Genetics and pigeon
breeding: Did we miss the enlightenment?
Genetics in pigeons in
scientific publications today are almost exclusively about molecular
genetics. Most of the fanciers and opinion leaders in the
organization and clubs, probably not only in Germany, have not yet
internalized the classic Mendelian laws in pigeon breeding. This is
clearly based on heredity experiments. On this basis, Prof. W.F.
Hollander and other scientists brought a system into the interaction
of the different genetic factors. For those who have become familiar
with it, the numerous colors in some breeds will no longer appear
like an unsystematic listing and a chaos that must be prevented.
When the General Exhibition
Regulations (AAB) of the Federation of German Breeders of Poultry (BDRG)
were formulated, it was certainly not clear to those responsible how
easy it was to mate different colors (in the standards color-classes)
in a breed without damage for the breed. Also not that individual
colors are not isolated from each other, but can be seen as part of
a breeding group. Even today, many cannot understand that the mating
of a (recessive) yellow pigeon with a black pigeon produces well-colored,
dun in the first generation and that from an ash red cock with a
blue-check hen, neatly colored ash red check young appear in the
first generation (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 und 2:
Zwischenfarbenschläge. Rotfahlgehämmert aus Rotfahl und
Blaugehämmert; Römer blaufahl mit Binden unter den Neuzüchtungen
If there are recessive
yellow Romans, dilute blue (former silver in some terminology) will
automatically appear at some point in the breeding (Fig. 2). Why
should these be examined for years in a recognition class new breeds
and colors for the breed type if they themselves come from
breed-typical Romans? The fact that they are not all perfect or near
to perfect individuals should also go without saying and is also so
in the other collections in the general section.
If the question is raised in
social media why 'intermediate-colors' have to go through such a
long recognition process within a breed, the answer quickly comes
that there are already too many breeds and color anyway with at the
same time the decreasing number of breeders. With such a comment,
one does not know whether it is intended to change an uncomfortable
topic. It is likely that the commentator actually does not know that
mating within a breed two different colors and creating or
recognizing new breeds is completely different in animal breeding.
Crosses of colors are not a mixture of hereditary factors or even
the blood, as many believe. The use of language from ancient times
with bloodline, blood freshening etc. leads to such thinking.
Hereditary factors can initially be hidden in new gene combinations.
They can, however, reappear unadulterated in later generations. As
in the photo montage of the blue-barless Chinese Owls (Fig. 3), in
which a blue-bar individual is mated with a blue-check, both of
which come from a blue-barless parent.
Fig. 3: Mating of a blue bar and blue check Chinese Owls that both
are heterozygous barless. At the right the potential outcome.
Source: Sell 2004, 2007
Punnett’s Square in Fig. 3
invites for "practicing": besides blue-bar and blue-check
youngsters, blue-barless at the right in the offspring. Even if you
don't trust Mendel, you can prove it with molecular genetic analyzes
of the relevant DNA sections based on identical amino acid
sequences, as they appear in the family tree of the ancestors.
Those responsible for the
AAB from the improved knowledge about inheritance do not seem to
have derived the need for changes the procedural rules. That seems
the only explanation for the high hurdles for recognition and the
long, often unsuccessful try to get a color standardized. There is
even the rule in the AAB that colors can be revoked if they have not
been shown at national shows or the main special show for several
years. Anyone who discovers an interest in a traditional color that
has reappeared in breeding has to try his luck again over years,
sometimes decades, in the new breeding recognition process.
The answer from other
opponents of any change comes from the fact that one should first
breed the main colors to perfection before allowing new ones. Anyone
who argues in this way has not understood the mechanisms of
competition in the exhibition system. There can be no perfection in
the system. If the standard is achieved by a 'too large' number of
individuals, it can no longer serve its purpose of selecting and
rewarding a small number of top individuals. New breeding
difficulties must be added against which the breeders compete. The
resulting development of many races over time is reproduced here for
the Strasser breed.
Fig. 4: Development of the Strasser-breed over a century
You can also get it
illustrated in many breed monographs, such as the example of the
brochure by Jonnie L. Blaine with the change in standard images for
the English Long-faced Tumblers.
Fig. 5 and Fig. 6: English Long Faced Tumbler about 1905 painted by
A.J. Simpson and the painting of a 1908 Mottle cock, painted by
Wippell. Source: Blaine 1978.
Fig. 7 and Fig. 8: J.W. Ludlow’s Ideal head which was adopted by the
Long Faced Tumbler Club April 14, 1910 and the cover of Jonnie
Blaine’ booklet with a painting of John Mahaffay that has been
accepted as the New Ideal Drawing by the Pacific Tumbler Club.
Source: Blaine 1978.
Some knowledge of genetics
would not only be good for breeding planning, but also for the
reputation of poultry breeding in general. However, because of the
same ignorance and lack of information about inheritance, many
reports in social media from breeders and unsuitable 'likes' can be
explained. So if someone shows a breeding pair with two sprinkles or
with two Dominant Opal. They should not be mated for animal welfare
due to the genetic defects in some of their offspring, and the
members of the group give applause. Even in view of the difficult
situation of the hobby and the loss of members in the organization,
it is hardly understandable that the BDRG offends creative breeders
and friends of rare colors and does not try to involve them.
Large entries at the
national shows may obscure the decrease at the local level, so
perhaps the feeling the organization can afford the luxury of
exclusion. The picture is deceptive: Compared to earlier, a higher
proportion of the (decreasing) number of breeders seems to attend
with their pigeon the great National Shows, and then with higher
numbers of pigeons per breeder. There are no systematic studies on
this. A look at old catalogs suggests it. Was it in Munich in
January 1975 e.g. 6.5 pigeons per exhibitor, so there were over 14
in Kassel in January 2019.
Blaine, Jonnie L., The
English Long Faced Tumbler “Update 1978”, Whittier, California 1978.
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