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The Acid Test of Sex Reversion...
Author: Old HandTitle: The Acid Test of Sex Reversion
Date: 2003-04-03 16:40:36Uploaded by: webmaster
Do we get 'sex reversion' in breeding? The only way to find out is to look into the breeding of champion pigeons and note who is breeding who and why. Therefore, I turned to my own loft register and checked up on the results I have recorded over 60 years.

Now, in a breeding plan based on 'sex reversion' we would find that champion sires bred more champion daughters than champion sons and vice versa would apply to the champion hens who, in their turn, would breed more champion sons than daughters, thus indicating sex-reversion. However, when I checked up on my records I found no such theme ran through the matings.

The first thing I discovered was that champion racing hens rarely, if ever, bred anything worth tuppence! Only their grandchildren and great-grandchildren appeared to have inherited champion virtues but please note that by that time the champion hen was contributing no more than one sixth of the inheritance.

It is not a nice thing for a fancier to indulge in a great inspiration only to find that written records, which cannot lie, have exploded his theory as if it were a myth. But is it? The result of this doubt was to drive me back to my books, this time with an even more enquiring mind, and after a sequence of late nights spent in poring over my yellowing registers I came away with one fact emblazoned on my mind. Tip top producer hens make a habit of breeding both champion sons and daughters; usually more of the latter than the former! This further discovery weakened my case even more and produced thoughts that were chaotic.

Back once again to the registers to pore over noted fact after fact and try, very hard, to make this welter of recorded fact assemble itself into something approaching a proper scheme of things entire.

The next fact that was to emerge from my research was that I raised more winners from line-bred stock than from crossbred stock. It has always been my practice to mate sires with their best daughters. Whenever I have done so I have bred a champion in the 2nd of 3rd filial generation from the mating. My records are explicit in this regard, with no ambiguity to be seen anywhere. Whereas the first 'cross' has generally paid off, subsequent breeding down from the 'cross' was barren of results unless the 'cross' was mated to an inbred bird. That discovery was thought to be an important one, well worth mentioning herein.

However, perhaps one of the most interesting discoveries made during this investigation of my ancient registers was in respect to outstanding producer hens. You know how it is. One year, and for no apparent reason, you find out that a certain hen (and she is very, very rare in one's annals) makes a habit of hatching out winners. She rarely misses! I haven't words with which to explain the high glee and deep satisfaction one feels when making such a discovery. One tends to walk on air for days on end. Well, I traced a number of these hens through my registers only to turn up irrefutable evidence of the ability of these special hens to breed winners with almost any kind of cock. These winners off the gold mine producer hens are both cocks and hens with perhaps the emphasis being on more daughters and granddaughters than sons and grandsons.

By reverting to old pigeon history we find that the first fancier who appeared to make public his belief that he owned a hen who would breed winners with any old cock, even a market-place one, was old Northrop Barker of Brussels who at that time (1876) was referring to his 'Marcia Hen.' The hen subsequently cleared off but it was her progeny which founded the J. W. Logan Stud. From then onwards the keen reader of the fancy press would have noticed that very few fanciers made a similar claim, indeed, very few fanciers even today are given the reason for such public rejoicing.

In a very long pigeon racing career (which is probably unsurpassed for longevity in these emerald studded isles) I have had no more than my share of these priceless gold-mine producer hens, a mere handful compared with the number of hens I have produced in over 60 years. One could not even work out the percentage as being one half of a half of one per cent. It should also be remembered that I won't touch a bird unless its blood is running purple, the champion of champions, and no less. Therefore, if anyone should have been capable of turning out gold-mine producer hens in an unlimited abundance it should have been me. I know that in recent years (the last 20) I have had to try and exist in very straitened circumstances (if your son expresses a wish to become a fancy press scribe have him certified and put away immediately for his own good) but this has not prevented me from having access to the best pigeon racing blood. Even so, gold mine producer hens have been very sparse and in some cases many years have passed before another has been revealed.

What about producer cocks who breed winners prolifically with any kind of old hen? I've never had one! Big winning cocks, yes. Cocks who bred winners, yes. But no gold mine producer cocks who were capable of turning on their magic in almost any nest and with any hen. As I turned the last page of my oldest ledger, having worked steadily back through hundreds of pages of records, I was forced, albeit reluctantly, to admit that gold mine producer cocks and yours truly are quite unacquainted. I've never seen one!

I can remember one very great producer hen of the past. Shall I ever forget her? She flew like a champion and then limped back home one day with a broken wing. How she got home is a mystery to this day. However, with her racing days over I decided to put her to stock. She had the 'violet' eye-sign and other attractive features which made it almost mandatory for me to try her as a producer. I now intend to quote the results of her breeding over four seasons with two different cocks. Cock winners - 5; Hen winners - 11.

