Can we preserve our breed diversity in the pigeon fancy?

Many breeds and colors and less and less breeders, how does that fit? One cannot change the development of the number of breeders. The leisure behavior has changed, including the housing conditions. Who can raise in the block of flats, terraced house or even in a detached single family house, with today often almost 400 square meters of land or less, still pigeons, without having to fear problems with the neighbors! Finally, new diseases create uncertainty and veterinary regulations are becoming increasingly complex. Private animal husbandry also is under attack of animal welfare circles; pet owners are not perceived as allies with regard to preserving the natural foundations of life for humans and animals. The thinning of the number of fanciers in the individual breeds and the disappearance of some breeds seems inevitable. Even if one follows the advice of some, no longer to allow additional foreign and new breeds. That breeds should be sufficiently different, is already in the conditions anyway.

Can you oblige breeders to preserve what others have considered to be beautiful before them? Many certainly want to decide themselves and pursue their own ideas. You cannot force these breeders.

The disappearance of domestic pigeon breeds is dramatized by a parallel to the extinction of species. Is it real that breeds cannot be re-established once they disappear? The parallels with the extinction of species is an inadmissible comparison. The extinct Passenger Pigeon will not be brought back to life. Most of the breeds of domestic pigeons, all of which originate from mutations and selections from the rock pigeon, may come back since they have many characteristics in common with other existing breeds. In the event that the Oriental Blondinettes should one day die out among the Oriental Frills, the Greek Caridia in 1876 has already left us the recipe for the breeding from Satinettes and African Owls. Within two decades, they were brought to the level that was - perhaps somewhat idealized - captured by Ludlow in the Illustrated Book of Pigeons, edited 1876 by Fulton (Fig. 5 below). Even if a muffed color pigeon breed should disappear, you can breed a similar pied marked breed in a few generations with heavy muffs. The kind of flying and tumbling of the Oriental Roller may be different. The mutations responsible for the particular flight behavior will not be easy to repeat. However the flying style is generally not preserved by fancy breeders and through exhibitions, but by the highflyer and roller community.

Statements that with the extinction of a pigeon breed, all properties are irretrievably lost and the breed is no longer the same since by crossing with other breed the character changes, become a boomerang for the entire fancy and the myth prevailing in some circles on what we do in the fancy. The competition at the exhibitions is designed for change, and these changes are essentially achieved through crossings with subsequent selection. Keeping old cultural heritage unchanged is something else. Whoever does not want to perceive this as a fact and claims otherwise, lies to himself and others. Alois Münst addressed this topic in the volume 1 of the anthology ‘Alles über Rassetauben’ edited by Erich Müller years ago under the keyword "preserving breeds or breed names". Compare for example Strasser, Lynx, Maltese Pigeons, Modenese Pigeons or, in the tumbler section, Danish magpies in illustrations more than 100 years ago and today. How and with what other breeds for outcrossing these changes have been achieved is sufficiently documented in the relevant historical literature.


Fig. 1: Strasser at Lavalle und Lietze, Die Taubenrassen, Berlin 1905, and from today


Fig. 2: Lynx at Lavalle and Lietze, Die Taubenrassen, Berlin 1905, and from today


Fig. 3: Danish Tumbler black magpies at Lavalle and Lietze, Die Taubenrassen, Berlin 1905, and from today


Fig. 4: Modena, Hungarian und Maltese old type (from left to right) at Dürigen, Geflügelzucht 2. ed. Berlin 1906, and Maltese from today

At some distance, the modern types in Figures 1-4 appear rather like new breeds, rather than as a result of the traditionalists' desire to preserve ancient cultural heritage.

It can also be seen from the literature that over the century breeders have experienced the interaction with pigeons and competition and camaraderie as a meaningful hobby. They also gained a lot of insights into the biological basis and left written record of experience, thereby contributing to the deciphering of our genetic knowledge. To use an ancient Chinese wisdom: ‘The way is the goal’, the contact with the pigeons and handling them. Only exceptional it will be possible to reserve in life intermediates in breeds’ development. Here lies the value of historical literature, in which, as for many breeds also e.g. in the ‘Fulton’, the chosen paths and experiences are documented.


Fig. 5: Blondinettes from the ‚Illustrated Book of Pigeon’, edited by Robert Fulton 1876; Collected knowledge in the national and international pigeon literature

New color-classes are something different than new breeds, though often thrown together in the discussion. For those who have bred only one color throughout their lives, crossing with another is an incalculable adventure. They should, however, allow others to see a special charm in diversity and not to forbid them to breed. From the so called ‘new’ color-classes, which are also often problematized, only a few are really new. So for Germany a few decades ago the Indigo color-classes inclusive of Andalusians, then Reduced, others may follow. Probably it was not possible to prevent them since otherwise interested fanciers would have formed outside the organization genetic groups for rarities. However, most of the other colors shown in the new breeds sections for getting accepted as standard-colors are not new to the breeders, they appear automatically when breeding other accepted colors with each other. Thus e.g. recessive yellow and black may produce dun hens in the first cross. And do they really harm the breed? The only question here is how much organizational effort should be put into recognizing color-classes. Does every Indigo color pattern, barless, bar, check, and dark check, really need to be recognized individually? Even though a genetically experienced breeder knows that the other color-classes automatically occur by crossing with the blue-color series when you have one of the indigo pattern variants? The Federal Breeding Committee could certainly make better use of its time than wasting it on the idea of ​​new ‘old’ colors.


Dürigen, Bruno, Geflügelzucht, 2. Auflage Berlin 1906.

Fulton, Robert, The Illustrated Book of Pigeons, London, Paris, New York and Melbourne 1876.

Lavalle, A., und M. Lietze (Hrsg.), Die Taubenrassen, Berlin 1905.

Münst, Alois, Tradition pflegen – alte Rassen bewahren, in: Erich Müller (Hrsg.), Alles über Rassetauben Band 1, Entwicklung, Haltung, Pflege, Vererbung und Zucht, Oertel+Spörer 2000, S. 368-381.

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

Sell, Axel, Taubenrassen. Entstehung, Herkunft, Verwandtschaften. Faszination Tauben über die Jahrhunderte, Achim 2009.

Sell, Axel, Taubenzucht. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen züchterischer Gestaltung, Strukturen, Figuren, Verhalten, Zucht und Vererbung in Theorie und Praxis, Achim 2019.