Etienne Devos, 76 years old, but still as motivated as 30 years ago. The titles that he won in the past years are proof of this, especially those of the ‘farmers year’ of 2012.

 1st National Ace Pigeon Long-Distance 2012

The facilities in Deerlijk, ‘many lofts but few pigeons’ is the motto.

Briek Schotte (1919-2004) can be regarded as ‘the last of the Flandriens’. Most of the original Flandriens I know only by name: Cyriel Van Hauwaert, Marcel Buysse, Jules Van Hevel, Jef (Poeske) Scherens, Marcel Kint, Felicien Vervaecke and Romain or Sylveer Maes. The man who, in 1943, gave these Flemish cycling icons the name Flandriens was Karel Van Wijnendaele (or Karel Steyaert, 1882-1961) in his book ‘Het Rijke Vlaamsche Wielerleven’. Memories of an illustrious past…


In the pigeon sport we also have our Flandriens: Alois Stichelbaut, Oscar and Gerard Cattrysse, André Vanbruaene, Jeroom and Roger Vereecke, André Brouckaert, Gerard Vanhee, Leopold (Pol) Bostyn, Charles Vander Espt, Oscar Devriendt and others. Roger Vereecke, André Lietaer and Georges Bolle are still among us, Brouckaert was named as ‘the last of the Flandriens’ after his death. But perhaps this title could also be given to the now 76 years old Etienne Devos from Deerlijk.

Vostje -as he was known among the Flandriens- already belonged to the group as a young boy: he was a regular guest at the lofts of Pol Bostyn, Roger Vereecke, Gerard Vanhee, Dreeten Brouckaert, Vanbruaene… and drank a beer with the other Flandriens during basketing for important races or on championship days, because the podium places were often divided among the Flandriens.

“I do miss those memorable times a bit… it was all a bit different then…”, admits Etienne Devos.


From Mothers side



Who can still say that his first good pigeons came directly from Stichelbaut? Etienne and his father André Devos can do just that. And not just any Stichelbauts…

Actually, it was uncle Leon Devos who, at the sale of Alois Stichelbaut in 1946, laid his hands on one of the daughters of the ‘Opgeblazene’. And then you have real quality in your hands. This ‘daughter Opgeblazene’ was the second most expensive pigeon in that sale, after her father the ‘Opgeblazene’ himself.

“And they were really good birds,” mused Etienne Devos… “In the fifties, we straight away won 2nd National Carcassonne and 2nd National Bordeaux with them.” At that time they were still housed at the farm of father André Devos.

We are wondering if there is still Stichelbaut blood evident in the recent colony. “Yes there is,” Devos explains, “we had more Stichelbaut pigeons of course, for instance out of the IJzeren line by way of Albert Van Miert (from Oud-Turnhout), and via Gerard Vanhee (from Wervik). It is even so that one of the stock fathers of the recent colony is called the ‘Dikke Stichelbaut’. But for that you’ll have to go back to the sixties. The entire existing Prinsen line (more about that later) and of course the IJzeren line are descendants from these Stichelbauts.” Also the new National Ace ‘Witpen Rivaldo’ is partly of Stichelbaut blood.

Jan IJzeren

Etienne and Frank explain that they have three important lines in their loft: the Prinsen line, the IJzeren line and of course the Didi line. When you hear the name IJzeren in the pigeon sport, there is an immediate link to Stichelbaut, and, more specific, to his heir and neighbour Michel Descamps-Van Hasten. Every self-respecting long-distance racer in the Flanders at that time had IJzeren blood: Gerard Vanhee, Pol Bostyn, Miel Denys, Oscar Desmet, Julien Matthys, Bruno Waelkens… and of course Roger Vereecke who, in 1965, bought the only true ‘Ware IJzeren’ with ring 3064724-57. This ‘Ware IJzeren’ won among others 1st National Libourne. For that matter, winning nationals is in the blood of the IJzeren breed. Etienne Devos had the ‘Jan IJzeren’ (3001987-93) that won 1st National Marseille against 2,929 pigeons in 1995 (Internationally good for 7th of 15,085 birds). That national victory was an impressive act because, internationally, the pigeons had come home all the way in the East over the Elzas and Saarland. Besides that, the ‘Jan IJzeren’ also won 90th National Perpignan 1997, 78th National Marseille 1996, 103rd National Marseille 1997 and 82nd National Perpignan 1996.

The mother of the ‘Jan IJzeren’ was a Stichelbaut via Bruno Waelkens, a granddaughter of his 1st International Marseille, and his father was the ‘Zwarte IJzeren’ from Devos himself.

