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pigeons Synthetic Muffs In Pigeons
By Robert J. Mangile

Pigeon Science & Genetics Newsletter
Issue #1
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 F1’s (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 F1’s produced thirty-one (31) F2’s 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 grouse.

The two best-muffed examples of the thirty-one (31) F1’s were cock and hen and were mated together (Fig. 2). Of fifteen (15) offspring (F3’s) 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 F1’s 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 F1’s display a condition intermediate between parents and the F2’s 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 F2’s or F3’s reached such a condition.

Considering the selection of F2’s, it is significant that twelve (12) of fifteen (15) F3’s were classified as muffed, indicating homozygosity. Muffed examples displayed varying degrees of toe webbing involving middle and outer toes, in both F2’s and F3’s; none of which had toes joined their entire length.

All offspring were bred in individual breeding coops, excepting the last two F3’s.

Longest foot-feathers measured 4 inches in well-muffed examples.

Literature Cited:

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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