Jos and Jules Engels, Putte World fame for an extra-ordinary pigeon strain Part 1: The legacy of Flor Engels

Flor – in fact Florimond – Engels started off his career as a fan of his older brother Jef who raced the pigeons in a descent way; especially on Quiévrain and Noyon.  Flor was the youngest of the big Engels family, born in 1909. It was only after the second world war (1947) that Flor started racing on his own. So you could call it, ‘a late calling’, but one with an amazing start.
Flor went, again, watching the pigeons at his brother Jef, when he told randomly that he got a good cock back with a pinched off ring…and ‘whether he didn’t want to have this cock’. Flor hesitated a bit…they only just got out of the years of war and had to work hard to give his family of 5 children enough food. Flor was an independent farmer which meant working 7 on 7. But Jef convinced him by giving him a good hen with this cock and that he would help out making a loft. And this is how one of the most famous stories out of the Belgian pigeon history started.

Flor Engels and his two sons Jos and Jules

The first pigeons

Who would think now that Flor Engels was going to be one of thirteen in a dozen, has it wrong. Flor made his first season in 1947 with 3 young pigeons out of the couple of brother Jef. He liked it this well, that he totally went for it. Those first pigeons would have been of the blood of Van Alphen, not the Dutch Van Alphen, but from a fancier out of Antwerp. Flor raced Quiévrain and Noyon, and soon defeated his own brother. Soon enough more pigeons from local champions came onto the loft as they really wanted to exchange pigeons with the speed devils of Florimond.

Flor, in the meanwhile assisted by his son Jos (°1941), saw soon enough that the short distance race wasn’t a challenge anymore and went further, to the middle distance races. He had to go basket in Mechelen. It seemed that his pigeons could also win on these distances, it is still the case that the same base is still present in the current colony. The ‘Witte Duivin’ (the ‘white hen’), for example, the true base mother of the current colony, heads back to the after-war bases. But with the ‘Witte Duivin’ we jump already to the seventies. She wasn’t that white anyway, but at the Engels place they speak quickly of their ‘white one’ if they only have a few white pins.

There isn’t much known or kept of the period between 1950 till 1970. It is also already half a century ago. That they didn’t have any bad season is something both Jos and Jules do remember.

‘De Zot’ (The crazy one) from 70

We already have mentioned the ‘Witte Duivin’. She was a phenomenon on the breeding loft. She gave many good ones where off two would play an irreplaceable roll in the building of the strain Engels: the ‘Oude Zwarte’ (old black one) and ‘De Zot’ (The crazy one). ‘De Zot’ was a son out of ‘De Witte Duivin’ paired up with a cock from Albert De Soete. ‘De Zot’ raced as hell and gave Flor Engels and his sons their first big title: 4th National Ace bird KBDB. He would become a top breeder afterwards, father of the ‘Oude Lichte’ and a handful good breeding sisters. In fact, ‘De Zot’ and his children can’t be taken out of the base of Engels: the ‘231’, the ‘62’, the ‘Dikke Duivin’ and so on…they all come out of that strain.

Half-brother of ‘De Zot’, also out of the ‘Witte Duivin’ was ‘Oude Zwarte’, a pigeon that shined on the short distance races – and as you could already guess – a marvellous breeder afterwards as well. When he was at the end of his career, Flor went looking for a top hen for his ‘Oude Zwarte’. It became ‘Het Blauw Van Hove’, 6546874-80, a full sister of the ‘Jonge Bange 1’ and ‘Jonge Bange 2’, from the, already then, strong racing tandem Van Hove-Uytterhoeven, also from Putte. Mission accomplished as out of this coupling they got in 1981 the famous ‘Witpender’ 6578304-81.

The ‘Witpender’

They got used to one thing and another at Engels, but with the ‘Witpender’ a whole new story off super pigeons began. The ‘Witpender’ won 3 times first provincial with amongst other:

1 prov. Orleans 1,754b.

1 prov. Orleans 2,695b.

But it didn’t stay with this, as the ‘Witpender’ became a breeder ‘hors category’, father of amongst other:

- The famous ‘231’, the absolute base breeder

- ‘De Witte’, 1 nat. Bourges 9,756b. and 1 prov. Argenton 2,197b.

It is worthwhile checking out how Flor bred these two phenomenon’s. We can all learn something about this.

Deleted inbred

Flor Engels was a ‘fine one’, when it came onto breeding capacities and we can state easily, that he gave the ability of breeding cracks onto his sons. You won’t find any narrow inbred, not in the racing team anyway. It doesn’t preclude that the good strains are being brought together in a competent way in deleted inbred. Have a look.