In 1989, Etienne Devos showed the ‘Zwarte IJzeren’ (3210212-84) at the Olympiad in Katowice. Before that he had flown among others:

5th National Montauban

28th National Cahors

55th National Tulle

108th National Cahors

1st Provincial Chateauroux.

In his pedigree, we find his grandmother the ‘Oude IJzeren’, a Stichelbaut via Van Miert.

That the IJzeren line is still doing well for Devos, is proven with among others the ‘Rhone Diamant’ (3002519-04)

1st Provincial Orange 2012 (82nd National against 4,443 pigeons)

97th Nantes against 2,638 pigeons

109th National Narbonne against 1,686 yearlings

32nd International Euregio San Sebastian against 1,446 birds

213th National Marseille against 4,000 pigeons

46th National Marseille against 3,340 pigeons

354th National Perpignan against 6,257 birds.

With this bird he wins among others the valuable Diamant in the Franco-Belge competition CAFB over two international races in 2010.

The ‘Rhone Diamant’ has IJzeren blood in its veins on both sides. From father’s side he comes out of the line of the ‘Superprins’ (from a brother of the mother of the National Ace ‘Witpen Rivaldo’). His mother is the ‘IJzerke’ (971-01), a granddaughter of the above mentioned ‘Jan IJzeren’ (1st national Marseille), over his son the ‘Zwarte Jan’ (3190141-00).

The ‘Patrick’

“Looking through the pedigrees of the best long-distance pigeons, you very often come out at the old Flandriens”, Devos says. These breeds have of course over the years been improved and refined through selection and crossings. The ‘Patrick’ from Etienne Devos, ring 3138316-00, is a good example of this. His father is still the old sort from Vanbruaene, a grandson of the ‘Barcelona II’ (3429141-79) who won 1st International Barcelona in 1984. His mother is a direct pigeon from the late Roger Florizoone, out of the ‘Primus I’ (3237820-87) of the first ‘Primus inter Pares’ of Florizoone.

The ‘Patrick’ stemmed from the time that Devos started breeding together with Patrick Delrue-Vanbruaene, hence the name. The father of the ‘Patrick’, the ‘Geschelpte Stier’ with ring 3396534-88, was a champion that won in Lauwe from the 2nd National Ace Long-distance in 1993 (with 31st National Cahors, 34th National Montauban and 77th National Brive). This ‘Geschelpte Stier’ knows a thing about breeding too, because he is among others the grandfather and great-grandfather of the ‘Luna’, 2nd National Barcelona in 2006 for Delrue-Vanbruaene.

But coming back to the ‘Patrick’: three years in a row this cock flew in the lead from Barcelona, finishing in with the Zilveren Vleugel award.

2003: 130th National Barcelona against 11,806 pigeons

2004: 780th National Barcelona against 12,275 pigeons (2,042nd International against 24,910 birds)

2005: 6th National Barcelona against 12,998 pigeons (16th International against 25,835 birds).

With this he wins several championships:

– Zilveren Vleugel with the BBC in 2005

– 5th Euro Diamond

– 1st EDP Silver Diamond

– 1st in the three-year classification Barcelona BBC 2006.

In 2004, he also helped a lot in winning the National Championship with prizes in the races from Beziers and Barcelona.

Besides his prizes from Barcelona, he also flew:

282nd National Beziers against 6,202 pigeons

262nd National Montelimar against 2,647 pigeons

774th National Beziers against 6,336 pigeons.

In 2005, he was entered for Barcelona together with the ‘Rivaldo’. They won everything there was to win …

Local in Rekkem: 1st and 2nd against 310 pigeons, Provincial 2nd and 11th against 1,936 pigeons, National 6th and 57th against 13,988 pigeons and lastly International 13th and 133rd against 25,810 birds.

We don’t have to explain that there was not much left to earn after Voske had been to the cash desk. He is still beaming when he tells the story.


Returning to the beginning. We now know the role that the Stichelbauts played via Uncle Leon and via Vanhee and Van Miert. In 1965, father André Devos dies, only 55 years old. The young Etienne is suddenly all alone in setting the course for the pigeon colony. In 1970, he moves the pigeons from the farm of his parents to the new facilities in Deerlijk, where he runs a weaving factory with his wife Jacqueline. That is also an opportunity to strengthen his breed. At first, he keeps fishing in the same waters; he acquires a few more birds from the Van Hees, and a few Stichelbauts, now by way of Julien Matthys from Vichte. Through skilled coupling he forms his famous Prinsen line: the ‘Prins’ who wins 1st and 2nd Provincial Poitiers, the ‘Donkere Prins’, the ‘Kleine Prins’, the ‘Super Prins’, the ‘Witten Tik’… more than 20 years of success stories from Poitiers to Limoges and further.

