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The Stray
By John Vance


One day, a stray bird trapped into a fancier's loft. The bird was sickly, it's tail was much to long and it looked neither like a cock nor a hen. The fancier was so disappointed with the health and build of the bird that he thought he would be doing the owner a favor if he just got rid of the bird. In fact, the fancier thought the bird was not even fit for the soup pot. However, he relented and offered the stray to a friend. The friend after handling the bird refused the offer. Eventually he gave the bird to his young nephew Andre, who was a new flyer.

Andre also was disappointed with the bird but he kept it and learned that the bird had strayed from the loft of a Mr. Desprets who was the son-in-law of Mr. Commine of Leers-Noord. The bird was settled to Andre's loft and Andre bred him to a hen from a Mr. R. Benoot of Olsene. From this pairing a youngster was born that year, this bird would later be known as "The Bull" because one of the prizes it won from the Clermont race was a bull.

One day down at the clubhouse, after "The Bull" had again topped all competition (1st prize Angoulème 385 miles ~ 2,267 birds), Mr. Commine walked in and asked Andre what was the breeding of this wonderful pigeon. Andre, told Mr. Commine that "the bird is from you". When Mr. Commine heard the story of how Andre acquired the bird he said, "You are lucky, because the cock-pigeon in question seems to be one from 'Napoleon' mated to the 'Lamote pigeon' ". Mr. Commine did not ask for the bird back but required that Andre give him two yearlings off of "The Bull".

Anyone who knows the history of the Belgium Strains knows that the Commine pigeons were the foundation of many of the best flyers of the time. Commine got his start flying the Wegge strain. He bought the best Wegges from Michel Fache and more from Vandevelde, of Oudenburg. The "Napoleon" was bred out of a hen from Vandevelde mated to Commine's famous "Checker White Flight" male. The Lamote hen was of course bred by Leopold LAMOTE from Moeskroen. A very famous flyer of his time. The "Napoleon" became famous as he had more 1st place finishes then any other position (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th ,etc.) in his racing career. Napoleon was 16 years old when he bred 'the stray' and the Lamote hen was about the same age or slightly younger.

The background of Commine's "Napoleon" is as follows: Michel Fache, who started racing in the 1880's, was a contemporary of Karel Wegge. Fache owned a famous breeding pair; the male was a checker from the loft of Dedeurwaerder of Pittem, and his mate was a blue hen, from Delcroix of Herseaux. From this famous pair, 25 youngsters were eventually bred — and all of these brothers and sisters were collectively known as "The 25".

Commine, acquired one of "the 25" from Fache, a blue hen and mated her to a male from Karel Wegge. From this pairing, resulted a whole series of first-class pigeons, including the above mentioned Checker White Flight male. Commie mated the Checker White Flight male to a hen (a daughter of "Vuil Blauwe Duivin") that he had acquired from the loft of Vandevelde of Oudenburg. This new pair became the parents of his world-famous "Napoleon".

Interestingly, Dr. Bricoux also found great success when he introduced children of Commine's "Napoleon" mated to the "Lamote Hen", into his loft. After Commine's death a good number of his birds went to Maurice Ameel. So, now we know where some of the Ameel bloodlines originated.

When "The Bull" was 15 years old, he was bred on a Gurney hen and produced the "Jonge Stier" (Young Bull). The "Jonge Stier" went on to win 1st National Libourne and 1st International Pau, both wins in the same year!

A year later, "The Bull" was bred to a stichelbaut hen and produced "Tarzan" who won 1st International San Sebastian.

A daughter of the "Jonge Stier" was then mated to the "OUDEN ZWARTEN" (1st National Chateauroux for D. Labeeuw of Bissegem) and a son from that mating was bred to a daughter of "Tarzan". This mating produced the 1st International Barcelona Winner!

The young fancier with these fantastic results was none other than Andre Van Bruaene, who soon became one of the most respected flyer/breeders of all time and without a doubt he was the greatest Barcelona flyer ever, winning 1st International Barcelona twice ('66, '84). Three years in a row (‘83, ‘84, ‘85) the International Barcelona winners were all 100% Van Bruaene bloodlines. In 1962, a 50% Van Bruaene bird won 2nd International Barcelona, this same bird won 1st International Barcelona in 1964.

In 1987, the Barcelona race was extremely hard with less than 25% of the birds making it home after many days. Andre astounded the racing pigeon community when he clocked all eight of his entries placing; 101st, 157th, 163rd, 217th, 260th, 273rd, 313th and 1847th against 21,545 birds.

So, an ugly, ill formed, sickly "stray" became the foundation of the greatest extreme long distance family of birds ever raced. He was the sire of two International Winners (Pau and San Sebastian), and gr.grandsire of the 1966 Barcelona International Winner. The 1966 Barcelona International Winner later became the ancestor of at least three* additional International Barcelona winners (1984, 1995, 2003). Not bad for a stray!

* If I knew the breeding of the 1983 and 1985 Barcelona International winners (also Van Bruaene bloodlines) I am sure that the 1966 Barcelona winner would also be in these pedigrees making him the ancestor of five (5) Barcelona International Winners.

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