Before explaining my own special breeding method, I would like to go through the basic thoughts of the population genetics. I cannot emphasize enough that we must make these elementary principles our own. For most it means to digest some though meal. I have tried to make it as user-friendly as possible. I cannot make it more simple. It means that we must do something we don't like: study! But it is the only way for progress in our sport. Don't chicken, canary and rabbit lovers have to study a lot to be on top? It is no different in the racing pigeon sport. However, one must not just search for anchor points, but repeatedly study piece by piece the passing-on cycle of the various qualities which influence the different flying capacities. Only in this way does one come on the road to success.
Which then are those distinguishing marks which should interest us most when we make the breeding of champion pigeons our main objective? Those are:
2. Staying power.
3. Form qualities.
4. Disposition for a specific distance.
The qualities belonging to this group are influenced by rather few genes. The degree of passing-on from parents to children is small here. They are the first to react with a set-back in inbreeding. However, they are remarkably improved by crossing. The so called heterogenity is very expressive with this breeding method.
In this group are the qualities which are influenced by the collaboration of hundreds of genes. The qualities are always passed-on intermediary, meaning a passing-on of the average the parents bring in with the pairing. This intermediate passing-on however, is not further divided in the following generations as is the case with qualitative passing-on. The quality value shifts more to the average of both parents from generation to generation with these qualities. Example: 100% with 90% = 95% When we pair 95% with 100% we get an average of 97,5% Figuratively speaking of course. Here inbreeding does not lead to noticeable degeneration, but -and this is very important- we get a heterogeneous mix working with crossing in this group. The breeding consequences are the following:
The qualities out of group 1 can best be improved by sensible crossing combinations. This can be achieved by a timely import of pigeons who lend themselves easily for a crossing. As a rule, the group 2 qualities cannot be improved by a crossing. Because the qualities of this group are intermediary passed-on, only a strong selection and a focused mating help us. The better both paired pigeons are in each qualities, the better will be the breeding results. Here applies the golden rule to breed the best with the best.
However the following must be remarked. When we mate pigeons with each other, it is by no means sufficient, to make a simple judgment like, this pigeon is good and that one is not. When this pigeon is good, we must also know why. What are her strong and what are her weak sides. The strong side of a pigeon is not contained in her vitality but in her smartness and her character. In that case, we must put her against a partner with much vitality. However this partner must be comparable to her own smartness and mordant. Otherwise we get more vitality but less of the other two important qualities. One must try to evaluate the properties separately and adapt the breeding plan every time a specific quality lets itself pass-on especially well. So much for the theory. We are now going to a more practical explanation. The focused inbreeding. What precisely is inbreeding?
By applying inbreeding, we pile up genes (good and bad) of those extra pigeons we concentrate on in the breeding. The stronger the inbreeding, the bigger the chance to breed youngsters with the same genes in their system. However the higher the concentration, the stronger the decrease in vitality and form qualities will be. But there are also inbred pigeons with vitality. In that case one can confidently assume that such a pigeon is not so concentrated as expected in her gene type. Such a pigeon can be successfully raced. But when it comes to her breeding one may expect that she will not pass-on in the next generation what was expected in view of her pedigree. When a properly inbred pigeon looks degenerated, has little vitality and cannot get into form, one may expect that such a pigeon will have a difficult time flying for prizes. When we would cross her, her youngsters may be able to win top prizes again.
Yet most fanciers do it wrong. The in their eyes less successful inbred pigeons are being eliminated and the specimen with the most vitality are retained. With inbreeding we want to concentrate extra genes. By incorrect selection often those pigeons are being selected for further breeding who have those valuable genes in small doses. For piling-up genes means lessening of vitality.
When one breeds according to such an intensive plan as I did during a few years, one could logically expect a visible regression. Until now the contrary is true. Even the eyes became more colorful and stronger pigmented with small pupils. The muscle quality did not regress and the build remained that of the old type; the cocks a bit on the big side, the hens fine boned.
