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  News > Herbots -- The Herbots family

The Herbots Family:
1st National Champion
K.B.D.B. Yearbirds

by Stefan Mertens


Click on any photo for larger version 

Jo and Filip

Filip, Raf,
and Jo Herbots



The widowers'



Inside the
widowers' loft


Inside another
widowers' loft

The youngbird

Halle-Booienhoven: "It was great to hear!"....We are talking about the first reaction of Jo Herbots when we contacted him to congratulate him on winning the national championship year birds KBDB 2008.   

Jo continues:  We already won several important races and championships, but it is the first time that we’re national champion, and I can assure you this is the greatest championship to win.”   Jo’s voice sounded more than emotional. Personally, we had not expected such a reaction from such great champions as the Herbots family. The fact that they react in such way is proof that the Herbots family is a real pigeon family. Also, their clocking a very early top bird gives them a real kick… and that is what we find so nice in the whole story!

The battle for the national championship year birds was a very close contest. To be clear, we will note the rules to win this championship. To become national champion year birds, you have to take the best six results with your 1st and 2nd nominated year bird on races from a minimum of 50km. The total km of the 6 races has to be a minimum of 1500km. Herbots Jo and Raf won with a coefficient of 21.965%, coming out ahead of Jef Vanwinkel (Tielt-Winge , 22.315%) and De Munter Adrien and Sons (Zarlardinge, 22.345%). This was a nice battle between three great champions.

Thanks for making some free time … are you in a busy time now?

Jo:   Yes indeed.  Nowadays we have a lot of work. Next to our company’s presence in different international exhibitions, our pigeon business is going very well. Customers from the Far East, America and Europe want to have the best birds in their loft, and to buy them they contact us. It is now a very busy time, but don’t worry.  For a report on the Siegel’s Website, we will gladly make some free time. Look, my father is also here.  He is the leader of our pigeon team. The name pigeon team sounds maybe a little bit strange, but here in the Dungelstraat more than one person works on the pigeons.

Next to loft manager Francois Jamar, our mother Jacqueline is also often in the lofts. Father Filip keeps his eyes open, and I help my mother in the different lofts. I must not forget my brother Raf who is responsible for the medical guidance. Everybody knows perfectly well what to do, and our father formulates the strategy. Every day we start at 7.30 and at 9 o’clock, we all come together to drink a nice smelling and tasting cup of coffee. Then it’s the moment to discuss everything and with everything I mean things like: How did the pigeons train? How did they eat? How did they feel in the hand? And so on. When it's necessary, we adapt the method  to the situation.

When we see the size of your team and the nice loft accommodations, we may conclude that you have a lot of birds?
Filip: Yes and no.  We have 63 widowers, 24 racing hens and around 160 youngsters, but as already mentioned we work here with five people in the lofts. A fancier who is working alone has to divide the number of pigeons by five to put the same energy into his pigeons as we do. Do you understand what I mean?  A fancier who works alone can have a maximum of 15 widowers, five racing hens and around 40 youngsters. But try to explain this to a fancier! Without realizing it, they have too many pigeons and cannot put enough energy into the birds and their system.

When we analyze the results, we can conclude two things. First, is that you basket the birds every week, and second that you never basket for races like national Brive or Cahors, which are also very nice races.

Filip: This is a good observation. Let me start with your second remark. Those who want to be successful in the pigeon sport have to specialize themselves, and we specialize in races which are basketted on a Thursday evening. If starting tomorrow, races like Brive and Cahors would also be basketted on a Thursday evening, we would also enter those races. But the situation is such that now those races are basketted on a Wednesday and sometimes even on a Tuesday evening. 



The lofts are
simple in design

in each loft

This is open
in warm weather

Our system doesn’t allow us to prepare pigeons for a race two or three times during a week. And if it doesn’t fit into our system we don’t do it. It is a fact that the pigeons born into our lofts don’t need to expect a “nice-nothing-to-do-life.” It all starts as a young bird. In their year of birth, they already have to prove that they are worth feeding. For a young bird, the racing season has already started by the third weekend of May. Then the whole group is already basketted for a 110km race. One week later, they’re liberated again at the same place. The week before their first middle-distance race (second weekend of June), the youngsters fly on Saturday a 110km race and then on Sunday a 210km race. So in one weekend, they have 320km in the wings.

