Published by the Columbarian
Copyright by K.D. Spurling 1995 - 2001
All Rights Are Reserved
"Fascinating Orliks of the
By K. D. Spurling (Debut Oct'98)
In the Ukrainian region of the ex United Soviet Socialist Republic exists a certain class of flying pigeons that is most interesting.
This particular class of pigeons is native to the Black Sea region of the South Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula and are generally known there by the name of "Tucheresi" or "Tucurez". It said that the first of these birds appeared at the city of Nikolayev (Nicholaev) in the last century and over time have spread into the surrounding regions. This class of pigeons has reach North America, beginning first in Canada as far as 1967; and are often referred to as "Ukrainian Skycutters". However, the term "Ukrainian Skycutter" is not exactly 100% correct and has led to a great amount of misunderstanding. As I understand it, Nikolayev is a city in the South Ukraine and "Tuchereti" will in fact translate to mean "Cloud Cutter" - hence "Ukrainian Skycutter". Unfortunately, a clear conception of the name has never been held on this continent and in fact, three different breeds have been given the generic name of "Ukrainian Skycutter" resulting in a great amount of confusion. These three races are the two Orlik varieties, the Ukrainian Shield Tumblers and a strain of white Nikolajevski. The result has been that because of this generic name, the three have been crossed to a horrible degree. It would be my opinion that at least half of the so called Ukrainian Shields in North America are actually crosses between the two Orlik races and the White Nikolajevski. So for the future, let us rid ourselves of this term "SkyCutter" as a breed; since it refers to a class of similar breeds and let Orliks be known as Orliks, Nikolajevski as Nikolajevski (or Nikos) and the Shield races (2 races of these) as Shields. This situation would be much worse if other Tuchereti races such as the Kursks, Charkovski Whitetails and others were present in North America. In stead of three races being confused as one. These differing races have in common a relation to one another that is as similar as the Saxon Spots, Saxon Storks and Saxon Shields. The birds are related so closely that they differ very little from one another, but no one in their right mind would call them as one race and maliciously cross them together for no genuine reason.
It is not the purpose of this paper to describe the entire Tuchereti family as space does not permit for this, but instead it is aimed at discussing the two races which are known as Orliks in their native land. Still, much of what applies to the Orlik does apply to the Nikolajevski Tuchereti, Nikolajevski Boczaty(Ukrainian Shield), Kurski Tuchereti, Charkovski Whitetails and the others for the general enlightenment.
The Orlik as it is known, could be defined as being the westernmost race of Tuchereti class breeds. This race is indigenous to the grassy plains of East Poland and western White Russia. Undoubtedly, the breed is of a Russian/Ukrainian descent but the breed is regarded as one of the most traditional flying breeds in Poland. All authorities upon Polish breeds claim the breed as Polish in origin, and in fact; the name "Orlik" is the Polish name for a young eagle (eaglet). This name was given by early fanciers who saw in the air, due to the breed's short neck and broad wings and tail; a similarity to a small eagle who rode air thermals to high altitudes. In fact, when the breed first reached the English speaking countries, they were referred to as "Orlik Falcon Tumblers" - even in this country. Well, they are no Falcons and definitely not a Tumbler!
Senor Ralph Buch Brage of
Cuba has put forth the belief in his correspondences to Levi that the Orlik
was descended from birds brought to the Black Sea region by Spanish sailors
in the 18th century. Brage cited the Catalonian Red Whitetails (Roig Coliblancas)
as the parent of this class of pigeon in this theory. However, Brage was
never aNe to put forth any proof or even supporting evidence to even begin
to suggest such a thing. I for one, cannot understand careful student
of Domestic Pigeons could even begin to put forth such a blunderous theory!
The fact is, such a theory borders on near insanity.
Having kept and flown both races I am prepared to say it, there are absolutely no similarities between the Tuchereti and Roig Coliblancas other than the color and to my knowledge, throughout the world is found no other class of breeds who exhibit the tell tale signs of family Tucheresi in the air - and definitely not among the Catalonian and its related breeds are a very far cry from ever matching the Tuchereti for endurance or altitude; let alone to display anything near the true flying style. Any sort of connection between the two had to be a product of Brage's own imagination.
In fact, we have a very good
idea as to how the Orlik came about. In the Middle East there is a breed
known as "Ghirbhaz" (not sure if this spelling is correct having only been
told of this breed in conversations with fanciers of Mid Eastern descent).
The Ghirbhaz are a small race of tumblers with very large wings, (28 to
30 inch wing spans). These birds are commonly Com. Red and Yellow pigeons;
either white tail marked, Bellnecked or splashed. The Ghirbhaz are said
to "fly like ravens" in that they ride the air thermals and are capable
of standstill flight, the birds on occasion tumbling. It is known that
all but a handful of all Slavic races of tumblers were introduced into
Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, the Ukraine, etc. with the Turkish
dominion. It would be my personal opinion that the Ghirbhaz were introduced
to the South Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula by the Turks and from these
have sprung the Nikolajevski Tutcheresi and possibly other races which
came to be with the Ghirbhaz being bred to the
local tastes. It is interesting to note, that in portions of Romania are to be found some races who bear
some similarity to the Nikolajevski Tutchereti, but they lack the flying style. These birds include the Romanian White Tailed Tumbler (Porumbel Codalb Romanesc), the Bucharest Ciung (Ciung de Bucuresti) and also the Romanian Naked Necked Tumbler (Ciung Cheli or "Git Golass"). These birds are strikingly similar in type to the Nikolajevski. The latter is very interesting for a number of reasons. In the first place, some authorities have described a race of Russian Naked Necked Tumbler called "Golsenia" and they cite this as the originator of the Romanian race. The Golsenia is (or was?) somewhat similar to the Nikolajevski so there seems to be some relation there. Even more interesting; many of the Nikolajevski, Nikolajevski Boczaty and Orliks in North America exhibit the signs of being heterozygous for the naked neck factor. Many of the young birds show a tendency of thin plumage and damaged barbules in the back of the neck, but these signs generally disappear after the juvenile moult. In years past, this writer had not only the Romanian Naked Necks, but also a strain of Dom. Red Thailand Fantails with naked necks. These naked necked Thailand's arose from typical Thailand's with normal necks, but on occasions produced a naked necked specimen. All of the heterozygous birds were intermediate for the factor showing "damaged" plumage in the back of the neck, which generally disappeared after the first moult.
The first aerial standard of the Nikolajevski is said to have been put up at Nikolayev in 1872 and is denoted as "Nikolajevski-Torzovi" according to a chart that shows flying styles put up by Dmitri Geller in the 1980's. It seems that the Nikolajevski were gradually introduced into other portions of Western Russia during the 19th Century and bred to meet local tastes while upholding the theme of the flight style. It was in thj way that the Orliks arose, arising Ii the Northwest of the Russian Ukrain and splitting into two sub varieties
The first of these sub varieties is the "Orlik Wilenski", denoting cultivation at Vilnius (Wilno) where after the Bolshevik Revolution was in the northern portion of the White Russian S.S.R. Today Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania. The Wilenski's easiest identifying mark that it drags its wings beneath the tail.
