Wegge Karel, "The Karel Wegge pigeons"

The tracing of the origin of the Wegge pigeons brings us unquestionably to the Ulens, of which they are, as are other varieties, a big part as well as worthy descendants. But, in practice, the products of the pairings by the great Champion of Lier, have lost their original marks, to become, in an unbelievable manner, more beautiful; so much so, that they resulted in an individual strain with their own personal characteristics.
Karel Wegge received his first pigeon from a Mr. Schwyck, a chemist of Antwerp, a son of the teacher, De Vrembe. Through him, he won his first prize and an incomparable strain of pigeons. To win a first prize from Mont-de-Marsan was a great honor in the pigeon sport. Later, he procured the Ulens through the Vekemans, which showed a wonderful relationship with his own strain; a sure sign that the basis of his own strain were the Ulens. When Karel Wegge received his first pigeon from the above-mentioned fancier in 1850, there were not many lofts in Antwerp, where we could not find the Ulens. At that time, success brought Karel Wegge to the top of the pigeon-sport; this was before he brought in the Ulens, through the Vekemans.
Karel Wegge possessed the following pigeons:

1. The “Oude Blauwe” (The Old Blue) stock hen, barren at the time of the sale in 1897. She was listed on the sale list as No. 9, and was not sold for that reason; she was given to Mr. Louis Delvauw of Brussels.
2. The “Oude Roste Kweker” (The Old Red stock cock). He was a son of the “Oude Bleken” (The Old Light One), and later paired with a blue hen, named “Ulens” bought at the Vekemans sale. This cock was the foundation of the Wegge loft.
3. The “Kleine Zwarten” (The Little Black) was his best pigeon. It was a son of “The Blauwe” (The Blue), winner of First Prize in the National from Mont-de-Marsan. On the same day, his brother, a red male, won a first prize in that same race. It was through the descendants of this red that this strain was brought in by Mr. Jules Janssens, as well as by my father.
4. “The Vendome,” a blue male that became world-famous. After being held for stock for two years, he was trained once more, and won FOUR FIRST PRIZES that very year. This took place in 1895. “The Vendome” was a son of the “Kleine Zwarte” and the “Oude Blauwe” stock hen.
5. The “Oude Geschelpte.” This was an unequalled stock hen, and a racing pigeon of superior class. She won the 13th prize from Auch, 4th prize from Bayonne. It was mostly at the long distances that these birds proved their value and their wonderful qualities.

Later on, Wegge brought in the following specimens to add to his extraordinary pigeons:
1. The “Roste Vekemans.” This pigeon was bought at the Vekemans dispersal sale, after his death. He was the start of many unequalled generations, and it is through one of his sons that my father, in great part, is responsible for many of his successes; this holds true for many other fanciers as well, which we shall write about, later on. The “Roste Vekemans” was a son of the famous “Roste” of Ulens.
2. The blue hen, “Ulens,” who was paired to “The Roste Kweker,” mentioned earlier.

The famous master, Karel Wegge, always maintained that he never bred pigeons out of blood-relatives. Actually, this is not so. Indeed, when we look at his sales list for the sale which raised 25,000 gold francs, we find many times, ample evidence that the very opposite is true. To convince our readers, it is enough to give the following pedigree of “The Blauwe Vendome,” winner of 3rd prize from Dax. This pigeon was bred by Karel Wegge, and given by this fancier to my father. Here, we can plainly see the proof -through this pedigree- that Karel Wegge used in-breeding, because he paired “The Vendome,” his favorite pigeon, to a grand-daughter of this bird’s own sister.

