Initially I would like to ask myself on behalf of those interested why or what motivated me to pen an article on the Stichelbaut strain of racing pigeons. I think it arose from the fact that in 2004 one of my most consistent young birds, in the few races that he had, began to blow out like a balloon around his neck area just prior to being sent to his last race. The phenomenon sent me on a journey of learning what was happening to the young checker and in due course perusing the internet and old pigeon publications I came across the story of a famous pigeon owned by Alois Stichelbaut called 'Opgeblazen' which translated into English meant 'Blown Up'. Apparently this was one of Stichelbaut's best flyers and had returned from a race from Tours with his air- sacs over inflated. In fact he returned from every race in this condition and had to have a sterilized needle treatment to return to normality. But inspite of this he recorded in important races the positions of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 10th, 20th and 25th and accrued a sum of 25,000 franks in the period 1938/1939. Which was some money to win then. 'Blown Up' when sold at the Stichelbaut clearance raised 42,000 franks. Thus the knowledge of the latter successes associated with the inquiry into the happening of inflated air sacs is the key which opened the door to an interest in this great family of long distant
We all acknowledge that strength, courage, and endurance are qualities necessary to participate in distant or marathon pigeon racing. Well even the name Stichelbaut itself speaks of these qualities and in its hay day the Stichelbauts were spoken of in the same manner as the Jan Aarden’s. The reference to their 'hay day' should not imply however that the Stichelbauts influence is dead nor that there are no pure or near to pure representatives of the breed at this period of time. For the son of a fancier friend of Alois Stichelbaut races as near as pure representatives of the strain in Belgium, today. That father and friend of Stichelbaut was Daniel Labeeuw of Bissegem and today Daniel's son Frans has the purest colony of Stichelbauts according to knowledgeable fanciers or champions of the strain.
But what was the origins of this great pigeon racing strain of Belgium? Alois Stichelbaut was a flax dealer who when he bought two pigeons in 1922 from the loft of a deceased friend, Alfons Derumeaux, could not have imagined that he was laying the basis of one of the greatest racing strains that the world of pigeon racing ever experienced. Nor could he foresee the success that he personally would experience especially during the years between 1930 and 1940. In truth he was laying the basis of a strain that, aside from their successes at racing, would contribute to the formation of great strains such as the brothers Vanhee, Vereecke, Descamps- Van Hasten, Marcel Desmet, and Leo Bostyn amongst others. And that the blood of the Stichelbauts would run in the best of the Vanbruaene and Cattrysse, etc,.
In addition two birds from his uncle Camiel Christiaens were added to his loft as well as some more from Vincent Marien and A Vandecandelaere. The above names may mean nothing to the modern fancier or reader but in their day they were considered the best of flyers. From the pigeons of Vandecandelaere the traditional bronze markings associated with the Stichelbauts apparently derives for the latter fancier had a loft mainly of birds black in colour. Another boost to the family arose from Stichelbaut agreeing to cross his birds with a famous Bordeaux flyer of the time named Armand Declercq. The latter arrangement of crossing the best birds in each loft improved both families and was a major development in the growth of the Stichelbauts.
Alois Stichelbaut was a severe culler and as a result he never kept too many birds which led to him not sending many pigeons to the races. This contributed to a late development in the acknowledgement of his loft as one of the best at the time. In any case he was not a person who sought the limelight and remained in the shadows of others such as Bricoux and Sion. Nevertheless the foundation purchased since 1922 saw the appearance through cross breeding of three outstanding pigeons namely (A) the Old Crayonne which was from Derumeaux and Marien breeding; (B) the Old Scallopede (a cock) again from the Derumeaux and Marien stock; (C) and a cock bred from crossing A and B and a pigeon of Armand Declercq.
Of the strain there were many famous racers and winners amongst whom was 'The Old Bordeaux Hen', a black bronze who from 1932- 1936 won 14 positions from 1st up to 44th in important races and was the mother and the grand- mother of first class pigeons for Stichelbaut as well as other fanciers. Another noted bird was ' De Goode Blekem' which won 25 prizes, 15 of the prizes being in the first ten positions. Another noted racer was 'The Good Black Cock' who won 19 prizes, including 8 in the first ten.
Sadly after years of success breeding and racing a clearance of the strain was held in 1946 raising 145,000 franks. But unlike many families this was not to be the demise of the Stichelbauts for a native of Lauwe purchased many fine representatives of the strain, kept the family pure and advanced it. This was a retired butcher called Michel Descamps- Van Hasten. A survey of his lofts in 1973 confirmed that the stock was 100% Stichelbaut in origin. This shrewd fancier kept crosses to a minimum and the latter included birds from a pure loft of Stichelbauts owned and cultivated by the Labeeuws of Bissegem. Sadly in due course the Michel Descamps- Van Hasten collection of racers and breeders came under the hammer and in six separate auctions were sold for five million franks.
An end to the Stichelbauts? No! For it was then that the mantle of progressing the strain was placed upon the shoulders of a well known racer and breeder of the Stichelbauts namely Daniel Labeeuw. In retrospect Labeeuw and Descamps- Van Hasten it canbe said were the vehicles for the continuation of Stichelbauts pigeon enterprise which began in 1922. Through their managerial skills based upon good horse sense they brought the strain forward as its representatives won at national and international level throughout the world. And in our world wide pigeon racing community wherever you go today the art initially carved by Alois Stichelbaut has left an indelible mark. Such is genius.
In this tribute to Alois Stichelbaut and his strain I think of the thousands of fanciers throughout the globe who have experienced a unique joy arising from clocking a pigeon of this particular family to win, or come near, or to satisfy in races where hope is prevalent and where no one is usually let down.