The other sub variety is "Orik Polski" or "Orlik Lubelski" which denotes the city of Lublin in East Poland. The Lubelski carries the wings upon the tail.
The breed occurs most commonly in Dom. Red and Yellow, but also existent are some Blacki Bronze birds and also Blues wibars. The Black/Bronze birds are of the "Kite" type with a rich red bronze cast over the Black. These are not very common. This writer has never seen a Blue Orlik, but he would like to obtain them! Also sometimes reported are Silvers, Dun/Sulphers and on occasions, Blue Checkers. The Orlik is a Self colored bird with a white tail, and on each side of the tail are two colored retrices as a frame (in the ideal.) This is one area where the Nikolajevs and the Orliks differ. The Orlik is always white tailed with the frame feathers, whereas the Nikolajevski comes in all markings. The White Tailed Nikolajevski are not required to have the frame retrices. However, many Orliks are seen with white in the thumb feathers and also the primaries, as well as elsewhere. These are to be considered as faulted. Considering the 2 X 2 frame retrices as the ideal, the Orlik is not exactly simple to produce for the show room. This writer has seen only a handful of 2 X 2 birds, and unorthodoxly marked tails are far more the rule.
It is in the air where the Orliks and other Tutcheresi show their true mettle, and all birds should be valued primarily upon their flying ability. In the first place, the terms "Tumbler" or "Highflier" are incorrect. "Tumbler" implies that the birds execute backward (or even forward) somersaults - something no Orlik, Nikolajevski or other member of this class should do. The act of tumbling is to be regarded as a severe fault and any birds which show such actions should be destroyed outright upon sight. The term "highflier", while more suitable is not 100% correct. Thomas Hellmann of Germany (pers. com.) has suggested the use of the term "style flier" and for the record, that is the best to date along with the term "Tutcheresi" or "Tucerez" as indeed, the birds are to be evaluated based upon their style of flight and wing action.
Two main variations of flight are recognized amongst this class of breeds:
The "Serpasti" style is thought to be the oldest of the two variations and was known at the latest by the early 19th Century at Nikolayev in the South Ukrain. Of the two flying styles, it is also somewhat less desirable.
The "Serpasti" are those who maintain a more normal (front to back) wing action as seen in other races of high caliber flying pigeons. The wing action is graceful and light in its power and the birds will ride upon air thermals in broad circles, soaring like birds of prey. (Hence the name "Orlik" (small eagle). The "S erpasti" type does not "kit" as could a kit of rollers or Viennas, but tend to soar in broad circles in total disregard to one another as is seen in kettles of Vultures who amass in very large numbers over the top or carrion.
This type of flight seems to be the most often seen amongst this breed, and is of less value than the more developed type as described below.
As already stated, the "Torzovi" type is considered to be of more value that the "Serpasti" type. The Nikolajevski-Torzovi was first standardized at Nikolayev in 1872 and from this has arisen several sub types which are hard to describe.
The basic "Torzovi" is a pigeon of a unique wing action and flight style. Unlike other pigeons, this type has a reversed wing action which is back to front, opposed to the normal front to back. It is my opinion that because of this wing action they are able to somehow manipulate their style of flight. This adverse wing action is even conspicuous to an experienced flying fancier at a very high altitude as one can see the wings flashing rather conspicuously; especially on a sunny day about late morning. One will see these pigeons form loose kits at very low altitudes and then they will come to a complete standstill in mid air, their wings flashing oddly while the birds hang in place. This action is called "Stop" and old experienced fliers may hang in one spot in mid flight for a few minutes on end. It is found that the birds continue to improve with age. These pigeons will then soar upwards without circling like kites to an extreme altitude. Most good highflying breeds require 20 to 30 minutes of flight to reach the edge of invisibility, but the Torzovi can cover this altitude in a matter of only a few minutes time. Kits of older experienced birds have been timed from liberation to invisibility at times of only five minutes, and one team has covered this ground in 4 minutes 46 seconds. These pigeons are capable of such fast ascendants rates primarily due to the fact that their manner of flight is straight up as though they were climbing a ladder, opposed to gradual climbing by flying in circles or zig zagging upwards.
After experience with over 300 breeds, I am prepared to say it; no breed in this world is remotely capable of matching the Tutchereti class for high flying or endurance and 4 am prepared to prove this. In the future, I will accept any reasonable flying challenge from any team of Tipplers, Budapest's, Viennas, Swifts, Srebrniaks, Szegedins or others on this continent and for any rate of wager. This is being done for the much needed serious promotion of the flying sports on the North American continent and also to once and for all rid this country of the "bull" that is being slung about by dealers of so called flying pigeons, when in fact; the glowing accounts of these reports are the invention of a few non scrupulous merchants for the sake of hype and the all mighty dollar. Keep in mind, I am definitely not against the active commercialization of breeds of pigeons - But, there are some fanciers in this country charging hundreds of dollars for a pair of so called high caliber flying pigeons and for their money people are receiving garbage in the form of "roof warmers".
Unfortunately, the Tutcheresi are not the easiest pigeons to train to meet their full potential. Some breeds, such as the Budapest Highfliers are natural fliers who require limited amount of work for good results; but others require extra time. The Orliks are stubborn pigeons and if the fancier is not in control of them, the Orliks will be in control of the fancier himself. The breed is best flown in a selected kit of three proven birds and they must be disciplined strictly as to feed, type of feed and where to land after. If one does not put forth the effort, he will not, and should not expect to receive good results. When the birds are at their best, there is nothing that they cannot do. Fanciers in the USA will never come close to matching the 28 hour record put up at Petrograd in NW Russia because there are many environmental barriers that we cannot overcome Particularly, in No. Russia; all flying contests are held during the summer months and especially during the "White Nights" when there is only at best 20 minutes of dusk. With 24 hours of day like light the teams can fly to their utmost physical limit. In this country, we do not have such a thing and even in order to exceed 15 or so hours we must use high power spotlights and leg bells to try to track the kit. The birds can fly in darkness and I generally fly mine at about 3 AM, but without the spotlights and bells they are virtually impossible to track in the darkness. Even at that, no national club permits night time contests even with such devices.
by Kelley D. Spurling
Turkey is a fertile land when it comes to pigeons. In Turkey, breeds are not centuries in age, but millennia in age. Turkey is part of the region that is the native land of "Columbia livia - affinis." In recent years, a great deal of interest has been given to the breeds of the middle east and prices have been quite high. Turkish pigeons are not as well known as their Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Egyptian cousins.