Naturally, some of her progeny were mediocre but I suggest that the number of winners she bred over four seasons stamps her as a gold mine producer of all the twenty-four carats that make up pure gold. But note the percentage of female winners against the number of cock winners! Where is the so-called sex reversion factor in these figures? The truth is, sex reversion does not exist as a pigeon breeding factor constant! I don't know about you but I find an occasional delving into old records is very refreshing and salutary to the mind. We are inclined to get into loose ways of thinking when cogitating about pigeons and it takes a re-acquaintance with factual old records to bring us round and alive to the real truth. I don't think it is possible for any of us to study our old records without discovering what appears to be something new, or a new slant on an old belief.

For example, long before I put my old records away I had discovered another factor which bore down on pigeon breeding. This old gold mine producer hen was a blue barred mated to another blue and according to my book the winners she bred were always blues. Now and again she bred a blue pied (or one with a single white flight) and not one of these pieds ever won a race, whereas the blues regularly excelled.

I, too, get annoyed when I am confronted with a problem which appears to have no logical solution. The effect of this problem, which occurred many years ago, was to instil in my mind a great dislike for pieds! See how easy it is for one to form and obey unrealistic beliefs and prejudices. According to the many pictures of winning birds published pieds hold their own with any plumage colour. Only my experience with the gold mine producer hen swayed my bias against pieds and sought to fix it.

Of course, I haven't yet discovered the reason for why certain coloured plumages are the hallmark of non-working types, according to the parentage, that is, even though I have made a considerable study of sex-related genes in racing pigeons. If one applied the principle to human beings it would mean that every ginger-headed offspring of a pair of dark-haired parents was doomed to be a washout as an athlete. However, there is one angle of the above that I would like to draw to your attention and that is that in every case the pied progeny was female - it could hardly have been otherwise, could it? So, the duds - denoted by the pied marking - were always hens!

Here is another problem - aspect of pigeon breeding (which I do not claim also applies to horses, dogs and human beings) and that is, which exerts the greatest influence on the breeding, the sire on the maternal side or the sire on the paternal line? Here is a subject fit for a great controversy and one which I was not able to get to grips with until the day I met a very well known racehorse breeder (not trainer, but breeder). During the course of our conversation I asked him to tell me which particular animal was the most important in the breeding of a racehorse, either horse or more? He did not hesitate to point out that in the racehorse breeding fraternity, everyone paid the highest respect to the tail-grandam. This is to say, the dam of the hen who is the mother of the bird.

This claim needs a little ventilation. For instance, note that this particular female (the tail-grandam) is supposed to exert great influence over her progeny from so far away as two generations. What, the tail-grandam exerting more power over the progeny than its actual parents? Yes, it does, in fact, the tail-grandam is much more influential than all other three grandparents put together.

I am confident that this revelation will come as a complete shock to many fanciers. In fact, I daresay a number will flatly refute the inference. However, whether they reject the above revelation or not, the fact remains that the claim has been proved over and over again.

With the above in mind I rushed back to my old registers and turned them over again, patiently reading page by page, line by line, and there it was, as plain as a pike-staff, the tail-grandam was conspicuous by her presence in the pedigrees! The best way of proving the above claims is to look up the history of a hen who has bred with a number of different mates. One can then see how successful she was in breeding winners, if any. Here the popping up of the ring number of the same dam indicates the influence she wielded over her distant progeny, that is, as far as two generations away. I also suggest to you that the above revelations makes nonsense of widowhood racing, a system which keeps the hens at home doing nothing.

Before a novice has suffered for long as a pigeon fancier he has discovered a number of facts for himself, one of which is the difficulty we all face in trying to breed good hens. How often does one hear of a fancier finishing up the season with a large number of odd hens? Odd cocks, yes, but very rarely odd hens, unless he is a widowhood flyer. Follow the progress of two squabs under parents. In those instances where the nest pair consists of a brother and sister note how often the brother gets the bulk of the food and the sister often goes without a decent meal. No wonder cocks thrive while we have difficulty in finding really stout and robust hens.

It was because of this difficulty that some years ago I decided to single-rear all my first round of young birds. This decision entailed expense beyond ordinary because I had to keep pairs of breeders in order to raise a proper young bird team. However, the scheme did ensure that every female pigeon hatched would get her fair share of the food plus that of her brother who was not in the nest. In this way I managed to raise some very nice hens. I was so pleased with my hens that I have stuck to this system of rearing only singles ever since. I know what is said about two babies in a nest keeping each other warm but I assure you that a single-reared baby is always as warm as it needs to be and you can actually see it thrive.

Once you have succeeded in breeding some good hens, that is, in so far as physique and good health are concerned, it is then possible to get about the patience-testing labour of producing a gold mine producer hen.

The first requisite is for a hen whose sire and grandsire were big winners. This factor is of such great importance that it cannot be substituted in any way. It is founded, too, on the wealth of my records which leave no doubt at all. There must be no gap between the performance of the sires; both father and son must have been big winners. I know it is not going to be easy to find such a combination because great sires, like great dams, don't make a practice of breeding great offspring in the first filial generation.

