Koen and Marcel Cop and vet Stijn Gijsbrechts complement each other perfectly. They clearly have a taste for success, but together taking pleasure from their hobby remains their greatest ambition for 2013.

The trio from Pulderbos, the geographic centre of the province of Antwerp in Belgium, found themselves regularly on the top step of the podium in the past twelve months. At provincial level, they were honoured as 6th champion long-distance young pigeons and 8th champion middle-distance young pigeons. In the Union-Antwerpen + ZAV they were 1st champion with the first four nominated young pigeons. In zone Union-Oost they finished at the very top in the four series.

I wrote a small article on both these champion day presentations in the magazine ‘De Duif’. We try to use objective standards for who does or does not appear in the magazine with their photograph. We know that most fanciers would especially like to see themselves at least once in the paper. On such champion days, dozens of photos are made, and it speaks for itself that only a few will appear in the paper. Koen felt overlooked and wrote us an email. It wasn’t very flattering, but I have always had sympathy for people who speak their mind and look you straight in the eye and say how things are. I am the same. You don’t make many friends with it, but at least you know what to expect of the people that remain. I promised the family Cop that I would make sure they would get what they felt entitled to. And while Pulderbos and Union-Antwerpen are not within my domain, for once I risked going over the border.

Marcel (1938) was already a pigeon fancier in a former life, but in the eighties he gave it up. In 1995 though, on the initiative of son Koen, they started again. Stijn Gijsbrechts, a well known vet, was approached as a partner. He houses the breeding pigeons, and of course he is responsible for the medical care of the birds. The racing pigeons are with Marcel, he keeps the compartments clean and conscientiously he carries out the instructions that Koen and Stijn have drafted together. When I tell Marcel that he is basically only the ‘dung scraper’ he smiles and responds: “They both know more about the sport than I do. So why would I interfere and do different than instructed? I have never had so much pleasure from my pigeons as now, and that is what it is all about.” We can only agree with him. Pigeon sport is an enjoyable hobby and should not be more than that (for most).

Stock building

Building a balanced breeding loft is a tall order, but once you have managed to get a few base couples together, the way to success lies wide open. Provided of course that you handle things competently.

It all began with a 1990 cock from Gommaar Leysen. That cock was coupled to a hen of the old breed from Marcel Cop. In 1992 ‘Hofkens’ blood was added, and out of this the ‘005/95’ was born. He was paired to a hen from Jos Sterckx from Lille (for years one of the best middle-distance racers of the area). The mother of the ‘Leeuw’ from Marcel Wouters comes out of this couple. In 2000 the ‘005/95’ was paired to a hen from André Roodhooft. These became the parents of the ‘720/01’, a hen that excelled in the races from Quievrain to Bourges. In her turn, she was coupled to a cock from Dirk Van Dyke and their daughter ‘Els’ (112/02) won the 1st provincial Bourges for young pigeons. Pigeons from the line Cop-Gijsbrechts from that same period also performed well in other lofts. You can find the evidence in among others the pedigrees of the 1st and 2nd national Bourges of Jos Vercammen (from Vremde) and in the 1st provincial (2nd national) Argenton from L.B.J. Geerinckx (from Wommelgem).

Later still, pigeons were acquired from Louis Haverhals (from Nijlen), Leo Vercammen (from Pulderbos), Patrick Janssens (from Pulderbos), Marcel Wouters (from Westmalle), Danny Van Dyke (from Pulle), Steve Smits (from Wezemaal), Johan Donckers (from Grobbendonk) and from the brothers Van Gestel (from Bevel). It is very difficult to assess the precise input of all the above in the present colony, but just mentioning the renowned names and keeping quiet about the lesser names is not their style.

For the 2013 season they once more bought ‘fresh blood’ for the breeding loft. They are expectantly waiting for the performances of their young, but the Cop family is realistic enough to understand that not every input hits the mark.

