The Most Popular Fancy Pigeon Breeds

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Domestic pigeons all originated from the rock dove, but are now available in hundreds of varieties. Fancy pigeons are kept as pets and also for competitive exhibition in pigeon shows. Fancy pigeons vary greatly in size and appearance. Fancy pigeon breeds sport adornments including crests on their heads, feathered legs and feet, more than the usual 12 to 14 tail feathers and the ability to expand their crops to a globe-like appearance. They also come in a large number of colors and patterns.

Pigeons with Crests and Manes

Fancy pigeons may have shell or rose crests; head adornments also include nasal tufts of feathers. A shell crest is a crescent-shaped crest at the back of a pigeon's head; it is formed by feathers growing in reverse and forming a raised semicircle of feathers. English trumpeter pigeons have shell crests while Bokhara trumpeter pigeons display rose crests that resemble a Beatles haircut and a shell crest. The most unusual head adornment appearing on fancy pigeons is the mane surrounding the heads of Jacobin and Dutch capuchine pigeons. Their heads are surrounded by a mane of feathers growing upright around the head. In Jacobins, the entire head is obscured by the mane; Dutch capuchine pigeons display a more moderate mane.

Pigeons with Feathered Feet

Domestic pigeons frequently have feathered feet; their feet may be barely covered with short feathers or they can be covered with long feathers as in fairy swallows and trumpeters whose feet feathers are 4 to 6 inches long. Feathered feet in pigeons are called muffs. Muffed feet may or may not be desirable depending on the fancy pigeon breed standard. For example, Arabian trumpeter pigeons do not have muffed feet, but English and Bokhara trumpeters have long muffs on their feet. Other breeds of pigeons with feathered feet include Lahores, classic and modern frills, and West of England tumblers.

Pouters and Croppers: Pigeons Showing Off

Pouter and cropper breeds can expand their crops by inhaling air. Pigeons do this in connection with displaying and courtship. The crop is an organ located below the throat; pouters and cropper pigeons can blow up their crops to large globes resembling balloons. Pouters and croppers are the clowns of the pigeon world; they love to display and many have additional unusual features such as long legs and or muffed feet. Pouters and croppers enjoy attention and can become very tame. Popular pouters and croppers include the English pouter, Hana pouter, pygmy pouter and Norwich cropper.

Pigeons with Peacock Tails

Fantail pigeons are among the most enduring fancy pigeon breeds. Two fantail breeds are exhibited in US pigeon shows. The American fantail is compact and has a large semicircular tail consisting of 40 or more feathers. American fantails throw their heads back to the base of their upright tails and strut on tiptoe. This unusual posture limits their forward vision and can make them shy and easy to startle. The second type of fantail is the Indian fantail, which is a large pigeon adorned with a shell crest and short muffs as well as its lavish tail. Indian fantails do not contort their bodies like American fantails, but their chests are well rounded and add a pleasing curvature to the Indian fantail's appearance.

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  • David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images