Many of the world's best fanciers change their pairings every year in an attempt to find a "click pair", a pair that produces good young racing pigeons because just mating "Good to Good"
rarely produces the desired results. The results from "Best to Best" are all too often just mediocre. Why should this be the case? Does the inheritance of the characters that are necessary for
excellent racing ability not follow the laws of Mendelian genetics? Are these characters not heritable?|
They must be or we could breed good racing pigeons straight from common street pigeons. Perhaps one needs to look at this puzzle from a different perspective. It is very likely that a
complex character such as racing performance is influenced or controlled by many genes, each of which being expressed through the interaction of the gene with the environment.
Racing performance is consequently a polygenic trait that does not follow patterns of Mendelian inheritance (qualitative traits). Instead, the phenotype
racing performance would be expected to vary along a continuous gradient as found on a bell curve and like other polygenic traits is very much influenced by environmental
We will find a few pigeons on one extreme that do not have the ability to find home regardless of how accommodating the environment while some are found at the other extreme that
excel in very tough competitions but the majority of pigeons are found somewhere between these 2 extremes. The majority will successfully home in good time provided the environment
in their loft is adequate.
Breeding pigeons that fall into the top percentiles for racing performance requires the concentration of contributing alleles of a large number of the genes involved in this trait.
Methods used by animal breeders aiming at this goal involves the concentration of genes through inbreeding as well as bringing in some contributing alleles that are rare or absent in
the population one works with. Inbreeding, while beneficial in concentrating desirable alleles, has the inherent danger of also concentrating undesirable alleles. Extreme vigilance is
needed as can be attested to by the renown Mauricio Jermal who could regrettably not prevent the deterioration of his inbred "Mexican Janssens".
The above indicates how difficult it is to change the genome of racing pigeons for improving their performance. A faster method toward this goal can probably be found in improving the
pigeons' environment as polygenic traits are very much influenced by environmental factors. Most are aware that a well functioning loft and "good pigeons" are indispensable to
good race performance but what exactly do we mean with "good pigeons". Although the pigeon "quality" is often mentioned by fanciers that like to sell pigeons I am aware of some
who bring into North America the best performers that Europe has to offer, in spite of which their entries in the one loft races in South Africa fail miserably. This would not be
expected if the performances of their European imports were due largely to superior genomes.
I suspect that the superior performances of those imports are due to environmental factors such as the loft, the methods of the managers, and last but by no means least the
environmental conditions (feed, etc.) the bird was raised in. I have raised youngsters that were still naked and too small to be banded at 7 days and by just changing the feed
the youngsters grew so fast that they already had small pin feathers and I would not have been able to band them at 7 days without the use of soap. How fast and how well they grow
to the time of banding is a good barometer of their health. Another important examination comes 3 weeks later, a week after they have been weaned, when one looks at the feathers
these youngsters have grown. Are they free of "fret marks" indicating times when they were lacking something?