A week later they are basketted for a race further than Paris, namely Toury (372 km). They do three times Toury and then they go in the direction of Orleans (396km). The weekend after Orleans, they fly the first national race for youngsters, namely Bourges (458km). One weekend later it is again Bourges, which is raced on the provincial level. Again a week later, they have their second national race, namely Argenton (538km) and a weekend later again Bourges. Then their third national race La Souterraine (574km) is on the programme. A week later a short-distance race and then the last national race, namely Gueret (567km).

I can assure you that young birds who can follow this programme have the qualities to become a good bird. As a year bird, it is the same story. It starts with Momignies and then in the direction of Toury. Afterwards they go weekly to races from around 550km. Yes, without exception they are basketted weekly for those races. Only when the weather conditions are very hard, can a race be replaced by a short-distance race.

Filip, if we were to do this in our loft, after five weeks we would not have any pigeons left or pigeons would not recuperate anymore.

Filip: That’s a fact. Already since the mid-1980s we have put our pigeons on this very hard programme. In the beginning we had the same problems. A lot of pigeons were lost or didn’t recuperate very well. We kept our system and all the pigeons that could not follow it were simply selected out. After years of persistence you create a strain of pigeons that can follow this hard programme, and then we could put the selection limit again a little bit higher. Some fanciers try to copy our system, and of course they have the same problems that we had 20 years ago. Most of those fanciers don’t have the character to hold on, and they go back to their old system, namely basketting every two weeks.

Jan Grondelaers was in my eyes the best fancier in the world. He could, in a manner of speaking, see through a pigeon. Once Jan said to me “Filip, young and year birds can be raced to the limit.  They won’t get broken. Only with old birds do you have to be careful. When an old bird doesn’t start his racing season well, you need to keep him at home for some weeks. A good recuperation is then very important.” Well, my experience tells me that Jan could be right.


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A look from
the outside

An individual
breeding box

A row of
breeding boxes



Can you tell something more about your system to have your birds weekly in top condition?

Jo: It is more than logical that pigeons that are basketted weekly for 500km races need to be more than just in condition. Not only medically but also physically everything has to be top. As I’ve already said, father Filip is the man who analyzes the daily trainings. The ideal is that widowers are first away for about 20 minutes and then train well around the loft for about 45 minutes. They must train like there is electricity on the roof. They fall on the roof and immediately they’re away again. Once they’re in the air they have to chase everything. When you see this, you know that everything is ok and that the top condition is present.

On the medical scene, we’re of course lucky that my brother Raf is a specialized vet. I know that not every fancier can visit a vet.  For those who do have not the possibility, I would suggest to treat in the first week against trichomoniasis, in the second week against ornithosis, and in the third week against intestinal problems.

As for feeding we don’t look at some grams more or less. The purpose is that the pigeons keep eating till basketting day and therefore we have the following programme. When the pigeons arrive they have pure water in the drinker and they can hug their hen for some time. When the hen is away the widowers are fed the first time. On the menu they have 50% Super Diet and 50% racing mixture. In the water we mix Electro Forte (electrolytes) and they’re all dropped with Golden Eye Drops.

On Sunday all the lofts stay closed.  Not a single feather comes outside. Again 50% Super Diet and 50% racing mixture is fed. On this mixture we mix Zell Oxygen and Optimix (vitamins and amino acids in powder). Only the last five meals the pigeons receive 100% racing mixture. We feed always with the soupspoon and it is mama Jacqueline who says how much is fed. She is also the lady who mixes the by-products on the mixtures. She doses everything very well and doesn’t forget it. Almost every day something is put on the mixture.

One very important detail is that we put something on the mixture only in the morning. In the evening the pigeons get pure grains. The reason is that we’re convinced that when you mix something on the grains the pigeons always eat something less. When they have pure grains then they eat always a little bit more, and that is very important. How much we feed depends on a lot of things. How is the weather? How were the races … hard or easy? All things that are very important. Normally, we feed in the morning one soupspoon per pigeon and in the evening two soupspoons.

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Best "

"Champion B.P."

Our close friend Jos Deno likes to give a mix of peanuts, sheep fat and cheese. We give this only after a hard race and then only on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon.

Being successful in the pigeon sport can be hidden in little details. Take as an example our “401/07.” It was father Filip who had seen that this widower didn’t have the permission of other widowers to drink on the ground. When he even looked at the drinker he was already chased away. Papa solved this problem by giving him an individual drinker and suddenly from one day to the next he started to win top prizes. You see, every little detail counts.

We heard that you like to toss the pigeons a lot.  Is this true?