Two breeds of Turkish origin I'd like to discuss are quite ancient and are suspected to be the ancestors of the Karakand and Hindi Fantailed Tumblers of Syria. The first breed is called "Seldskuk". Thom Hellmann of Germany is breeding them seriously, and tells me that Leon Stephens of Saxon Toy fame in So. CA recently imported them to No. America. The breed is so obscure that you won't find anything about it in English. I've only seen one book with them and that is "Handbach der RasseTauben die Taubenrassen der Welt" (1996) by Schutte, Stach and Wolters.
This book carries one photo of an Ice Blue and a short paragraph. Generally the pigeon occurs in all colors, but Ice is the most common. In type, it resembles another Ice colored Middle-Eastern tumbler; the Moos- Suli, that are known here as Syrian Coop Tumblers. Overall, it's a pretty common looking Middle Eastern tumbler save one character. The tails are quite huge (20-25 feathers) and held in a tight "^" - a real triangle; which is something you won't see in any other breed except the Konya.
The older and parental Konyas are named for the city of the same name in Turkey. Colors are Blacks and Bronzes with White Tails in the ideal form - though many are just splashes, saddles and non-descript BlackiBronze and White birds. Basically identical to the Seldshuk except the tail is much less refined of 15-20 feathers held tightly packed in a form somewhere between Karakands and Seldshuks - but still a slight triangle like the Seldshuk.
Respect And The Flying Pigeon
By Kelley D. Spurling (1999)
"It is our solemn duty, both
to the welfare of the performing pigeon and our ancestors, to carry on
from where they left off; and I am sure the same would be their last and
most profound wish were they able to give vent to any suggestion of this
kind. We have been given the material to work with, for which we should
be very grateful, as far as we should be concerned, nothing else matters."
Wm. Hyla Pensom (1934)
In the June '99 Debut, my paper "COOP AND CRACK TUMBLERS" drew a great deal of attention. Overall, the flying fraternity was very happy that someone had finally come forward to adress the situation and as always, I received a ton of mail. On the otherside the show fraternity was quite a bit less happy on account that I had ripped into them a bit for ignoring their pigeon's aerial capacities, thereby destroying hundreds of years of work. This was much deserved, and let me just say here, that I breed and fly pigeons for the sake of pigeons (easily understood when people find out that I spend 8 to 10 hours daily with my pigeons, and I am not retired, nor do I keep hundreds of pigeons), and the fact is, I am not into this to socialize, make friends or spread world wide peace among all fanciers (and the latter is never going to happen anyway). I have some good friends in pigeons (many who are now gone), and I would not change those friendships. Still, this is secondary to the birds themselves. Naturally, some will find this a bit too intense, but then what they call a "hobby", I view as a very, very serious artform and a lifestyle. When you are an eighth generation animal fancier and that is taken very seriously to result in great success, that is inevitable. For me, by my own choices, nothing is more important than the Domestic Pigeon, and this is an outlook and a reality that I do not reccommend to anyone, lest they are prepared to sacrafise things in their life for this. Of all the things that Dan Ouellette, my mentor in the Birmingham Roller had told me, there was only one thing he said that I did not listen to, and that is when he told me: "Never let your pigeons hold you back from other things in life." I remember it vividly enough to this day, and Dan Ouellette knew what he was saying from his own personal experience, but of all things, it was what I simply allowed to go in one ear and out the other. This much I can say, is that if someone had ever told him the same, he would not have listened either.
My stance for flying pigeons is not anti-show, tho it may seem so on the surface. Contrary, I show mine extensively and it is no secret that I win alot more than my equal share, and in certain breeds, noone has been more successful on this continent; my Rzhevski Turmani being a primary example. In fact, all flying fanciers should show a few pigeons at every oppurtunity, even if they don't care what the judge thinks or if they win or lose. The fact is, there is no better publicity for a breed than to show a few. One can write all they like, plaster advertising and photos in every magazine issue, but this does little, simply because words, photos and even video tape does a pigeon little justice. If "a picture is worth a thousand words", then the bird in life is worth ten thousand. The most attention a breed will recieve is in the showroom, and it is here that one will start new fanciers.
Many of you may now say: "But the real show is in the air'.", and indeed it is, but from a promotionary view, very, very few fanciers are gained through the observation of the kit. The only time a kit may have many observers is if they are flown in an area with many flying fanciers in a competition, or in the off chance that a fly is held with some sort of large convention. Otherwise, you may be lucky to get 10 visitors a year apart from the locals. The fact is, even if you extend many invitations to view the kit, most people just cannot be bothered to come see a kit. A number of years ago, a big PRC/URCA combined Show Roller meet was held in town. At that show, I talked to a group of show fanciers who'd never seen a kit of rollers in the air, but they all claimed they wanted to. Well I had five kits going at that time and I lived half a mile from the showroom and the invitation was extended to any of the 40 some fanciers at that show to see them. Only two accepted; one was the late Paul Platz, who of course flew his pigeons; the other was a guy who had made the arrangements four months ahead of time to see them. The rest could not be bothered, even tho they claimed they wanted the oppurtunity.
On the otherside, 90% of those who will go watch, are really much more interested in talking or handling your breeders than watching the kit, and that comes as no surprise since they do the same with their own pigeons and I'll bet they can't walk and chew gum at the same time either.
Doug Oullette, my mentor in roller's brother, once wrote:
"The roll is over in an eye blink; if you were talking, you missed it."
In this light, you can always tell a good flying fancier from a bad one just by how he watches a kit. The best will be fixed 100% on them, and if they do talk, they are still glued to them. On the same note, even if a kit is quite bad, I will always watch for at least 10 minutes out of some respect. The fancier who watches kits intently, succeeds, simply because he is paying attention! If you release your kit, run off to work and let your wife get them in, you've already defeated and doomed yourself. Watch your kit!
But, the bottom line is that flying a kit is just not enough for the breed, simply because it does not effectively accomplish drawing in many new fanciers. The show room is the most potent form of publicity for any breed.
If I am anti anything, I am against this retched concept of breeding what is intended to be a flying breed strictly for the exhibition room. In fact, had I the power, the people who breed flying breeds only for exhibition, I would take away their pigeons indefinitely.
I can honestly say that every pigeon I show is proven in the air, except in the case of the very young kit birds I show on some occassions in the Spring. Either way, this comes first and noone can tell me that a person cannot succeed at both with the same birds. I can honestly say that my pigeons are what they were intended to be. In my Turmani and Statnije breeds, I can also say for fact, while I do select towards the conformation ideal, it is not for the purpose of showing. It is due to tradition, as the old time Russian fancier set down precise ideals in type, color markings and in the air. If you want great Turmani, they must not only fly like Turmani, but they must also look like Turmani! The same is also true of most flying breeds. Naturally, it is difficult to achieve, but noone said it is supposed to be easy!
