Illustrations of pigeons. Art or fake

 Old does not automatically mean true. This also applies to historical works of art for pigeons. However, the originals are not fake in the sense of deliberately misleading. Most of the time, there are technical errors and wrong perception. Often, however, visions are to be conveyed in which the painter disregards the possibilities of breeding and underestimates genetic hurdles. That of one's own will or at the request of the client. The works become fake when they are shown in the media today without comment and are distributed in images and sculptures without any indication of the lack of realism. Occasionally, to suggest that it had once existed.

The white tails of the red and yellow English pouters

Well-known examples are the text by Robert Fulton and the accompanying drawings by Ludlow in the illustrated pigeon book by Fulton (1876) with the white tails of the red and yellow English Pouters. Looking back at the statements made at the time about the pairing of the colors in that breed with each other, one can see that there were no genetically white tails in the breed, but ashes with pale ashen tails. Because from ash red x black, 'Strawberry' (called 'Sandy' in Scotland after Fulton) with colored tails have been raised. If the red and yellow had genetically been white-tails, then white tail feathers would not only have appeared in Strawberry, but in subsequent generations also in blue and black. The beautiful pictures by Ludlow and not long after by Schachtzabel (1910) remain contagious to this day and irritate inexperienced viewers with regard to the genetic basis.


Fig. 1: Red and yellow English Pouters from Fulton 1876 and Fig. 2 from Schachtzabel 1910

If one can excuse the similar figures in Schachtzabel with a lack of knowledge of the genetic basis, one should know better today. Such images irritate breeders and give a boost to critics who are desperately looking for signs of color in the tail feathers of red and yellow in order to blame the pigeons as a fault and their current breeders as unable.

Fig. 3: Misrepresentations and fakes, and reality at the bottom right


The irritation of the Thuringian Pouters breeders for over a century

It hit the breeders of the Thuringian Pouters even worse. Even before the name Thuringian Pouter was established.

The German White Head Pouter

As a forerunner of the desired variant, the 'German White Head Pouter' is described by Prütz in 1904 among the medium-sized pouter pigeons. The coloring was "black, blue, red or yellow, the head, the wings and the tail white, the rest of the plumage colored, so monk drawing" (literally on p. 14). With this, however, Prütz describes the monk pied marking in the section of ‘color pigeons’ with colored abdomen (Fig. 4 left). There is no other evidence that this marking existed in pouters. His painter, H. Susenbeth did not follow him. Neither in the text specification nor the reality with the pouter pigeons.

Because with these there should have been the monk marking as a forerunner of the white heads of the Slovak pouter and the monks of the Silesian and Hessian pouter, with `white head` and white wings and otherwise colored, long before. Perhaps he was also irritated by the  statements made by Prütz in his book of 1885 (p. 183ff.), in which Prütz for the French Pouters confused red and yellow with white, as did Fulton before.

Annotation: Whether ‘white head’ or ‘monk’ as a term does not follow a common logic, it differs from breed to breed.


Fig. 4: Monk pied marking of the section of color pigeons using the example of the Thurgau Monk (left), Baldhead pied marking as vision for pouters by Susenbeth (center) and the monk pied marking with white head and white flights on the example of a Hessian Pouter (right).

Susenbeth in his painting (Fig. 4 in the middle) obviously was impressed by the baldhead pied marking of the English Short Faced Tumblers, known from the pictures in Fulton. He thus painted a black peak crested pouter with that design, white head, flight, tail and abdomen. Thus, neither the colored pigeon variant of the monk marking specified by Prütz in the text, nor the monk marking of the pouter pigeons.

The Thuringian Pouter at Schachtzabel

The name 'Thuringian Pouter was only introduced by Schachtzabel in 1910. It is a peak crested pouter, which exists as self and also occurs in the monk marking. Prütz required the German White-Head Pouter to have a white head, white flights and a white tail. Schachtzabel makes a difference for black color base pigeons and for ash reds. For blue and black he only requires a white head and white wings. The other plumage, and with it the tail, are colored. This is the monk marking of the pouter pigeons shown on the right in Fig. 4. Deviating from this, it calls for red and yellow (genetically ash red), as with the English Pouters, white flights and tails as well as white lower abdomen. Schachtzabel's informants were the then experts K. Katterfeld, O. Winkler and P. König I-Ruhla. And they, like Schachtzabel with the English Pouters, apparently mistook the bright tail feathers and the bright underbelly of the red and yellow ones for 'white'. And so Schoener, as the painter of the picture panels at Schmalenbach, also revived the Baldhead marking of Susenbeth for the yellow individual. In Fig. 5 far left, somewhat covered by the black Bohemian Pouter, also peak-crested, and then two plain-headed Silesians.


Fig. 5: Thuringian Pouter yellow, Bohemian Pouter black and Silesian Pouters blue grizzle and plate (or white head) red at Schachtzabel 1910


The monk pied marking of the Thuringians in the change of the standard descriptions until 2002

The confusion was not over for the breeders. In 1926 the standard description of the pigeon breeds by E. Schmidt in the publishing house of the ‘Geflügel-Börse’ in Leipzig was published in 1926. In the text there is no difference to Schachtzabel. In the standard drawing by Carl Witzmann, however, a contradiction to the text with a black Thuringian ‘monk’ in the baldhead piebald marking. Thus, back to the vision (or error) of Susenbeth in 1904! This mistake was apparently repeated in the standard description from 1934, because Vojtech Mrstik is no better off in his Czech pigeon book than the German breeders and he uses the drawing as a model for his work (written before 1950 and published posthumously in 2009).


