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Gerard Vanbrabant (Nieuwerkerken, BE) is the proud national winner of Valence old birds

The pigeons arrived home from Chatêauroux and Valence much quicker than expected, and Gerard Vanbrabant was sent home from the club because the first pigeons had already been clocked. Just 30 minutes after his first pigeon from Châteauroux had landed, he also saw his first pigeon from Valence appear at the loft. That pigeon is now the national winner of Valence 2014.

Gerard Vanbrabant is not among the most well known pigeon fanciers, but he has quite a reputation in the province of Limburg. Being involved in the sport since 1966, he has been increasingly successful in the last few seasons. He has had several top prize winners, but he is not someone who boasts about his achievements. This national win makes him very proud; it is the result of hard work, a proven system, excellent pigeons, etc.

The early years

He started his career at the age of 13. His father was not a pigeon fancier but his uncle Jef Vanbrabant was competing in the extreme long distance at the time. Gerard got started with 10 pigeons and he was soon an avid pigeon fancier. His first pigeons were housed in his father’s birdcage, who was keeping birds. Gerard was glad he could keep his young birds there and feed them. He quickly learned a lot and he decided it was time to get rid of his entire collection, and to obtain a new group of breeders instead. He wanted to focus on the extreme long distance and so he started pairing new bloodlines in the early 1990s; this is when his own pigeon breed started to take shape.

Breeding and testing

His loft houses four important bloodlines and his collection is mainly based on a mixture of extreme long distance pigeons paired with true sprinters. The pigeon collection of Mathieu Diepenrijckx was available for sale after Mathieu’s passing, and Gerard was interested in obtaining a few of them. Mathieu’s Den As was impossible to beat at the time, winning seven first prizes including a 1st Orléans ’89 against 2,506 p. and a 1st Orléans ’92 against 2096 p. Mathieu had bred this champion from pigeons of Christiaens, the extraordinary fancier from Humbeek. A number of top class pigeons of Mathieu Diepenrijckx were moved to Gerard’s loft in Nieuwkerken, and these were particularly suited for the sprint and middle distance competition. In addition, he invested in pigeons of Van Wanroy (NL). 20 pigeons were purchased in a public auction in 1997, while a number of extreme long distance pigeons were obtained from the renowned Arie Van Den Hoek in 1993 as well. These investments have helped him make big steps forward. Gerard got a few pigeons of Boonen as well, which gave him several breeding choices. He could not find the perfect combination right away, so he continued breeding additional pigeons and testing different crossings. Gerard selects pigeons on their eyes, which means a pigeon with a great looking eye will be given a chance to race. Also, a pigeon will not be removed from the loft if it cannot win a prize in its first race. Depending on its origins, every pigeon will get a second chance in the breeding loft, to see if it is capable of breeding good quality youngsters. This loft houses a few great breeders that actually have not won a single top prize as a racer.
There is an interesting story to one of Gerard’s best breeders. In 2009, a lost young bird from The Netherlands landed at the loft. Gerard immediately contacted its owner, who told him this pigeon was related to the line of Wanroy. It was quickly agreed that Gerard could keep the Dutch pigeon, and it was a great addition to his collection. Click here for the pedigree of NL09-1459082.

Gerard has been adopting his own method in the past three years, basically following the same steps from Sunday to Monday and from Monday to Sunday. It has proved a successful system, leading to several important prizes. These are some of this best results:

2013:
Orange      3847 p.       1st provincial (5th national) (3/5)
Cahors       963 p.      28th provincial (2/3)
Châteauroux 2665 p.      43rd-47th-... provincial (7/11)

2012:
Châteauroux 1509 p.      3rd provincial
Cahors      1042 p.      11th-179th provincial (2/3)

Most of these results have been achieved with a widowers’ team of 65 pigeons. He is now racing hens as well, but they have not been doing very well. Gerard thinks this is a discipline on its own. Three pigeons will be basketed for Pau, and their performance will decide whether or not he continues racing hens in the future. The season is started with a total of 250 pigeons, including his breeders, youngsters, widowers and widow hens. As the season progresses, the best pigeons will remain in the team. Every season, a number of pigeons are lost due to natural selection, which can be quite annoying. For instance, his first provincial from Orange 2013 got lost a few weeks after his victory. Luckily enough, some of his youngsters have been doing great as well. Gerard pays great attention to the results, the eye and the origins of his pigeons, and he thinks the hens should be treated just as well as the cocks. They have to be in top form as well. This means a cock will sometimes get a different partner, simply because a good looking hen in great shape is more appealing and more motivating for the cock. Just like in real life.


The hens

The national winner

alence, a nice blue and white feathered pigeon with a white head, is one of the pigeons that originates from Gerard’s own bloodline. Click here for the pedigree of Valence BE12-5069383. Coincidentally, one of the pigeons basketed for Châteauroux looks quite similar to Valence. Gerard was busy clocking pigeons from Châteauroux when Valence arrived back home, assuming it was a pigeon from Châteauroux  as well. But he noticed this pigeon was not willing to enter the basket he was put in and he started to realise that this was actually a pigeon from Valence. He quickly checked the clock and he hurried back in the loft to remove the control ring. Gerard is still used to clocking his pigeons within five minutes’ time, as was required by the previous system. Today, you have ten minutes to clock your pigeons.


Valence is back in his own box


The pigeon seems to find it amusing. Notice its appealing eye.

Nieuwerkerken

Nieuwerkerken, a town near the city of Sint Truiden, is home to several successful pigeon fanciers, including J&W Kempeneers, Erwin Geeraerts, Donders-Boonen, Luc & Katia Joris, Rene Mignolet and many others. Gerard is assisted by a group of helpful people, for instance his left hand man Hubert Hendrikx, a retired fancier. Hubert was forced to get rid of his pigeons when he was diagnosed with a lung condition, but he could not say goodbye to the sport. He has now become the loft manager for Gerard Vanbrabant. He provides advice and Gerard acts accordingly. Gerard’s brother-in-law, which is a pigeon fancier himself, offers a helping hand regularly as well. It is obvious that Gerard does not have to run the loft on his own. This is a team that works well together and that has been doing really well in recent seasons.


His brother-in-law, Hubert Hendrikx, Gerard and his wife before the loft

Gerard has had an excellent start to the year, and he will be enjoying the rest of the season. We wish him many congratulations! We hope to see him win several more prizes this season.