Interview with: Gaby Vandenabeele

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It is difficult to imagine and describe the achievements of Gaby Vandenabeele pigeons over the past 30 years. Vandenabeele has won almost 100 provincial victories in his own loft, as well as six national awards. The list of successful results is incalculable if you consider the prizes won by his birds in other lofts all over the world. Their pigeons are part of the history of Belgian pigeon racing. The names of its best players, such as Kleinen and Wittenbuik, are known in any corner of the planet where this sport is practiced.

1st part:

WINKIE: Where does your interest for pigeon racing start?

VANDENABEELE: My father was the one who introduced me to this world of pigeons. He was a great fancier, winning everything, in the decade of the 60s, in this region of Belgium, the West Flanders, as we call it.


WINKIE: How do you remember your beginnings in pigeon racing?

VANDENABEELE: My first memories are of when I was a child and I helped my father with the tasks of cleaning and training the pigeons. Every day, in the morning and in the afternoon, before and after returning from school I helped my father with the birds.


In 1976 I started my own career. I bought several eggs from fanciers in my area what, along with the pigeons inherited from my father, I started breeding and when I had the first pigeons I started to train them and fly them. After 5 years I was already competing in the top positions in Belgium. With my star bird, the Kleinen, from Zitterke and Ameyeke, I forged the foundations of what is now my colony of breeding pigeons.


WINKIE: Have you had a fancier as a reference?

VANDENABEELE: My father, without a doubt.


WINKIE: The lineage of your pigeons makes your offspring are highly valued, how would you summarize your trajectory until you get to have these pigeons champion?

VANDENABEELE: My first great breeding bird was the Kleinen, from the year 1981. It was not a super runner but it did give me great descendants with whom I have achieved many victories. For example: Dokus, Stier, Turbo, Bambino, Wolfgang or Parel (all his children) that demonstrate the exclusive reproductive qualities of this exceptional bird.

It was in 1995 when the Kleinen passed away, dying with him one of the best pigeons in the history of pigeon racing in my opinion.

In all places it was giving very good pigeons, with different hens, it did not matter, the descendants were always very top, ACE pigeons, as the case of Blauwe Fideel, who obtained the 1st national from Brive (661 Km.) Against 4.719 adult pigeons and 3,970, 2 years old. I have always proceeded to put 5 hens with the Kleinen and great runners have always came. It can be seen throughout the history of my lineage. Also, I had the great luck of having a son of the Kleinen, the Wittenbuik, in 1988, a very special spectacular cock, his feathers were fantastic and he also became one of my star players.

One year we had a very hard season, very hot, and I got, 1st, 2nd and 3rd position with the children of Kleinen. Starting from my Kleinen, I have also had great reproducers like Koronel, Bliksem (grandson of Wittenbuik and fantastic example, with 5 national victories and 62 provincial ones) or Rudy, that all of them, genetically speaking, are perfect.



WINKIE: Which pigeons are most abundant in your breeding loft, the ones that live in your area and flight line, those imported from other areas or even from abroad, or a mixture of both?

VANDENABEELE: The natives of my zone, my own families and consanguinity use to maintain the lineage.


WINKIE: How do you proceed selecting the breeders?​

VANDENABEELE: The most important thing for me, the first thing I notice in a pigeon is his plumage. It must have good feathers, very soft, that I like in my hand, when I hold the pigeon. That his muscles are appropriate, that he has energy, that he looks compact and, most importantly, I select them based on the results they give me in the races. I also try to maintain my bloodline, it is always present in my reproductive team.


WINKIE: Tell us something about your loft.

VANDENABEELE: I have the same loft for more than 30 years. I have two spaces, one for the breeders and one for the team of runners, of which I only keep the ones that get good results in the races. I do not have birds to keep, only those that are truly good are those that have space in my loft. It is for this reason that I do not need to have large facilities.


WINKIE: What training and competition systems do you usually use?
VANDENABEELE: Training the young birds in the following way: once 2 kilometers, twice 6 kilometers, twice 10 kilometers, and up to the 25 kilometers that I already sent them with the club to train.
WINKIE: What is the type of contest that has given you the greatest prizes?
VANDENABEELE: The races that go from 100 to 800 km. And I compete with adult birds, yearlings and youngsters.