RESPECT is the bottom line and this is something most fanciers do not have for their pigeons or for their breed and its history. These people seem to think that because they pay the feedbill, it gives them a right to do what they choose to the birds. This is about as valid as the old empires who sent teams of explorers around the world to claim new lands, and by simply stepping foot on the soil it became their's to do with as they chose, and to hell with the people who lived there for thousands of years before that, because they don't have a say in it! In the same light, what right does a fancier have to intentionally alter or warp what has taken a thousand years to create? Absolutely no right. What breeders do have is a responsibility to their breed and its devolopers to preserve and hopefully improve upon that breed. "Improve" does not mean stop flying it and mount a big head and neck on it. Improvement means flying the birds and creating higher percentages of the best in the air.
If it is not bad enough that these people won't fly their birds and continue only to destroy them, many are also known to pass on their pigeons unfit for show purposes onto trusting novices as flying stock. My late partner, Gary Blain once went back to his place of birth, Salt Lake City, to buy birds. There he visited a very well known and long time fancier of Oriental Rollers. Upon asking to buy birds, he was told that both show and "flying" stock was available, but more "flying" stock than show stock. He quickly noted an absence of not only kits, but also kit lofts, and as the time went by, and asking about this bird and that one, he began to note that some of these so called "flying" Orientals had some of the same parents as the showbirds. He also noted that from a show standpoint, all the "flying" birds had major faults, but otherwise were identical to the showbirds. Yes, this showfancier was trying to pass off his culls as flown stock. I'm not going to say his name, but he knows who he is! On the same level, back in the mid 80's, a local friend of mine got back into Rollers after having them as a kid and went to a well known show fancier (who was later President of the Pensom Roller Club), who supposedly had some proven flying Pensoms for sale. My friend (who did not know any better at the time) payed $100 a pair and bought several pairs (and that was in 1985 or 1986!). Of course this guy had sold him culled showbirds as so called "proven" aerial stock. Later on, Dan Ouellette came around and saw this. Dan traded him 2 real pairs for all of these show culls, of which he took home and promptly killed: lock, stock and barrel!
In fact, if I was to compile a list of the people who have written or called me who told me they had been sold cull show stock in the guise of proven or good flying stock over the last ten years, it would burst the limits of several pages of this magazine. What is worse, is that some of these fanciers were taken advantage of as many as a half dozen times in a year. With that in mind, buyers beware! If you are buying so called flying stock and the fancier will not back them up with a written guarrentee and provide some instruction - don't buy! It is true, the master flying fancier knows what he has and he will command a high price for his birds (that's if $100 to $200 can be considered expensive so long as these pigeons are guarrenteed in writing). On that note, if the fancier charges very little for his birds per pair he obviously does'nt think too much of his pigeons. Buying from a master flier may seem very expensive, but paying his price is cheaper than going through thousands of dollars of so called flying pigeons. In the end, if you are serious, you will end up buying off the master flier anyway, tho it may be years of wasted time and thousands of dollars down the line. Finally, don't fool yourself: high quality flying pigeons are in demand and a master flier can make a nice supplement to his income with little effort. Some very good fliers have been labeled as "feather merchants" by the jealous, but the jealous are not too willing to compete in the air against them, or back their own pigeons up with similiar guarrentees.
If anyone is in searching for high quality flying pigeons in any breed, but are in doubt of where to go, I can refer you to someone if you ask.
The bottom line is that the people who continue to mongrelize and not fly what were intended to be a flying breed are ruthlessly destroying their breed and insulting every breeder in the breed's history.
I have a small stud of Kaluga Turmani, the breed my great grandfather bred at Petrehof in NW Russia (just above Petrograd, near the mouth of the River Neva), before the Bolshevik Revolution. I am reminded of the story of one Ivan Bondarov of Kaluga, who before Soviet times was the greatest breeder and flier of the Kaluga Turmani in history. To say that times in Russia were very difficult in the last days of Tsardom would be an understatement. Times are difficult in Russia today, but not quite as bad as they were then. Famine in Russia was so severe at the time that in cities like Moscow, Petrograd, Tula, Smolensk, Odessa and others, that the police had to go out each morning to remove the bodies of those who had died in the night in the streets and alleyways. Even tho my own family, being Imperialists, was very wealthy before the revolution, there was no money left. Even Nicholas II was broke and had only funding to run his household only 9 months of the year, and don't believe the history books that claim he lavished wealth on his family, because it's not historically accurate. His family ate bad food, took cold baths and slept on millitary cots. It is true that before this time, imperialists in Russia had vast wealth but it was not only squandered off long before, but the last went to help fund the world war. In the meantime, 9 million men had been sent to war against the Germans and the Austrians, often armed only with hand axes or no weapons at all (not enough rifles). Russian casualties in the war remain foggy to this day, but the average estimate is about half of those 9 million men. To top it off, we also fought the Turks in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan at the same time, not too mention other Russians as a result of the revolution.
Naturally, this period was a crushing blow to the Russian fancy; due not only to famine and chaos, but also due to the fact that many outstanding fanciers died in Romania, Poland, Armenia and elsewhere in the war. Many breeds were lost during this period and many more were so severely damaged that they have yet to recover even 80 years later.
Ivan Bondarov is attributed to saving the Kaluga breed from extinction, primarily by denying himself of food for the sake of his birds. If he found a scrap of stale bread, it went to his pigeons. It is said that even if he had to cheat or steal, his pigeons ate. Some say he even killed a man once for a stale loaf of bread to feed his pigeons. Finally, Ivan Bondarov grew ill because of the hardships he endured for his pigeons and finally died shortly after the revolution. But, because of his self sacrafise, his pigeons survived and it is due to him that the Kaluga Turmani still exists today.
And so I say, when you are ready to go this far for your breed and honestly mean it, only then do you have a right to call them your pigeons and do as you choose to them. I for one, am willing, but I can't say that I know others willing.
In the same light, Bondarov was not alone in his sacrafise. There were many fanciers all over Europe during both world wars who took great risks for their pigeons or for a particular bird which I could cite. Some ultimately met tragic and gruesome ends in a hail of bullets as the German millitary understood the value of a pigeon and made it illegal in occuppied countries to possess them. The punishment was imprisonment, fines or even death. Pt this time, I have even received a few tales of the valour of Serbian fanciers who rescued outstanding birds from the certain death of the hell that NATO rained down on the cities in Serbia and elsewhere in Jugo-Slavia just this year.
In this respect, what right does the average fancier have to maliciously crossbreed or alter the function and characteristics of any given breed? Absolutely no right at all. As well, this does'nt apply to just flying breeds; what about Utility, Voice and certain Pouter breeds?
Have a little respect for
your pigeons, their history and the fanciers who once bred them; it will
make you a better fancier.