The strains of the two half-brothers, ‘De Zot’ and the ‘Oude Zwarte’ are being brought together through a son ‘De Zot’ and a daughter ‘De Oude Zwarte’. That gives hen 722-78. She is now being re-coupled to the ‘Brutte’, a grandson ‘De Zot’, and out of a sister ‘Oude Lichte’. Out of this second re-coupling, the ‘Grote Blauwe Brutte’ hen, will be born.

This ‘Grote Blauwe Brutte’, mainly inbred to the ‘De Zot’-strain is being coupled to the ‘Witpender’, without a doubt the best son out of the ‘Oude Zwarte’ and at that moment the best pigeon of the loft.

And out of this cocktail of own strains with the blood of a.o. Van Hove-Uytterhoeven and De Soete, the ‘231’ is born.  

‘Den 231’

Few pigeons have built up such a reputation only on bases of their ring number. In this case the ‘231’ (and his son ‘178’) can go along with for example ‘de 45’ from Cattrysse or the ‘66’ from Stoces. Not one fancier in the world that doesn’t know which pigeon you’re talking about when you say the magic number ‘231’.

In a matter of breeding value, we can state that the ‘231’ (and his son the ‘178) is at the same level as ‘Wittenbuik-Bliksem-Rudy’ or the illustrious ‘Kannibaal’ Dirk Van Dyck. Hard to say which pigeons had the most influence on the modern racing pigeon.

Was the ‘231’ a lucky shot or the product of craftsmanship? We like to think both. Having this kind of pigeons is as winning the big lottery. You can release all possible algorithms, you can upgrade your chances by making more combinations, but especially ‘the coincidence’ has to help a bit.

A fool’s errand

It is a fool’s errand to sum up all the superior offspring of the ‘231’. Let us keep it, for this reason, with a few big names:

- In 1988, Flor Engels, couples the ‘231’ back to the strain of ‘De Zot’, to a granddaughter ‘De Zot’ and also an aunt of the ‘231’ himself. The ‘62’ is born out of this couple, in full 6163562-88.

‘Den 62’ has raced a dream palmaris with as highlights:  

3 nat. Argenton 3,125b.

6 nat. Bourges 9,550b.

7 nat. Argenton 2,783b.

15 nat. La Souterraine 17,343b.

This would already be enough to name his father, ‘231’, a super breeder. There are some pigeons that get this title for less. But it wasn’t everything the ‘231’ showed:

- In 1990, Engels couples his ‘231’ to a hen of ‘friend of the house’ Willy Behets from Herent. She was in fact half out of the strain of the ‘Oude Lichte’ from Engels. But we’ll talk about that later on. Out of this coupling we have the ‘Dikke van 90’, not to mistaken with the ‘Dikke Duivin’, but more about this later.

The 6237584-90 also known as ‘Dikke 90’, has a list of honour as his brother ‘62’:  

1 semi-nat. Châteauroux 13,285b.

10 nat. Bourges 9,759b.

4 prov. Poitiers

1 Noyon 460b.

- In Putte, Flor Engels and his sons were sat for live with a base breeder like this. And the best was yet to come, as in 1993 the ‘178’ was born, this story will be told in part II.  

It was especially in second generation that showed the super genes of the ‘231’. Grandchildren of the ‘231’ raced a.o.

1 nat. z. Bourges 10,401b.

1 prov. Châteauroux 2,020b

1 prov. Châteauroux 1,275b.

1 prov. Bourges 1,249b.

1 prov. Argenton 1,538b.

1 prov. Le Mans 771b.

1 prov. Châteauroux 1,057b.

1 prov. Orleans 12,941b.

1 nat. Argenton 3,447b.

2 nat. Bourges 18,028b.

4 nat. Argenton 3,994b.

4 prov. Bourges 2,181b.

