Actions speak louder than words. It could be a perfect way to describe the achievements by the fancier from Ingelmunster in recent seasons. His racing pigeons performed very well throughout the season, which resulted in several titles. We wonder if this could be the most awarded pigeon family in Belgium. To prove our point we give an overview of the championship titles that Joël won in the past winter months:
1st General Champion Inter West Flemish Union 2012 1st Champion Long Distance Old Birds (1st + 2nd nom.) Inter-West Flemish Union 2012 1st General Champion Long Distance Club De Arend Rekkem 2012 1st Champions League Old Birds Grand Slam of Belgium 2012 1st National Decathlon Grand Slam of Belgium 2012 1st Champion Old Birds Grand Championship Riddersclub Belgium 2012 1st General Champion International Long Distance Union 2012 1st Champion Old Birds International Long Distance Union 2012 1st Tiercé Long Distance Entente Belge 2012 1st Tiercé Grand Distance Entente Belge 2012 1st Quarté Entente Belge 2012 1st Sextet Entente Belge 2012
This is an impressive list of titles. Does it surprise you that most West Flemish fanciers consider Joël Verschoot as the very best pigeon fancier in his province in 2012? At the end of our article we discuss how Joël has managed to be so successful. First we will have a look at how his pigeon breed started to come together over the years.
From father to son
We had to pass a narrow, winding and very slippery street on a winter afternoon in January to arrive at the home of Joël Verschoot (56) and his wife Annie. “After I got married in 1978 I stayed in my parents’ house”, says Noël. “I was the only one of five sons who developed a passion for pigeons. My parents moved to an apartment but my father continued to take care of the pigeons. We raced in a partnership until somewhere in 1990. The old breed of my father was based on pigeons of the Decroix brothers from Rumbeke (with descendants of nearly all their top class pigeons, including Merckx, De Bliksem, the Haan etc.) and Albert Debaes from Lauwe. Some pigeons of Raoul and Xavier Verstraete from Oostakker and Jules Rijckaert from St. Amandsberg were added to the loft later on as well. He also used pigeons from Robert Dobbelaere of Marke (which is not far away from Ingelmunster) and the Stiens brothers from St. Pieters Leeuw.
So this was not a family of middle distance pigeons only; they own quite a few long distance birds as well. That explains why they made their first steps in the long distance competition in the early 1990s. This was an important step for the further development of the Joël Verschoot pigeon breed. Some other top quality pigeons were obtained from Eddy Leutenez from Kruishoutem, Georges Lidou from Ichtegem, Norbert Ally from Aarsele, Patrick Houfflijn from Wortegem-Petegem, Wilfried Van de Maele from Heule and Van Elsacker-Jepsen from Schilde. These pigeons were crossed with the old basis of the Verschoot breed and this combination turned this into a very successful loft at national level in Belgium. This combination has also bred the three top class breeding pairs and their excellent descendants that have won most of the top prizes in recent seasons. They have made the Verschoot loft one of the most successful in Belgium.
A sound basis
When certain breeding pairs appear to have great breeding qualities and breed several excellent racing pigeons, Joël keeps them together most of the time. Some of these couples have become the stock pairs in this loft that have bred several prize winners. Other pairs that could not breed successful descendants are usually given a different partner or can sometimes choose a new partner themselves. Why should we choose a partner for them?