Bokhara Tumblers (Bokharaski Boinije) originate from the city of Bokhara in the former USSR/Imperialist Russia and are one of two ancestors to the Bokhara Trumpeter and the West Russian Trumpeter (the other ancestor is the Ankhut Trumpeter from Turkey) and is closely related to both the Uzbekistan Tumblers (Uzbekistanski Boinije) and the Baku Tumblers (Bakinski Boinije and Bakinski Kosmatsch Boinije).
Bokhara Tumblers come in the following forms:
Double Crested (Shell & beak crest)
Triple Crested (Shell, beak and eye crested)
And also with or without Short muffs depending on the region of breeding.
At one time, the breed was fairly widespread in the Persian regions of Russia, but after the Bolshevik Revolution became practically non existant.
It is today rare throughout Russia and its former provinces with only a handfull of serious breeders today.
The bloodline I imported
are strictly Milky factored birds in all the variations from the loft of
the famous Statnije breed legend (and close friend) Ivan Schmelev of Yekaterinagrad,
By K.D. Spurling (1999)
The breed commonly known as the Galati Tumbler (German: Galatzer Tummler), while an obscurity in North America, is the most traditional of flying breeds in Romania and takes its name from the city of Galati in East Romania on the Black Sea, also known as "Galatz" by the German speaking Austro-Hungarian Imperialists who once occuppied much of Romania until thwarted by Autocratic Imperial Russia in the first few weeks of World War One.
Altho this breed first became known to the American Fancy with Levi's "Encyclopedia Of Pigeon Breeds" in 1967 (who errornously treated the Moriscari Galati as a seperate breed), this breed did not reach the North American continent until it was exported to Canada in 1982 by Ulrich Reber of Germany. Ever since this time, the breed has been subject to relative obscurity, as well as to great misunderstandings, largely due to a great lack of correct information and for a decade and a half, the breed has errornously been reffered to as the "Galatzer Roller" and touted as an exceptionally deep rolling performer.
From the native standpoint, especially with the old Romanian masters of this breed, this pigeon does not exist in any true singular form in Romania. Altho the Romanian name "Jucator de Galati" (Tumbler of Galati)is used very widely in certain parts of Romania, this name is not viewed as correct by the older breeders who have spent decades cultivating them. This point is very well illustrated simply by the title of that great Galati master, Ovidiu Leonte's 200 plus page treatise "Porumbeii Galateni" which was published at Bucharest in 1994. A literal translation of the title is "Galati Pigeons", a term used extensively in this work by one of the last of the masters of these particular pigeons.
We use the term "Galati Pigeon" simply because there really is no such pigeon as a "Galatzer Roller" or a "Galati Tumbler" in any singular form. In reality, there are over 100 sub-breeds within the Galati sub-genre and we often then use the terminology "Breeds Of Galati". These "breeds" are generally named after their developers and while all share common bonds in relation, they differ in type, colors, markings, ornaments, eye colors, size, tail and wing structure, as well as in their flight and performance. These differences are not due to a lack of accepted standard or lack of unity on the part of the breeders. To the contrary, the club which caters to these pigeons in Romania is one of the oldest pigeon clubs world-wide and due to having been overseen by the required Socialist Securiate representitives for over 70 years, like so many other clubs in East Europe, a very "tight ship" is run and American clubs pale in comparison.
(Note: Under Socialist governments, ALL clubs in the former Eastern Bloc were overseen by either the KGB or National Securiate). The reason for the extensiveness of the Galati breeds is due simply to taste on the part of each group of breeders and this taste is perfectly acceptable by all and under full standarization. The fact that the National club over Romania issued a standard exceeeding 150 pages to properly define and seperate each sub-variation illustrates just how acceptable the situation is.
Of these sub-breeds, the two most highly regarded in Romania are the Mironescu Galati and the Moriscari Galati.
Worldwide, the Moriscari are the best known of all the Galati breeds. Levi (1967) quotes Peterfi to note that "Moriscar" means "hand-mill" in Romanian and that this term refers to actual rolling. However, altho the translation to hand-mill is correct, the Moriscari name actually derives from the breeder Gioni Moriscar who lived at Galati in the 19th Century. Moriscar is known to have crossed together what are known today as the Kaluga Black Turmani (Czernopegije Turmani) from Western Russia to local tumbling pigeons. This yielded a medium sized tumbler with a semi cubical head, a flesh colored, thick beak, long cast type and with the standardized Moriscari markings which consist of a colored stripe beginning at the forehead and sweeping over the crown, down the back of the neck and to the wings. The remainder is white. The colored portions are typically Black or Dun from the Kalujski ancestory, but like their Turmani ancestors, the Moriscari are also bred in red, yellow, "Russian Gray" (spread ash red) and blue. The Moriscari are reknown for their performing abilities in that they are modified horizontal performing rollers who perform into the rear of the kit and descend great distances in a crescent shaped arc. The Moriscari are ancestors to a large number of other Galati variants, the best known being what are known to the West as Constanta Medium Faced Tumblers.
The Mironescu Galati are by far the most prized in Romania and are named for the late Nikola Mironescu of Bucharest, who before his death in the early 1980's was the oldest and most respected flying pigeon fancier in Romania. Mironescu's pigeons originated by crossing together the Vargat Tumblers with the pigeons his father developed. This variety is, in the hearts and minds of most, the most beautiful of the Galati collective. They are typically Blue pigeons, either with black or white barring, white flights, white tail retrices and with either a white ring around the neck (Gulerati), a white crescent on the breast (Leftati) or with a row of white dots around the neck, looking like a string of pearls (Margaleti). As well, from the Vargat ancestry, the Mironescu typically feature dragging wings and a slightly erect tail of 14 to 18 retrices. The Mironescu Galati are reknown for their highflying ability and are not to perform in any manner.
At this writing (Oct. 1999), there have been at least five importations of Galati to the North American continent.
The first two were those of Reber in the early 1980's. These two imports were composed of not only Moriscari, but also the pigeons of a fancier named Gheorgescu of Bucharest, which Reber had aqquired second hand from the Hungarians in the late 1970's. The Gheorgescu Galati are typically Barred Ash Red Selfs with the occassional Cream, very long of type, medium in size, the wings typically below the tail and with a semi cubical head. This is completely contrary to the Moriscari in many ways. In the air, the Gheorgescu (contrary to the claims put up by many early advertisers of the Reber import lines) are short rolling tumblers with a duration of 4 to 8 hours on an average day. Over the last decade and a half, due to incorrect breeding, the Moriscari exported by Reber have been lost through homogenization with the Gheorgescu Galati. As a consequence of crossing the two types, the descendents of the Reber imports have undergone a complete ruination at the hands of American breeders, but as many of those who had involvement in the Reber importation regarded the Galati which were imported as "a dissappointment", it is quite likely that this ruination actually began in Germany and was simply carried to North America with the birds. In reviewing the original records of the imports by Reber, it becomes clear that there was a great deal to be desired of the information about the birds sent over. With this in mind, the fact that none of the blood of the Reber imports in all but the Kelebeks has gone on to enhance the flying culture of the American Rare Breeds fancy illustrates that more and better information was needed. Subsequently, the Reber importation has largely become nothing but "show waste", which is a greater punishment than extinction for what are intended to be flying pigeons.
