest factor in sprint racing?
A. The location is important because the wind does push the birds off line but the pigeons are more important because without good pigeons you will not win the prizes. Good pigeons will win in any position.
Q. Do you use the darkness system for the young birds, if so for how long and do you think it affects them later in life?
A. Yes I do use the darkness that starts on the first day of March and I take them off at the end of June. I have never had any problems using the system and I don't think that there is no disadvantage for them as yearlings, take a look at my results.
Q. What is the farthest distance that you would train your old birds or young birds?
A. I do no training during the week because I race then every week more then 250 mls.
Q. Is pigeon racing as a hobby going beyond the average working man. Is it becoming too technical and complicated or can you keep everything simple and still win with the pigeons?
A. It is not as easy as it was many years ago but if you work hard enough with your pigeons it is it's always possible to win.
Q. What do you think can be done to take the sport forward?
A. We need to find a way to stimulate and help the young fanciers, I am always ready to help a beginner. I gave a young cock to Kristof Carrette at 12yrs old to encourage him into the sport old and he has been interested ever since. I am always trying to encourage him with the pigeons because we are losing too many fanciers and we need to try and keep those that we have and if we do nothing they will keep leaving the sport.
Q. How many weeks do you think a pigeon can maintain it's form on the widowhood system for both cocks and hens?
A. The younger cocks can maintain form for up to eight weeks with the older cocks lasting up to 12 weeks with the hens also lasting for the same period.
Q. Sprinter or distance, there is no difference, it is all in the feeding?
A. You must always feed them well, you will never have a good team of pigeons if you play on hunger.
I would like to thank Johny Carrette for his valuable assistance in compiling this report and for the excellent photos that he has taken for me.