The five star pigeon family of the brothers Freddy & Jacques Vandenheede from Zingem are probably Belgium's most celebrated pigeon breed of the decade. We still say Zingem for the time being but chances are they will soon be based in Kruisem, as a result of the merger between their home town and the neighbouring town of Kruishoutem. We reckon this will have no effect at all on the Vandenheede pigeons, since their loft will be in the exact same location, the same place where history has been made again in 2017.
General Champion of Belgium KBDB
2017 was another great racing season for the fanciers from Zingem, who won several championship titles and provincial and national ace pigeons. They are known for racing with large groups of racing birds but that does not change the fact that it takes a strong first or second nominated and a particularly gifted racing bird to win a championship title or ace pigeon title. Here is a look at their most prominent titles of 2017:
1st General Champion of Belgium KBDB 2017 1st General Provincial Champion KBDB East-Fl. 2017 1st General Champion FVOV 2017 2nd Provincial Ace Pigeon Middle Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 2nd Provincial Champion Middle Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 5th Provincial Ace Pigeon Long Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 5th Provincial Champion Long Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 6th Provincial Ace Pigeon Long Distance YBs KBDB 2017 10th National Ace Pigeon Longer Middle Distance olds KBDB 2017 1st King in Club Union & Liberté Gent 2017
On top of that they won two national first prizes from Libourne of 3,948 Yearlings and Chateauroux III of 18,499 YBs, as well as 8 provincial first prizes. This has been a fantastic season indeed. This is the type of season we have come to expect from Team Vandenheede, with first prizes in the sprint and the shorter middle distance, as well as in the extreme long distance classics. It illustrates the extreme versatility of the modern day Vandenheede pigeon. The team has claimed their 9th and 10th national victory this season since the start of their collaboration in 2008.
And yet, Freddy and Jacques think there is still room for improvement. They obviously do not rest on their laurels, and it made us wonder: is this what defines a true champion? They continue to look for improvements, they remain critical, and they are constantly making adjustements, in an effort to raise the bar even further in the future.
That feeling of being a champion
It must feel great to be one of the great champions in your sport. And yet, even Freddy & Jacques, two of the best fanciers at national level, have had their tough moments as well. They have an excellent mindset: those that make the least mistakes during the season will be most likely to win many top prizes at the end of the season. A talented group of pigeons does the rest.
Raising your level of performance can be done in many ways. One way would be to look for better pigeons, although this is probably easier said than done for Team Vandenheede, since they already have an extensive collection of highly talented racing and breeding birds. Another option would be to try and improve or optimise your strategies, your overall approach or your lofts. Freddy and Jacques always keep their finger on the pulse: they follow the latest developments, and they have an eye for detail.
When they started their collaboration in 2008, the two fanciers started racing with a group of old cocks in widowhood, aiming for the national long distance races. They fairly quickly started doing very well, and they were soon winning top prizes in this competition, including national victories and national ace pigeons. They could not have hoped for a better outcome, or could they? Freddy noticed that the climate in their southwest oriented racing lofts for cocks could use some improvement. Their young birds' lofts were facing south-east, and you could tell that the young birds were much more alive during spring, because the sun hit their loft a few hours earlier every day compared to the loft of the cocks. Still, any fancier would be hesitant to make drastic changes if all is going well. Still, Freddy kept thinking that the young birds' loft might be better suited for his old cocks raced in widowhood.
The lofts : the racing lofts of the widower cocks on the left, the young birds' lofts with the aviaries on the right
Freddy and Jacques bit the bullet in the end of 2016, switching the young birds' and old cocks' lofts before the start of the 2017 season. They had to change things around quite a bit in winter, just after the moulting period. They installed a set of aviaries in front of what used to be the loft of the racing cocks, which would give the young birds plenty of space and oxygen. The former young birds' lofts were equipped with living boxes for the widowers. To make sure that the racing cocks would stick to their new loft, it was decided to pair them and to let them build a nest. Since adjusting the two lofts took quite a bit of time, the pigeons were paired only in early March. As a result, the cocks did their first midle distance race with a large youngster in the bowl. There was one drawback, which they discovered only later on: the moult went by too quickly for their liking. In Jarnac, where they claimed a 1st National, most cocks had dropped three primaries, including the national winner. Two weeks later, in the race from Tulle, most had dropped even a fourth one. The pigeons were in perfect shape however, with almost 50% of their birds winning a prize per ten. Still, the two fanciers believe they lost a few minutes in these races (Tulle nat. 7,447 olds: 36 and 14/21, Tulle Nat. 9,578 YLs: 57-90, 28/54). Freddy believes this has to do with a slight lack of form, due to dropping so many primaries. They had to learn from their mistakes and make a few adjustments. For the upcoming season they paired their racing team in late December, with the first eggs being laid in early January, during our visit. The team from Zingem is hoping for a better moulting period that continues until the closing national race from Angoulême in early August 2018.