With lack lustre stock, opposed to giving up, those interested simply arranged for the genuine article from the top Romanian lofts.
In late 1997, myself and the late Gary Blain imported two pairs from the city of Sighisoara of the pure Gheorgescu Galati. That same year, a 20 bird shipment reached Toronto's Slavic Quarter, representing 6 sub-varieties of Galati from top studs in East Romania.
Then, earlier this year I received an invite from a friend in the city of Sighisoara that I could not refuse. For nearly two weeks I toured lofts in Romania, especially those of the old time masters of this breed and put every conceivable question a journalist can muster to these remaining masters of the breed in its homeland, especially to a new friend by the name of Gica, who is the son of the great Nikola Mironescu. Gica was also kind enough to present me with a gift of a hand picked top pair from his old bird kit to take back to the United States. Over those 13 days I took in no sites, no bus tours of the Carpathians, no musuems, no trendy restaraunts, no bad Romanian films and none of the other tourist bunk, because for this fancier, there is no greater sight than a kit of pigeons, especially those cleaving through their native sky above the loft of their grandmasters. Totally, I saw 73 kits over that trip and the days seemed to run into each other for each day lasted well into the night and by 6 AM we were out seeing pigeons again.
The Galati on this continent today, of which over 300 are already registered with the SouthEast European and Russian Breeds Club (as of Oct.99) trace primarily back to the Sighisoara import of '97 and the East Romanian '97 import opposed to the descendents of the Reber import, altho even this early on, there are a great number of demands for pairs off the Mironescu pair, as can be easily understood. Hopefully, this is a sign that that a new life has come into the breed on this continent as a flying pigeon.
By K.D. Spurling
The Archangel White Trjasun (Archangelski bela Trjasuni) is yet another race of Statnije, or Russian Courtyard Tumbler. As its name indicates (which should not allow it to be confused with Gimpels (Archangels), this breed's origin lies within the seaport Archangel in NorthWestern Russia where it has been bred for some 300 years in a relative obscurity to the point of being only little known throughout the great Russian expanse and only then by the greatest students of the Russian Statnije cult.
The story is told, by the last of its old time breeders, one Mikhail Melnikov of Archangelsk, who's family (actually transplants to the region from the Ukrain generations ago) played a dramatic role in the continueing development of this breed, and who as an individual has maintained this breed, mostly singlehandedly, for over some 70 years, that the Archangel Trjasun came about through the local culture of snow white colored Statnije of the common kind with no set characteristics hailing from the surrounding areas, including pigeons from the city of Kazan, which considering its point of origin and its basic characteristics, indicates a relatively close relation to the now extinct Kazanski Trjasuni as it existed during the Bojaren (Imperialist) era. In fact, no different than the Bojaren style Kazanski Trjasuni, the Archangelski Trjasuni was severely devestated during the Bolshevik Revolution when so many breeds of Russian animals were nearly lost or plunged into extinction outright. Fortunately, unlike the Kazan Trjasun, due only to the effort of Melnikov family, did the Archangel Trjasun survive the revolution and the 70 years of communism which followed it. The story is told further, how during the revolution, the Archangel Trjasun's population crept as low as only 5 birds in number due to the level of poverty the Melnikov family experienced. Only through some sacrafise did these 5 individual birds survive to rebuild their breed and among them, but one lone cock who had been named "Otar", a bird of tremendous muff size and perfect form, but with a wry crest who is the effective "Adam" of the entire Archangel Trjasun breed, in that every pigeon after the revolution descends from him and the four hens; these hens included: "Anya" a hen of extremely good form, but shorter in muffs and minus a crest, "Zvezda" (which interestingly enough, is also the name of an Ancient Slavic Godess attributed to as the protector of doves and the Godess of love in Slavic mythology) who was regarded as the finest of the four hens being that she had huge muffs, a swan-like neck, a full crest, large expressive bull eyes, a flat broadtail and extremely short plumage, "Elina" who was a daughter of Otar and Zvezda who was nearing the quality of Zvezda, but like Otar had a wry crest, and finally, "Natazha" who had exquisite type, but had impure color in that she was mottled with black through the chest due to the fact that she had been a local stray and was likely not a pure member of the breed. From these five birds, the modern breed descends exclusively.
As the name would indicate, the only color in this breed is self white with large expressive bull eyes. The head is an oval with a shell crest lacking rosettes and a medium length beak. Due to the fact that Otar was the sole male of the breed, most of the breed today also carries his faulty wry crest. The neck is long and swanlike, bending backwards and shakes viloently when the bird is in a solid stance. Any shaking of the neck while the bird is walking is to be regarded as a grave fault as is a among all Trjasuni Statnije races since the characteristic of shaking the neck while the bird is walking is a characteristic of the Katschuni sub-variety and not the Trjasuni or Vislokrilije (the latter of which are not to shake their necks). The chest is full, rounding and carried uplifted. The back is short and wide. The tail is flat, broad and containing 14 to 18 retrices. The feet are short and completely covered in feathers, varying from simple bell-shaped muffs to muffs roughly three and a half to four inches in length.
This breed is today, easily one of the rarest, with less than 75 birds existing in Russia between three lofts. In August of 1999, this writer was privelaged enough to obtain two pairs from the loft of that great Statnije breeder, Ivan Schmelev of Yekaterinagrad as a gift, and a most glorious one indeed.
By K.D. Spurling
(Spurling's note: this article
appears in the form of an answer made to an inquiry on this subject from
Having your note, I will try to explain in one letter, the starting basics of Night time Flying.
The first thing to consider is that night time flight is not natural to pigeons and they must be introduced to the concept on a gradual basis at an early age.
So for example, let's say that we have 20 squeakers that we are starting to fly. After they have been flying well for several weeks time, we begin to liberate them a little later in the day in a way that they will be landing at about dusk and for a week we fly them at a time that will have them land at dusk. If one begins to land early, we chase it back up with the flag until it is forced to land during the dusk. You will note that at first, during this dusk time flying that they will fly fast, low and very erratic simply because they are not comfortable flying at this time of day. After about a week of this, we begin flying them a little later, say 10 minutes later than prior so that the pigeons are forced to fly through dusk and land in the early twilight hour. We continue this for another week and of course pigeons which continue to try to land early are flagged back up. In the meantime, for Racing Homers (and also other breeds if you wish to fly them correctly), they should be road training during the morning hours from short distances of say, for Homers, if they are now 7-8 weeks old, they should be out 5 to 10 miles by then after going one mile, then two miles, then to five miles, 10 miles, 25 miles, 50 and so on as they mature. For other breeds, I would go in 1/2 mile, 1 mile, 2 miles, 5 miles and then top out at 10 miles. The purpose behind the road training is in case the birds are jostled by winds or that their landmarks are shrouded by nightime fog and the kit strays miles from the loft to avoid major losses.On the third week, we are now landing in the full darkness of say one hour after sunset and by this time, any birds which habitually land early are terminated. At this stage, I'll flag one up only once and that's it. The next week we are liberating in full darkness and by this time, you will note that the birds are no longer erratic or fast flying in the darkness. On near full or full moon nights they will fly very evenly and quite high and this is a very serene, beautiful and nearly poetic sight to see a kit of birds at a fair altitude passing over the front of the moon that most fanciers will never see in their lifetime.