Racing and management

In 2013 they will only enter young pigeons in the races. There are at present some 70 early youngsters in the lofts.

From the second round, only the hens will be kept. This will be about 30 birds. The cocks will be given away as voucher pigeons, and the rest will go to a few buyers.

The young cocks will be entered in the races from Noyon, and the hens will be tested from the middle-distance and in the classic autumn races for young pigeons. After a few Quivrain races, some 10 to 15 promising hens will be put into a separate loft. There they will get an old cock as a partner. The rest will be raced on the sliding door method.

From mid-February until approximately 10th June, all pigeons are darkened from 6 pm to 8 am. Possibly this year a selection of pigeons will be darkened for 14 days longer, after which they will be given extra light. This in order to have a good chance in performing well in the last races of the season.

After the breeding period, the feeding is changed to a flight mixture (Ceusters-Gierle). The pigeons are given full tray during the entire season, and during the races on Friday they get a bit of candy seed and a few peanuts. On Wednesday they get vitamins and upon returning from a race there are electrolytes in the drinking water and fluid sheep fat over the feed.

Before the start of the racing season, the pigeons are made trichomonas free, and at the beginning of June they get treatment against bronchial diseases. In 2012, ‘swollen eyes’ seemed a recurrent ailment. A short treatment with eye ointment and a week of rest was usually sufficient to return form to the racing team. The Cop family appreciates that it is an enormous asset to have a vet visiting almost every day. Ailments are detected very early and that is an important advantage in the modern pigeon sport.

A thorough training is a must for some, but here they like to keep it simple. The pigeons are taken away to Duffel (15 kilometres) in three steps, after which they go into the big basket for 2x Quievrain and 1-2x Noyon. In between the races there is no extra training. The youngsters are exercised 2 to 3 hours around the loft, and that is the best evidence that they are in form. Form doesn’t always appear on command, but you can try to optimize the conditions. And the ambition to climb up a bit more is very much always present.

Marcel, Koen and Stijn, I wish you for 2013 especially friendship and again a lot of pleasure in the pigeon sport.

All 2012 results on the middle-distance in Union-ZAV with young pigeons…

23/06 Melun (320 km)

Zone east: against 1,309 pigeons 22, 23, 83, 94,… (13/27)

First prize: against 3,718 pigeons 37, 38, 190, 228,… (13/27)

30/06 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 1,188 pigeons 2, 6, 71, 108, 144,… (15/26)

First prize: against 3,644 pigeons 5, 19, 174, 307,… 15/26)

07/07 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 1,394 pigeons 2, 11, 33, 73, 76,… (17/23)

First prize: against 4,157 pigeons 10, 24, 80, 204,… (16/23)

15/07 Orleans (418 km)

Zone east: against 1,218 pigeons 1, 58, 77, 110, 111,… (11/20)

First prize against 4,157 pigeons 1, 104, 140, 197,… (13/20)

21/07 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 1,000 pigeons 5, 17, 33, 43, 69,… (13/21)

First prize: against 3,082 pigeons 6, 22, 48, 62, 122,… (14/21)

28/07 Marne (320 km)

Zone east: against 682 pigeons 26,41, 58, 61, 67,… (10/20)

First prize: against 3,110 pigeons 38, 58, 95, 103, 119,… (12/20)

04/08 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 741 pigeons 3, 4, 5, 22, 27, 28, 38, 41, 45, 58, 72,… (13/14)

First prize: against 2,818 pigeons 9, 10, 11, 45, 57, 58, 72, 80, 93, 142, 178, 227, 476 (13/14)

11/08 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 562 pigeons 1, 14, 33, 40,… (11/15)

First prize: against 2,489 pigeons 7, 75, 132, 148,… (12/15)

18/08 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 282 pigeons 4, 16, 19,… (5/11)

25/08 Angerville (377 km)

Zone east: against 208 pigeons 11, 15,… (6/6)