Art, visions and genetic
limitations: On the quantitative dimension of qualitative genes
"Possibilities and Limitations of
Breeding Design", so the possible translation of the subtitle of the
German language book ‘Pigeon breeding 'of 2019. Artists have it
easier than breeders. They can follow their visions free of genetic
laws and detach themselves from the templates. The inspiration for
the expressive oil painting of the Pomeranian Eye-Crested Highflyers
by Jan Hatzmann was obviously from a photo shown in an anthology
edited by Wittig 1925. The elegance of the pigeons and the play of
the light are wonderfully captured, similar to the photo.
Realistically, however, the abundance of feather and the fit of the
hood are exaggerated.
Fig. 1: Pomeranian Eye-Crested
Highflyers in an oil painting by Jan Hatzmann
In this case one can save oneself
also the discussion often led with other works of art, it must have
given it so, if the artist so represented it. That often even in old
literature with the hint, after the nature painted. In the
individual presentation of the animals from the same breeder it
becomes even clearer. Distinctive eye-crests, the feather cap with
volume, but very low and not outstanding the skull.
Fig. 2: Pomeranian Eye-Crested
Highflyers from the breeder Hauenstein-Kolberg in Pomerania,
pictured in the anthology of Wittig 1925, reprinted in Sell, Pigeon
Breeds from Pomerania, Achim 2010.
Breeders know the problems. When
the hood is set very high, eventually disappears the desired
rosette. When the feather abundance increases and so does the length
of the hood feathers, the neck plumage appears fuller and the
elegance of the neck guide is lost.
The quantitative dimension of
Decades ago, the author examined
the different characteristics empirically for Eye-Crested Highflyers
and variously documented them. The measurements and analysis were
done still in 1978 with a hood height and expression in the range as
indicated in Fig. 4 in the drawing for 4 characteristics of hood and
eye-crests. The length and width of the eye-crests, the height of
the cap approach and the length of the hood feathers were measured
on 70 old individuals (35 pairs) and 140 offspring from 31 of these
Fig. 3: Head structure in
Pomeranian Eye-Crested Highflyers (source: Sell, Taubenzucht, Achim
2019, there Fig. 112).
Hoods, beak tufts, beak rosettes
and the like are usually considered as qualitative genes, they are
present or not. That they have a quantitative dimension is also
evident in this sample. Despite differences in size between the
sexes, which are also reflected in the weight, the differences in
the feather structures in the averages are low. The range was,
however, wider in the case of the males than in the females, as is
evident on the left for the measured feather length of shell crest
in Fig. 4.
Fig. 4: Length of the hood by
gender in cm for 35 pairs from the author's loft at that time, blue
♂; Connection of
eye-crest length and width for 70 old birds, data compressed by
The quantitative dimension of the
"qualitative" feature of the eye-crests is also evident in these,
whereby the graph (Fig. 4, right) shows the positive relationship
between width and length in the individuals (statistically a
correlation coefficient of 79%). This positive relationship between
width and length also existed between features of the eye-crest and
hood height, but was not so strict.
These quantitative differences
between the individuals in the different characteristics are also
hereditary according to the analysis of parents and offspring. The
individual characteristics could thus be increased by selection over
the generations, if one ignores other racial characteristics.
Successful and less successful
Shell crest height and fullness
are more realistic in a drawing by Carl Witzmann than in the vision
by Jan Hatzmann. The vision of an elegant highflyer with a slender
neck and yet attractive feather abundance is lost. The lightness and
elegance of the pigeons is gone. Figure, head shape and beak setting
are those of a field or utility pigeon. Also note the technical
error that the blue with a light bill (smoky blue) in the tail has a
white-edged local spring. They do not exist genetically in smoky
Fig. 5: Art print supplement to
the Journal Kleintier-Züchter with Pomeranian Eye-Crested Highflyers
(Pommersche Schaukappe) by Carl Witzmann
How a one-sided selection can lead
to pronounced eye crests and cap fullness is shown in Fig. 6 left.
