Thuringian Selfs - The Reawakening of the White-Owls?
On the systematics of the Thuringian Selfs in old sources and the
Thuringian Selfs are traced back to the pigeons and colours Ludwig
Storch wrote about in 1856 in an article about Ruhl and the Rühlers
in the Thuringian Forest in the then popular Journal 'Gartenlaube'.
Ground coloured, white- and yellow-ground coloured pigeons point to
today's blue, light- and yellow-ground coloured pigeons, lark and
silver to today's female colours larked and silver (dilute blue
bar). Grizzles (owlish) were apparently represented in many
varieties. Owlish, white-owlish, black-owlish, silver-, ‘lach- and
grunzeulig’ (brownish?) are listed among the most popular colours.
In the first standard published in the Federal Republic of Germany
in 1951, it is already recognised that today's blue-ground,
light-ground and yellow-ground colours only occur as cocks. Blue,
blue check, silver, lark and owlish are also recognised in both
sexes. The genetics of the sex-dimorphism had not yet been
internalised. In the book by Juhre/Kockel 'Die Rasse- und
Sporttaubenzucht' (Fancy and Homer Pigeon Breeding) from 1952,
published by the Deutscher Bauernverlag in the former GDR, the
Thuringian Selfs are not mentioned as a breed.
Colours in today’s standard
In the ring binder from 1970, which replaced the first book of
standards, blue-, light- and yellow- ground coloured are explicitly
listed as colours of the cocks. Silver, yellow-ground, blue,
blue-check and owlish are listed next to them in a gender-neutral
way and thus were accepted in both sexes. In the following ring
binder and the standard of 2004 an assignment of the female colours
is made. The corresponding female colours are blue, blue-check for
the blue ground coloureds, silver and larked for the light and
yellow ground coloureds. From the mating of blue-ground coloured
with blue-check hens the sons may be more clouded in the wings as
indicators of the check pattern. They are sometimes named
grey-ground coloured, but are not separated in the standard.
From this standard onwards, there are distinct colours for cocks and
others for females. A response to new genetic findings. Andreas Leiß
had worked out the genetic differences of the colours after research
together with breeders of Thuringian Selfs. However, as an exception
for owlish the separation into male and female colours was not
implemented. In the standard description they should correspond in
both sexes, apart from breed-specific subtleties, to blue grizzle
bars in other breeds. In breeding hens will occasionally appear in
the check pattern. This is when a grey-ground coloured male is mated
an owlish female.
Why the break in the systematics of colouring with the identical
colouring in cocks and hens in owlish pigeons? Probably because the
pure-bred Frosty cocks with the grizzle factor were not recognised
as the male counterpart to the pure (hemizygous) Frosty females with
the grizzle factor. This only became possible with the creating of
the owlish clean-legged Thuringians due to the exact breeding
Fig. 1: Colouring of the Thuringian Selfs in the current standard
description including the owlish-check females (Oschmann,
Unexpected interactions of the grizzle trait and frosty of the
The author had thought it possible that the grizzle factor of the
owls in homozygous Frosty cocks is suppressed or brings an
unattractive colouring. As Frank Zetzsche not long ago showed us in
the re-breeding of clean-legged owlish Thuringian Selfs. documented
in the Journal ‘Geflügel-Zeitung’, rather the opposite is the case.
The homozygosity for frosty of cocks (genetically frosty/frosty)
increases the effect of the grizzle factor so much that the cocks
already look like homozygous blue grizzles when only heterozygosity
for the grizzle factor (grizzle/wild type). If one looks through the
list of the most popular grizzle colourings mentioned by Storch in
1856, then it could have been the 'White-Owlish' of that time.
The counterpart for grizzles (owlish) in the breeding pen would have
been blue or blue-grounded individuals. Owlish in the colour row of
the Thuringian Selfs are therefore not a part that does not belong.
The pigeons only look different from what the authors of the
Standard had imagined. This could be repaired by including these
cocks in the standard.
The present ‘show cocks’ are indeed a break with the understanding
of the Thuringian Selfs as an auto-sexing breed. In crosses with
other colourings, blue and check cocks will be obtained from the
current ‘show cocks’, which do not possess the factor or only
heterozygous. The pure heredity of the strain for auto-sexing would
- If you have blue cocks, which also have the hereditary factor
Frosty twice, then they are lighter than the counterpart blue
- If you have silver (dilute blue) cocks, which additionally have
the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their
counterpart females: Light grounded coloured
- If you have larked cocks, which additionally have the hereditary
factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their counterpart
females: Yellow-ground coloured.
If you continue this line systematically:
- If you have blue-grizzle or owlish cocks, which additionally have
the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their
counterpart owlish females: White-owlish, one could assume according
to Ludwig Storch's reports on the favourite colours 1856 in Ruhla
Fig. 2: Selected colourings of the Thuringian Selfs according to
genetic aspects (photos and breeding Frank Zetzsche).
Breeding grizzles and owlish
Fact is, that grizzles in most breeds are not mated with each other,
but with blue bars. Experience shows, that otherwise a large number
of too light homozygous grizzles up to 'storked' ones are produced.
That can be read in the text books on pigeon genetics for long.
Also, about the manifold kinds of grizzles and the specifics of
owlish and grizzles in many breeds. Potential counterparts in the
case of Thuringians are blue-grounded cocks and blue hens,
experiences will show the best way to success.
Fig. 3: Siblings from mating frosty grizzles with blue-ground
colored or blue bar with the frosty gene.
Anecdotal, perhaps also exemplary for dealing in the organisations
with genetically more complex issues
How difficult breeding committees, judges and judges' associations
find it to deal with genetics can be illustrated by an anecdote.
According to Gerhard Rößling in the preface of the catalogue for the
Thuringia Poultry Show 2021, a judges' meeting was held in Erfurt in
the 1960s at which the focus was on the 'Thuringian Selfs'. Paul
Schallenberg from Kittelsthal as a great promoter of the breed had
brought examples and was deeply disappointed. The head of the event
for further education of judges, Hornuf Soland/Sree, made the demand
that males and females should be brought in the same colour before
auditioning again. Thus, the demand to abolish the essential
characteristic of the breed, sexual dimorphism, in order to promote
We may learn, responsible persons in the organisation and in many
committees often lack the competence and also the need to deal with
other opinions and new things when it comes to breeding questions.
Perhaps this is exemplary for many constellations in the fancy
poultry breeding organizations.
Leiß, Andreas, Genetische Analyse der Kennfarbigkeit der Thüringer
Einfarbigen, Deutscher Kleintier-Züchter, Ausgabe Geflügel Nr.
18/2000, S. 24ff.
Sell, Axel, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, Achim 2015, S. 144-152.
Sell, Axel, Verständnis und Missverständnisse in der Taubenzucht,
Teil I – III, Achim 2020.
Sell, Axel, Pigeon Genetics. Applied Genetics in the Domestic
Pigeon, Achim 2012.
Zetzsche, Frank, Erzüchtung der glattfüßigen und glattköpfigen
Schimmel bei Thüringer Einfarbigen, GeflügelZeitung 18/2019, S.