Grobbendonk, Belgium – Dirk van den Bulck (1954) must have been active in the pigeon sport for at least 50 years. He began as the helper of his father Fons, and when he got married, he started racing under his own name. For many years he participated in the sport in a less conspicuous way. For all that, during these 35 years he won champion titles as regular as clockwork.
A lot of trophies have already been thrown away or are gathering dust in a dark corner of the attic. Dirk has constantly set the bar fairly high for himself and his motto has always been, ‘rapidly home or rapidly dead’. One thing is for sure, if you apply a rule like that, you certainly have no problem with overpopulation. In 2006, which is not all that long ago, Dirk reduced his colony to only 6 couples; breeders and racers included. But then his luck turned. It is like a fairytale, almost too good to be true. At present, Dirk is considered one of the best speed racers of Province Antwerp. It is hard to imagine him not being at the top of the championships on a national, provincial and regional level. When you continue reading you will be see that there are real champion pigeons under the roof of Dirk van den Bulck.
Dirk himself would never have said this (he would say ‘fairly good ones’). He showed us the track record of the ‘261’ from Günter Prange. This bird won 10x1st prize against an average of 2,124 pigeons over an average distance of 337 kilometres. “Now that is a real racing wonder and there is not a pigeon here that can come even close”, Dirk said. I had to agree that pigeons with a track record like that certainly are exceptional and that such achievements are almost impossible to match in Belgium because there are so many fanciers living close to each other. Dirk did not agree. “Many fanciers think that they have a ‘Messi’ in their loft. You can see that in the names they give their pigeons, and thousands of young footballers have a shirt with the name of this Argentinean wonder boy. There is nothing wrong with that of course, but there is only one real Lionel Messi. Everyone else dreams or lives among the clouds. It is the same in the pigeon sport. There are quite a lot of good lofts, but real champion pigeons are very few and far between”.
At present, Dirk is enjoying a boom period, and prizes per dozen do not interest him much. For a pigeon to survive in his lofts, they have to win sufficient prizes per twenty, and possibly a few times in a season a prize per 100. Dirk is also not very impressed by chain-results, and even less by the stunt-results of lofts that prepare their pigeons only for a few important races and that you’ll barely find on the prize lists for the rest of the season. It will undoubtedly be worth it on a commercial level, but Dirk only counts the individual performance list of a pigeon. Brother or sister of… it doesn’t give any guarantee. “If I can breed 1 useful pigeon in 4 out of the best breeding couples, I am very content” Dirk says.
There are 10 couples in the breeding loft. Every bird that shows red or vale (mealy) colour descends from a red hen from Jos Cools (from Grobbendonk). There are also two direct pigeons from Leo Heremans and one of Heremans origin by way of his nephew Marc van den Bulck (from Bouwel), a hen from Louis Keirsmakers (from Nijlen) and one cock from Stefaan Lambrechts (from Berlaar). For that matter, this last cock is the father of his Olympiad hen. For the rest there is a breeding cock out of joint breeding with Maurits Hasendonckx (from Bouwel) and a yearling out of joint breeding with Alois Agemans (from Gierle).
In the past, Dirk has also done joint breeding with Rik Breugelmans (from Bouwel) and Staf Boeckmans (from Grobbendonk). And the original bloodlines of his father’s colony are also still present. The stock mother of 2002 had even been racing for the loft of his father.
The racing team
There are 16 cocks in the widower’s loft, ready to defend Dirk’s chances in the races from Quievrain and Noyon in the Tienverbond. These are almost all pigeons that have already shown that they can win top prizes, although this is still no guarantee that they will also do so in 2013. Dirk has high hopes, but stays with both feet firmly on the ground. Each year is different from the other, but he will do his best to make 2013 at least as good as the past few years. He doesn’t look back very much.
One of his sayings is: “Either you have them or you don’t, it’s as simple as that! If you don’t have them, nothing will work, no matter what you try. If you do have them, everything seems to go automatically, and the role of the fancier is only a modest one.”
During this winter, the widowers raised a couple of young. From April to mid August they are entered in the races on classic widowhood. On the floor of the boxes there is bean straw that is changed once a year. “Good for my back, and never dust in the loft”, Dirk says. He doesn’t think it necessary to train the old pigeons, but the yearlings are taken away for training flights a few times. After that they fly together with the old birds a few times from Vilvoorde, and then they are ready for Quievrain.
