Houbens – the secret is out !!!!

In this time of computer technology, world travel, fax machines, international phone calls, and express mail, this world of ours is getting smaller and smaller every day. News travels around the world faster than ever before. Why, then is, perhaps the best middle distance loft (200 to 450 miles) of all Belgium, virtually unknown in America? Here in the good old U.S.A. we are way behind the times, as to who the real champions of Europe really are. How can it be that one of the best lofts in all Belgium for the past 20 years is almost unknown in this country?
 The loft that I am writing about is the loft of Houben Jef, Luc and Nadia, as it is known. They pronounce their name “Who-benn.”
 Even though they fly under just the three names, there are 7 dedicated people that work together to make up this great team. Jef and Eveline, the Mother and Father, son Luc and his wife Monique, daughter Nadia and her husband Robert, and their granddaughter Cindy. They all play their part to make the Houben team work smoothly and to perfection. Then there are the pigeons. The most impressive linebred family of racing pigeons that I have ever seen. They work phenomenal together, man, woman, and pigeon.

The Houbens have been the dominating force in the Belgium pigeon sport from 200 to 450 miles, year after year for the past 20+ years. In 1991 they won the “Golden Duif”(pigeon) award for the best loft in all Belgium, at the Middle/long distance races. That year they also won more championships than anyone in the history of Belgium in one year. In 1993 they won 2nd “Golden Duif” championship, and to my knowledge, no one had ever won it twice. Again, in 1994, they are having another super season.
 The Houben Racing team consists of about 54 widowhood cocks and about 150 young birds. In Belgium the old bird races start about April 15 and the young bird races start about May 15. Young and old birds are released together from the same race stations. So in one release you could have 4 races (old birds, hens, yearlings and young birds) The old birds race well into August and the young birds into September and October.

The middle distance races are from 200 to 250 miles and the long distance races are from 250 to 450 miles. Above that are the super long distance or Marathon races. The Houbens race up to Brive – about 440 miles. Their favorite race is the Bourges National, which is about 300 miles. Over the past 25 years, from 1968 to 1993, with an average of 14,000 birds per race in the Bourges National Houben had averaged 38th place! Now that is super! In 1994 they again had a super race winning 1st Provincial and 2nd National old birds. Houben specializes in the races from 200 to 400 miles. They have a linebred family that breeds a very high percentage of quality racing pigeons. This should be something of great interest to the American fancier.
 Now, lets take a look at the origin and history of this great family of racing pigeons.

Summary of past results:

Many results of the years 1940 till 1950 have been lost. Also a lot of championships and diplomas have been won in those years, but unfortunately they have been lost also.
 In the year of 1951 the Houben family even won 12 1st prizes from Quiévrain and Noyon. IN 1958 Jef Houben became the first overall champion “De Witpen”.
 From 1690, when the middle distance-competition began, the Houbens have won altogether twelve first prizes.
 This only demonstrates the strength of Jef Houben while racing only a few pigeons.
 In 1965 the Houben’s pigeons were sent out regularly to the middle distance-competition and they won twelve first prizes.
 In 1966, the work was rewarded by winning for the first time the title “2nd provincial ace-pigeon of middle-distance in the province of Antwerp.” Besides this award a lot of championships were won in 1966:

1st Overall Champion “De Witpen”, Itegem
1st Champion old birds
1st Champion young birds
2nd Overall Champion middle distance “Verenigde Kempen”
2nd Champion old birds “Kempische Bond”
2nd Provincial Champion middle distance with the old birds
27th Provincial Champion short distance with the young birds
49th Provincial Champion short distance with the old birds (in those days Antwerp had more then 20.000 members)
 1969 was a year of records also. In this year we had a racing success of 80%, against 500 to 800 pigeons.
 1970 was the year of the big cash prizes. Houbens won U.S. $9,000 on five Sundays. Also in the following year first prizes and championships were won:
1971: 13 1st prizes
1972: 16 1st prizes
1973: 22 1st prizes

