Runts, Romains, Giant Pigeons: A source work to the largest domestic pigeons


Extreme attract attention. So also the largest and the smallest individuals of the respective kind. Among the largest pigeons count the Roman Runt (Romain), whose possible ancestors as large pigeons from the region Campania, south of Rome, already were mentioned by Plinius 77 after Christ. The Norwegian Christie and Wriedt got an individual of 1225 g presented in the 1920s. For those who are interested in the history of the great pigeons and especially the Romans, the French-language book by Thierry Castille, Le Pigeon Romain, is a treasure trove with numerous representations and sources references.



Thierry Castille, Le Pigeon Romain, Rennes 2011


For Brisson 1760, the 'Pigeon Romain' still was a name for all known domesticated breeding breeds, from the feather-footed pigeons to the trumpeter. Buffon has a different terminology. Romains are for him in 1772 one of the smaller breeds in the group of large pigeons. Among the big among the larger domestic pigeons are the 'Oiseaux lourd', large, heavy and less productive, as big as a little chicken, the crook beaked Bagdette, the Spanish pigeon, the Turkish pigeon and, somewhat smaller, also the Roman. At Boitard and Corbié it is shown in a from today’s perspective recognizable form as Pigeon Romain Ordinaire, whereby the iris should still be yellow (Boitard and Corbié 1824, p. 190). Pearlish with exceptions they were at the Pigeon Romain Cupé, which was more elegant and higher in stance. This was attributed to crosses with the pearl-eyed Pigeon Bagdais Batard. These, in turn, are considered to be the successors of the Spanish Pigeon and ancestors of the French Bagdette and, in addition to their size, may have brought the pear-colored iris into the Romans of the day.




Roman Runts at Lumley 1891 (Source Castille 2011) and Runts, Montauban, Spanish Runt at Eaton, and a modern runt (Source: Sell, Taubenrassen 2009)


The Roman, as we know it today, came into existence after 1860, after J-P. Brechet with breeders from the Paris area from the existing breeds developed the modern type with a wingspan over one meter. The special feature of the 108-page monograph by Thierry Castille is that he lets the historical texts speak. He presents central passages and leaves it to the reader to draw his own conclusions and to make further considerations. For some readers unfortunately in French language. The extensive historical figures and the source references to the original sources facilitate the integration into the literature in time and context and even the understanding of the texts.

Some of his historical depictions of 'Romans' can also solve the mystery of the small, rather tumbler-like pigeons depicted in literature as Romans. This pigeon, created by François Martinet between 1765 and 1773 and reprinted in various variants, depicts the Roman as a prototype of the domestic pigeon without any particularities according to Brisson's conception (Castille 2011, p. 7). For the reader of the first edition of the Schachtzabel of 1910, it is already irritating to get presented in the preliminary remarks the "Roman Pigeon from an older works" without source and without explanation in the figure of a small high flyer or tumbler, then to find the amazed by Schoener = Würzburg created color tables with the mighty Romans. The difference between both does not show the breeding progress, as Schachtzabel suspects in the preliminary remarks, but it is another pigeon.


Le Pigeon Romain as prototype for  the Domestic Pigeon according to Bresson. Created by Francois Martinet 1771 (source: Castille 2011) and Runt at Schachtzabel (1910)


Runt at Schachtzabel 1911


Old literature and old engravings have to be interpreted out of context and embedded in the pigeon literature on the development of breeds. This happens in the monograph of Castille for the Romans. However, his work is also important for understanding the development of all the great pigeon breeds.

A problem of such revealing works is, however, the low broad impact. On the one hand there is the language barrier, on the other hand few from those who might be interested, know that there is such a book at all. And if they know, it will be hard to find. A search in the online accessible scientific libraries was negative, it will be present in some special libraries and at collectors of pigeon literature. But collections can also act like 'black holes' of the universe, absorbing the matter from their environment and making it disappear to the rest of the universe. The book is a treasure trove, but finding it yourself is a problem.



Castille, Thierry‚ Le Pigeon Romain d’apres Jean-Pierre Breschet ou l’Avénement du Pigeon Romain au 19éme siècle. Textes Recueillis et Commentés par Thierry Castille, Rennes 2011.

Schachtzabel, E., Illustriertes Prachtwerk sämtlicher Tauben-Rassen, Würzburg o.J. (1910).

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