Breeding for Black: Dull and Deep 100 years ago

Weakly coloured blacks

From the mating of blue-bars or checks with self blacks and other colours with the colour spread gene often also dull grey-blacks with dark-black set-off bars or checks are produced. Often with set off tail band (Fig. 1). That was still documented by Sarah van Hoosen Jones about 100 years ago. In contrast to theory? Shouldn't Spread as the dominant gene cover the pattern 'bars' and possibly the 'checks'? According to Radio Eriwan: In principle yes, but ... Spread often only partially covers the pattern. And whether, and to what extent, depends on other modifiers. In the chapter on Toy-Stencil for example, one will learn that the bars or checks in blacks even stand out strikingly.

Back to Non-Toy-Stencils. Weakly coloured blacks from experiences in practice are not mutants, Spread is not lacking. When only the check pattern instead of bars is genetically present under the weak black, the colouration becomes more uniform, but not as intensive like in deep black. At dull black not only bar patches but also the check spots stand out on the wing shield on a grey ground colour. In the case of checks and T-check birds, this also makes the entire wing shield darker (Fig. 3). The darker bars and check marks of the weakly coloured blacks correspond to these markings in blues. Paradoxically at first sight, in 'Toy Stencil' it is precisely these bar and check spots that are strikingly 'printed' white through the black ground colour (for details see ‘Pigeon Genetics’ and ‘Genetik der Taubenfärbungen). However, by many of them the color never becomes as intense as in deep-black individuals.


Fig. 1 und 2: Weaker coloured female hen with translucent bars and lightened edge feathers with visible tail band (source: Sell, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen 2015, there fig. 221). On the right translucent bars, no distinct tail band and no white outer vane, from the mother-side heterozygous smoky. Both heterozygous spread from a blue parent from the stock of the author.

Fig. 3: Black with translucent checks from the own loft, heterozygous for Spread, Dirty and Smoky

100 years ago: Deep-Black

A darkening of the black appearance is also achieved by Dirty and Smoky. However, expectations should not be set too high. Smoky, for example, may be helpful to blur contrasts of the translucent patterns with the moult. Nevertheless, the author, for example, initially also had only weakly coloured smoky blacks in his breed (Fig. 5).

Other factors intensifying the colour and gloss had to be added, for which indications were already found in the literature in 1922. Sarah van Hoosen Jones dealt among others with the modification of the depth and sheen of the color of many black birds and thematised ‘Deep’ as a factor responsible for intense and uniform colouration. She distinguished the blacks into two groups. The weaker coloured blacks were called 'dull'. And, with underneath checks, ‘dull black checks’ (Fig. 4). Whether the alternative 'Deep' is an allele of Spread suspected in the literature or, as indirectly stated in the article, a modifier acting on Spread, is open. According to one's own assumption, it is more likely the interaction of several modifiers. Dull without translucent pattern are not excluded by van Hoosen Jones either, and some weaker coloured own black homing pigeons also genetically had the bar pattern.

Fig. 4: Dull black check at Sarah van Hoosen Jones 1922

Conversion of a strain from 'Dull' to 'Deep'

When traditional attempts to improve colouration are not enough, the only option is to add intensity factors from other breeds in the style of 'new breeding'. Traditionally means are many years of selection with the aim to weed out negative modifiers and enrich positive ones. Since that did not work, the introduction of the lacking modifiers was the option.

Fig. 5: Black smoky Pomeranian Highflyers, at the left with weak colour, at the right after upgrading by outcrossing. Source: Sell, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, there fig. 253), Achim 2015.

In this way, a largely uniform and intense (deep) black strain has indeed been achieved (Fig. 5). As is shown in breeding, uniform and intense colored deep-black may be underneath genetically bar pattern and also heterozygous Spread only.

Fig. 6: Deep (left) and dull (right) from the own loft. At the right a heterozygous Spread, heterozygous Smoky from a blue-bar wild-type cock.

Uniformly coloured in these intensely coloured blacks are also those 'Deep', which genetically have the bar pattern in the background. Occasionally the bars show slightly in the juvenile plumage and depending on light. Largely uniform are also those that are only heterozygous for the spread factor. This is confirmed by the blue juvenile from the black old bird in Fig. 7.

Fig. 7: Black adult cock and young blue bar as indicator for heterozygous Spread

Black without Spread

Not only are there genetic blacks that do not look black to outsiders, there are also blacks that genetically do not have Spread. This is the case with the wings of the black-winged Gimpel-Pigeons. After crosses with blues and blue-checks there are checkered ones in the first generation, and there are no blacks in successive matings either. Deep blacks without the spread factor were also kites in the author's Danish Brown Stipper breeding (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8: Danish Tumblers, Brown Stipper-cock and Kite hen from the author’ former strain

For black Starling pigeons it is often written in literature that they do not have Spread. This does not seem to have been documented by meaningful photos and succession matings of a first generation so far. Thus, confusion with weakly coloured blacks of the first generation - as shown at the beginning - cannot be excluded. Observations have also been made in black Gazzi of the Italian Modenese, which indicate the absence of spread.  So, there are still mysteries to be unravelled.


Sell, Axel, Pigeon Genetics. Applied Genetics in the Domestic Pigeon, Achim 2012, www.taubensell.de

Sell, Axel, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, Achim 2015.

Van Hoosen Jones, Sarah, Studies on inheritance in pigeons IV, Genetics VII 1922, pp. 466-507.