They also decided to change their young birds' approach, with only the first round of youngsters being raced up until the national races. The second, third and fourth round will be trained only as long as they can cope, including perhaps a few provincial races in August, or two flights from Toury for the youngest birds of 2017. The young birds' loft showed to have som weak spots as well in 2016. There was too much light in the lofts, causing the moult to start fairly early on, despite darkening the loft from time to time. But they did not want to change things around too much, first of all because the racing hens are kept in the back of this loft, and secondly because they thought that closing off the loft a bit more could lead to lower oxygen levels, which is to be avoided.
Instead they extended the darkening period: the first round of 2016 until mid-June, the third and fourth round as late as mid-July. As a result, some cocks had kept their old primaries even in the end of 2016, with one summer youngster keeping as much as 4 and 5 primaries. Luckily it did not really affect their level of performance, but Freddy still thinks that the changes made in 2016 have had an impact, since 2017 was the first season without a national ace pigeon title in the yearlings' competition - in 2016 they claimed as much as five ace pigeon titles with the yearlings. Many pigeons were in great form in 2017 but they lacked that extra edge to claim a title. Perhaps they were too far into the moulting period, which could have affected their level of fitness ever so slightly: they were just a few minutes short of winning a top result in Tulle, and they failed to get a solid coefficient in that race. The fanciers from Zingem learned a valuable lesson here.
They changed their strategies for the better, since all the youngsters of 2017 have now finished the moult in time, which means they will be heading to the first races of 2018 in April in full strength.
This shows again that great champions are always adapting. They look for minute details that can really make a difference in trying to outperform their opponents, knowing that these opponents are not resting on their laurels either.
Provincial and national ace pigeons KBDB
The team of yearlings did not have what it takes to claim a coveted provincial or national ace pigeon title, but the old and young birds on the other hand put in a great performance, winning a national ace pigeon title and three provincial ace pigeon prizes. The Vandenheede pigeon family showed yet again to be one of the strongest teams in the province and in the country.
10th National Ace Pigeon Longer Middle Distance olds KBDB 2017 2nd Nat Zone Chateauroux II 2,787 p. ’17 3rd Prov Blois 1,127 p. 4th Nat Brive 5,929 p. ’16 7th Prov Chateauroux 3,409 p. 21st Nat Zone Bourges II 1,498 p. ’17 29th Nat Zone Argenton 4,081 p. ’17 32nd Nat Zone Bourges II 11,401 p. ’15 364th Nat Bourges I 23,155 p. ’17
Sire: Flinstone BE10-4326260
A fantastic breeding pigeon from a joint breeding with the late Pros Roosen. He is a direct son of one of the leading names of the Pros Roosen breed, namely Flits BE04-5065636 (winner of a 1st Prov. Chateauroux 4,080 p. and a 14th Nat. Bourges 18,657 p.) x Isolde BE05-4045252 (2nd Nat. Ace Pigeon Middle distance KBDB 2006).
Dam: Estoril BE10-4101312
Winner of a 3rd Nat. Limoges 14,686 p., and a granddaughter of the legendary breeder Limoges BE91-4261261 De Rauw-Sablon (son of Dream-pair Albert x Paola) and of Kingston BE97-4237510 (sire of 1st Nat. Gueret in 2000).
Click here for the full pedigree and palmares of Zina
Freddy and Jacques bred one of their best youngsters of this season from Flinstone as well. This son of Flintstone was in fact one of the best at national level, as 9th best young bird of Belgium over 4 national YB's races in 2017.
-Zoon Flinstone BE17-4200198
6th Prov. Ace Pigeon Long Distance YBs KBDB 2017 9th Best young bird of Belgium - 4 national races PIPA ranking 74th Nat Zone Argenton III 7,382 p. 143rd Prov Blois 4,517 p. 194th Nat Zone Bourges II 10,761 p. 244th Prov Blois 6,013 p. 255th Nat Zone Chateauroux IV 3,369 p. 302nd Nat Chateauroux III 18,499 p.
