Thuringian Selfs - The Reawakening of the White-Owls?

On the systematics of the Thuringian Selfs in old sources and the first standard

Thuringian Selfs are traced back to the pigeons and colours Ludwig Storch wrote about in 1856 in an article about Ruhl and the Rühlers in the Thuringian Forest in the then popular Journal 'Gartenlaube'. Ground coloured, white- and yellow-ground coloured pigeons point to today's blue, light- and yellow-ground coloured pigeons, lark and silver to today's female colours larked and silver (dilute blue bar). Grizzles (owlish) were apparently represented in many varieties. Owlish, white-owlish, black-owlish, silver-, ‘lach- and grunzeulig’ (brownish?) are listed among the most popular colours. In the first standard published in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1951, it is already recognised that today's blue-ground, light-ground and yellow-ground colours only occur as cocks. Blue, blue check, silver, lark and owlish are also recognised in both sexes. The genetics of the sex-dimorphism had not yet been internalised. In the book by Juhre/Kockel 'Die Rasse- und Sporttaubenzucht' (Fancy and Homer Pigeon Breeding) from 1952, published by the Deutscher Bauernverlag in the former GDR, the Thuringian Selfs are not mentioned as a breed.

Colours in today’s standard

In the ring binder from 1970, which replaced the first book of standards, blue-, light- and yellow- ground coloured are explicitly listed as colours of the cocks. Silver, yellow-ground, blue, blue-check and owlish are listed next to them in a gender-neutral way and thus were accepted in both sexes. In the following ring binder and the standard of 2004 an assignment of the female colours is made. The corresponding female colours are blue, blue-check for the blue ground coloureds, silver and larked for the light and yellow ground coloureds. From the mating of blue-ground coloured with blue-check hens the sons may be more clouded in the wings as indicators of the check pattern. They are sometimes named grey-ground coloured, but are not separated in the standard.

From this standard onwards, there are distinct colours for cocks and others for females. A response to new genetic findings. Andreas Leiß had worked out the genetic differences of the colours after research together with breeders of Thuringian Selfs. However, as an exception for owlish the separation into male and female colours was not implemented. In the standard description they should correspond in both sexes, apart from breed-specific subtleties, to blue grizzle bars in other breeds. In breeding hens will occasionally appear in the check pattern. This is when a grey-ground coloured male is mated an owlish female.

Why the break in the systematics of colouring with the identical colouring in cocks and hens in owlish pigeons? Probably because the pure-bred Frosty cocks with the grizzle factor were not recognised as the male counterpart to the pure (hemizygous) Frosty females with the grizzle factor. This only became possible with the creating of the owlish clean-legged Thuringians due to the exact breeding records.

Fig. 1: Colouring of the Thuringian Selfs in the current standard description including the owlish-check females (Oschmann, Finsterbergen).

Unexpected interactions of the grizzle trait and frosty of the Thuringian Selfs

The author had thought it possible that the grizzle factor of the owls in homozygous Frosty cocks is suppressed or brings an unattractive colouring. As Frank Zetzsche not long ago showed us in the re-breeding of clean-legged owlish Thuringian Selfs. documented in the Journal ‘Geflügel-Zeitung’, rather the opposite is the case. The homozygosity for frosty of cocks (genetically frosty/frosty) increases the effect of the grizzle factor so much that the cocks already look like homozygous blue grizzles when only heterozygosity for the grizzle factor (grizzle/wild type). If one looks through the list of the most popular grizzle colourings mentioned by Storch in 1856, then it could have been the 'White-Owlish' of that time.

The counterpart for grizzles (owlish) in the breeding pen would have been blue or blue-grounded individuals. Owlish in the colour row of the Thuringian Selfs are therefore not a part that does not belong. The pigeons only look different from what the authors of the Standard had imagined. This could be repaired by including these cocks in the standard.

The present ‘show cocks’ are indeed a break with the understanding of the Thuringian Selfs as an auto-sexing breed. In crosses with other colourings, blue and check cocks will be obtained from the current ‘show cocks’, which do not possess the factor or only heterozygous. The pure heredity of the strain for auto-sexing would be gone.


- If you have blue cocks, which also have the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than the counterpart blue females: Blue-grounded

- If you have silver (dilute blue) cocks, which additionally have the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their counterpart females: Light grounded coloured

- If you have larked cocks, which additionally have the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their counterpart females: Yellow-ground coloured.

If you continue this line systematically:

- If you have blue-grizzle or owlish cocks, which additionally have the hereditary factor Frosty twice, then they are lighter than their counterpart owlish females: White-owlish, one could assume according to Ludwig Storch's reports on the favourite colours 1856 in Ruhla and surroundings.

Fig. 2: Selected colourings of the Thuringian Selfs according to genetic aspects (photos and breeding Frank Zetzsche).

Breeding grizzles and owlish

Fact is, that grizzles in most breeds are not mated with each other, but with blue bars. Experience shows, that otherwise a large number of too light homozygous grizzles up to 'storked' ones are produced. That can be read in the text books on pigeon genetics for long. Also, about the manifold kinds of grizzles and the specifics of owlish and grizzles in many breeds. Potential counterparts in the case of Thuringians are blue-grounded cocks and blue hens, experiences will show the best way to success.

Fig. 3: Siblings from mating frosty grizzles with blue-ground colored or blue bar with the frosty gene.

Anecdotal, perhaps also exemplary for dealing in the organisations with genetically more complex issues

How difficult breeding committees, judges and judges' associations find it to deal with genetics can be illustrated by an anecdote. According to Gerhard Rößling in the preface of the catalogue for the Thuringia Poultry Show 2021, a judges' meeting was held in Erfurt in the 1960s at which the focus was on the 'Thuringian Selfs'. Paul Schallenberg from Kittelsthal as a great promoter of the breed had brought examples and was deeply disappointed. The head of the event for further education of judges, Hornuf Soland/Sree, made the demand that males and females should be brought in the same colour before auditioning again. Thus, the demand to abolish the essential characteristic of the breed, sexual dimorphism, in order to promote the breed!

We may learn, responsible persons in the organisation and in many committees often lack the competence and also the need to deal with other opinions and new things when it comes to breeding questions. Perhaps this is exemplary for many constellations in the fancy poultry breeding organizations.


Leiß, Andreas, Genetische Analyse der Kennfarbigkeit der Thüringer Einfarbigen, Deutscher Kleintier-Züchter, Ausgabe Geflügel Nr. 18/2000, S. 24ff.

Sell, Axel, Genetik der Taubenfärbungen, Achim 2015, S. 144-152.

Sell, Axel, Verständnis und Missverständnisse in der Taubenzucht, Teil I – III, Achim 2020.

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

Zetzsche, Frank, Erzüchtung der glattfüßigen und glattköpfigen Schimmel bei Thüringer Einfarbigen, GeflügelZeitung 18/2019, S. 18-19.