And so on…

Willy Behets

We already mentioned, Willy Behets, a man that played a huge roll in the Engels story. Willy Behets (now 83 but stopped as a fancier years ago) was a brother of late Frans Rans. When he lost his parents at a very young age, Willy Behets was taking in at the Rans family and was brought up as one of their own, a full brother of the own children. And one who hears the name Rans, says pigeons: until today the clubs: Sans Peur, Demer and Dijle, De Brabantse Unie, Cureghem Centre, wouldn’t be what they are right now without the effort and dedication of three generations Rans. This as a side-note. Off course, Willy Behets, became a pigeon fancier, and we can say a ‘good one’. In the seventies and eighties he was one of the dominant figures in the area on the middle distance races. The absolute highlight was winning national Bourges in 1970. The strong game of Wille and his national victory was something that also Flor Engels noticed and he decided to honour Behets with a visit to see whether he could strengthen his colony. Engels won in that year, 4th national ace bird middle distance, so Willy wasn’t afraid of exchanging some pigeons. They grew an ongoing friendship and many pigeons were being exchanged or got back from their own strain in crossing with each other’s pigeons.  Behets had built his strain on pure Janssen, Arendonk and the strain of Eduard (Warre) Ceulemans from Berlaar.

Behets had a small favour for the strain of the ‘Oude Lichte’ and it worked out, in combination with his own strain, wonderfully well. It was out of these couplings that Flor Engels brought back pigeons to his own loft. This is how, in 1987, a daughter out of a sister of the ‘Oude Lichte’ came back to Putte. This daughter, 2398002-87, became mother in Putte of the ‘Dikke Duivin’, 6324199-89, with on her palmaris 2 national victories in two weeks of time:  

1 nat. La Souterraine 2,053b.

3 nat. La Souterraine 1,927b.

(= 1 nat. La Souterraine 847 hens)

3 prov. Vierzon 900b.

This, ‘Dikke Duivin’, is together with a son of the ‘62’ at the base of the successful strain of ‘Marieke’. The experts amongst us already know what we’re talking about, but later more about this. 

Only the best

Flor Engels and his sons became, by the sensational results of the ‘Witpender’, international celebrities.  A pigeon that wins three times a first provincial, not everyone has such a pigeon on his loft. Flor knew, better than anyone else, that the ‘Witpender’ was a crossed pigeon, with 50% strange blood. The three guys out of Putte would learn their lesson out of it: to keep up a strain, you have to go and get, once in a while, a quality pigeon and then there’s only one rule: only the best is good enough.  At Gust Van Hove they did get the best of the best, being a full sister of the ‘Jonge Bange 1’ and the ‘Jonge Bange 2’, the real old Havenith strain.

The ‘Dikke Duivin’, where we were just talking about, off course also had a father, namely ‘Zwarten’ who won the 1st provincial Limoges. That ‘Zwarten’ came out of a son of the ‘Oude Lichte’ x a sister of the ‘020’ from Gommaar Verbruggen. You couldn’t get any better in those days at Gommaar, or as we stated: only the best is good enough to keep up the strain. A sister of the ‘Kletskop’ would have worked as well, but Flor chose the sister of the ‘020’ out of a son ‘As’ x a daughter ‘Witneus’ Meulemans

The ‘Witte’

With pigeons on the loft of the calibre ‘Witpender’, ‘Dikke 90’, ‘De 62’, the ‘Dikke Duivin’, you put your hopes up very high. In the end you aren’t happy anymore than with a place within the top three. But luckily the ‘Engels-pigeons’ hardly disappoint their bosses. A few numbers to state this:

Since 1990:

- 10 national victories (the ‘hens-victories’ included)

- 17 national victories in the zone

- over the 100 provincial victories

- and a ‘hard-to-count’ number of top three places in the broader area

1990 wasn’t chosen as beginning by coincidence, as 1990 was the absolute top year in Putte, the boundaries were pushed with 3 national victories: the victory of ‘Dikke Duivin’ on La Souterraine I, the national victory hens on La Souterraine II, and not to forget the national victory on Bourges against 9,756 year birds.

‘De Witte’, a son of the ‘Witpender’ and so a half-brother ‘231’ took care of this stunt. Mother of the ‘Witte’ was a daughter of the ‘Oude Lichte’ and a sister of the grandfather of the ‘Dikke Duivin’. As you see: again a re-coupling of another strain of the ‘Zot’. The results of the ‘Witte’ can be shown also:

1 nat. Bourges 9,756b.

1 prov. Argenton 2,197b.

17 nat. Bourges 7,788b.

He became 5th national ace bird middle distance KBDB in that same year, 1990.


It is clear that, by re-coupling on a regular bases of the base strains (‘Oude Zwarte’ and ‘Zot’), a very strong base was being laid, where they still can built on today. The big strength of the ‘Engels-pigeons’ is that they can race without any effort, top three in big ranges, whatever mass or wind. They are just present, and preferable more than once. Even in 2017 they still can do it….


In a next part we go further onto the third and probably the most famous son of the ‘231’, the famous ‘178’ off course.