Mangile's Pigeon Pages

Can Pigeon Fanciers Identify The "ghost trait"?

K.O.A.M. Pigeon Club Bulletin
January 1988, page 4.

 by Robert J. Mangile

The famous student of pigeons, Charles Darwin, put forth his theory of evolution; which suggested that over the eons, forces of Nature modified life forms by naturally selecting changes within a species.  It declared that Man descended from a lower form (not from monkeys).  Had it been more easily understood and not in direct conflict with Religious beliefs, the World may have adjusted more readily.  But, reminiscent of pigeon fanciers who find security in "eye-sign" and "wing theory", people clung to their beliefs like shipwrecked sailors to floating wreckage.

Human selection speeds the evolutionary process in animals under domestication.  Even those opposed to Darwin's theory cannot deny that the Rock Pigeon,  (Columba livia), has fathered incredible variety through selective breeding.  Most well known are the Homing Pigeons, renowned for their mysterious ability to return home from long distances.  Ironically, many wild bird species fly upwards of 100 miles daily to feeding grounds and return home without ceremony; yet, Homing Pigeons are considered specialists. And it is common knowledge that many bird species migrate thousands of miles across continents and oceans to find their home territory.  This intangible ability has shown no apparent deterioration or improvement in thousands of years?

Curiously, Homing Pigeon breeders are single minded about improving homing ability! through selection.  In spite of that, a declared improvement over the past 25 years would likely be in error.  It is a weightless, shapeless, colorless "ghost trait", no greater than "sight"; yet, breeders express unanimous apathy toward improving "sight" and no appreciable deterioration can be detected.  It is interesting to ponder whether or not selecting for sight would produce  improvement' in vision?  Conversely, would the apathetic neglect of homing ability result in its deterioration?

Characteristically, pigeon fanciers associate the physical attributes of championed racing pigeons with the ability to return home.  Selecting for specific attributes apparently puts order in the otherwise impossible task of determining which pigeon possesses such ability.  Passionate fanciers often praise the quality of selected pure-bred pigeons and later violate the concept by boasting of secret methods used to produce winners. With such uncertainty it is scarcely a wonder why pigeon breeding is referred to as an "art".  Homing ability is either absolute and singular in nature or a product of  combined elements.  If the former, it must be defined and recognized.  If the latter, either, it does not exist at all or each of the elements must be identified and properly combined.  In either instance, without identity it cannot be selected with consistency.

# # #

Article Index

Home Page