One of the very best pairs at the moment is As BE04-3176837 x Shakira BE09-3127246. This As comes from a crossing of Lidou with the Max line (Leutenez x Wilfried Van De Maele and A & R De Saer) and has won a first Tours 533 p., a 4th Brive 435 p., a 48th Nat. 17,456 p., a 5th Chateauroux 619 pigeons etc. Shakira comes from a crossing of Van Elsacker-Jepsen x W.Van de Maele. This breeding pair has bred the following racing pigeons (we have only included the ones that win prizes at least per 10):
’12 Limoges 340 p. 2 Prov 1,489 p. 5 I.Prov 2,594 p. 9 ’12 Souillac 332 p. 3 Prov 1,527 p. 20 Nat 7,760 p. 26 ’12 Poitiers 159 p. 9 (26/5) Prov 1,043 p. 56 ’12 Poitiers 276 p. 17 Prov 1,827 p. 115 ’12 Tours Loc 230 p. 18 Prov 1,052 p. 39 ’12 Brive Nat 11,130 p. 1179 ’11 Argenton 685 p. 9 Prov 3,125 p. 29 Nat 19,782 p. 208 ’11 La Chatre Pr 2,815 p. 281 ’11 Chateauroux 618 p. 18 Prov 4,072 p. 67 Nat 25,263 p. 279 ’11 Clermont 419 p. 10
’12 Argenton 181 p. 1 (11/8) Prov 795 p. 2 Nat 7,046 p. 4 ’12 Argenton 699 p. 2 (30/6) Prov 2,844 p. 2 Nat 22,384 p. 45 ’12 Bourges II 346 p. 15 (28/7) Prov 1,258 p. 41 ’12 Chateauroux 468 p. 26 Prov 2,905 p. 88 Nat 15,902 p. 174 ’12 L’Aigle 134 p. 6 (12/5) ’12 L’Aigle 145 p. 7 (05/5) ’11 Blois 389 p. 5 ’11 Ablis 518 p. 16 ’11 Brionne Pro 6,117 p. 406
’12 Tulle Loc 162 p. 6 Prov 965 p. 61 Nat 6,817 p. 113 ’12 Poitiers 159 p. 6 (26/5) Prov 1,043 p. 47 ’12 Poitiers 276 p. 7 (09/6) Prov 1,827 p. 39 ’11 Arras 419 p. 12 ’11 Arras 389 p. 22 ’10 Ablis 233 p. 13
This pigeon won a total of 24 prizes.
Shakira was also paired with the Blauwen Deprez BE05-3088024 (from the loft of Luc Deprez) and in this combination she was the dam of the very talented young cock Prof:
Tours Loc 312 p. 1 Prov 1,355 p. 1 Blois Loc 1,141 p. 60 Prov 5,645 p. 189
The As is paired with Blauw BE02-3016467 (a crossing of Lidou x Eric Vermander) and sire of super champion Bijter, one of the leading stars in the racing team of Joël Verschoot and winner of:
’12 Tulle Loc 162 p. 1 Prov 965 p. 8 Nat 6,817 p. 13 ’12 Bordeaux Loc 146 p. 1 3-Prov 270 p. 1 Prov 913 p. 2 Nat 4,971 p. 31 Intnat 10,724 p. 48 ’12 Cahors Nat 8,348 p. 762 ’12 Limoges 406 p. 20 Nat 13,781 p. 288 ’12 Souillac Nat 7,760 p. 847 ’12 L’Aigle 190 p. 14 ’12 Clermont 360 p. 32 ’12 Arras 315 p. 14 ’11 Montauban Na 9,091 p. 441 ’11 Limoges 662 p. 41 Nat 19,373 p. 480 ’11 Chateauroux 823 p. 47 Prov 5,500 p. 343 ’11 Arras 428 p. 22 ’10 Tulle Prov 1,081 p. 87 Nat 6,695 p. 334 ’10 Limoges 209 p. 6 Derby Prov 1,104 p. 42 Derby Nat 5,607 p. 103 Oude Prov 1,929 p. 69 Oude Nat 10,448 p. 173 ’10 Clermont 283 p. 4 ’09 Limoges Loc 677 p. 15 Prov 3,326 p. 32 ’09 Tours Prov 2,423 p. 250 etc…
-Bokser BE08-3002203 (a nestmate of Bijter)