As illustration a few results of the ‘Witten Tik’, grandson of the ‘Prins’.

The ‘Witten Tik’ (3003061-02) wins:

36th Provincial Tours against 1,915 pigeons

36th Provincial Limoges against 2,606 pigeons

9th Provincial Angouleme against 2,915 pigeons

21st National Derby Limoges against 12,266 birds

1st Ace Long-Distance RL 2005.

To the present day, the Prinsen line is very much alive with Etienne and Frank Devos, albeit with expansion of other breeds. But almost all great names at Devos are still descendants from the Prinsen line: the ‘Witterugge’, the ‘Stanics’, the ‘Zidane’ and even the ‘Witpen Rivaldo’ via his mother, who is the nest sister of the ‘Witten Tik’… but more about that later.


The ‘Oud Gilbertke’

Etienne Devos is a long-distance racer with ambitions up to Barcelona, but his favourite fields are the races from about 400 to 700 kilometre; for instance Poitiers, Chateauroux, Limoges and so on.

In the seventies, there was basically only one name that dominated in these races: Theo Gilbert from Zulte. Theo Gilbert was himself a very modest man who didn’t like to be in the limelight, but his pigeons were in that light all the time, especially in other lofts that made their name with his pigeons: Valere Matthys-Desmet from Nokere, Jozef Verheye from Waregem, the brothers De Baere from Nokere, Michel Nachtergaele from Zulte, Daniel van Ceulebroeck from Balegem… Names like the ‘Klaren’ from Valere Matthys-Desmet, the ‘Coppi’ and the ‘Witterugge’ from Nachtergaele are even today capturing the imagination of fanciers. They all had one thing in common -besides the fact that they were all excellent- they all had a bloodline that could be traced back to the small colony of Theo Gilbert.

Because these breeds seemed so perfect for the ambitions of Etienne Devos, he started to acquire them: from Matthys-Desmet, from De Baere, from Nachtergaele, from Jozef Veheye, and he started crossing with them. Out of that mix (see the diagram) came unbelievably good pigeons: the ‘Merckx’ (6 x 1st prize), the ‘Benie’, the ‘Wittenbuik’ and of course the ‘Witterugge’.


The ‘Witterugge’

If the ‘Witterugge’ (the ‘White Back’ with ring 3009906-77) had inherited his white back from his ancestor and namesake we don’t know, but he certainly had the same style and allure. He won no less than 16 first prizes, with several provincial victories. Below we show the results of this phenomenon, insofar as they have been recovered.

The ‘Witterugge’ (3009906-77):

16 x 1st prize (with 9 ‘pure’ firsts)

1st Clermont against 146 pigeons

1st Poitiers against 136 pigeons

1st Provincial Angouleme against 1,321 pigeons

1st Interprovincial Poitiers against 2,344 pigeons

1st Angouleme against 130 pigeons (9th Provincial against 2,357 birds)

1st Dourdan against 159 pigeons

1st La Souterraine against 134 pigeons (13th National against 7,632 birds)

1st Angouleme against 92 pigeons (6th Provincial against 1,628 birds)

1st Argenton against 45 pigeons (93rd National against 4,117 birds).

With this, he became among others 1st provincial Ace Long-distance in 1981.

The ‘Witterugge’ was later sold to Germany, to Gross-Lohman from Beckum.

But even more important was: the parents of the ‘Witterugge’ proved to be a super pair. Brothers and sisters of the ‘Witterugge’ were all excellent breeding material. This is also clearly visible in the diagram. Devos still calls it his Prinsen line, but perhaps it would be more correct to call it the ‘Gilbert line’ or the ‘Witterugge line’.

The ‘Prost’

Etienne Devos is not only a pigeon fancier; he is also passionate about almost every other sport: football, cycling, Formula 1 and so on. This is visible in the names of his pigeons: the ‘Merckx (of course), the ‘Zidane’, the ‘Contador’, the ‘Rivaldo’… and the ‘Prost’.

Between 1980 and 1993 Alain Prost won more than 50 Grand Prix. Etienne Devos was a huge fan of him and named one of his champions after him.

His ‘Prost Junior’ (3000866-89) was a son of the ‘Schone Witterugge’, a full brother of the ‘Witterugge’. The ‘Prost’ flew an impressive list of victories, with as toppers:

3rd Provincial Poitiers

7th Provincial Poitiers.

His mother was the ‘Janot’ (3010984-83), a pure Vanhee, also mother of the already mentioned ‘Prins’ (1st and 2nd provincial Poitiers).