Sire: Flinstone BE10-4326260
The sire of Zina.
Dam: Faisal BE15-4130314
The dam of a 1st Prov. Orleans 6,375 p., and a half sister of a 1st Nat. La Souterraine 6,205 p. in '15 (fastest of 10,245 p.).
Click here for the full pedigree and palmares of Zoon Flinstone.
And there is more: after a very close call Freddy and Jacques won a 2nd place in the Provincial Ace Pigeon Championship middle distance, with a super class hen closely related to 1st national ace pigeons Miracle Ace and Annelise.
-Dochter Woody BE15-4130412
2nd Prov Ace Pigeon Middle Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 2nd Prov Villemandeur 2,885 p. 3rd Nat Chateauroux III 2,780 p. ’17 12th Prov Chateauroux 2,860 p. 14th Nat Zone Chateauroux 2,599 p. ’16 26th Prov Chateauroux 3,409 p. 44th Prov La Souterraine 1,784 p. ’16 113th Nat Bourges I 23,155 p. ’17 141st Nat Chateauroux I 20,473 p. ’17
Sire: Woody BE12-4186084
A nest brother of Annelisa (1st Nat. Ace Pigeon Longer Middle Distance YLs KBDB 2013). A son of top breeder Matteo BE05-4045392 (one of the best breeding cocks of the legendary Limoges Limoges BE91-261 De Rauw-Sablon) x Morgane BE05-4246519, a top breeder and the dam of Miracle Ace: 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon Long Distance KBDB 2013 and Annelise: 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon Longer Middle Distance KBDB 2013).
Dam: Miss Bourges BE11-4081019
She comes from Gerard Iterbeke. Winner of a 1st Bourges 1,015 p. and a 28th Nat. Bourges 31,719 p.
Click here for the pedigree and the palmares of Dochter Woody.
The best Limoges bird from 2015 up until 2017 sits in the Vandenheede lofts. This chequered ace called Boaz is also a full brother of Fashion, 1st Nat. Argenton 13,629b. in 2016. Boaz a true long distance ace of noble descent, such as the De Rauw-Sablon bloondlines:
1st Best pigeon from Limoges in Belgium 2015-2017 – 3 races PIPA ranking 5th Prov. Ace Pigeon Long Distance Olds & YLs KBDB 2017 8th Prov Limoges II 2,082 p. ’17 25th Nat Limoges II 6,946 p. ’16 52nd Nat Limoges I 14,937 p. ’17 97th Prov Orleans 3,367 p. 139th Nat Jarnac 3,904 p. ’16 170th Nat Brive 9,132 p. ’17
Sire: Sound of Victory BE05-4045201
Winner of 1st Orléans 328 b. en 21st Nat. La Souterraine 15,406 b. and sire of 1st Nat. Argenton 13,629 b., 6th Nat. Châteauroux 18,725b., etc. He was bred from Gaspasjo (also sire of 4st Écouen 508n., 11th Dourdan 652b., 155th Vichy 3,412b., etc.) x Cooler Couleur (direct J&J Engels and dam of 3rd Dourdan 318b., 4th Écouen 508b., etc.).
Dam: Etna BE12-4186219
Full sister of Madina (1st Int. Narbonne Hens) and dam of 1st Nat. Argenton 13,629b. So she clearly inherited the best characteristics and passes them on to future generations. She was bred from Marcelino (winner 7th Châteauroux 3,772b., 18th 4,526b., etc. and sire of 6th Montrichard 2,146b., 12th 4,366b., 24th 6,148b., etc.) x Ranonkel (pure ace racer winning a 1st Blois 1,245b., 1st Blois 1,127b., 6th Châteauroux 1,638b., 22nd 4,104b., etc.).
Top class performance, strict selectioning
This was just a brief selection of the talented racing birds in the pigeon breed of Freddy and Jacques Vandenheede. Breeding often, giving your birds plenty of opportunities to prove their worth, and keeping only the best of them, based on their results. The very best pigeons in the team are given a spot in the breeding loft after their racing career, and are never offered for sale. This further adds to the level of quality in the Vandenheede family: they breed with their own super class pigeons, reintroducing their best lines into their existing breed.
There is still a lot to come from the pigeons of Freddy & Jacques Vandenheede, two national top level players whose successful careers are founded on a combination of vision, proficiency and a top quality breed. Freddy & Jacques are one of a kind, and they were again among Belgium's very best in 2017, this time winning the title of General Champion and national number one KBDB. Congratulations!