Something should be said about the loft needs. It is the practise of most to use a lighted landing board to get the birds back in. The principle is this: the kit is trained to drop on a signal; a whistle, a shake of the feed can (my cousin use to beat on a trash can lid with an axe handle to drop his kit). So when you want them to drop, you make your usual signal and you also throw on the lights at that same moment. Eventually, they will grow accustomed to those lights and the moment they come on, they will immediately drop to the loft.
Personally, I am not a big
believer in the lit up landing board because it is obscured so easily (I
don't use landing boards or traps anyway) and also, a simple light is easily
mistaken for the landing board. A friend of mine used to use simple lights
to drop them, but he had a street light set on a timer up the road and
the pigeons would see it switch on and immediately drop onto the light
post. What I use is a system that my mentor the late Al Krauss developed.
This consists of a wooden box that is a 3 foot circle. with enclosed sides.
Three lights forming a triangle are mounted into this circular box and
point skyward. These lights were made from headlight type spotlights and
are quite powerful. Each light is mounted into a hole, inset slightly and
over the top is a colored filter like used in theater spotlights. They
are respectively blue, green and red in no particular arrangement. This
system runs off a standard car battery or off electric (electric is cheaper,
but I had the car battery portion installed when I was flying off a 3 story
rooftop in NW Washington and I couldn't get enough cord to reach the roof.)
Once the power is activated, the lights kick on and the beams alone will
extend a few hundred feet skyward and are visible to a kit even at relatively
high altitudes. Since the birds are adjusted to these particular lights,
there isn't much of a chance of another light a few blocks over dropping
Yours In The Sport,
By Kelley D. Spurling Grants
It was interesting to read Hollander's paper on the inheritance of the pearl colored iris in Domestic Pigeons and I feel that he has set down a short, but good guideline on its inheritance for the novice, and also some short, but good facts.
Still, I for one cannot understand how such a careful student and researcher of Domestic Pigeons, and a long one at that, could make such a blunderous statement as to say that 100% of all races in the "highflier" nomenclature are pearl eyed. This idea is simply false and without any factual ground whatsoever.
While it is true that many races of Highfliers are strictly pearl eyed, it is not true of all races Many prime examples of non pearl eyed highfliers are to be found in Eastern Europe, in particular among the Romanian breeds. Among the Romanian breeds of highfliers (or "Zburator" as they are known there), the Visiniu, Vargat, Cafeniu, Cinepiu and the Orbetean are examples of yellow eyed highfliers. Often, in English and German liter-ature, we see the name "Tumbler" attached to these breeds (the Romanian term for Tumbler is jucator" and "Rolleri" for roller), but in Romania these breeds are classified and named "Zburator" or Highflier. Ps well, while many Russian/Ukranian Tutcheresi, such as the Nikolajevski, Charkovski, Krimski, Militopliski, the Orliks and others do come pearl eyed, the amber colored eye is desired, idealized and most common. Technically, the nomenclature of Highflier would not be 100% correct and "Tutcheresi" means "Cloud Cutter" in Russian. P better class name would be "Style Flier", but as these pigeons should not tumble and can fly at extreme altitudes for a long duration, one could call them High-fliers. The Polish refer to them as being in the "Gornolotne" group of breeds and that means Highflier. As well, there are also many bull eyed highfliers in Eastern Europe.
Moving into the West, while the pearl eye is far more a rule among highfliers, there are exceptions. The Danzig Highflier, altho generally pearl eyed, also occurs with blue eyes, or as the old timers called it "milk eyed". The milk eye was once highly regarded among the old time flying fanciers in Danzig (Gdansk) and was also reported in the Pomeranian Eye Crested Highflier or what are known as "Schaukappen" which is an allied breed of the Danzig. (Incidentally, the translation of the name "Schaukappen" IS NOT "Show Crest". In German, the word "Schau" has several meanings and this form is antiquated and would mean "to see" or "seeing", referring to the eye crests as tho they were some instruments with which to see.)
Moving into Britain, in the old days existed strains of Flying Tipplers with green or jade colored eyes, altho historically, the breed is pearl eyed. This is despite the fact that a few years ago, a great amount of la-di-da was raised over some green eyed Fantails, about which the owner believed were the first green eyed pigeons anywhere. The green or jade eye existed long before this in Tipplers and it is theoretically possible that the green eyed Fantails had the factor from the Tippler. In the old days, the Fantail/Tippler cross of varying dosages was heavily favored as a dropper by the old time Tippler flier (often very much Fantail, or very much Tippler.) It is possible that this iris color was introduced into certain lines of Fantails in this way. Now note I said "possible", and not "definitely"! On a side note, even tho the Tippler is viewed as a highflying breed, they are technically an endurance bred Tumbler. In fact, the very name of the breed comes from a word in the old So. Yorkshire (Sheffield) dialect: "Tipple", and "tipple" means "to tumble". As this dialect has largely died out, the meaning of the word has largely been altered and many fanciers believe the name would refer to the print type markings which are basically white feathers tipped in blue/bronze. To this day, Tipplers are bred which still do perform, but are managed in such a way that rest-ricts the tumbling action and so it is rarely viewed. The Meyor Tumbler is an American breed of purely Tippler origin which not only flies high and long, but has also been reselected for short rolling. While we are here in the USA, I should also mention the American Flying Blacktail which was developed by John Purvins of Appleton, WI and this breed of highflier is bull eyed.
In the Middle East is a wealth of Highflying breeds, many of which are orange eyed.
Northward into Italy, the Modena (Triganica) was once an example of a tremendous flying pigeon for not only homing and the sport of "le guerra" (The War), but also for high and long flight; that is until the outsider destroyed the breed by cross-ing into Maltese, Hungarians and other Hen pigeons to create a purely exhibition pigeon ~ and 150 years ago. Luckily, a small group of the original breed is still cultivated and flown in the remote parts of Italy. The breed is orange eyed save the false pearl eye of the Brown series and the bull eyed White Schietti (and 30 + years ago there was a nasty controversy regarding orange vs. bull eyes in the White Schietti. The bull eye won.)