Out of a sister of the ‘Witterugge’ came the ‘Provinciaal’, another champion. Etienne Devos paired the ‘Provinciaal’ back with the ‘Prost Junior’ (nephew and niece) and promptly bred another national winner…

The ‘Stanics’

The Bosnian Mario Stanić was in 1995-1996 the top scorer for FC Brugge before he transferred to first Parma and then Chelsea.

For Devos that was enough to name his national winner from Limoges after this talented football player.

The ‘Stanics’ (3001707-96), won for Devos among others:

1st National Limoges against 10,737 pigeons (1999)

5th Orleans against 431 pigeons

16th Provincial Angouleme against 3,060 birds

58th National Derby Perigueux against 5,739 birds.

As mentioned, his parents came out of a brother and sister of the ‘Witterugge’.

As a result of this national victory, Devos and Gaby Vandenabeele decided over a beer or two to start breeding with these pigeons. And thus the ‘Prost Junior’, father of the ‘Stanics’ was coupled to the ‘Provinciaalke’ from Gaby.

That ‘Provinciaalke’ won for Vandenabeele 1st Provincial Tours against 3,366 pigeons. She was a daughter of the ‘Turbo’, a half brother of the famous ‘Wittenbuik’.

Out of this chance coupling got Etienne Devos his ‘Kleine Wittenbuik’, which he put in the breeding loft immediately. You don’t have to learn a fox any tricks.

The ‘Zidane’

Etienne Devos coupled the ‘Kleine Wittenbuik’ with a hen that he had from Eddy Van Gheluwe. This ‘Eddyduivin’ was of the breed Vandenabeele, Ameye and Gaby De Meulemeester.

But even more important, she was a full sister of the 1st Provincial Ace, the ‘Eddy’ (with among others 9th Semi-National Cognac). The genius of the master worked another time, because out of this coupling come at least three super pigeons: the ‘Goede Jaarling’, the ‘Klaren’ and especially the ‘Zidane’.

The ‘Zidane’ (3001583-03) treated Etienne Devos to a new national and now even an international victory. And as a bonus he also won another 2nd national.

The ‘Kleine Didi’ had done this before him:

1st National Carcassonne against 3,942 pigeons in 2006 (1st International against 10,323 birds)

2nd National Albi against 5,060 pigeons (2006)

65th Provincial Orleans against 3,021 pigeons

163rd National Aurillac against 6,611 birds

1st Ace Rhonevallei

1st Euro Diamond


The ‘Klaren’ (3003040-02), brother of the ‘Zidane’, did this again with:

1st Provincial Ace 2005

11th Provincial Angouleme against 2,589 pigeons

1st Ablis against 102 pigeons

18th Provincial Angouleme against 2,915 pigeons

9th National derby Limoges against 12,266 birds

34th Limoges against 2,811 pigeons


The ‘Goede Jaarling’ (30021612-01), another brother, won among others:

143rd National Bourges against 13,116 pigeons

84th Poitiers against 4,190 pigeons

63rd National Limoges against 8,618 second-year birds

94th National Souillac against 8,372 pigeons

57th Chateauroux against 7,357 pigeons

Good pigeons breed good pigeons. It has been said over and over.


The ‘Stanics’ again

And the pleasant thing about good pigeons and especially about good bloodlines is that they are so easily passed on, or ‘passed down’ if you want. Take for instance the ‘Stanics’ of the pure Witterugge line. His son the ‘Jonge Stanics’ (3003084-02) wins among others:

88th National Dax against 6,138 pigeons

130th National Zone Brive against 7,204 pigeons

106th National Montauban against 7,303 pigeons

158th National Dax against 4,534 birds

126th National Perpignan against 7,611 pigeons

With this he became 4th Provincial Ace Long-Distance KBDB WVL in 2005.

But that was just to wet the appetite, because his brother the ‘Contador’ did even better.

The ‘Contador’ (3008931-07) very narrowly missed a new national victory and finished at the Poulidor place (2nd). In Zone A he did finish first, which wasn’t bad at all against 6,470 pigeons…

2nd National Brive against 16,815 birds in 2010 (1st National Zone Brive against 6,470 pigeons)

8th Clermont against 243 pigeons

66th Provincial Cahors against 1,194 pigeons

505th National Limoges against 10,448 birds

The ‘Contador’ and the ‘Jonge Stanics’ are both sons of the National Limoges winner ‘Stanics’ x a sister of the 1st National Cahors from Jean-Marie de Craene. And even more interesting is that the father of this Cahors winner comes out of the pure Witterugge line from Devos. Still more, her father is a half-brother of the same ‘Stanics’. It stays in the family.

But the best is still to come… and you can read that in the next part of this story

Michel Bommerez



Part 2: ‘From Fathers side’ or the story of the Didi line.