Backelandt Gert and Bartel (Roeselare, BE) claim victory in national yearlings' race from Limoges with the fastest of 14,128 pigeons

Their chequered one year old claims the national victory against 14,128 pigeons in excellent weather, after spending five days in the basket. This is a good example of how a family-run pigeon loft can achieve great success at the highest level.

The wonderfully vivid eye of the national winner from Limoges II yearlings

We had seen a few races in bad weather conditions along the same flight lines, and so many fanciers were relieved to hear that last weekend’s national race from Limoges was postponed to Monday. The weather had improved, with clear skies, no rain and changing winds along the flight lines. As a result, most fanciers expected top prizes to be won in all parts of the country. Most prizes were won in West and East Flanders this year, in contrast to last week’s race from Argenton, which saw most prizes being won in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg.

Top level pigeon racing with a family-run loft

The winner of this yearlings’ race illustrates how a family run pigeon loft can still be capable of winning a top prize in today’ sport. Gert Backelandt is 41 years old and he started keeping pigeons at an early age, together with his late father in Markegem. He made a comeback in 2002, racing from his current home in Roeselare. His job requires him to travel abroad regularly, and so his wife Joke and his son Bartel (14) have to take care of the loft from time to time. His daughter Merel does not care much for her father’s hobby, but she is a great fan nonetheless.

Gert underlines he would not be able to keep pigeons without the support of his wife Joke and his son Bartel. He leaves nothing to chance in his efforts to make it to the top, which is why he tries to keep his pigeon collection to a minimum. He has 12 breeding pairs, 31 widowers (no hens’ competition), and about 30 young birds.

Joke, Bartel, Gert and Merel: pigeon racing is a family affair

A national win thanks to the use of a clothespin

Interestingly, the caretaking in this pigeon family involves the use of clothespins. This is a simple, clear, and very creative method. Gerard came up with the idea of attaching a clothespin to every living box, because he is out of the country for a few days quite often. These clothespins have different colours, and Joke and Bartel feed the pigeons according to the colour. Pigeons that have just arrived home will get a red clothespin, which means they are fed separately and get additional vitamin supplements. The pigeons that were to be basketed for Limoges were given a yellow clothespin, which involved a strict feeding plan. The pigeons for Sint Vincent had a purple pin, and they had a dedicated feeding regime as well. Gert draws up a new scheme with different colour schemes every week, so that Joke and Bartel know what to do. As you can see, all it takes is some creativity to guarantee good quality caretaking.

The pigeons are released once a day, and they get four soupspoons of feed. The pigeons are fed separately. The remains are taken away after an hour and one coffee spoon of grit is provided. The pigeons get increasingly larger portions of feed from nine days before a race. In addition to the required vaccinations and cures (paramyxo and paratyphus) in the early season, a quarter dose of Flagyl is administrated every three weeks against trichomonas as well. His pigeons rarely suffer from respiratory diseases. Other side products include tea, sedochol, and Probac products.

A modest yet well arranged pigeon loft

The winner from Limoges (BE13-3138585) is not a one trick pony

This is the kind of victory every fancier dreams of. Clear skies, not much wind and regular weather conditions. This was a tough race, as pigeons had to spend five days in the basket before being released on Monday. It takes a great champion in great fitness to win the first national prize in these circumstances, and it appears that the chequered cock BE13-3138585 is indeed a worthy champion.

The pigeon is still full of life after having spent five days in the basket

This is a pigeon with excellent origins and a proven record, winning a 41st national in the tough race from Poitiers a few weeks back. He could spend a few hours together with his hen on Saturday, before leaving on Wednesday, a nest bowl put upside down being his only motivation. It was a great success! 

This pigeon is a 100% Roger and Stijn Himpe pigeon (Waregem, BE) from his father's side, which shows that he originates from great bloodlines. His sire is winner of a 5th national and a 9th international Tarbes. The dam is a pigeon of Eric and Dirk Tibergyn (Bavikhove, BE), a bloodline that has won several great results from Tarbes and Perpignan. These fanciers get along very well, and they exchange pigeons regularly as well. You can find the pedigree of the winner from Limoges here.

The wing of the winning pigeon; this is what the wing of a champion should look like

Many hands make light work

This is obviously a well organised and close knit team that worsk very well together. Special thanks go to their neighbor Claude Volckaert. He has always been a big fan, but it was also thanks to him that their winning pigeon from Limoges was clocked in time. This pigeon family shows us that pigeon racing continues to be a family affair that has an important social function as well. Keep up the good work!