’10 Bordeaux Loc 128 p. 1 Intprov 857 p. 2 ’10 Souillac Pro 1,568 p. 26 Nat 7,045 p. 42 ’10 Bourges Pro 2,170 p. 49 Nat 22,476 p. 1012 ’10 Arras 280 p. 10 ’10 Ablis 249 p. 20 ’09 Ablis 257 p. 5 ’09 Orleans 181 p. 17
It is obvious that both the As and the Shakira are two invaluable breeders in the loft in Ingelmunster. Another outstanding pair is the Ally BE07-3034246 (a direct Norbert Ally and grandson of the 1st Prov. Brive) x t Houfflijntje BE07-4084429 (a direct Patrick & Dimitri Houfflijn; the Blauwe Fideel line). They are the parents of Stefanie, Annelies and Sofie. We take a look at the highlights of Sofie:
’10 Brionne Loc 855 p. 1 Prov 10,388 p. 2 ’10 Gueret Loc 491 p. 2 Prov 2,915 p. 10 Nat 13,885 p. 31 ’10 Clermont 626 p. 7 ’10 Blois Prov 3,683 p. 76 ’11 Chateauroux 618 p. 14 Prov 4,072 p. 40 Nat 25,263 p. 186 ’11 Bourges Loc 373 p. 8 Prov 1,388 p. 38 ’11 Tours Prov 4,503 p. 173 Oude Prov 2,714 p. 197 ’11 Argenton Pro 3,125 p. 274 Nat 19,782 p. 1444 ’11 Tours Prov 518 p. 36 (Loc first prize)
The pigeons of Georges Lidou play an important role in this pigeon breed as well. These are very strong versatile pigeons that excel in the races from the middle distance to the extreme long distance, including Barcelona. One of the key players among the Lidou pigeons in this loft is undoubtedly Roeper, a super class pigeon with a great list of achievements:
’09 Bourges Loc 561 p. 1 Prov 2,763 p. 4 Nat 27,506 p. 7 ’11 Montélimar 120 p. 2 Prov 382 p. 3 Nat 8,040 p. 196 ’12 Barcelona 244 p. 5 Prov 1,650 p. 25 Nat 11,590 p. 155 Intnat 25,320 p. 331 ’12 Narbonne 223 p. 6 Prov 1,139 p. 11 Nat 6,583 p. 58 Intnat 13,092 p. 68 ’10 Orleans 493 p. 18 ’12 Limoges Loc 406 p. 22 Prov 2,441 p. 169 Nat 13,781 p. 315 enz…
He has also won prizes from Limoges ’09, Narbonne ’10 and Barcelona ’11.
A third and even younger breeder (and breeding line) that is coming up is the Biba, a son of Picasso. These are top class racers and breeders from father to son.
’12 Montauban 181 p. 4 Prov 1,109 p. 27 Nat 6,822 p. 85 ’11 Pau Prov 528 p. 43 Nat 2,279 p. 71 ’09 Tulle Prov 780 p. 36 ’09 Poitiers Pro 2,097 p. 162 ’12 Limoges Nat 13,781 p. 553 ’11 Limoges Nat 19,373 p. 1200 ’12 St.Vincent Na 5,374 p. 1075 etc…
’11 Tarbes Loc 201 p. 2 Prov 1.155 p. 15 Nat 4.818 p. 53 Int 10,695 p. 174 ’09 Tulle Loc 124 p. 2 Prov 718 p. 21 ’09 Limoges Loc 677 p. 12 Prov 3,326 p. 22 ’11 Montauban Pro 1,393 p. 75 Nat 9,091 p. 124 ’11 Chateauroux 823 p. 26 Prov 5,500 p. 186 ’11 Limoges Nat 19,373 p. 1357 ’10 Chateauroux 2,211 p. 133 Nat 17,109 p. 592
The Picasso arrived home with an injured wing, which put a sudden end to his career as a racing bird. Fortunately he managed to reach home, said Noël. He had already showed his qualities as a breeder earlier on so placing him in the breeding loft was an easy choice to make!