Is there another important factor in the breeding say on the sire's side? Yes, there is, that is, according to my registers. The sire's sire, and his dam's sire, must also have been big winners. Only the dams of both sire and dam may be unworked or unhonoured birds. This is very important and it appears to exert great influence over the breeding which, in the case of my gold mine producer hens, was exactly as described herein.

I have already quoted the number of winners of both sexes bred by a gold mine producer hen but when I look up the products of other similarly gifted producers I find that the same ration applies of winning hens to winning cocks, with the emphasis on the winning hens.

Here is another problem which, if I had left it out in the cold, would have been dug up and refurbished by someone in the near future, so I feel I might as well vent it now. Problem ? if I mated a well-bred cock with a poorly bred hen would the excellent breeding of the cock compensate for the lack of good breeding in the hen? At least 75% of those who read the foregoing sentence will retort by saying, 'And what do you mean by well-bred?" Well, a well-bred racing pigeon is one who has been produced by parents whose blood is in the ascendant or, to put it another way, a well-bred racing pigeon is one whose parents are the products of long distance champions. To be well-bred is to claim lineage from aristocrats who are always well-bred, therefore, when seeking the original basis for being well-bred refer to the purpose or speciality of the breeding.

Back to our muttons! Would a well-bred cock compensate for the lack of well-bred virtues in a hen and the answer is NO. Perhaps the result of the mating may be progeny which is a little better in a number of ways than the kind that might have issued from a mating of two birds of poor breeding but I am not willing to commit myself to saying that the well-bred cock could compensate the hen's shortcomings.

Many novices write to me and ask me to tell them how they can go about selecting a strain and its owner, from which to obtain their foundation stock. There are, of course, many roads that lead to London so there are many ways of running to ground the source of supply of that stock on which you wish to build your future career as a fancier. However, there is one method of sorting out a prospective supplier which I believe to be well nigh infallible and that is to discover not what the fancier has done with his own birds, by way of performance, but what his birds are doing in other fanciers' lofts.

I can recollect not one but many fanciers who, while building up huge reputations, as successful fliers failed to produce a strain which won with anything like similar regularity elsewhere. I won't mention any names because I don't wish to hurt the feelings of some very fine fanciers but I have come across case after case of fanciers who have obtained birds from this or that source (in every case an ace) but have been unable to raise youngsters that had a gallop in them. Such cases are not rare but they illustrate the triumph of fanciership rising above others by making mediocre stock really shine. It is fatal for a beginner to acquire birds from such fanciers unless he, too, has 'green fingers' and can manipulate very average birds into racing as near champions. Therefore, look around and try and find a strain which does well elsewhere. By 'strain' I do not mean the name of a fancier who died and left this vale of tears 70 to 100 years ago. I mean the family of pigeons that was bred and established by a fancier who is still living. If his birds still win when exported to other lofts you have every chance of picking up a good one.

Some fancy press scribes advocate auction clearance sales as being the best places to acquire a fancier's best pigeons since every bird he owns must be put up for sale. On the face of it, this would appear to be the case and a heaven-sent opportunity for getting one's hands on the kind of bird the fancier would never have parted with while he was alive, or while he retained his interest in the sport. However, I have seen some big mistakes being made on these occasions. In one clearance sale the parents of a great National winner were put on offer and they fetched a figure of around 100, a very good price in those days. The purchased birds, which you can imagine were quite old by this time, were transferred to the new loft where they flatly refused to produce an egg of their own.

At another auction sale where I hoped to pick up a certain pigeon, I found that its particulars were not quoted in the sale list so I approached the auctioneer. 'No,' he said, 'no pigeon carrying that ring number was included in the sale particulars. Have a word with the fancier's brother. There he is, over there.' Accordingly, I tackled the dead man's brother and asked him where the certain bird had got to. 'Oh! That one!' he cried. 'Yes, yes, yes! I remember now! A chappie came banging on my door one evening and told me that my brother had promised to leave him that particular pigeon so could he take it away now. I don't know anything about pigeons and didn't want to go against my brother's wishes so I handed over the pigeon.' 'He was the best bird in the loft,' I said, pityingly, 'the one who would have brought the highest money bid!'.

In a few paragraphs above I put a name to the vital quality in breeding racing pigeons ? the 'well-bred ones.' Always make sure that every young bird you raise in your nestbowls is 'well-bred' in the truest meaning of the word. The dam must be the daughter not of one but of two generations of big winners if possible and the male in the mating must also possess an ancestry of winners. Winning is what pigeon racing is about and only winners can be allowed to dominate the breeding if the strain is to thrive as a valuable breeding stud.

Old Hand
© RPRA
Thanks to the British Homing World



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