Not a trace of degeneration in visible form. The breeding value improved significantly and more was being concentrated on "The Klaren '46". A happy addition was that the pigeons also kept performing well. Yet, I don't wish to make this all rosy for.... which matters must be carefully watched out for with the inbreeding?
Values such as vitality, staying power and form qualities gradually worsen with inbreeding. It is because there are few genes which come into play so that they first react with a regression. The conclusion I would like to make here is an important one: a well applied crossing can achieve noticeable results after the crossing.
That inbreeding does not let other, for our sport, very important values remain untouched. However they do not improve by a crossing. Those are: intelligence, character/mordant and speed. Those values are being influenced by hundreds of genes and they are always intermediary passed-on which means that the quality value is always shifted to the average quality of both parents whether we cross or inbreed. That's why there is only one way we must and can follow: a targeted selection and mating method.
What was again the primary purpose of inbreeding?
The purpose is to concentrate as strongly as possible the valuable genes of an extraordinary pigeon in the first place and of an extraordinary strain in the second place.
1. How more pigeons of the population will be carrying the genes of the extra pigeon on whom is inbred;
2. When this pigeon we use as a basis was really valuable, the passing-on value of the inbred pigeons is becoming still more valuable;
3. The appearance of these pigeons becomes less and less pretty. Race successes will be less as well and when the race becomes longer and heavier their physical strength deteriorates more.
Physical strength becomes less, but the breeding value increases. That's why inbred pigeons in the first generation are good for crossing, but less suitable for racing. That's the general trend. How much further?
The qualities limiting achievement with racing pigeons are being passed-on on the basis of quantitative heritage, also called population genetics. This falls into two groupings.
Those which are influenced positively by crossing. The selection has no bearing here. They are also those whereby they reveal themselves as degenerated pigeons on account of narrow inbreeding. In effect: vitality, form qualities, recuperation capacity, resistance against illness, etc.
Under this fall the so called additive qualities. Here selection counts heavy. One may not count on the effect of crossing. Inbreeding does not assert degenerative pressure. Qualities falling under this group are: intelligence, character/mordant, speed and the suitability to fly specific distances. Therefore under this group are the most important qualities.
I have therefore the qualities of group 2 concentrated in my population through inbreeding. This is possible for they are determined by hundreds of genes; a crossing does not improve them; and the inbreeding hardly worsens them. The qualities of group 1 are influenced by a few genes, a crossing improves them and an inbreeding expresses itself by a clear degeneration. The only possibility to improve the racing value of the strain is crossing.
Which inbred pigeons from our own population are we using for the crossing?
As explained earlier, we deal with the reduction division of chromosomes with pairing. That means that 2x40 chromosomes come together with the pairing. However after cell division, there remain no more than 40 pair! The chronological order of these 40 pair takes place like the result of a lottery. But it can happen that more of A has entered than from B. When that has happened, the young will have a strong resemblance of the parent from whom the A chromosomes came. However, because each of her brothers and sisters are being born out of another sperm and egg cell, it is easy to explain why there can be so much difference between brothers and sisters.
When we inbreed we concentrate a specific gene system. However, here we have more chance to breed pigeons with the most genes of "The Klaren '46" than with crossing. We call this gene concentration, in daily life degeneration! These are pigeons who are finer and have less resistance and physical power, less vitality and are rarely getting into form. Out of these pigeons we must select our breeders. Two things must be kept in mind: they must have flexible, elastic muscles and colorful eyes with small pupils. We may race the more vital brothers and sisters.
What strain do we choose for the crossing?
It is known that specific strains always cross well and others not. Therefore other lofts must always be carefully studied with respect to population heritage and passing-on to have the best chance to succeed. We further have 2 possibilities. The first is to cross-in the strange strain directly. Here we can already be successful because the origin of both strains are far removed. The second possibility to genetically increase the distance between the strains to be crossed, is inbreeding. The genetic component becomes concentrated, the variation becomes less and in so doing, we artificially increase the distance between one strain and another. The first possibility is usually difficult to follow. Only the purchase of a super racer has success here. But such a purchase can not be done by just anybody.