Eastward into China, our last stop, the local highflying breeds sport a vast array of eye colors: blue eyes, orange, off red eyes, amber eyes, bull eyes and more in just about every shade conceivable. The pearl eye is not common.
The old Western Highflying fanciers used to believe that the clearer (whiter) the eye, the better the pigeon could see from a high altitude; some believe this to this day. Naturally, it is alot of old fashioned, Western hocus-pocus from the dark ages of pigeon flying that is about as true as to say that a man with blue eyes is superior to a man with brown or green eyes.
So who can say a highflier or tumbler must be pearl eyed? There are plenty of good ones in all eye colors and its a matter of personal preference only. Some of my best Kalla Tumblers are actually pink eyed dilutes and therefore have the albino type eye and one of the best endurance pigeons I ever bred was actually missing an eye and the remaining eye was bull!
The good ones come every
which way: pearl eyed, orange eyed, yellow eyed blue eyed, green eyed,
gravel gray eyed, red eyed, pink eyed, bull eyed, odd eyed, cracked eyes.
I had the one with only one eye, and I even once saw a very good Almond
Roller, a fantastic pigeon in the air and that bird was pop eyed. He couldn't
see worth a damn and he was horrible to look at, but he rolled like a bull,
5-8 yards and as fast and straight as they come.
is a province/region of North Holland. It and the province of Frieslanden
make up all of the northern Netherlands. While the Dutch have given to
the world of pigeons many exciting
varieties of pigeons (ie. Dutch Highfliers, Hague Highfliers, Dutch Croppers, Dutch Tuublers, and so on); very few have ever achieved any general stardom in North America. Still, they have
some wonderful creations and fanciers ought to keep and learn more about them.
Clapper Turner races were once very widely kept in the north of Holland. Often they were used as droppers for Racing Pigeons, and one cannot employ a better dropper than a Clapper-Turner race such as Rhineland Ringbeaters, Belgian Turners, the Speelderkes, Smiters, and likely even the Anatolier Ringbeater for any type of flying pigeon. To this day the Clapper-Turners are found in some numbers in the northern Netherlands.
The Groningen Slenker has a history in Groningen city and the surrounding areas going back about the period of about 1600 or there abouts. Generally, it is believed that this race of performance pigeon hails from a cross of the Belgian Turners (also known as Belgian Ringschlaeger; which is split into two varieties, the Brabanters and Aalsters); so crossed upon the
Old Amsterdam Balloon Croppers (Holle) which the Slenkers do in fact largely resemble, and possibly also the Bohemian Swing Pouter. The Slenkers are a true bastard breed; half cropper and
In impression, the Groningen Slenker looks to be a poorly bred specimen of the Amsterdam race of Croppers; due to the great resemblance to the breed, but is less exaggerated in it's design.
At once, the Slenker characteristics compose of a semi tremulous and long "S" shaped neck attached to a rather long oval skull. The eyes are what I would term as "gravel orange", beginning with a pearl iris that gradually melds into a bright orange. In the ideal, the inner half of the iris is to be "pure white" fading into a dark orange. This applies as well to Self Whites. The eyes give off a strange fiery expression, that suggests a "Go To Hell" temperament. The eyes are not too high set into the head. The head is carried back at a steep angle, and nearly rests upon the back. The body is of medium size, and is very wide across the chest which is highly erected. The legs are short, unfeathered, and set in what is rather the back portion of the body and are rather wide apart. The tail is short and wide, and should not touch the floor when the bird is in action. The back is short, rather wide, and with a hollow pocket. The wings are rather short and extremely strong, being carried rather on the sides of the tail.
Colors are Whites, Yellows, Mealy, and Cream with light colored flights, tail, and the lower part of the body and back. On the lower breast, the colors gradually fade into white. There are as well, Blacks, Duns, Blues, and Silvers - but these are very rare. Rare enough that they are almost never mentioned in any literature; but I have seen them with my own eyes, even if some do not believe they exist. And these were among the finest Slenkers I have ever seen in my life. These particular birds were imported from a leading German fancier at the large Nurnberg show by our good friend Roger Miller in California. These are primarily blacks. Twelve, and sixteen years ago I was breeding Slenkers in Blues; but these do not exist in North America anymore after I lost them.
Also, there is what can be called the Red Barred and Yellow Barred varieties, which are more properly known as Streifigs or "Streifigen". I have also seen these referred to as "Fawn Reds"
and "Fawn Yellows" here in this country. . These birds are an off white, with the exception of a white crescent on the breast. The bars on the wing shield are colored along with some feathers
in the wing shield, neck and the nape. In the lighter sub variety (ie. "Licht Rood Streifigen"- Light Red), the colored fields are replaced by even more white. This is to say that the Streifigs are what we would call Red and Yellow Grizzles of varying shades.
I have as well, seen Blue and Black Streifigs; which are both very, very, nice. Some Striefigs come showing traces of the third bar in the wing shield, which is a serious fault.
The Slenker in the air is one of the most unusual and awe inspiring spectacles in the pigeon world. This is the most important aspect of the breed, and color and type MUST NOT be the only
goal in one's breeding. Even if one has not seen a particular specimen in the air, like Ringbeaters and other Turning races one can still spot good performing Slenkers in the show coop very easily by the wear of the primary flights. The wing plumage must show some extreme wear due to heavy wing clapping even if the birds are not flown in their life. This wearing of the primaries can be used as a guide in evaluating the birds, and if a Slenker in plumage of even only a very young age does not show some wear; such a bird should not attain a high rating in a show. This particular family of Domestic Pigeons is the only one I am aware of where in feather wear is not only acceptable, but extremely desirable in the exhibitions. With this in mind, I would say that
regular outside exercise would be an important part of show conditioning for the Slenkers.
Slenkers do not fly as normal pigeons would. That is to say they do not
group up into kits, and do not achieve any real altitude during flight.
Their flying consists of low and broad circles just above housetop levels.
These broad motions of flight are interrupted at regular intervals by heavy
and noisy wing clapping, sailing (holding the wings over the body and gliding
down on slow arcs), and even swinging down as would their Bohemian ancestors.
The wings are struck not only above the body, but also below the body;
which leads to the result of heavy wear in the primaries and inner secondaries.
The Slenkers and other members of their small family have always been very rare and abstract breeds of flying pigeons every where in the world. They are among the very unknown oddities of
the pigeon world. Most fanciers will probably never see a live specimen of these antiquities in their lifetime, and they will be lucky to see them in books. Still, the Groningen Slenker is in
fact present in North America. To my knowledge, Roger Miller and myself are the only breeders on the North American continent. It is fortunate that we only live about 4 or 6 hours apart and often attend the same shows on a fairly regular basis.
For those who really want a unique and unusual RARE breed that few people know, the Slenker of the city of Groningen, North Holland; may very well be the breed for YOU.