The feed during the season is a diet and sport mixture. Dirk finds most of the by-products completely unnecessary. He is fairly sceptical about the advertising world as a whole. What he does use is ‘sedochol’, a product that supports liver and kidney functions. It produces soft feathers and a good digestion. He also believes that Gervit-W from Rohnfried is a useful product. This guarantees a balanced health during the entire year. It is indispensable during the moult, the racing season and during the breeding period, the leaflet proclaims. Regularly, Dirk buys a can of aloe vera gel from fellow fancier Paul Mommaerts. This is a natural product intended for humans and has a beneficial effect on the resistance. It stimulates the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and it makes you feel more energetic. Ideal for every person, and therefore not bad for the pigeons, is Dirk’s reasoning. If it doesn’t work, neither will it hurt, although there is no actual proof to support that. The pigeon that can’t flourish on the above and on a healthy diet is disposed of.
“Natural health and class are the basis of good results. You only realize and believe this when you are lucky enough to have a few champions in your loft. You breed 100 young pigeons and after a few years a few will (hopefully) remain, which will help you get on in the sport. It has always been like that and it always will be”.
Some 60 young pigeons (the eggs of the best breeders were moved under several nursing couples) are divided over three lofts. Dirk wants to participate in the middle long-distance races with 10 hens. These are housed in a separate compartment. The rest of the birds are in a loft with three compartments. Two compartments are raced on the sliding door method, the pigeons in the other compartment race from the nest. They are entered in the races from Quievrain and Noyon.
The pigeons are darkened from 6 pm to about 8.30 am. As early as mid March the training flights are started. At the time that this article was written, the young pigeons had done 10 training flights already. They start from a distance of 500 meters and very gradually they are taken further away. After 10 training flights they fly back from 10 kilometres. Up to this moment, only one youngster has been lost during training, but Dirk can live with that. Another youngster was taken in flight during exercising by a bird of prey and eaten on the ground some 400 meters away.
Dirk is convinced that it is best to teach the birds discipline when they are still very young, because they are most susceptible to learn then. “The younger, the better, provided that they are in good condition”. Dirk fears power lines and birds of prey more than cold weather. Every year, there is a serious loss of birds because they fly into the power lines. And there is absolutely nothing that you can do about it.
Performances of a few pigeons
6272018/2010: 26x prize per 10, 19x prize per 20, 4x prize per 100 (2x 1st Ace pigeon Grobbendonk Quievrain)
2/493, 19/3249, 2/244, 23/2403, 23/2073, 9/595, 31/1881, 15/818, 21/1027, 48/2237, 3/130, 29/1152, 3/116, 7/252, 23/677, 10/275, 10/265, 5/128 and so on.
6293979/2009: 32x prize per 10, 18x prize per 20, 6x prize per 100 (Noyon)
1/990, 2/760, 2/693, 7/1250, 13/1660, 5/526, 3/262, 13/915, 38/2165, 39/2143, 12/493, 12/395, 11/318, 13/323, 14/336, 15/356, 16/369 and so on.
6293992/2009: 35x prize per 10, 26x prize per 20, 5x prize per 100 (Quievrain, 59x prize per 3)
1/287, 7/1841, 2/507, 12/2143, 1/116, 3/265, 7/467, 20/1103, 40/2165, 35/1660, 58/2619, 39/1608, 8/329, 17/682, 67/2675, 3/96, 40/1243, 22/634, 24/672, 23/636, 15/395, 8/205, 179/4366, 11/252, 22/494 and so on.
6269940/2011: 24x prize per 10, 17x prize per 20, 6x prize per 100 (total: 37 prizes per 3 from Quievrain)
3/2572, 1/331, 6/1381, 6/1175, 11/1414, 8/824, 3/211, 38/1943, 65/2589, 8/307, 26/964, 8/252, 66/1974, 23/687, 98/2481 and so on.
6269962/2011: 17x prize per 10, 14x prize per 20, 2x prize per 100 (Quievrain)
4/518, 2/211, 7/656, 8/716, 11/574, 9/428, 34/1381, 61/1974, 90/2468, 52/1301 and so on.
6269971/2011: 17x prize per 10, 12x prize per 20, 3x prize per 100 (Noyon)
2/472, 1/206, 12/2078, 27/2100, 6/371, 9/384, 46/1494, 20/633, 48/1332, 83/1690 and so on.
6254056/2012: 13x prize per 10, 8x prize per 20, 3x prize per 100 (total: 21 prizes per 3 from Quievrain)
1/1213, 11/1881, 16/2707, 48/2838, 37/1276, 15/446, 64/1701, 55/1300 and so on.
6254038/2012: 12x prize per 10, 9x prize per 20, 5x prize per 100 (Noyon)
1/1763, 1/1248, 1/555, 11/2148, 17/1772, 40/2072, 48/1469, 60/1441, 10/203, 121/1585, 51/640 and so on.
6254040/2012: 10x prize per 10, 7x prize per 20, 4x prize per 100 (Quievrain)
1/2183, 5/2148, 5/842, 19/1914, 27/19770, 58/1701, 59/1213, 48/919, 115/2131 and so on.