The Hector Berlengee Strain
It was in his book The Racing Pigeon & Pigeon Racing For All by Bishop or as he was then known
to many of us as 'Old Hand' that I first came across the name of the subject of this article. Until then, although I have always had a special interest in the grizzle colouring I had never heard
of this Belgian or his outstanding Delbar The
Griz. In fact 'Old Hand' wrote in his book that the work of this Delbar grizzle was
in pigeon racing history. The pigeon sport historian Jules Gallez once wrote that Hector Berlengee 'wrote some glorious pages in the history of racing pigeons in Belgium', but perhaps to the young and not so young fancier of today the name is shrouded with mystery if heard of at all. Within itself it is a type of surname which reflects like that of the name Stichelbaut of strength, endurance etc, Indeed the type of pigeons produced by Berlengee possessed those qualities necessary to fly the long and marathon distances.
One of the reasons for a lack of knowledge of Berlengee is perhaps upon his death the strain founded
by him appeared to have disappeared. Some have said that as the family produced mostly grizzles that they were the favourites of the birds of prey and thus became hawk bait. The latter thesis I
cannot accept however for if one could calculate the number of blues and blue bars which yearly satisfy the predators the numbers would be colossal. Upon deep reflection this implies that when a
peregrine is hungry it doesn't care about colour. A possible reason for the apparent disappearance of the Berlangee strain especially after such an impact is that they faded into the Delbar
strain, which had such an influence upon the formation of the Berlengee Grizzles. That is not to say however that there is none of this strain existing today for there are some who
keep them throughout the world. In fact they are still flourishing in parts of Germany and the noted English show fancier Robert Robilliard has a small stud of Berlingee's separate from his show stud. Also I am aware that the English fancier Colin Surtees obtained two outstanding examples of the grizzles from a German loft in the autumn of 2004. The pair I understand was sold unto someone in either Ireland or Britain.
Initially Berlengee had stocked his loft with pigeons from a fancier called Prieel and apparently
the latter that was also from Aspelare was one of the best Belgian racers prior to the First World War. One of the best obtained from Prieels was a black cock 21- 1123498 known as The Barcelona,
possibly of Hansenne bloodlines which flew from Barcelona seven times and recorded nationally 56th, 71st, 98th, etc, This fabulous bird was one of the best long distance flyers 1921 and 1930
including positions from Bordeaux and Angouleme of 15th, 52nd and 54th National. The Barcelona was also a fantastic breeder and as Berlengee carefully brought in other stock from a few fanciers
including Maurice Demil and Nestor Tremmery, the black
cock was to prove his worth in due course. Of course retired he held the title as the base cock of the Berlengee strain. Thus when paired with one of the Demil imports which was a pure Bricoux the black cock fathered pigeons everyone of which was a famous long distance pigeon!
The brilliant offspring of the No.1 pair Berlengee carefully used via the method of inbreeding which in turn bred the best of long distance racers and breeders. Amongst the latter was another Barcelona, a blue bar cock which won the national from the Spanish race point in 1949. Then there is the famous Rome Hen, which was 23rd and 24th National in consecutive years from the Eternal City. In the early days the colour of the pigeons reflected the Prieels influence mainly black and a few silvers with an odd Grizzle perhaps deriving from the Bricoux bloodlines of Demil. The latter colour increased however when Berlengee obtained pigeons from Maurice Delbar in 1944. Delbar and Berlengee had developed a close relationship even to the extent that the former's famous Kleine Blauwe was lodging at the Aspelare stud of the latter for a period. The input of the Delbar's gave the Berlengee's a mighty shot in the arm, as if this was required, so much so that the Aspelare pigeons’ successes continued for years.
As well as the racing results an important aspect of the Delbar importation was the arrival of increased grizzling colour and of the phrase- the Berlengee Grizzles. Another important phase in the story of this great strain of distance performers for the grizzle Berlengee's won prizes for the master as well as dozens of fanciers elsewhere. An outstanding specimen amongst many of this colour was the famous De Grijze, which was bred from Delbar's Oude Grizze. Therefore contrary to other sources Delbar had grizzles in his own family, which derives from a pigeon of this colour, which the latter had bought from a local fancier. The Berlengee De Grijze however participating in nationals had positions such as 2nd, 2nd, 5th, 21st, 37th, 180th, and many other honours; in fact beyond 450 miles he was a fabulous racer and one of the best Belgian pigeons of all time.
The Berlengee strain is one of the few strains that make me sit up and listen so to speak. Perhaps because of my fondness for the grizzle colouring but really this would not be a rational reason for my admiration. Of course the true reason is because this is one of the greatest strains of long distance racing pigeons that has appeared since the origins of the racing pigeon in Europe. And of course the colouring is a bonus!