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  News > Antoine Degraeve

Antoine Degraeve: 1st
National Ace Bird
K.B.D.B. Sprint

by Stefan Mertens


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  for larger version

Christine and
Antoine Degraeve



The loft view




Inside the
widowers' loft



In another
widowers' loft


Clean for
next season

Waarschoot: We have already known him for about 10 years, the very personable Antoine Degraeve from Waarschoot. Not only through our professional life, but also as a pigeon fancier, we have learned to appreciate Antoine very much. There in Waarschoot and more specifically in Oostmoer nr.109, the pigeon sport is practiced like in the good old days. Short distance, and especially the races from Clermont and Arras, are preferred and already for the past ten years, it has been very hard to beat the birds of our new Belgian champion. When Antoine is standing at the basketting table, nine times out of ten he wins the first prize or a lot of top prizes, and then it's more than normal that the clubs in his area don't like to see him come...

A few years ago, there was a new club formed, in fact a cooperation between six existing clubs. The result was that from the first season on, every short distance racer in and around Waarschoot could race against a lot of birds. Due to this, we have been expecting the name Antoine Degraeve to appear quickly in the national and provincial championships, but we never saw his name.
When we asked him about this, Antoine answered: "Oh, my friend… I will tell you like it is. Normally I would not send in for all these championships, but the man who bought my ace-bird did it in my name.

So a few weeks ago, I was walking with a gold medal around my neck during the national celebration days. I must say that it's a very special feeling-it makes you wipe a tear away. But you want to know something more? Normally I was also the 1st national champion sprint (to win with the 1st and 2nd nominated bird on eight races), but the man who bought my birds never asked for the other results and therefore I didn't send them in. But to be honest, next year I will certainly be more attentive to see if I will be well classified for a provincial or national championship, because I enjoyed this too much and now I have this taste for more."


Antoine became a pigeon fancier at the side of his father Irené. He explains, "My father was a real pigeon wizard. How many 1st prizes he clocked in his life … it is not possible to count. The pigeons with which he was so successful were like we say 'birds from everywhere.' You know, in those days everybody was a pigeon fancier. There were lofts from door to door. Nobody bought or sold a bird, no… everybody was helping everybody. If you were short a hen, no problem… your neighbour will give you one. Due to this everybody was having birds from everybody."

"At our home," Antoine continues, "we have always been dealing in cattle food, grains and food for small animals. On a certain day we got a visit from the firm Debaere and the representative of that firm was the well known pigeon fancier August Debaere from Nokere. My dad and I were very honored that such a famous pigeon fancier was visiting us. Within no time, we spoke about pigeons instead of the range of feed he was selling. 'Listen,' said August Debaere, 'start to sell our pigeon corn and as a thank you, you may come and pick out some youngsters.' The deal was made immediately, and during the years that followed a lot of youngsters and eggs were transferred from Nokere to Waarschoot. Those Debaere birds were real top birds, and although they were long-distance birds they performed very well on the short distance. But our best Debaere stock bird was received in an unexpected moment. I still remember it like it was yesterday."

Antoine explains, "I went with the truck to Nokere, and when I arrived at the factory of Debaere, a car with a license plate from the Netherlands drove away. I saw August and I joked with him, 'You sold some youngsters-your day has started well.' 'Yes,' answered August, 'but they didn't buy the best one. I will get it for you… you can have it as a gift.' August was away for a few moments, and he returned with a "not so nice" youngster. 'It is a hen out of my "Plastron,"' he said. 'Good luck with it.' I was very proud and I went home with a youngster out of the "Plastron."



Aviary for
the hens

Inside the



When I came home, I immediately told my story and showed the youngster to my dad. My father looked at me and said, 'If we have to breed out of such birds, then we go two steps backwards instead of forwards, but let's try. We'll put this youngster in the aviary and within a few months we'll have a look at it again.' A few months later, we took the daughter of the "Plastron" again in the hand, but this daughter turned out to be a son. My father was not convinced about the qualities of this bird, but I convinced him to give it a try in the breeding loft. Lucky that we did this because he became the best breeder that we ever had in our loft!"

"Some years later," Antoine continues, "we realized that the Debaere birds could use some new blood, and therefore we went to invest with Legiest Romain (Oostakker) and Maurice Mattheeuws (Brugge). These pigeons were crossed with those from Debaere and again we were on the "Road of Luck." This all happened in the early eighties. It's now 20 years later, and these three names still make my base. I already invested several times in new pigeons but they never brought me the success which I wanted."


"Sometimes people ask me," Antoine says, "how is it possible that I stay for such a long time at the top in pigeon sport. Well… it sounds maybe a little crazy but my answer has been the same for years: A FEW PIGEONS AND A HARD SELECTION. For years I have only eight breeding couples. Eight pairs are eights pairs and not nine. Although I have several boxes free in my breeding loft, I will never keep more couples. The same is true of my widowers. I have places for 16 widowers, this among three different lofts. The better the season, the harder the selection! That's not that difficult?"

