Facts and thought on the origin of the Gimpel Pigeons

Pigeon standards are preceded by brief notes on the origin of the breeds. Often it remains vague. In the German standard, 'probably Dalmatia/Illyria' is written for Gimpel-Pigeons. Why? Gimpel-Pigeons from all what is known came to Germany from Austria after 1800. G. Wermann according to a notice in the Korthsche Taubenzeitung of 1856 saw them the first time in Germany in 1822. The origin in Austria will have had to do with the connections of the Habsburgs as the Austrian ruling dynasty with the regions of the Mediterranean. For the oldest known preserved stuffed specimen of a Black-winged Gimpel dates from 1817 and comes from the imperial aviaries of Franz I (II) in the Viennese ‘Hochburg’. The regions of Dalmatia/Illyria are spatially close. However, nothing is known of great pigeon breeding traditions there in this period, even from travel reports to these regions.

The designation of the specimen in 1817 as 'Columba domestica phyrrhula' does not provide any information about the origin. It is the Latin name after the male bullfinchs song bird (German ‘Dompfaff’ or 'Gimpel'), which is similarly coloured with a red breast and belly. Gimpel is then also the name used by Neumeister in his book in 1837 and determines further usage in Germany.


Abb. 307 und 308: Fotos: NMW 87.776 Gimpeltaube „Columba domestica pyrrhula“. Wien 1817. Von Sr. Majestät Terrasse“ = aus den kaiserlichen Volieren Franz I (II) in der Wiener Hofburg. NMW 87.774 „Feuertaube“ Wien 1810-1812. Von Sr. Majestät Terrasse“ = aus den kaiserlichen Volieren Franz I (II) in der Wiener Hofburg (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien)

Source: Sell, Taubenrassen. Entstehung, Herkunft, Verwandtschaften, Achim 2009

In 1867 an article appears in which the name 'Illyrian pigeon' is used. It is not substantiated and backed up by facts. Latin names for domestic pigeons were 'in' for some time to enhance the status of pigeon keeping in public. For example, Gustav Prütz later used the name 'Gimpel' followed by 'C. Illyrica' in brackets as an addition. An example of how easily assumptions are interpreted as facts and passed on without criticism.

A recent English-language standard on Archangel/Gimpel states that the Copper Blackwing (Archangel) was developed and perfected in England. This can also cause misunderstandings. Archangel were not developed there in the sense of being created. They came to England from Ghent in 1839 as finished breeds. They have been thereafter further developed, like other pigeon breeds and the Gimpel-Pigeons inclusive of the Archangels on the continent. One with already a lot of shine in the body plumage is illustrated by Eaton 1858 in his Treatise on the Art of Breeding and Managing Pigeons.


Fig. 2: Blackwing Copper Gimpel at G. Neumeister, Das Ganze der Taubenzucht, Weimar 1837; Fig. 3: Eaton, Treatise… Source: Sell, Pigeon Genetics. Applied Genetics in the Domestic Pigeon, Achim 2012

Gimpel-Pigeons were probably more widespread in Austria after 1800 than previously assumed. This is shown by several drawings of pigeons by Leopold Brunner the Elder (1788-1866), which unexpectedly turned up in the archives of the Vienna National Library. Experts have dated them to 1850 or older.  Blue-wings were referred to as bloodfinch (Blut-Gimpel) field pieons. A black-wing as 'Crested Upper Austria. Gimpeltaube' and some white-wings as Salzburg Crested Gimpeltauben.


Fig. 4: Paintings of Gimpel-Pigeons in the Vienna National Library from Leopold Brunner the Elder (1788-1866)

A collection of pictures that should also be interesting for breeders of other breeds: http://www.bildarchivaustria.at