Filip: That’s true. Especially the youngsters are tossed a lot. I’m more and more convinced that you can improve the orientation qualities of a young bird. I compare this with the education of young children. Children whose parents give them extra lessons after school will learn to read and write quicker.

This has nothing to do with the intelligence of the children. No, only the extra training creates this. With the young birds it is just the same. The quicker and the more they learn, the quicker and the better they will perform. Do you understand what I want to say? Certainly in the beginning of the season the youngsters are tossed extra, and this with always very good results. The distance of the tosses is not a big thing. It is just a question of teaching the youngsters to take the right direction immediately.

The year and old birds are not tossed that much. Only in the beginning of the season do they get some extra tosses. During the racing season, we toss them only when they had a very bad race. Then we toss them several times at a very short distance. We do this just to give them back the necessary trust.





A last question, or let’s say two last questions. Is it not difficult when you bought a very good pigeon to keep it for yourself and not to sell it to somebody else and secondly… a golden breeding couple … does that exist?

Filip: In the early years of our pigeon business, we had always a little bit of heartache when we had to sell one or other top bird to a foreign customer. In most cases, we quickly coupled the pigeon and bred a couple of youngsters out of that top pigeon. But meanwhile we know better and know that that strategy was not the right one. No, our loft is in fact built up with four strains, namely pigeons from Frans Stoces (Winterslag), Jan Grondelaers (Opgladbeek), Karel Schellens (Kessel) and Jos Soontjes (Wommelgem). Well, now if we buy one or other top bird we first have a good look at his pedigree and when we see that this pedigree has in one or more generations one of the four above-mentioned names in the pedigree then we keep the bird for ourselves.

So we bought recently the 1st national ace-pigeon long distance 2008 of Mr. Caro. That superb pigeon was not only 1st ace but won also the 1st national. Such pigeons are born rarely, and hopefully this purchase is a good one. For our own use we always breed four youngsters out of such birds.

Does the golden breeding couple exist? I doubt it, but about one thing I’m sure. You have the best chance with the coupling “good” x “good.” I always say, how can a bird give something to his children when he or she doesn’t have it?  Is this logical or not?

Filip and Jo, thanks for making some free time in your busy schedule for this interview. Is it possible for you to give us some individual results?

Made in Heaven”  B07-2228212:  7th national ace KBDB great middle distance. Won in 2007 just counted 6 prizes and in 2008 he won 18 prizes, good for 6322 prize kilometres. Top prizes are: 7th national Bourges 16,711d., 57th national Argenton 6,177d., 2nd Toury 1,212d., 2nd Toury 798d., 2nd Soissons 285d., 2nd Toury 347d., 3rd Laon 231d., 3rd Orleans 254d., 4th Toury 299d., 7th Momignies 133d., 22nd Chateauroux 2995d. etc…

“Magnum”  B07-2228064: Won in ’07, 12 prizes (3219 prize kilometres) and in 2008,   20 prizes, good for 8455 prize kilometres. Toppers are 1st La Souterraine 1,174d. (11th nat. 4,659d.), 1st Gueret 1,456d. (41st nat. 12,587d.), 1st Soissons 255d., 11th national Bourges 16,771d., 2nd Momignies 256d., 7th La Souterraine 2,605d.….etc.

“B07-2103401”: Won in 2008, 19 prizes (6800 prize kilometres) and became 4th national acebird KBDB little middle distance ’08. Won 1st Argenton 434d. (57th national 6,177d.), 1st Momignies 130d., 1st Salbris 2,281d., 6th Momignies 234d., 7th Chateauroux 2,995d., 9th Argenton 2,804d., …etc.

Olympic Power” B07-2228116: Won as young bird 10 prizes and as year bird 21 prizes (8357 prize kilometres)1st Argenton 2,804d., 1st Montlucon 156d., 1st Clermont Ferrand 89d., 2nd Orleans 254d., 5th Melun 196d., 8th Gueret 570d., 13th Bourges 3,718d., 63rd La Souterraine 4,659d., …etc.

“Pitt Express” B07-2228072: 1st Argenton 884d., 1st La Souterraine 753d.(3rd La Souterraine 2605d.) 6th Gueret 1,456d., 7th Momignies 504d., 7th Momignies 302d., 8th Momignies 323d., 12th La Souterraine 5,105d., 19th Bourges 3,718d., 66th national La Souterraine 18,973d., 190th national Bourges 31,824d., ….etc.

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