Fig. 6: The vision of a black 'baldhead pouter' as a standard drawing in the German Book of Standards from 1926 and 1934 (at the right from Mrstik 2009).

Better known than these pictures is the colored group picture by Witzmann (here in Fig. 9 below in the collage). Blue and black monks are shown correctly for the first time, but the yellow and reds are shown incorrectly again with white tails and white lower abdomen. Because it was so visually beautiful, it was all the more harmful for orientation in breeding and the judgement of the red and yellow and ash red and ash yellow bars at the shows.

The following period is characterized by incomprehensible formulations in breed descriptions and the standards in 1951 and 1954. A Thuringian with white wings and a white lower abdomen, but with a colored tail, is shown as a standard drawing (Fig. 7 left). This has even tempted breeders to try to transfer the white lower abdomen from magpie pouters. In some individuals this could still be seen at shows, but it was not entirely successful. Wolfgang Schreiber (2015) suspected that a similar pied marking originally existed as a 'Jacobin marking' among French Pouters. However, with a deeper head cut. The white reaching down to the breast

In the 1951 and 1954 standards, the Thuringians is shown besides the also peak-crested Bohemian Pouter. This painting, too, measured against the existing animals, was drawn incorrectly with the monk marking of the color pigeon section (Fig. 7).


Fig. 7: Thuringian and Bohemian Pouters in the standards 1951 and 1954 and the photo of a Thuringian ash yellow monk from a German breeder from 1961. Unmistakably in reality an ashy, and not white tail, as well as an ashy lower abdomen. Source: W. M. Levi, Photo Stauber.

Corrections in the German ring binder of the standards of pigeon breeds

In the ring binder from 2002, reality is taken into account. The text is now clear for all colors: Monks in Thuringian Pouters have white head and 7-10 white flights. The rest of the plumage is colored. For red and yellow, the Thuringian requires a light color for the lower abdomen and tail, no longer white. In the standard drawing by Jean-Louis Frindel in the yellow bar individual, the lower abdomen is clearly visible in beige, not as distinct unfortunately the colored tail. The standard presentation at the Bohemian Pouter was also corrected in 2002. In accordance with the Czech standard, it has been renamed Moravian Pouter. Only the head is white. This means, they have returned to the Bohemian Pouter under the new name 'Moravian Pouter' and the pied marking shown by Schachtzabel in 1910.


Fig. 8: Thuringian Pouter (left) and Moravian Pouter in the standard drawing from 2002 (Jean Louis Frindel), far right the Moravian Pouter in the book of the Central Expert Committee of Pigeon Fanciers in the Czech Republic 2011.

What happened if?

The starting point for the misunderstandings were false perceptions and also genetically unrealizable ideals. If Susenbeth had followed the description given to him in the text by Prütz of the colour pigeon’s monk pied marking in his drawing in 1904, the breeders would probably have quickly succeeded in transferring this monk marking into their pouters. The development would have taken a completely different direction. Instead, Susenbeth was probably inspired by the beautiful white baldhead tumblers at Fulton. This, together with the false perception of ashy tails and ashy underbelly color as white, may have triggered the following confusions.

If you observe today's art paintings and sculptures and the numerous 'likes' on social media for overt fakes, then you don't seem far from starting a new cycle of misunderstandings like in 1904 for Thuringian Pouters and even earlier in 1876 for English Pouters. Artists, too, would sometimes be well advised not to lose sight of reality and genetic laws too much.


Fig. 9: Representations and misrepresentations of Thuringian Monks in literature


Czech Pigeon Association, Okrasnych Holubu Ceske Republiky, National Pigeons of the Czech Republic, Prague 2011, Czech and German

Fulton, R., The Illustrated Book of Pigeons. London, Paris, New York and Melbourne 1876.

German pigeon standard in color, ring binder, undated with pictures by Jean Louis Frindel, German language

Levi, Wendell M., Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds, Jersey City 1965.

Mrstik, Vojtech, Holubi plemena a jejich chov. Dosud nevydane dilo, Napsane v letech 1942-1950. Pohledy do history. Prague 2009 Vaclay Tichy, nakladatel. Pigeon breeds and their breeding. Previously unpublished work, written in the years 1942-1950. Series: Insights into History. Prague 2009 Vaclay Tichy, editor (German and Czech)

Prütz, G., Illustrirtes Mustertaubenbuch, Hamburg 1885.

Prütz, G., The Types of Pouters, their natural history, breeding and care, with 13 plates by H. Susenbeth = Stettin, Berlin, 1904 (German language)

Schachtzabel, E., Illustrated magnificent work of all pigeon races (watercolors by A. Schoener), Würzburg o.J. (1910), German language.

Schreiber, Wolfgang, Brünner und Französische Kröpfer, Geflügelzeitung 3/2015, pp. 8-11.

Sell, Axel, Genetics of Pigeon Coloration, Achim 2015, German language

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

The Standard of Fancy Breeds, S. Jürgens Verlag Munich, 1951 (first edition), 1954 (third edition) with drawings by Carl Witzmann, Reutlingen, and Kurt A. Meißner, Dresden, German language

The Standards of Fancy Breeds, with 188 pattern images and numerous text images (Karl Witzmann). Published by Ernst Schmidt. Leipzig publisher of the Expedition ‘Geflügel-Börse’ (Richard Freese), 1926, German language