WINKIE: Do you consider yourself a specialist at some distance?
VANDENABEELE: In the fond and middle fond.

WINKIE: Do you use consanguinity or are you more in favor of open crosses?
VANDENABEELE: Consanguinity. To keep my bloodline of pigeons.  But also open crosses based on the good results. 

WINKIE: Do you have a preference for any line or lines of pigeons?
VANDENABEELE: Mine, everything that comes from the Kleinen, we know it's a safe bet.

WINKIE: In what cases do you use consanguinity?
VANDENABEELE: When I want to keep my bloodline.

WINKIE: What methodology do you use in pigeons since they are born until they are ready to compete?
VANDENABEELE: After 25 days I separate them from the parents. They learn to drink, to eat and, in the following month, they begin to fly around the loft. When they have about 3 months I start with the trainings; 2 km, 6 km, 10 km and then with the club. It is the club that takes care of the rest of distances, to train.

WINKIE: What level of demand do you have for the yearlings? In terms of distance, how far do you usually get with them?
VANDENABEELE: Well, up to 650-700 km. I like the races of a day, see the results on the same day of the release. I like that my birds are fast and clear about where their home is and want to return as quickly as possible.


2nd part:


WINKIE: Is there any secret to become a champion in this sport?
VANDENABEELE: Have good pigeons and know how far you can go with them.


WINKIE: What is essential in a loft?
VANDENABEELE: Good birds and cleanliness.


WINKIE: What do you think are the essential characteristics for a pigeon to become a champion?
VANDENABEELE: A good plumage, good musculature and that in the hand is compact and of course, that has a good origin. A healthy pigeon is a good bird and the closer it is and lives from its natural habitat the better it will be for its development.

WINKIE: How do you feed your pigeons ?
VANDENABEELE: I have my own mixture, Vandenabeele, which I adapt according to the time, if it is breeding, reproduction, moult, competition ...

WINKIE: Do you vary your diet during competitions and trainings?
VANDENABEELE: Yes, of course, depending on the time it is breeding, career, change ... I give a type of supplements or others but the base is my mixture.

WINKIE: Do you have a sanitary program throughout the year in your loft?
VANDENABEELE: My pigeons get the vaccines they need and when I see that some pigeon is rare or something is not right, I take it to the vet immediately.


WINKIE: How often do you go to the vet?
VANDENABEELE: Normally before the racing season starts and whenever I see something strange in one of my birds.

WINKIE: What requirements must a person have in order to succeed as a fancier?
VANDENABEELE: You have to like this sport because it takes time for dedication, you must know your pigeons well and, most importantly, not take charge of more than you can manage. Start with a small loft. In addition you have to choose well your breeders and know when you are facing a good pigeon.

WINKIE: Throughout your career, what do you think has changed in this sport in recent years?
Now there are many more pigeons that compete but the quality is not the same. There are new and young fanciers who are stomping like Jelle Roziers or Lambrechts but they are not enough to keep the sport alive. I have calls every day from amateurs who ask me for pigeons to keep competing, even a friend from Germany who is 78 years old, called me recently to ask me for pigeons. People are interested but I do not see a very long future if the system doesn't change.

WINKIE: As for pigeon racing, what is your vision about the future of this sport?
You have to bet on young people. It is easier to have a loft and it also depends on the type of country. In Belgium it is a very popular sport and we have many clubs but in countries like Spain and southern Europe are becoming more and more popular the races of a single loft, the derbys.

WINKIE: The pigeon racing in Spain has always been very ingrained, what news do you receive about colombofilia in Spain?​
The truth is that not many, thanks to you I know that my pigeons are very popular there. I know you have different derbys but I do not follow the news a lot.


WINKIE: What role do you think One Loft Race plays as a type of competition?
Derbys are very popular competitions and I won in 2010 the second position of the derby of South Africa, the million dollar. In countries like Spain or Portugal I think they are a very good option for all those people who want to start with this sport and do not have the time to create and maintain their loft.