The elegance, however, is gone. On the other hand, elegance is
captured and hinted at one of Ingolf Jungnickel's photo taken at a
show in Hamburg in 1985 from pigeons of the author's brother (Fig.
Fig. 6: Pomeranian Eye-Crested
Tumbler with great feather abundance, but distinct defects in
elegance (left); Pomeranian Eye-Crested Tumbler Smoky blue and a
couple of whites by Joachim Sell on a photo by Ingolf Jungnickel
(source for these pictures: Sell, Pomeranian pigeon breeds, Achim
Exemplarity of this investigation
With perhaps twenty breeders of
the breed worldwide, the effort of such an investigation is
exaggerated. However, there was the ultimately unfulfilled hope that
others could be motivated to take up similar issues in other races.
In some ways, however, the study is revealing of the understanding
of developments and divergence in other races. The standard, with
the desire for feather fullness of the shell crest and clearly
visible eye-crests, meets demands that run counter to the desire for
a high-fitting shell crest and a slim neck. In this case, the
breeders were keen to keep the balance between their wishes.
However, if judges or a breeding community in other breeds in
similarly genetically unstable situations decide to give absolute
priority to one of several wishes, then the breed will change
rapidly. Quick, because it is easier to describe extreme demands,
such as small as possible, as large as possible, a cap as high as
possible, the largest possible feather structures, and also easier
to communicate than to speak as a balance the word.
The German Nuns corresponds in
refinement and elegance still largely the type that Eaton had
depicted in 1858. A focus on crest fullness and lack of slender
neckline and rosette crest closure led to a visually different
breed, the English nuns with other breeding priorities. Due to the
abundance of feathers, some of the English Nuns above the eyes
occasionally show a type of eye-brows that may have genetically
different causes than the Pomeranian’s eye-crest.
Fig. 7: Historical Nuns at Eaton
1858, German Nuns and English Nuns (Source: Sell, Pigeon Genetics,
Romans – Runts:
Runts (Giant Runts) are a breed
occurring in the US, which, like the Romans, belong to the giant
pigeons and have similar ancestors. In the standard of 1979, a
medium length of neck is wanted, free from gullet and appearing
broad and full towards the breast. Compared to the standard drawing
of that time the breed has changed by emphasis on this demand in
type in a few decades and differs even more strongly from the
European Romans than before.
Fig. 8: Giant Runt from the Book
of Pigeon Standards 1979 and Giant Runt 2006 from the book, Pigeon
Genetics, Achim 2012, photo: Layne Gardner
Highly valued Oriental Rollers are
characterized in many countries by a slender neck. In the USA, the
UORA Roller with a strong neck is propagated in the standard picture
(Fig. 9 at the right), possibly also the start of a new breed. The
difference between the Oriental Roller and the UORA Roller in the
USA is larger than the distance between the Oriental Roller and the
Sarajevo Roller (Fig. 10).
Fig. 9: Oriental Roller yellow
Leipzig 2018 graded excellent and standard drawing of an UORA Roller
to US standard
Fig. 10: Oriental Roller silver
black sprinkled and Sarajevo Roller white dun sprinkled on a
European Pigeon Show (Source: Sell, Taubenzucht. Möglichkeiten und
Grenzen züchterischer Gestaltung, Achim 2019)
Eaton, John Matthews, Treatise on
the Art of Breeding and Managing Tame, Domesticated, Foreign and
Fancy Pigeons, London 1858.
National Pigeon Assn., Book of
Pigeon Standards. Revised 1979.
Sell, Axel, Pigeon Genetics.
Applied Genetics in the Domestic Pigeon, Achim 2012.
Sell, Axel, Taubenzucht. Möglichkeiten und Grenzen züchterischer
Gestaltung, Achim 2019.
Sell, Axel, Pommersche
Taubenrassen. Pigeon Breeds from Pomerania, Achim 2009.
Wittig, Otto (ed.), Muster-Taubenbuch,