An Introduction To Selective Breeding Principles

By K.D. Spurling

As we begin into the subject of the production of better pigeons, be they cultivated for Racing, Time
Flying, Tumbling, Exhibition or Utility, I would like to begin with a bit of background about myself in
regards to the subject of Animal Breeding.

In the first place, apart from over 20 years of practical experience in the pigeon game, I've also bred
other animals, and in fact, still continue to breed dogs and also poultry, altho the latter now strictly as a
mere hobby, opposed to a serious endevour. Over the last 20 years, I've also bred Rabbits, GameBirds,
Cage Birds and others, always with success, as a good breeder of one animal can easily succeed in a
second animal facet if he/she so has that desire. As well, I am an 8th generation animal fancier, the last
in a long line of successful, groundbreaking breeders. That is a tradition which spans back some 230
years in an unbroken line, all the way back to my great, great grandfather, his uncles, his father and his
grandfather in the Northwestern corner of Bohemia where our family cultivated Canaries for over a century.
In fact, my great, great grandfather, a rather wealthy man and a landowner, became so immersed into his
Canaries that it utterly destroyed his livlihood, his wealth and his family. All things, bar Canaries, were put
aside to the point of "nothing else matters". My great grandfather, the first to come to this country, was one of the grandest animal fanciers in history. Here was a man who left home at the age of 12 and came half way
around the world, mastered 11 languages fluently and actually lived the "American Dream" that so many
write of, yet never see for themselves. For a time, he actually lived on digger squirrels as he blasted stumps
and underbrush from 60 acres of the worst land in Oregon, through meager savings purchased the last two
culls of a Jersey Cattle shipment that reached Oregon (for which he was overcharged on account of being a
foreigner) and in 20 years time, from those two animals, built up the greatest herd of Jersey Cattle in history. And they reigned as supreme for 30 more years. In front of me, mounted in glass frames on the
wall, are the "spoils" of 30 years of dominance in the Dairy World; dozens upon dozens of news clippings
with headlines such as "Local Jersey Herd Takes Top Place In Nation", "G.P. Herd Highest In Entire
U.S." and so on, certificates of production, medals, stock magazines showing his herd on the covers, huge
rosettes, the likes of which have not been produced for decades and so on. My great grandmother, grandmother and aunt had the dogs; Boston Terriers to be precise, and today we have the distinction of
being the oldest and most successful kennel in the breed's history, a kennel which has been in existance
for nearly 80 years and reknown for nearly 50 years. In fact, my earliest childhood memories were showing
a Boston puppy at a match, about age four, something I continue to relish to this day. In fact, I can get pretty
excited still about breeding Bostons. Then there were the pigeons; the influence of my father's family from
the era when Czars still reigned over Russia. My great grandfather was a great Turmani breeder, his race
of choice being the CzernoPegije, or what we know as Kalugas today, and his father, and his father before
that and going several hundreds of years back into the very roots of the Russian Bojaren, pigeons and poultry. I will simply leave the pigeons to speak for themselves on that note.

                    The Drive For Quality:

It was the words and firm belief of my great grandfather that "If you are going to do something, always
strive to be the best". Those were words he lived by and he proved by example the value in them. Those
words are of great value to any aspiring novice or experienced animal breeder. I cannot, for the life of me,
understand the animal breeder, especially the pigeon breeder, who can return from a competitive event with
less than Champion and feel proud. It seems there are many established breeders who tell novices "You
should feel very satisfied with a Second Place ribbon". What utter nonsense! If you are satisfied with only
second best, chances are, you will win very seldomly, if ever. There are some, and their number is many,
who also preach the saying "You can't win everytime." Also nonsense, simply because in the first place, it
does not have to be this way in the pigeon game and accepting defeat is only accepting defeat, opposed to
some sort of magical emotional glory of "Better luck next time" that is supposed to be somehow soothing.
This type of mentality and outlook only leads to further defeat and the fact is, provided you are willing to
work for it, and I mean "WORK FOR IT", you can go out and blast away, blow your competition right out
of the water and clinch the chrome EVERY TIME. "Better luck next time"? Luck has very little to do with
it. I can honestly say, that in my main breed, my Rzhevski Turmani, that I have not been beaten in seven
years within the breed class and that is competing against the other top lofts of this breed in North America.
With that in mind, it does not require mere luck or special talent, and anyone who wants the same sort of
success, can have it. Success is there for the taking, it's not doled out by percentages or on a sort of curve,
nor by luck. If you want to succeed, you have to really want it and you have to work for it. This means NEVER settling for second best and always striving to surpass yourself and others. In otherwords, if you
have an unbeatable bird, set your sites on producing one that will beat that so called unbeatable one. Better
yet, try to aim for two or three that can beat it and when you get those, strive to beat those too! It's easier
said that done, but it's not impossible or out of grasp. It also doesn't hurt to think that you have to
give something to the world of pigeons. It was my aunt, one of the leading Boston Terrier breeders in history who always suggested  "setting one hundred year goals".


Ultimately, the slightest shred of proffessionalism is lacking in the pigeon game. It is for this reason,
that it is difficult for me to get too excited about the Pigeon Fancy anymore and I shift more and more
attention to the dogs. The reason is simple, 99% of all pigeon fanciers are far from serious on this continent.
This is the greatest nemesis to the Pigeon Fancy from the public and society viewpoint. That is simply to
say that the constant trouble that fanciers run into with ordniances and similiar problems stem from the
Fancy's weaknesses on the organizational and individualistic levels. This is all too apparent with the
advent of the internet and the increase of the average fancier coming on-line. One read of a Pigeon
mailing list and even a slight knowledge of pigeon history going back to the 40's displays its weaknesses.
The weaknesses are very much in evidence with the constant assault on those who do more than others,
tagged as "self promoters", the disinterest in pigeons in general (I am constantly amazed that the bulk
of these mailing lists seldom have little to do with pigeons) and also in that, when the subject of progress
arises, the ideas being promoted are the same ones which were promoted and that failed miserably in
history. If the pigeon fancier wishes to survive, he must look to the future and toss the concept of "just
my hobby" out the window; buckle down, get serious, get proffessional and even more so, act the part.
Taking it back to the dark ages of the 1940's and 1950's by encouraging simplification and less
commercialization will be the ultimate undoing of the Fancy. On the contrary, the evolution into a
proffessionalized sport will ultimately propell it forward through sheer force. Competition must be viewed
seriously. Purebred pigeons of all types must be registered and pedigreed, preferably with tasteful registered names. Exhibitions must be heavily promoted as serious bussiness. Better awards must be
donated or purchased. The "crap shoot" must be taken out; judging must become strict, judges must
require liscenses and organizations must have the power to reprimand slip-shod judges. As well, precise
records of winnings must be kept by the registering organization, active Champion programs activated
and Conformation Ranking systems established. Not only will this, within 10 years time, change the
public's view into a positive one, but it will lead to the production of superior stock!

In the next installment, we will begin to cover the breeding and selection aspects.


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