The second possibility, young who have been bred in relationship -son x mother, or cousin x cousin is more easy to follow and has a greater chance of success by the gene concentration that occurs. How do I do it?
For the crossing, I have chosen some strains who in the past already showed several times to combine well with the De Smet-Matthijs pigeons. Pigeons were chosen out of these strains who could improve my population with respect to one specific quality. I chose strains suitable to comply with the pre terminated object to fly different distances. Thus, a population was created which was able to successfully compete races from 100-800 kms.
I selected an inbred pigeon of my own population; bred according to the blueprint mentioned in the beginning of this series of articles. I cross her with a strange, preferably inbred strain and the crossing products participate in races. After a number of years, I backcross the best flyers out of this crossing on to the old population and in this way I have added a new quality (e.g. speed) to the population. The backbreed is inbred again and we can use the youngsters out of this for breeding again. Now we start from the beginning with another strain. When we have brought several strange strains in, in this way, we have improved our population on several points. Actually, we can plan years ahead; know exactly when we must inbreed, cross or import something new. It is very easy as a matter of fact!
Of course there will be fanciers shrugging their shoulders after reading my breeding thoughts. When they have achieved better results than I have over a 25 year period with a simpler method, they should stick to it. I do not pretend that my method is the only correct one. But it certainly is a method that provides progress in a responsible manner. I owe much, if not everything to this breeding method. Through this and much puzzling, I find every year again a pair of excellent breeders. Not to forget the development of my own population. A sustained success is just not the only product of breeding. I brought this breeding method with me when I returned from my visit to Professor Alfons Anker of Kaposvar, Hungary in may 1974. In the course of years, I have refined it here and there. Personally, I put an enormous emphasis on the quality character/mordant in my breeding. Prof. Anker considers this more as a link in the scope of the whole. But essentially nothing has changed.
I began to mate my pigeons according to this method in 1975 and tried to get pigeons from other fanciers who fit in my breeding blueprint. In the following three years, I raced only occasionally, but once the inbreeding according to the described blueprint was completed and the inbred material crossed, there was no restraint in the races. And the success was not just a couple of years, but stayed until today. The very best results I ever had in my life, I had in the season of 1989. In the winter I brought once again the best racers with the best breeding capacities in the breeding loft and such an investment always pays back sooner or later. But this time the results were unbelievable:
Peronne 300 kms Provincial 15.304 birds: 1,3,5,9,14,24,25,33,43,47,55,63,66,70,72,122,135,169,181 etc.
St. Ghislain 220 kms Provincial 8.081 birds: 1,2,6,7,8,9,10,11,19,22,26,27,28,33,36,37,45,46,49,54,57 etc.
Orleans 540 kms Provincial 12.178 birds: 1,4,5,6,7,8,10,11,12,14,15,23,35,36,37,39,45,47,51,57,59 etc.
Orleans 540 kms National 23.546 birds: 5,8,9,11,12,14,16,17,18,22,24,38,79,82,84,86,102,106,114 etc.
In my region 510 fanciers basketed almost 10.000 youngbirds in the first race; after 8 races starting at 95 kms and ending at 540 kms my youngsters took individually, in the ace bird competition the following places: 1,2,3,5,7,9,10,11,12,14,15,17,18,20 etc!
Since 1993 I have specialized on the Dutch Day races of the NABvP were 20.000+ fanciers fly for the highest honor on the most difficult races in heavy competition. No dutch fancier ever won this overall title in the total NABvP twice. However I won this title in 1993, 1994 and again in 1996!!!
In the National Day races I won:
Orleans 7671 birds: 2,3,6,13,23,42,93,102,110 etc.
Bourges 6319 birds: 1,2,7,11,77,91,103,162,177 etc.
Orleans 5540 birds: 2,3,27,38,100,107,127 etc.
Chateauroux 5009 birds: 3,5,8,41,84,113,118,176 etc.
Etampes 11789 birds: 1,2,177,234,345,387,522,827 etc.
