Silvio Mattacchione – In this article we take a look at the term Pure Strains in the World of Racing Pigeons, but before we begin let us define both terms pure and strain:
The definition of pure according to my Webster’s New World Dictionary is as follows: 1) free from anything that adulterates or taints; 2) unmixed; 3) of unmixed stock or pure-blooded; 4) that which is pure.
The definition of strain according to my self same dictionary is also as follows: 1) ancestry, lineage; 2) the descendants of a common ancestor; race; or stock line; 3) a line of individuals differentiated from its main species or race by certain generally superior qualities; 4) an inherited character or tendency.
Our working definition for a pure strain would, therefore, of necessity be as follows: An ancestry or lineage; the descendants of a common ancestor or stock line differentiated from its main species or race by generally superior qualities, inherited character, or tendency; unmixed, free from anything that adulterates or taints.
Now, if memory serves me correctly, the racing pigeon is the product of the mixing together of several different breeds of pigeons including Horseman, Dragoon, Smerle, the carrier pigeon, and others. In different countries, different pigeon breeds formed the base from which the fanciers worked to develop their homing pigeons to lesser or greater degrees of perfection-usually lesser. The modern racing pigeon is therefore a hybrid and therefore not a pure breed at all.
In point of fact, the modern homing pigeons is not a pigeon at all, but more correctly speaking-that is, from an ornithological point of view-a dove. That is why in Dutch it is more correctly referred to as a postduiven (messenger-dove).
The most successful modern racing pigeons were developed in Belgium. This development began in approximately 1810, and by 1868, W.B. Tegetmeier in his Pigeons: Their Structure, Varieties, Habits, and Management could write:
“From the fact that many of the breed come from Antwerp, they are not infrequently known as Antwerp’s or Antwerp’s Carriers. in rapidity and power of flying these birds far exceed any other variety of pigeon with which I am acquainted. This power of flight is conjoined with an attachment to home that is not surpassed by that of any other pigeon”.
In time, these Antwerp carriers, as well as the short-faced pigeons of the province of Liege, were crossed.
The homing pigeon of Belgium is the result of the crossing of the Cumulet of Antwerp with the Smerle of Liege. The Cumulet was described by Mr. Andre Coopers, secretary of one of the Belgium Societies in 1868, as being of Flemish origin with white eyes, and having a habit of flying so high that it was gone from sight for several hours. The Smerle, he advises, is of Wallon origin, with a short beak and having several recurved feathers on its neck. It did not fly as high or as long as the Cumulet, but it was much more rapid. Finally, in Belgium, the Bec-Anglais (Dragoons) were also crossed, and so these three varieties formed the basis for the appearance of the better-built, stronger, faster, and more precisely cultivated homing instinct of the modern form of homing pigeon.