Jo and Robert Bernaert (Middelkerke, BE) are the national winners from Pau in Belgium

Fanciers from the coastal province of West Flanders were in a favourable position for the race from Pau and Jo & Robert proved to be among the strongest in the race. On Friday evening their pigeon Simon arrived home at their loft, which is only 100m away from the sea, and he took the national first prize. This is a dream come true for this family that has been involved in the sport for over 60 years.

One of the wings of Simon, the national winner

The most glorious day

“This is the most glorious day in my career as a pigeon fancier”, says Jo. We live 100 metres away from the sea and it is nearly impossible to achieve a provincial or national victory in the middle distance or the light long distance here. We have a slightly greater chance of success in the races from Dax, Pau, St.-Vincent, Barcelona and Perpignan so we have basketed our pigeons for these races for many years. We are well aware that this national victory is really a miracle and this is actually a bit sad. We have waited for this for more than 60 years and chances are few we will ever take another national first prize again.”

Jo and Robert Bernaert

Jo and Robert come from a family with a tradition of pigeon fancying. Their father Wilfried is a passionate fancier and his five sons are involved in the sport as well. Father Wilfried and his sons have been very successful in the long distance. They won for instance, the title of second national champion in the Belgian Entente in 1972. Jo and Robert decided to form a team in 2008. Jo (66) is a retired beer merchant who used to keep pigeons on his own. He won top prizes in the middle distance and even in the races from Bordeaux. When the house of his parents was torn down he moved to Oostduinkerke. Unfortunately he could not keep pigeons in his new house and he had to get rid of his collection of 120 pigeons, except for six. His brother Robert (68) has  been employed in education, first as a teacher and then as a school principal. He has always been taking care of his brother’s breeding pigeons. Robert and Jo keep pigeons just for fun; they hardly ever bet any money. Despite their good results in recent years they have always kept a low profile and they never boast about their pigeons’ achievements. Robert takes care of the pigeons and he is assisted by his brother Jo whenever necessary. Jo is mainly responsible for training, basketing, the feed, etc.

From left to right: Jo, Robert and Rik Bernaert

Their breed and the bloodlines

They started the season with twenty widowers (11 old birds and nine yearlings). They breed about 30 youngsters every season and they all have to do the national races; their main goal is the extreme long distance competition. These are the only distances they can excel in because their loft is so close to the sea. Their breed is based around pigeons from a variety of lofts: Gerard Chijs from Koekelare, Deweerdt from Kortemark, Van Bruane from Lauwe, Andre Brouckaert uit Wervik, Van Lerberghe uit Elverdinge, Fernand Malfait from Jabbeke, Ko Van Dommelen from St.-Philipsland (The Netherlands), Roger Florizoone from Nieuwpoort, Georges Van Maele from Bruges and Eric De Vlaminck from Hulste.

Simon, the national winner from Pau 2013 in Belgium

There is not a lot of paperwork involved in this loft but they know the results of their best pigeons by heart. They knew that Simon has won top prizes from Cahors and Narbonne, as well as an 87th national from Libourne. Last weekend he won the first national from Pau against 2,075 pigeons as well as an 11th international against 8,527 pigeons. Simon originates from the Jonge Dax paired to the 796/06. The Jonge Dax stems from The Cahors of Deweerdt, paired to Nijntje of Fernand Malfait. The Jonge Dax won a 102th national prize from Cahors and a 200th national from Irun. The Cahors of Deweerdt won a 7th national Dax and a 20th, 85th and a 125th national from Cahors. Nijntje is a daughter of Bettini of Fernand Malfait, the winner of a first national from Dax.
The dam of Simon is the 796/06, a hen that was bred from De Linkaard of Andre Brouckaert, paired to Het Bont of Roger Florizoone. De Linkaard is the brother of Dokus (67th international from Barcelona), Napoleon (86th international Barcelona) and Hydra (112th national Narbonne). Het Bont of Roger Florizoone has origins of similar qualities, because she is a descendant of his Barca. This proves once more that good quality pigeons usually originate from similarly talented pigeons. Click here for the full pedigree of Simon.

We wish the two brothers Jo and Robert a pleasant season in pigeon racing. And who knows, maybe they won't have to wait another 60 years for a second national victory.