Orleans 11439 birds: 1,4,15,20,44,50,341,466,617 etc.
Bourges 7738 birds: 2,11,44,47,84,171,187,216,281 etc.
Montlucon 6510 birds: 18,19,20,27,112,145,162,163 etc.
Chateauroux 7108 birds: 5,64,74,87,103,105,222,232 etc.
Etampes 14955 birds: 3,44,47,66,87,163,180,182,185 etc.
Orleans 14497 birds: 11,12,13,37,41,68,80,165,248 etc.
In Nationals... In heavy competition with the best fanciers flying only their best birds... With 60 kms overflight...
And my strain doesn't do it only on my own loft:
Results in 1996:
1,2,3,4, National Hannover: John Engel, Denmark.
1,2,3,4,5,6, National Altona: Arne Porsmose, Denmark.
Results in 1997:
1 National Orleans old birds: Jan Witteveen, Holland.
1 National Orleans youngsters: Henk Krijnen, Holland.
1 National Ace Pigeon Overall: Willem de Bruijn, Holland.
Results in 1998:
1 National Orleans 13.500 old birds at my own loft with "De Kleinen"
1 National Ace Section VII Day races & 4th in the Overall National competition.
1 National Champion Day races Section VII
Results in 1999:
1 National Bourges 10.000 old birds at my own loft with "De Rode Engel".
2 & 4 National Montlucon; 3 & 4 National Bourges at my own loft.
1 National Ace Section VII Day races & 8th in the Overall National competition.
1 National Champion Day races Section VII
At other lofts 3 times 1th National was won: St. Vincent, Tours & Orleans!!!
"Arne" won the 1th National Altona in Denmark for Arne Porsmose & John Engel. He was bred out of a son off "De Bonte Jaarling" (son of "De Goede Jaarling") and "De Bourges duivin" and a daughter off "De Klaren II"(son of "De Goede Jaarling") when mated to "Tosca"(granddaughter "De Goede Jaarling"). "Arne" proved that it is very well possible to have excellent race results with a heavily inbred offspring. After his victory "Arne" came bach to his roots in Hilversum where he proved to be an excellent breeder as well.
Some margin notes are called for. I admit that a serious build-up of a colony I advocate calls for know-how, space and possibilities. Not everybody has sufficient space to experiment. However when you know your pigeons and your population, and you know exactly what direction you take, you can quickly select. I also know that you need to have extra basis pigeons in order to follow a breeding method that leads to success. And the extra material is unfortunately not abundant. But if we want to learn, see, experience and experiment, a whole lot is possible.
In conclusion I would like to say that our sport is a hobby that enables us to escape the daily routines and troubles. There are no fixed rules how to do it. Everyone can do as he likes to achieve his goal. It would not be right if rules and regulations showed us the way. We cannot force anybody to accept our opinion. We can and must develop our knowledge at every possible occasion, but it is everyone's right to absorb only that which he finds best. For this reason I hope you also use only the information of value to you when introducing my breeding method to your colony.
This is the last out of the series of articles from the book "The Art of Breeding". It contains 30 years of experience of a master breeder. To "study" pigeons is something I did all my life with great joy. And to bring the material through articles, after finding proof during the races, over to other pigeon lovers all over the world is something that every author should think of: write to teach! And last but certainly not least, I wish to thank my wife Marijke for her support and the time she gave me to work for you.
With "the right of the last word" I wish to express the wish that all the breakthrough work Prof. Anker was engaged in for the pigeon fanciers will point the direction to everybody in the sport who is interested in the breed technical work.
Steven van Breemen
Copyright 1998. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole, in part, in any form or medium, without the express written permission of Steven van Breemen, is forbidden.
The whole book can be downloaded from "Winning Magazine" if you are a subscriber. You can subscribe here; costs 35 Euro for 1 year. You get 26 issues and have access to the archives with all previous published issues plus next to "The Art of Breeding" a second book written by me: "Hints for Mating, Breeding & Selection". A total bargain!