By F. J. S. Chatterton, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medallist, Paris, 1910-11
Specialist Breeder and Judge of Poultry, Pigeons, and Cage Birds; Judge at the Grand International Show, Crystal Palace; Membre Societe des Aviculteurs Francais; Vice-president Poultry Club; Hon. Sec. Yokohama Club; on the Committee of Middlesex Columbarian Society, Indian
Game Club, etc.
The owl pigeon has been bred for many years in this country and is one of the most popular breeds of fancy pigeons.
The English owl has increased in size of late years, compared with the typical specimens of the variety in days gone by, and is a stronger and more massive bird. This fact is so noticeable that some specimens are considered far too large and coarse. They closely approach the shape and type of a short-faced Antwerp pigeon. This is regrettable, as the English owl should be quite distinct from the Antwerp and be a fairly small, neat, and pretty bird.
It is generally supposed that this pigeon derives its name from the shape of the upper mandible, which is short, broad, and curved, resembling the beak of our wild owl. Moore, in his "Columbarium," gives a short description of the owl pigeon. He says:
The most popular colours of the present day English owls are the blues and silvers, although there are found some very nice specimens amongst the blue chequers. There are also powdered blues, powdered silvers, silver chequers, reds, and yellows. It is rare to find a well-shaped bird of the two latter colours.
In breeding blues we must endeavour to get birds of a good sound colour, free from any washiness or paleness in the blue parts of the plumage. The colour should be quite distinct from a silver, and the bars on the wing should be sharp and distinct in marking and of a good, intense black. A good coloured and well marked owl is a very beautiful bird. It is sometimes advisable to mate a blue with a blue chequer, which will very often greatly improve the colour. The progeny from this cross will be valuable to mate back to the blues.
Shape is a very important point in breeding the owl pigeon, and needs careful study and attention. The head should be broad, short, and round, the outline forming part of a circle, quite free from any breaks or flatness. Flatness, if present, is generally seen on the top of the skull. The space between the eye and the beak should also be short. The beak must be short and stout, curved downwards, continuing the curve of the head, which curve should begin at the back of the skull and continue over the head and wattle down to the tip of the beak. The correct shape will be more easily understood by reference to the illustration of the English owl here given.