Breeding stock survey for fancy pigeons 2022

For a long-term monitoring of the development of the stock and the breed and wild poultry diversity in the BRDG, the recording of the breeding stock in the BDRG over the years represents a valuable data basis, even if it is incomplete. As stated in the introduction to the study, it is only possible to present what is supplied by the clubs or regional associations. Some data appear to be taken from previous years and updated. For pigeons, the survey for 2022 confirms what is known from the shows, the dominance of some breeds. German Modeneser (7.4%), King Pigeons (4.1%), Strasser (3.3%), German Beauty Homers (2.7%) and Lynx Pigeons (2.4%) alone accounted for one fifth of the 367,958 breeding birds registered. The percentages may seem small at first glance, but about 350 breeds share the rest.

Pigeon breeds, colourings and 'varieties', and a misunderstanding

That colouration is of no importance in the characterisation of breeds was already emphasised by Harms in 1939 in the German Journal for Natural Science, published in Jena. This is also the view of the official Book of Standards when subdividing the breeds into colour-classes. Deviations in the feather structure, such as different shapes of the crest next to the plain-headed and foot feathering next to clean-legged, are listed as variants of the breed with otherwise identical features and characteristics and do not establish an independent breed (Sell 2009, pp. 7-13). This is also the principle of the official standards. In the presentation they nevertheless stand, visually and on the level of classification, on an equal footing. As if they were different breeds.

In the alphabetical order of the Gimpel-Pigeons, the Gold Gimpel and the Copper Gimpel are listed separately as if they were different breeds. Genetically they are different colourings, which are distinguished from each other by the Pale factor of the Gold Gimpel. A separation gives a false impression. The differentiation of the rare plain-headed Gimpels from the peak crested has already led to a factual statistical error in previous years. In the case of golden bullfinches, in the statistic the reported 283 pairs with a peak crest are contrasted with 964 other (and thus plain-headed) pairs.


Fig. 1: Gimpel Pigeon plain-headed copper-blackwing, and peak-crested golden-blackwing.

This is not a 'spin' either, but probably an error in understanding when filling in the reports. Plain-headed ones are so rare that outsiders usually don't even know that plain-headed Gimpels exist. In the case of Copper Gimpels, the same mistake is repeated as in previous population surveys.

Pigeons are not chickens

The presentation of the results is the same for large and water fowl, chickens, bantams, pigeons etc.. However, the husbandry in breeding is different. In chickens, the colourings are usually kept separately in flocks with a cock and a few hens. Crosses with other colourings are the exception. Therefore, from a breeding perspective, a reported colouring of a breeder can be understood as breeding stock, because there is a small flock behind it. According to the data, there were 9 individuals per breeding stock. Among them, according to the data for individual breeds, 1-2 cocks in the respective colouring can be assumed. With chickens, many breedings tend to mean many breeders. In contrast to chickens, crosses between colourings are no exception in pigeons kept in pairs. If you breed recessive yellow pigeons, you usually automatically have some recessive reds with them so that the colouring does not diminish over the generations. Blue Bars, Blue Barless and Blue Checks also form complementary colourings in breeding. Dilute Blue with and without bars and Dilute Blue Checks can easily be added. In this example 1 large family and statistically 6 counted breedings!

Underestimation of the endangerment potential of a breed and overestimation of the endangerment of rare colourings

If there is only one breeder of the breed with the six colourings mentioned in the example, then six breeding stocks appear in the statistics. This sounds more reassuring for the survival of the breed than it is. With this breeder, six breeding stocks would disappear from the statistic, and also the breed. The rarity of a single colour is less worrying than that of breeders. Statistically, for example, a breeding in the 2022 report consists of a single dilute blue clean-legged Gumbinnen White Head female.


Fig. 2: Gumbinnen Pigeon in the then called silver colouring in an article in the Geflügel-Börse 1935, and listing of the Gumbinnen in the breeding stock registration 2022. 150 cocks and 150 females in each of 43 'breedings', or correct ' sum of entries in individual colourings'. The rarer short groused ones with 49 couples and here also only one bird in two recorded ‘breedings’.

However, the colour-class is not more endangered than the breed even with one bird only. The female can be mated to a blue cock and others and remains in the gene pool. Further dilute blue females can be bred from their sons in the next generation. This is not a coincidence, as also many people responsible engaged in breeding committees may think, but genetically determined. Rare colourings can remain in the stock even in small numbers and 'swim along' in small numbers over centuries.

If the number of the reported 43 breedings of clean-legged Gumbinnen (Fig. 2) were adjusted for double counts, there would possibly be only 15. For the pigeons as a whole, if breedings were understood as a 'reproductive community', only 15,500 of the 37,500 would possibly remain, the number mentioned for the chickens.

Genetic elucidation and use of complementary colours

With foreseeable difficulties for large breedings and decreasing numbers of breeders, breeders will have to increasingly cross colour varieties and breeds, if only to counteract inbreeding depression. Many pigeon fanciers have experience in mating different colourings and make ample use of it.

In some cases it is not only sensible, it is also required that colourings with complementary colours are mated. That also here more genetic clarification could not do any harm can also be seen from the Breeding Animal Survey 2022 for some breeds. According to the 'Hints on Breeding' of the BDRG of 2011, two carriers with the respective gene should not be mated due to genetic defects in purebred Dominant Opal and purebred cocks with the Stipper gene. In the case of the Stipper gene, this concerns, among others, the colours Almond, multicoloured and sprinkled varieties. One of the recommended matings is shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3: One possibility of using complementary colours in breeding English Almonds (source: Genetik der Taubenfärbungen).

From the breeding pair in Fig. 3 one obtains four different colourings in the offspring from an Almond Cock and a Kite Hen, all of which can be reintroduced into the breeding (source: Sell, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, Achim 2015). At the grassroots level, the demand for the use of complementary colours, has obviously not been met in some breeds. That can be read from the breeding stock registration.



Harms, J. W., Untersuchungen über Haustaubenrassen, Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft, Zweiundsiebzigster Band. Neue Folge, fünfundsechzigster Band, Jena 1939, pp. 3—75 and tables 1-7 (Investigations on Pigeon Breeds)

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

Sell, Axel, Taubenrassen. Entstehung, Herkunft, Verwandtschaften, Achim 2009, pp. 7-13 on the term ‚Pigeon Breeds‘.

Sell, Axel, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, Achim 2015.