From “Short Distance King” to “Long Distance-Champion”

In 1972 and 1973 records were built once again, by winning from 3 of 4 provincial Bourges-flights of the Antwerp Fondclub. This could not be duplicated until today. 1975 was one of the most successful years. First prizes were won 16 times. For the first time the Houben loft got attention at the long-distance-races.
 In this year “Jonge Baron” became the 1st provincial and the 8th national ace-pigeon long distance of Belgium. Parallel to it, the title 1st national ace-pigeon young birds “De Belgische Duivensport” was won.
 And then, during the night from the 12th to the 13th of December of 1975, a number of pigeons were stolen from the loft. In spring 1976, with the beginning of the racing season, a fire broke out in the loft. All the pigeons survived, but they suffered very much because of the smoke. In the following years a lot of 1st prizes were won.
 In 1981 the work of the last 35 years rewarded, namely on the ‘Provincial Orléans” 255miles.
 In 1981 the Houben’s loft became 1st provincial champion “Fond Jonge” against 18,000 breeders.

Great family teamwork, fantastic high performance-pigeons, fully competition, these three factors are decisive for the Houbens’ results in the middle-distance in the motherland of the pigeon sports – Belgium. The number of championships, national titles, series of victories and prizes of honor won are unbelievable!
 At their loft in Itegem, everybody is working hard for each prize. The Houbens’ luck is that the whole family is committed and dedicated to hard work. Luck does not exist in the pigeon sports. Luck is only the result of enormous will power for their winged friends.

Great family teamwork, fantastic high performance-pigeons, fully competition, these three factors are decisive for the Houbens’ results in the middle-distance in the motherland of the pigeon sports – Belgium. The number of championships, national titles, series of victories and prizes of honor won are unbelievable!
 At their loft in Itegem, everybody is working hard for each prize. The Houbens’ luck is that the whole family is committed and dedicated to hard work. Luck does not exist in the pigeon sports. Luck is only the result of enormous will power for their winged friends.

When talking about ability, we come back to Jef. If anybody on earth is an expert in racing pigeons, it is Jef Houben. He hasn’t learned with books. Jef is born with a natural feeling for these birds. On the occasion of a celebration at the “Court of Nazareth” in Lier, the Belgium pigeon trade press handed out the “Oscar for special deserves” for the first time. That is an honor, which is not comparable with first prizes, but with heart and personality! It was one of the nicest demonstrations in the pigeon sports. Everybody who is anybody in the pigeon sport was present. It was regarded in the social view, the event of 1991.
 You can’t cover up the fact that the Houbens are the great champions of the Belgium middle-distance. You can read it in every trade-press. When titles are distributed you find the name Houben-Itegem. At the championships of the Belgium Pigeon Sport, “Duif” and “De Reisduif” etc. the first places seem to be reserved. In 1991 for example the “golden pigeon” of Belgium was won.

Whether with old birds, yearlings or young birds – it is always well played. In the season 1991, 39 first prizes were won! Unbelievable, but true! Furthermore the national victory of Bourges and provincial races of Bourges and La Souterraine were won!
 Bourges – this race station seems to be made-to-measure for the Houbens, was proved once again in 1991: Bourges, May 7,848 yearlings. The first and eleventh prize national were won by the brothers “Chipy” and “Robin”! Bourges, August. 14,873 yearlings were in the competition. You can call it a Houben show. National, competition. 3 of them from the Houben loft: 7th and 1,658 prize! These results are remarkable, 51,950 young Bourges-flyers. Here is the Houben’s series: 108-168-208-394th etc.!

The Artists…

One thing for sure: The Houben’s success for the last several years are almost without exception explained by the Artiest-line. It began with “Artiest” who sired “Jonge Artiest”. “Jonge Artiest” gave this name the right honor. During three seasons he won 7 first and 5 second prizes, without counting the other top-prizes. Then his racing career ended and his most important period of his life began in the stock loft. You can say with a safety that the “Jonge Artiest” is a breeder of the century. He is – in the opinion of many experts – the best middle-distance breeder of the last 10 years.