"At this moment 'De Bleke' (B98-4334482) is my most important breeder," Antoine confides. "He has won 12 times 1st and as a breeder he already gave me a lot of superb pigeons like my national ace-bird. The early breeding is not my thing. No, I wait till Christmas to couple the breeders and they may breed three rounds of youngsters. Do I look for something special when I couple up my breeders? No, also here you will not find secrets. Breeding is a mystery and a man needs some luck. I always couple 'good x good' and for the rest nothing counts. Some people refuse to couple up two white eyes. Well, the parents of my ace bird both have white eyes, so again there is no fixed rule."

"I love to race with the widowers," Antoine continues. "The young bird races are less important. Around the 10th of January, I couple my widowers, and they breed a couple of youngsters, and before the hen lays a second time, she is already sent to the aviary and the widower breeds his youngsters alone. After this breeding period, we have a kind of winter period. This means that the widowers don't train much and a lot of barley is fed. Around the 20th of March, the hen comes again into the loft and they may brood for maximum of eight days. If the weather is good, the first training tosses are made. In little steps it goes in the direction 25km, and then in bigger steps in the direction of Arras (112km) and Clermont (216 km). These races are raced weekly."

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Next season's

"Widowhood is as simple as possible," Antoine says. "This means that the hen is always shown before basketting and after arrival of the cock they stay together for about 30 minutes. The longer the season, the longer they stay together. Widowers in top condition need to or are obliged to train hard. Hard training means at least twice a day for 45 minutes. It is not necessary that they're away for 30 minutes, but when they land on the roof I want them to fly up again. Just like there's a lot of electricity on the roof. While they train, the windows of the lofts are closed, and as soon as I open them I want the birds to enter the loft immediately."

A young

A head full of
pigeon experience



"The fact that the pigeons enter the loft very well is very important for me," Antoine explains, "because I don't clock my pigeons electronically. So when the pigeons arrive from a race I still have to run to the loft, because I'm always joining the fanciers who're watching the birds to come home, and then clock the pigeon. The fact that I don't clock the birds electronically also has some advantages. This year I had four very good widowers. When you saw one, the others were not always far away. Thanks to the manual clocking I could clock the pigeons which I wanted to be clocked first, first. You understand what I mean. If I had two or more pigeons together, then I clocked my ace-bird always first, because winning the 1st against 300 birds or winning the 3rd against 300 birds can make a big difference in coefficient at the end of the season."

"Feeding is a kind of art," Antoine emphasizes. "I never feed the widowers with a spoon, but with the hand and the eyes. Upon arrival they receive some depurative, not too much but just enough. The same is given on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday this depurative is enriched with some maize or with some breeding mixture. On Thursday I feed some racing mixture, but still with some depurative in it. On Friday it is 100% racing mixture. I never feed as much as they want. No, they have to eat everything. On basketting day they only get a little bit of sneaky mixture (trapping mix)."

Antoine goes on, "And then the lofts are anything but very luxurious lofts, but they are lofts with the ideal ventilation. Lofts which have proven their quality more than enough. Lofts which have admitted so many first prize winners."


This is the commercial name for the 1st national ace pigeon KBDB short distance. For Antoine this bird is named the "234" (B04-4367234). From the start of the season this bird was Antoine's favorite.

Antoine says, "The '234' was certainly not specially motivated. He was a very calm pigeon, a bird who gave you the impression that he understood what you were saying. It's a pity that I didn't keep his race results of the earlier years because they were also very good. This year the '234' was together with his two brothers (the '102' and the '140) and his half brother (the '108' - same father) the best birds in the widowers loft. I enjoyed myself a lot this year."

Results "234" - "Blue Champagne"

04.01.07 Arras 6th against 738b.
04.08.07 Arras 2nd against 1085b.
04.15.07 Clermont 1st against 877b.
04.22.07 Clermont 2nd against 1277b.
04.29.07 Clermont 1st against 1108b.
05.06.07 Clermont 1st against 472b.
05.20.07 Clermont 3rd against 313b.
06.03.07 Clermont 1st against 301b.


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Hereby the "234" had a coefficient of 2.86% over 8 races. This was extraordinarily better than the 2nd and 3rd nominated which are Marc Capelle (Baudour, 4.14%) and Ivan Vanloffelt (Diepenbeek, 4.31%).

Some individual results of other top birds:

The "102" won: 1/320 - 2/607 - 3/181 - 4/327 - 5/190 - 10/523
The "140" won: 2/604 - 3/607 - 3/190 - 10/153
The "108" won: 2/523 - 2/320 - 5/327 - 5/181 - 11/607


Antoine is anything but a commercial man. When the racing season is finished, the results go immediately into the trash. It's lucky that Antoine kept the eight results which were necessary to win the national ace-bird competition!

301 old birds: 1-2-5-8-10-13-16-54-57-68-73 (12)
738 old birds: 6-34-60-72-89-99 etc.. (9)
877 old birds: 1-3-5-12-16-28 etc… (8)
1277 old birds: 2-3-6-25-34 etc… (9)
1085 old birds: 2-3-13-17-26-31-38-53-57 etc… (14)
1108 old birds: 1-3-4-75-92-105 etc… (8)
472 old birds: 1-2-4-7-94 etc.. (12)
313 old birds: 3-4-6-7-27-36-49-112 etc.. (10)

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