Carrier and Turkish
Pigeon: Identity theft
Pigeon fanciers like to
place their own pigeon breed in a positive light. Imagination often
dominates facts. So with success the London pharmacists John Moore
1735, author of the first monograph on pigeons and with great
influence on all subsequent authors. For Moore his Carrier was the
'king of the pigeons'. This view was apparently shared by
distinguished personalities of his time. He named Richard Atherton,
whose family and landowning in Lancashire is traced back to the time
of Henry I (1100-1135). Atherton had planned to build pigeon lofts
on his estate for the different breeds know at that time, a plan
that could not be realized by his early death in 1726 (p. viii). As
one of the admirers of the breed he calls the distiller Mr. Hickmann,
who always had a silver hatchet and a block with him, with which he
decently chop'd off their heads. Being of the blood royal, they
ought not to die after the same manner as the vulgar herd (p. 26).
The carrier as a messenger
of the Turkish Empire, however, was already known before Moore.
Willughby (1678) had described it, even from his own inspection. He
would have the size of an ordinary pigeon, the beak would not be
short, but of moderate length, typical were the wattled eye ceres
and wattled beak. In this appearance, they are depicted as drawings
by Frisch (1763) and Neumeister (1837).
With this pigeon, the
Carrier of Moore, who had become a pigeon raised for beauty, had
little in common. Moore did not use figures, but a carrier soon
after was portrayed in the Treatise in 1765 by an anonymous author.
'King of the Pigeons': his
carrier has not become king by descent, but rather by a coup.
Probably due to crosses with French Bagadettes (Brent about 1860)
the phenotype has changed drastically. This artifact was enthroned
by Moore as the new 'carrier', but it still claimed the legend as a
Turkish messenger. Identity theft that would be called today. The
carrier at Willughby' time had the size of the common pigeon. Moore
some decades later proudly indicates the length 15 inches from the
tip of the beak to the tail end (p. 25). At a today's Racing Homer
it is only about 13 inches. The length of the beak had already moved
very far from the 'moderate' length (at a color pigeon e.g. 22-24
mm) reported by Willughby with 1.5 inches or 38.1 mm (p. 26). These
changes cannot be explained by selection from the original breed.
Dragoon and Horseman were not mentioned by Willughby as breeds,
because they probably were identical with his carrier, Moore
disparaged them as crossbreeds. He had to so because otherwise he
would have had problems to explain the existence of his English
Carrier and the ascribed legend. Well-known ornithologists like
Tegetmeier (1868) tried to put things right, but to no avail: "The
application of the name Carrier to them is to be regretted, as you
cannot visit a show without hearing some one who is deceived by the
name, speaking of them as the true working homer" (p. 44). Also
Fulton (1876) and others turned in vain against the fallacy.
Fulton, R., The
Illustrated Book of Pigeons. London, Paris, New York and Melbourne
Pigeon-House. Being an Introduction to Natural History of Tame
Pigeons. Columbarium: or the pigeon house, Printed for J. Wilford,
o.V., A Treatise
on Domestic Pigeons, London MDCCLXV (1765), Reprint Chicheley,
Sell, Axel, Brieftauben und ihre
Verwandten, Achim 2014.
Pigeon Genetics. Applied Genetics in the Dometic Pigeon, Achim 2012.
Sell, Axel, Taubenrassen.
Entstehung, Herkunft, Verwandtschaften.
Faszination Tauben durch die Jahrhunderte, Achim 2009.
Pigeons: their structure, varieties, habits and management, London
Willughby, Francis, The
Ornithology in Three Books. Translated into English, and enlarged
with many Additions throughout the whole work by John Ray, Fellow
of the Royal Society, London 1678.