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pigeons Believe It or Not
By Nino Bujega

Published: March 10, 2009 TipplerTalk


Over the last few weeks there has been some discussion on what constitutes a "breed" of domesticated animal or bird. While most of this discussion has been on the TipplerTopics discussion group, the subject does arise from time to time on the FlyingTipplers discussion group as well. Much of the discussions are based on variation, type, species, and subspecies. Nevertheless, in trying to redirect what and how a "breed" is created, so I have decided to discuss some of these terminologies and their meanings in an effort to educate and to combat unsubstantiated or misguided rhetoric.

Species

When talking in biological terms, "species", is a biological classification and a taxonomic rank. Species are organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. Arguably, prior to Darwin’s theories, there were many definitions of a species, but today most biologists would agree that a definition is: populations that have a high level of genetic similarity. The definition of the word species above is not what most animal breeders would consider viable to be used for a distinct "breed" for reasons that will follow later. Also one must understand that when referring to a species, we are really recognizing what evolution has brought about in the wild through natural selection and without any intervention from man.

Variation

What we are saying in layman’s terms is that there are differences within species largely due to their geographical distribution (John T. Gulick, 1872) from their "Wild Type". Natural selection has done its job with respects to the environment. Thus, there are some animals that have a "Variation" in some way from their "Wild Type." However, this does not make way for them to become a new species, nor does this allow them to be classed as a distinct "breed" as some would suggest.

Subspecies

Again in layman’s terms it is the taxonomic rank (a category or hierarchy of rank) immediately subordinate to a species (one step below!) These are in a group that is less distinct than their primary species from which they originate. Their characteristics are derived from changes resulted from their geographical regions or through evolutionary changes that may have been caused from such things as isolation; they were in some way confined to a region. However, please note that this is not what constitutes a "breed".

For our discussion the Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove (Columba Livia) is a member of the bird family Columbidae (doves and pigeons) and was first described by Gmelin back in 1789. There are in pigeons 12 subspecies recognized by Gibbs in 2000 that cover much of the globe. The species (Columba Livia) was introduced into North America in 1606 that may gives rise to, and arguably, to some of our discussion in terms of variation from their wild type.

Breed

A breed is a group of domesticated animals (as applied to the discussion herein) with a homogenous appearance, behavior, and other similar characteristics that would distinguish them from others of their species. This can only be achieved by possessing a large number of common genes. This has largely been achieved by man's intervention: artificial selection. A breed's traits are inherited. Purebred animals and birds pass these 'breed-traits' on from generation to generation. Therefore a breed is made up of specimens that carry the same genetic information originating from the foundation parents. Through selection, those with desirable traits and characteristics are allowed to propagate, and those showing the least amount of desirable traits are culled. Through in-breeding, an informed breeder can capitalize and retain certain traits and characteristics to insure further uniformity in their stock for what they desire.

I hope this explanation is viewed as informative rather than damming by others with a contrary opinion. In the above explanation I have given scientific terminologies and their meanings in a hope to give some understanding of terms used on our tippler discussion forums.

All the Best!
Neen

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