Josef Hofmann, a German eye sign enthusiast, shares many ideas with Jack Barkel, our South African pigeon friend, such as the need for breeders to have a small pupil, a well developed circle of adaptation (preferably with serrated edges), and the usefulness of eye sign for finding the breeders in one's loft. Both concede that it is possible to breed very
good racing pigeons without ever considering eye sign. However, both maintain that the percentage of good racing pigeons can be increased substantially by breeding only with birds with the eye sign common to good breeders.
Nevertheless, both fanciers also emphasize different aspects of the eye sign concept which does not make one right or wrong. One could look at the same eye, as I have done here, and see the attributes emphasized by various eye sign enthusiasts. Just because Josef Hofmann does not pay attention to Jack's 5 circles does not mean that the 5 circles are not there or just because Jack Barkel does not look at the "breeding grooves" of Josef Hofmann does not mean that they are absent. There may therefore be more than one road leading to Rome. This is why I try to present each eye sign concept as a whole, to present the total package and not just excerpts.
Mr Hofmann likes a small pupil as already mentioned, a well developed circle of adaptation with serrated edges as well as speed and distance lines, and a very thick iris with "breeding grooves" which are black or dark in color.
The circle of adaptation can be white, grey, black or yellow in color. Mr Hofmann advises to pair birds of similarly colored circles of adaptation together but his friend, Gerhard Blum, does not endorse this idea entirely.
And what is the earliest time to evaluate eyes? The bird should be at least 14 to 15 months old. ( I would assume that this is the age when breeding grooves become differentiated enough to be visible.)
Neither Josef nor Gerhard believe that health and vitality can be read by looking at a pigeon's eye.
Eye sign is useful for getting a higher percentage of good flying birds than by using some other methods. The problem with pairing birds with a well developed iris together is that the iris of the offspring begins to overflow onto the eye sign circle and eventually obliterate it.
It is therefore best to pair a breeding eye to a racing eye which will produce many good racers and the odd good breeder.
The iris in a racing eye is flat and of uniform color.
The iris in a dual purpose eye or a breeding eye is built up and shows lines and craters with a large step down toward the eye sign circle.