Breeding the Rzhevski Turmani

By K.D. Spurling

In a recent issue of the Pigeon Debut, my paper "The Rzhevski Startailed Turmani: Gem Of The Russias" stirred up considerable for the breed and resulted in a number of new fanciers. Being the most driven enthusiast of this breed, and after having developed, nearly from scratch, the most competitive and potent bloodline in the history of the Rzhev breed on North American soil, I have been asked to put pen to paper to write again of this breed.

I would begin at once to say that the Rzhevski Turmani is not for the fly by nighter, nor for the fancier who is faint at heart and desires to attain great success in a short time. In my time with pigeons, I have bred over 200 plus different members of the flying tumbler family, as well as another 100 or more other breeds, many of which were examples of so-called "ultimate challenge" breeds and many more were so rare that most have never seen, let alone know the breeds by name. While all breeds have their challenges, to date, I have not met with one breed that surpasses the challenge of the Rzhev Turman and as well, I have seen outstanding fanciers of more popular breeds fail utterly and quickly by undertaking the breeding of this breed.

At this writing, I have now bred 14 generations of Rzhev in my loft. That is to say, that I do not own a Rzhev that I did not breed, nor a Rzhev whose grandparents, great grandparents and so on which I did not breed either in my loft, or in the loft of my late partner, Gary Blain. This is to say, that as a fancier, I am 100% responsible for them and noone can take credit for the achievments and strong points, or for any of the downfalls or weaker points. This portrays the first lesson in Turmani culture - build a family and work with it strictly. In this way, one becomes responsible for their bloodline and in the process, comes to understand it intimately. No real success ever comes from constantly securing outcrosses in any type of animal as this only destroys the homogenization of the bloodline. As well, it displays outwardly, that the fancier is more to the idea that quality stock is something one purchases, opposed to something that is shaped by one's own hand.

As a factual rule, the novice Rzhev fancier of today has a great advantage over the novices of the past. I will openly admit that when I started in this breed, Rzhev of even a reasonable quality or impression, simply did not exist in this country. One had to settle for what one could get, even if it meant scrounging from large volume dealers. The breed had no direction in the country and possessed a so called "standard" that sent the breed in the exact opposite direction of the ideal which was set down in Russia centuries ago. One settled for gross mismarks, birds with odd eyes, pigeons with an incorrect beak structure, birds lacking length of back and tail, improper carriage, excessively large birds and so on. One had to begin with such, simply because there was nothing else to be had and you would consider yourself lucky to possess even a pair of the culls described; quite irregardless of their crudeness. In many ways, this has changed. If the novice knows who to go to, he can today begin with stock that is 20 times superior to anything that was had in this country in past years.

Moving forward, I should say some words about the care of the birds. It is neccessary to mention that due to the structure of most East European breeds, being largely pigeons with larger tails and the wings carried beneath the tail, it is inevitable that a dirt is picked up by the wings and that a signifigant amount of wear is produced in the flight tips and in the tail retrices. While we can limit this by keeping a thick and constantly raked layer of the finest and cleanest grade of sand that money can buy on the floors, worn and soiled plumage are facts of life. This is despite the fact that the Rzhev's wings should not touch the floor during judging, but quite irregardless of how a pigeon may show, when relaxed or during courtship, the wings are often seen touching, if not being ground into the floor. While this is minimal in comparison to a breed like the Rostov Katschuni, the appearence of soiling in the wing tips of any Rzhev is greatly exxagerated due to the contrast. To make matters worse, as white plumage is softer textured and more prone to damage than harder colors, even the periodic wing tip coming into floor contact becomes easily worn or damaged. Worn or slight soiling of the flights comes with the territory of this and other Russian and one cannot expect "perfect" condition as is seen in more traditional Western breeds.. Fanciers should not be dissappointed by wear or soiling of the flights. In judging breeds of this type, the form must be taken into consideration and it is folly to penalize a Rzhev, Kazan, Rostov, Orlik or other similiar breed for slight wear or damage to the outside primaries or to the tail tips. many times I have seen many well meaning judges penalize birds for these characteristics, showing that they really have no bussiness judging them in the first place. As a judge, I personally tend to be very wary of a bird that lacks some wear, lest it is clear that this pigeon was force moulted just prior to the show, as a lack of wear indicates that said bird has a habit of carrying its wings upon the tail, opposed to below the tail. Extra time should be given to such a bird at some distance away to let the bird relax into its natural carriage so as to view its relaxed wing carriage. Out of stance, many wear free Rzhev quickly retract their wings to a normal carriage with the wings upon the tail, which is contrary to a quality Rzhev which will at most, hold its wings at the sides of the tail with the tips slightly carried under. The latter is typical of the breed. The former is not and is definitely still common in some lines because the original American standard for this breed required youngbirds to carry their wings upon the tail and penalized them for dropping their wings until they were yearlings. This was not only completely incorrect, but utterly ridiculous and the breed is still suffering from its effect even years after that so called standard was thrown into the dumpster. Vote For Us!