Being in possession of this pure strain, it was possible for us to study these pigeons to the smallest details, and to give the exact descriptions of their principle characteristics. Our study was based on perfect descendants of the best and noblest blood that was ever in the world.
We have taken as our subject, the grand-son of the famous “Vendome.” What was brought to our attention in the first place, concerning this remarkable strain, was the extent and neatness of the pupil; it covers about two-thirds of the eye, and we do not think there is anything better and more perfect in this field.
First, we call to the attention of the fancier that the second circle of the eye -that is to say, the one we call the mutual basic circle- is unusually difficult to distinguish, especially in the purest subjects of this strain. Sometimes, it is necessary to use a magnifying glass to find this. The mutual basic circle shows itself in the form of a small net, rather dark, but more clear than the shade of the pupil. Although very thin, the perfection is irreproachable. We have the same difficulty in finding the basic mutual circle in the pigeons of Mr. Jules Janssens of Schaarbeek, with no white in their eyes. Mons. Janssens had in his possession, Wegges as pure as the master had them himself.
We can not press the point enough, to be careful during the selection of this strain. Subjects may have the eyes of really good birds, but the uninformed or inexperienced may easily discard or look over and beyond this factor. The basic sign possesses enough composite quality, so desirable for racing prospects, but as we have said before, this cannot be seen with the naked eye but only with a magnifying glass. And yet, it is not a rarity to find pigeons in which the circle is very plainly seen, mostly at the bottom of the eye, at the front near the beak, where the circle is darker and more plain. The first circle is rather plain orange in color, and does not take up much space. Here, we can see the exactness of the common principle that we have pointed out before: the darker the second circle of the iris, the more capable is such a pigeon of being able to fly the longer distances. In other descendants of the family, the difference from the “Vendome” is hard to see.
The pupil retains all of its beauty. The first iris-circle, in which the width increases at the cost of the second circle, is of a lighter color, and approximates the yellow color, especially in the red pigeons; the second circle shows an inclination to change to a vivid chestnut-red. The mutual basic sign -more visible than in the descendants of the “Vendome”- is very thin, yet more plain to distinguish. In the descendants of the “Vendome,” we find pigeons with white eyes. We have ourselves known two pigeons -brothers out of the same nest and of the same strain- in which one pigeon had white eyes and the other had orange eyes. These characteristics came from a pigeon of great value, called by Karel Wegge “The Simpele,” or “The Simple One.”. He was a son of “De Roste Vekemans” and the “Blue Stock Hen.” Consequently, through his mother, he was a half-brother of “The Vendome.” The mutual basic circle is nearly always perfect and plain to see. The second circle of the iris is of a rather soft, brownish-red color. These pigeons possess good qualities for racing, especially in the long distance events.
It is probably through the blood of the Vekemans that the white appears in the eyes of the Wegge pigeons.
The descendants of the “Vendome” are strong pigeons with broad chests and very low in the keel. The bold, round head is very beautiful, and makes it sometimes very difficult to distinguish the sexes. The beak is of medium size; the ceres of the eyes and on the beak are very slightly developed. The wing feathers are very wide, without attaining the same great width as in the Ulens. In contradiction to what is commonly said about the Vendomes, they are rather short, and in our opinion, real “balls of feathers.” Their courage and their staying power are their main qualities, and it is especially in the hard and long races that they show their strength. Although we find checkers of the very greatest value in this strain, the dominant color is blue, with black bars. The plumage shows -commonly in the descendants- one or more black spots above the second bar on the wing; at times, this is only seen when we span the wing. Briefly, we can say that the Wegges of the “Vendome” family are ideal racing pigeons.
Other characteristics to be found in the “Vendome” family are these: the head is very strong, the ceres are more developed, and the beak is longer and wider. The dominant color is checker. The reds and the mealies show the blood of “De Oude Roste.” All in all, they approximate the Vekemans, of had descendants of the Vanderlinden strain. It remains, beyond all doubt, that which, nevertheless, they have retained neither the size nor the bone-structure, so characteristic of the Ulens.