A full time job
If you want to reach the top you need the right pigeons at the right place, says Joël. The fancier from Ingelmunster counts on pigeons that can fly at the top both in the provincial and the national classics. It is the task of the fancier to get things going by getting the most out of a talented pigeon breed. Success does not come overnight so he puts his pigeons to the test on a regular basis. The pigeons have to work hard in the summer but the fancier has a lot of work to do as well. During the summer it looks as if Joël has two full time jobs (his work as a slaughterer and as a fancier)! It is quite a task for him to get everything done, because he works night shifts in the abattoir. He is always on a tight schedule. When he comes home in the morning he releases the widowers (cocks) somewhere between 8h30 and 9h30. In the evening he does the same from 18h to 19h. Immediately after the cocks have trained he releases the racing hens (from 9h30 to 10h30 and from 19h to 20h). After the morning and evening release of the hens it is time for Joël to go to bed for a few hours. After all, the young birds have to be trained in the afternoon as well. Sometimes he can only sleep for five hours a day in full summer, and sometimes only three hours. This is especially the case when the pigeons have to be basketed or when the hens arrive later than expected after a training flight (which happens usually in the morning). Luckily enough his sons Wouter and especially Dieter give him a helping hand from time to time, for instance at the weekends: pigeons have to be basketed, they have to bring the clocks to the clubs and the pairs have to be separated after the races. There is plenty of work to do!
Usually the 21 pairs of breeding and racing pigeons (48 cocks and 16 racing hens, all in classic widowhood with the partner staying at home) and a few feeding couples are paired around 25 November for an early breed. Depending on the weather conditions the hens are taken away from the racing cocks and moved to the aviary. They have to raise the youngsters on their own. The racing hens are moved to the aviary after the early breed as well. The youngsters are on their own after 23 days. All racing pigeons are paired again by 15 March. After five days of brooding they are placed on widowhood. The old birds are trained for a distance of 20 km in three steps; the young birds are trained in five steps. After that they are basketed for Rekkem and then they are ready to head for France. As soon as the pigeons are racing the longer middle distance in late May the cocks are basketed every two weeks. The long distance racers are basketed every three weeks. Meanwhile the racing hens take part in shorter middle distance races with one night in the basket (Fontenay, L’Aigle) so they have a busy schedule. As soon as the young birds are accustomed to the basket they are raced every weekend, until the national from Gueret. It is extremely important for a young bird to gain experience, says Joël. For 2013 it will be even more important, because of the new national programme. There will not be a lot of preparatory provincial flights left so the pigeons have to be basketed for the nationals right away. Joël noticed that if a pigeons gains a lot of experience as a young bird he will perform well in the first flights as a yearling.
For the past few years he also takes part in international flights with about three pigeons. He usually takes an experienced pigeon of four to five years old as first nominated, as well as a few two year olds that have to prove their value. The most successful two year olds in the internationals are usually the pigeons that win top prizes at the long distance. The cocks only get to see their hens before the race until the middle distance (the first three to four races), not in the races after that. This is because he has to basket pigeons three times a week; Joël noticed that you should not bring hens to the loft every day, because that makes the pigeons that stay at home restless. For the hens Joël uses a special approach. At the beginning of the season the hens can fly around freely in the loft. After a few weeks one half is locked in their living boxes; the other half is still free. Every two weeks the two groups change places. By the end of the season all hens are locked in their living boxes. With this approach he keeps the racing team motivated but he makes the pigeons a bit jealous as well. As a result he never has any problems with pairing the different partners.
As in most lofts he darkens the young birds (1 March until 21 June) but he does not lighten them afterwards. They are raced with the sliding door. They have also been planning to test a group of young hens that are coupled with an old cock. The sliding door is opened for about two hours before basketing; when the young birds arrive home they can stay together until the next morning. There is no time for an additional release or training flight in between the races. They keep things simple in Ingelmunster: pigeons are basketed and raced and they are selected on their results. The results are the only thing that matters. Pedigrees or origins are of no importance in this loft.
Dr. Piet Blancke provides medical advice. He checks the pigeons are right before the breeding and racing season but he only treats them if something is wrong. During the racing season they are only given a tricho treatment (usually three treatments over the entire racing season). Thanks to the healthy and roomy lofts he does not have to worry about respiratory diseases. Joël is fonder of health enhancing products like electrolytes, some tea for the pigeons that stay at home and some garlic oil and bear yeast.
Straight to the national top
The Joël Verschoot pigeon family has rocketed to the national top and has done amazingly well at the championships in recent seasons. Meanwhile he has already won most of the important championship titles. It will be their biggest challenge to reach the highest level in Belgium and/or to win a national victory in the near future. We know that if Joël Verschoot has a goal he will do anything to reach that goal.