Essential Characteristics of Pigeon Breeds

"When characterizing the breeds, we should let out the color since color alone is not a species or racial trait. In contrast, all major changes in the constitutional characteristics in comparison to the rock dove are important, such as skeletal structure, posture, flying ability, wart formation, atypical feather positions and structures, voice and psychic behavior. The size and weight differences are also significant "(translated from Harms 1939, p. 11). The entrance quote from Harms is not to be added. So his interest was also the experimental investigation of inheritance in the crossing of extremely different breeds (see also Sell 2012).

Fig. 1: Representatives of groups of different fancy breeds at Emil Schachtzabel 1910

Also in the precursors of today's standard descriptions such as the illustrated work of pigeon breeds by E. Schachtzabel (1910, 3rd edition 1919), the naming of colors in the individual breeds has a more memorial function over what is most common or was common. If the main breed characteristics are present, the individuals belongs to the breed. What color and how good it is, is a question of second order and in the individual breeds of different weight. However, anyone who wants to present a new color in a breed at exhibitions today needs a license, which he can acquire in a costly recognition process. This may, in some cases, add up to a four-digit euro amount due to presentation fees for showing the pigeons in the class for ‘new breed’ at the national shows, transport and travel costs, and rearing costs. After the recognition, however, the interest of the breeding committees in the correct color-class assignment seems to be waning again. This is shown by the unopposed presentation in false classes with rare colors also on the national shows.  Reasons for inactivity might be that Indications of incorrect valuations could be misunderstood as un-collusive criticism, but they would be helpful as a guide for judges, visitors of the major shows and breeders.

The essential characteristics of breed formation, such as size and weight differences, mentioned by Harms play a surprisingly minor role in standard descriptions, at least they are hardly ever concrete. Indirectly there is a control by the band size. This has been raised several times in some breeds in the past. Other sizes in standards are rare given. Also at Schachtzabel 1910 one finds sizes only in some breeds. So in extremely large and extremely small breeds: In the Roman, the height is 24-28 cm from the sole to the apex, the length of the beak tip to the tail 48-55 cm and the wingspan at blue, pale and white not less than 97 cm , in red, yellow and black not less than 93 cm. The Egyptian Owl (1-3) as the smallest and petite of the known Owl-breeds has a length of 27-29 cm, the English (4&5) of 32-34 cm. Otherwise, it is also usually referred to the field pigeon size as a comparative scale.

Fig. 2: Runt Pigeon and Egypt Owls (1-3) and English Owls (4 and 5) at Schachtzabel 1910

The largely lack of size information is a difference to the standards of other breeding associations of pets. For domestic rabbits and dogs, e.g. Of course we find weight data or withers heights as race criteria. In the past, if more detailed information would have been available e.g. over the beak length of medium beaked tumblers, some frustration could have been avoided. Also over the overall size is discussed in some breeds controversial. Breeding committees cannot contribute to a discussion in the case of contradictory opinions on standard interpretations and do not contribute. The standards are not concrete, and monitoring, a record of the development of characteristics over the years, does not take place. Even about the actual state nothing is known.

An improvement is not in sight. Rather the opposite. Some pigeons like Carneau, Mittelhäuser and Beneschau pigeons have been standardised for several years in overlapping colors now. They are so similar for outsiders that it was to be welcomed that for the Beneschau Pigeons with 750 grams for old ones at least once a benchmark in the standard was given.

Fig. 3: Mittelhäuser, Beneschauer Pigeon and Münsterländer Feldtaube at the show in Leipzig 2014

As can be seen from the most recent statement of the Federal Breeding Committee, this information has now been deleted. From a breeders point of view a regrettable step backwards compared to other pet breeders associations.

Fig. 4: Announcement of the change of Standard for Beneschau Pigeons August 2018


Harms, J. W., Untersuchungen über Haustaubenrassen, Jenaische Zeitschrift für Naturwissenschaft, Zweiundsiebzigster Band. Neue Folge, fünfundsechzigster Band, Jena 1939, S. 3—75 und Tafeln 1-7.

Schachtzabel, E., Illustriertes Prachtwerk sämtlicher Taubenrassen, Würzburg 1910, 3. Aufl. 1919.

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