 Why?

Let us review the results of his children and grandchildren just on the nationals:

Children of “Jonge Artiest” won:

1.  National Bourges, 480 km, 7,848 b.
2.  National Limoges, 640 km, 6,132 b.
6. National Bourges, 480 km, 11,206 b.
8.  National Bourges, 480 km, 14,873 b.
9.  National Bourges, 480 km, 8,393 b.
9.  National Bourges, 480 km, 8,869 b.
11.  National Bourges, 480 km, 7,848 b.

Grandchildren of “Jonge Artiest” won:

      2.  National Bourges, 480 km, 10,670b.
3.  National Bourges, 480 km, 14,873 b.
5.  National Limoges, 640 km, 8,807 b.
5.  National Limoges, 640 km, 22,942 b.
6.  National La Souterraine, 590 km, 4,405 b.
6.  National Limoges, 640 km, 16,132 b.
6.  National Limoges, 640 km, 17,670 b.
7.  National Bourges, 480 km, 13,603 b.
8.  National Limoges, 640 km, 8,882 b.
10.  National Bourges, 480 km, 5,317 b.
10.  National La Souterraine, 590 km, 16,897 b.
10.  National Bourges, 480 km, 25,179 b.
15. National Bourges, 480 km, 15,598 b.
18. National Bourges, 480 km, 49,303 b.
19. National Bourges, 480 km, 38,629 b.

These are only the top prizes of the top 20 national competitions. On the provincial level two children of “Jonge Artiest” won two times! Some of his children won the 2nd prize and two times the 4th prize and the 5th! Grandchildren of “Jonge Artiest” won the following provincial prizes: Once the 1st, seven times the 2nd, three times the 3rd, five times the 4th, eight times the 5th and so on. The “Jonge Artiest” had sired several children that are provincial champions against thousands of rivals.

“Sony”, B 63-6376407, also universally known, will surely take the loft position of his father Jonge Artiest. Sony was a real top-flyer. In 1985 he was awarded the 2nd national ace pigeon on the middle-distance (KBDB). “Sony” for example won the first prize of Etampes against 1,015 pigeons, the 4th prize of Orléans against 4,076 pigeons, the 5th prize of Toury against 1,223 pigeons, the 6th prize of Bourges against 11,206 pigeons, the 9th prize of Châteauroux against 2,879 pigeons, the 9th prize of Bourges against 8,393 pigeons and further more!

Fantastic results! His children created sensations also: “Joker”, “Goliath”, “Plekske”, “Jimbo” and especially “Kapitein” are made of the right wood. “Kapitein”-born in summer won a year later the 3rd national prize of Bourges against 14,873 pigeons of his age. But the most important fact is that children and grandchildren of “Jonge Artiest” and also “Sony” descend – especially in foreign lofts in a dominant way! Lasting for decades Jef Houben preserves his good old bloodline! Sure, during the years several top pigeons were interbred with pigeons from foreign lofts.

“Sony” was not the only unique and successful child! “Jonge Artiest” and “Sissy”(daughter of “Jonge Baron” & “Goed Duivinneke”) produced a series of first class-pigeons for breeding and flying. Their best known sons and daughters were: “Stella”, “Hiro”, “Viking”, “Kim”, “Hertogin”, “Rocco”, “Turby”, “Mieke”, “Falco”, “Athina” and the unforgettable two musketeers, “Chipy” and “Robin”. “Chipy” finished his short career. After his sensational national victory of Bourges. He was then retired to the stock loft for breeding.

“Robin” strengthen the flying-team and showed his great athletic ability. He was the best flyer of the Houben loft in 1991 and received the title 1st ace-pigeon of the yearlings, published by the trade journal “De Belgische Duivensport”. His list of honor for this year: 3 x 1st prizes of Roye, 210 km, 11th prize Roye, 1st prize Chartres, 2nd prize Dourdan, 8th prize national Bourges, 480 km against 14,873 pigeons and once again a 11th prize national Bourges race station seems to be Robin’s specialty after scoring two times at the top of the sheet.