The dispersal
Karel Wegge was never stingy with his pigeons -of which he was very proud- and always listened to the voices of his friends who came to him, begging for some of his pigeons. It is an indisputable fact that in his life-time, Karel Wegge gave pigeons to many friends, with which they could start their lofts.
Of all those fanciers who possessed pigeons directly from Karel Wegge, we have to mention first of all Mr. Jules Janssens of Schaarbeek, who never parted with them, and who could show us, in 1910, the purest descendants of the Wegges. We could find them there as pure as the Grand-Master had them himself!
Jules Janssens received the following pigeons from Karel Wegge:

1. His famous “Kleine Roste” or “Little Red.” He was a son of “De Oude Roste Kweek-Duiver” (The Old Red Stock Cock), and the blue “Ulens Duiven,” (Ulens Hen) that he had bought at the Vekeman sale.
2. A checker cock, son of the “Roste Vekemans.” This pigeon was a remarkable stock bird which eventually benefited many a loft, thanks to the generosity of its owner.
3. A checker cock, son of the first prize winner in the race from Mont-de-Marsan. This was the real “type” of the original Wegge paired with “The Grooters Hen,” which gave descendants of the greatest value.
4. Many other descendants must also be considered, since it would appear that Mr. Jules Janssens was Karel Wegge’s favorite friend.

My father was also lucky to be a good friend of the latter; thanks to his good relations with him, he received from this fancier some of his finest and most beautiful pigeons.
Of these, we must mention the following:

1. A son of the “Vendome.” A remarkable pigeon, who, after being broken in, won many prizes. He ended his flying career with a FIRST PRIZE from Dax, 900 kilometers (600 miles), after winning a third prize from the same station in 1897.
2. A son of “De Roste Vekemans,” bred by Karel Wegge himself. This pigeon was a remarkable stock bird, being used as the basis of many lofts both in and outside of Belgium. “The Oude Blauwe” (The Old Blue) was his daughter.
3. A blue hen, a daughter of the “Oude Blauwe” bred and reared by Karel Wegge himself.
4. A blue hen, a sister of the “Vendome.” Bred by Wegge, she was kept to in-breed with the descendants of her brother. My father could not break in this hen to his loft, so when he changed his loft he gave her to Mr. Guillaurne Coekelbergh, his successor. After she was paired to a Grooters cock, she became the foundation of the latter’s loft. Later, she changed hands to a Mr. Wellekens of St.-Jans-Molenbeek; he had several descendants from her, which contributed to the many great successes that he had.
5. A grand-son of the First Prize Winner from Mont-de-Marsan.
6. A daughter of “De Roste Kweekduiver.” These last two came from Jules Janssens.

We can say that my father and Mr. Jules Janssens were very extravagant with the descendants of these renowned fore-fathers, and it is a known fact that they played a big part in the spreading of such exceptional blood over all parts of the country. In addition to the fanciers mentioned before, the Wegges were also introduced to the following lofts: Montjoie of Borgworm, Jurion of Gravenbrakel, Mercelis of Haren, Vander Cruysen of Vorst, L. Gigot of Dinant and many others. After the death of this great fancier, the whole strain was spread to the four points of the compass, in 1897. Obviously, this was a good opportunity for many fanciers to introduce the Wegge strain into their lofts. Among these are to be mentioned the following: Gaillez of Mons, Schmetz of Brussels, Swiggers of Wespelaar, Vleeshouder of Leuven, Philippart of Mechelen, Delespes of Brussels, Sluis of Brussels, Rimbeau of ‘s Gravenbrakel, Desirant of Vieux Campenaire, Haubursin of Ransart, Richard of Flénu, Cassiers of Oude God, Deridder of Dendermonde, Ruban of Fleurus, etc. etc.
After the passing of these fanciers, all of these lofts were sold at public sales. These were all lofts in which the Wegges had played an important part. When we consider the spreading which followed after these sales, we may say that we can find this strain in all of the principal lofts, all over the world.
But, what can we say of all of those pigeons which were born in all these different places? Did they keep their qualities? Unfortunately, we cannot confirm this. We have seen and handled many descendants of this noble strain, in which the cultivation of the Wegges has disappeared, in a deplorable manner.