Synthetic Muffs In Pigeons
By Robert J. Mangile
Pigeon Science & Genetics Newsletter
January? 1976, pages 16-18.
It appears, from reviewing literature (Levi 1957,
1965), that breeds of pigeons with feathered feet were well established in
India and elsewhere over 400 years ago. Presently, there are many
established feather-footed breeds throughout the World and attempting to
categorize examples leads one to conclude that breed differences are
primarily the length of foot feathers and which toes are involved
[Photos by Kerry Hendricks, 1974-75. These photos not
used in the original article but are of the same birds.]
A review by Dr. W. F. Hollander in 1965 on Foot
Feathering deals with three foot feathering types, i.e., muff, grouse and
slipper; and speculate that muff is a combination of slipper and grouse.
This idea interested me and I decided to test it.
I paired a well slippered, white Pigmy Pouter cock to a well groused,
typically marked milky ash-red Lahore hen. They produced six (6) solid white
F1s (3 cocks and 3 hens) with foot feathering similar to grouse, but with
middle toes having longer feathers, very similar to offspring from a muffed
X clean-legged mating (Fig. 1).
The three pairs of F1s produced thirty-one (31) F2s with foot feathering
ranging from clean-legged, with only a few tiny feathers present, to a
clearly defined muff condition.
Overlapping phenotypes distorted F2 classification; however, four (4) were
typical slippered, four (4) less than slippered with few feathers on legs
and toes, one (1) specimen recorded as totally clean-legged and twenty-two
(22) ranged from grouse to muff with a variety of conditions, of which one
was neatly groused and at least one was muffed. Broken feathers complicated
classification of small-muffed and muffed conditions, but one F2 hen (Fig.
2) retained a muffed condition into adulthood; therefore, showing that muffs
were synthesized from lesser foot-feathered conditions; i.e., slipper and
The two best-muffed examples of the thirty-one (31) F1s were cock
and hen and were mated together (Fig. 2). Of fifteen (15) offspring (F3s)
produced, foot feathering was mostly (Fig 3) muffed with twelve (12) having
small to large muffs and three (3) being heavily slippered. No groused or
clean-legged examples were produced.
Though there is some confusion as to dominance or recessiveness
of foot feathering, Hollander's suggestion of the symbol gr for grouse, and
slipper as a separate unit will be followed in this report. The symbol s1 will
be used for slipper although it has not been well analyzed.
Speculating that both are independent traits, we may assume all F1s are
heterozygous; i.e. sl//+ +//gr genotypes. Test results indicate that a
muffed condition can be produced from slipper-grouse heterozygotes. However,
it remains questionable whether muffs can be extracted from slipper or
grouse conditions alone, by selection. All F1s display a condition
intermediate between parents and the F2s include two conditions not
possessed by either parent; i.e., clean-leg and muff conditions, strongly
suggesting a dihybrid cross.
Apparently, the basis of muff is the interaction of homozygous slipper and
homozygous grouse. Presence of other modifying genes seems likely when
considering such breeds as English Trumpeters and Swallows, which are very
heavily muffed with large feathers extending to their upper legs. None of
the muffed examples of the F2s or F3s reached such a condition.
Considering the selection of F2s, it is significant that twelve (12) of
fifteen (15) F3s were classified as muffed, indicating homozygosity. Muffed
examples displayed varying degrees of toe webbing involving middle and outer
toes, in both F2s and F3s; none of which had toes joined their entire
All offspring were bred in individual breeding coops, excepting the last
Longest foot-feathers measured 4 inches in well-muffed examples.
Hollander, W. F. 1965. "On the origins of domestic genes, XIV. Foot
Feathering." National Pigeon Association News, June p. 8-9. (Reprinted
in Pigeon Genetics News Letter #47 p. 18-19)
Levi, W. M. 1957 revised edition of The Pigeon. Levi Publishing Company,
Sumter, South Carolina.
Levi, W. M. 1965. Encyclopedia of Pigeon Breeds. Levi Publishing Company,
Sumter, South Carolina.
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