The mother of “Chipy” and “Robin” is a daughter of the phenomenal “Kletskop” from Gommaar Verbruggen. The descent of his great pigeon strengthened the assumption, that “Chipy” and “Robin” will guarantee more Houben sensations. “Kletskop” himself was an ace pigeon! He won the 1st prize of Orléans and the 1st prize of Châteauroux semi-national and many other top prizes. Then he became the most important breeder of the Verbruggen’s master loft.

Care...

 As already mentioned in the title, the pigeon-sport is a family hobby. Every family member cares for his pigeons, usually every person takes care of two coops. Eveline, Nadia, Robert, Luc and Monique clean the lofts (..also with the vacuum-cleaner!) Eveline, Nadia train the pigeons. Luc does the book keeping. Jef takes care of all the activities of his family – besides the pigeon breeding – he is responsible for the most important part of all: The feeding! Jef feeds them conscientiously with the spoon! He feeds them on time and conscientiously to the last detail. This includes the weekly pigeon bath, which means extremely cleanliness and the disinfection of all the lofts.
 The feed and the by-products come from the “BOSMOLEN”-company! It is a company in Belgium which guarantees for quality and which also wins share of the market more and more in foreign countries. A question! Can anybody treat pigeons better than women? No man can treat pigeons the way Eveline and her daughter Nadia do. They take care of the youngsters softly and naturally with a lot of patience. The pigeons are tamed with a strong character that they react on every certain word. Such pigeons, are not only pleasant in the loft but also profitable on the races.
 Luc Houben examines and analyzes the droppings by himself. If veterinary medicine help is needed, Dr. Peeters is requested.

History…

Houben is a traditional loft that won a lot of recognition in the last years. This is not at least explained by the old and homogeneous family of pigeons. In Itegem and its surrounding they are playing solely middle- and long distance.
 Jef Houben’s father Gerard was not only married to the daughter of the champion Mon de Belder, but he also married to the passion for the pigeons. At the beginning of the twenties Gerard had pigeons, but he never reached greatness. He was an excellent master mason and constructed great lofts, but the result of his pigeons never came close to the ones of his father-in-law, Mon de Belder. Mon de Belder already had pigeons “Made in Berlaar”, more popular under the name of Fonne Ceulemans! He was the absolute master of his time and became supplier of the Janssen brothers in Arendonk. But we have to say that documentations of the descendents of that time are not duplicatable anymore. The fact is that Jef Houben was already interested in the pigeon sport as he was a child. He was very impressed with his grandfather. With the years he took on more and more responsibility at his father’s loft.

The Houben’s master loft began to develop in 1948. In this year a special bird was born with the identity number “675”. His name was “Maalder”. The number one stock-pair “Jonge Artiest” and “Sissi” are descendants of this pigeon. The Houben’s loft proves clearly: A good linebreeding does not disturb a family at all! Good bloodlines are pigeons which breed again and again first-class-pigeons.

Crossbreeding

 A lot of “famous” people often tell fairy tales when they explain how to hold their family on the top without any foreign blood. That’s fuss, nothing else! Jef Houben never kept a secret that he had good luck with his birds of Desmet-Matthijs coming from Stan Raeymakers. Also the crossbreeding with the “Stoces” pigeon was very successful. In 1978 some pigeons came from Albert Everaerts from Geetbets and furthermore some top-pigeons were interchanged with Karel Hutkens, Jos van Loo and Gommaire Verbruggen. All these pigeons did not lay any “windeggs” here in Itegem but they brought the result to the top: From the short-distance to the middle distance and than to the small long distance!
 But the Houben’s are careful with foreign blood. They do not breed without conception, no, with a hank like a hawk they evaluate the cross breedings! And they are right, many breeders already had a great basis and they destroyed everything with several cross-breedings!