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 The Wegge Strain
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The Wegge 'Strain' although assumed to be unique in relation to the basic building of the sport of pigeon racing is considered by some authors to be a part of 'the dark ages of the origins of the sport' and therefore akin to the dark ages of our own species in which the pursuit of truth is sprayed with fallacy. An attitude reflecting the questions surrounding the debate relating to the Ulens contribution to the sports origins which I referred to in another article. However this must not prevent us in pursuing the truth if we are to have a record of the sports origins which hopefully will get us as near as humanly possible to the extraordinary happenings at the birth of the racing pigeon.

Some sources contend that the Wegge loft was composed of pure Ulen stock which fits in with the theory that the Ulens were the first racing pigeons based upon the careful crossing of the breeds such as the carrier, the smyter and the tumbler. However based upon my research although acknowledging that Wegge had some Ulen bloodlines it would appear that the latter cross was introduced quite sometime after the moulding of the Wegge family and its initial racing successes. For Wegge received his first racing pigeons from a Mr Schwyck of Antwerp in about 1850 which preceded the Ulens cross via the Vekemans into his family. Here we must bear in mind that there is some contentious debate relating to the alleged Ulen/ Vekemans connection arising from the vigorous attacks of the late Georges Gits upon what has been called the Ulens Theory.

What may not help to clarify the over all situation in relation to our pigeons origins is that Wegges records were somewhat unstable. He also contended that he never practised inbreeding or line breeding, in other words he never produced birds out of blood relatives. The latter of course was not accurate for his favourite pigeon The Vedome was paired according to my research to a grand daughter of this pigeons own sister. The Vendome was a blue cock that was held for stock for two years, then trained and won 4 x 1st that year i.e. 1895. Perhaps Wegge was an eccentric, if so, that was his prerogative but in no way can it deny what he as a breeder produced or as a racer achieved. For the Wegges were at the base of the Jurion and Gigot strains, etc, while the maestro was alive and after his demise in 1897 his pigeons were introduced into many lofts helping to found other strains. Prior to his death Karel Wegge had the reputation of being so generous that he gave dozens of pigeons to new comers to the sport. Quite a contrast to the treatment of novices by some in our sport today.

By all accounts Karel Wegge was a master breeder and a pivotal figure at the beginning of our sport but to be such without inbreeding or line breeding I find it difficult to believe if not impossible. It should be noted however that a modern writer on the sport, Ad Schaerlaeckens, has in his possession a 1903 sales list of Wegges birds and one third of those for sale are pigeons which Wegge bought from others. This scribe does not apparently subscribe to the thesis that Wegge had a strain and that he bought from everyone and thus was an out crosser as Wegge once implied. But could the other two thirds on the 1903 sales list not constitute the Wegge strain? As to the debate about the origins of the racing pigeon Karel Wegge according to some historians of the sport has as much a right to be considered although he never claimed nor has anyone on his behalf claimed to be its originator. However I tend to believe that there exists too much of a grey area at the origins of our sport that perhaps the whole truth is beyond capturing but like the gold miner in pursuit of gold the searching must continue for if anything it is in our nature to do so. Which leads me to suggest again that the subject warrants a master or a doctrinal thesis for a University historical student. As for the Wegges they have an honoured place in the history of the racing pigeon especially at a time in its
crawling phase when a shot in the arm was required and when the fledgling pioneering fancy needed someone to provide the necessary product. A provision that was made by the generous Karel Wegge of Lier, Belgium.

Liam O Comain  -
by: Liam O Comain

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