American Pigeon Journal
June 1985, page 17.
Should We "Improve" The Breed Or the Standard.
by Robert J. Mangile
It cannot be denied that selection can transform animal species into creatures that appear unrelated to their progenitors. Some fancy pigeons hardly resemble the wild stock from which they sprang. Among the hundreds of varieties of pigeons the Jacobins, Croppers, Trumpeters, Carriers and Fantails are a few that display extremes of some characteristics.
A parallel for comparison is the common goldfish, which has attained bright yellow-orange color after many years of selection. A silver-brown native fish of Asia and member of the carp clan, it is bred in over 100 varieties. The Veiltail Moor, Pearl-Scaled Fantail and the Shubunkin scarcely resemble the common goldfish, much less its wild ancestors!
At some point in history, people gave names to the variants they had already produced. Later on in time, it was necessary for a given variety to possess given characteristics. Keep in mind that the variant existed before it was named - among goldfish and pigeons.
Consequently, pigeon fanciers splintered into groups. Some raised pigeons that puffed-up their neck, some kept those with a sputtering voice and others liked the fan-tailed types. Each group set standards for the variant type they kept. As the extremes of the characteristics were realized, the standards were changed again; and again. Unconsciously, other traits became desirable. Possibly birds with feather-legs or heavy wattles pleased breeders. Soon these characteristics were added to the standards with the idea that the breed was being "improved". Ironically, the improvements they suggest were present in some birds of that variety which were in the control of only a few fanciers. Again, the traits preceded the standards.
If standards are intended to improve a breed, we must be certain as to what is meant by the word "improve". Reviewing Levi's book "The Pigeon", several breeds are discussed with illustrations depicting their changes through the years. Many pigeon fanciers consider the changes as improvements. Can we improve, say... white Kings by rewriting the standard to read, ... "All white Kings must have orange eyes?" If peak-crests begin showing up in our Damascenes, can we re-write the standard to include peak-crests and consider it an improvement? Is it wrong? Wouldn't they be beautiful? Who decides?
Improvement suggests a positive movement. The early automobiles have been improved into the large gas-hogs of the 1960's. Along came the oil embargo and suddenly we are improving the auto to its former size.
As a pigeon fancier, I wonder if "standards" are responsible for the Rollers that don't roll and Trumpeters that cannot trumpet? Will we keep improving the Modena and King standards until both breeds have the same standard? I wonder about improvements? Are there any fanciers out there who simply enjoy fancying!?