The Jacobin pigeon has been one of the most popular breeds of fancy pigeons for a great number of years and still retains its popularity; it is also one of the oldest breeds of pigeons, and one that has always received a considerable amount of attention both in this country and abroad.
Jacobins are one of the best breeds of pigeons for a lady to keep, as they soon become tame, and are generally of a quiet and gentle nature, are not timid or excitable, and do not start flying about directly one enters the pigeon-loft, as do very many of the other breeds of pigeons. They will also allow their owner to pick them up, and will soon have the confidence to feed from her hand. They make, therefore, very attractive pets, and will receive a large amount of admiration from one's friends.
As regards the origin of the name of this pigeon, the following, written by Moore in his "Columbarium," will no doubt be interesting to those who intend to make the breeding of Jacobins their hobby : "The Jacobine, or, as it is vulgarly called for shortness, the Jack, is, if true, the smallest of all pigeons, and the smaller still the better. It has a range of feathers inverted quite over the hinder part of the head, and reaching down on each side of the neck to the shoulders of the wings, which forms a kind of a friar's hood; from hence this pigeon has its name Jacobine, because the fathers of that order all wear hoods to cover their bald crowns; hence the upper part of this range of feathers is called the hood, and the more compact these feathers are, and the closer to the head, so much the more this bird is esteemed. The lower part of this range of feathers is called by us the chain, but the Dutch call it the cravat; the feathers of this chain ought to be long and close, so that if you strain the neck a little, by taking hold of the bill, the two sides will lap over each other in some of the best.
"The Jacobine ought to have a very short bill, the shorter the better, and a clean pearl eye. As for the feather, there are reds, yellows, blues, blacks, and mottles; but, be the feather what it will, it ought to have clean white head, white flight, and white tail. Of these pigeons some are feather-legged and footed, others are not, and both sorts are equally esteemed, according to the various inclination of different fanciers."
It will be noticed that he has spelt the name of the pigeon with an "e" at the end; this is hot used in the present day. The length of feather has greatly increased, and the birds are larger than they used to be. The extra length of feather, of course, makes the birds look bigger.
In good specimens the head is completely hidden by the hood and chain when the bird is in position. The head and beak should be short, and the head fairly broad and covered with pure white feathers; the eye should be pearl. Occasionally one comes across a bird with a black eye, called a bull eye; this is a fault which is more often met with in white Jacobins than in the coloured varieties, which frequently have odd eyes, one being pearl, the other a bull eye.
The most popular varieties of the Jacobin are the blacks, reds, yellows, and whites : there are also blues. These are, however, more popular on the Continent than in this country. There are, in addition to those mentioned, splashes, strawberry, and duns, etc. The blacks, reds and yellows should have pure white heads, flights, and tails, the coloured feathers being pure and of a solid colour free from white. The Jacobins are now all bred clean - legged - that is, without any small feathers on the legs or feet. The black Jacobins should be very lustrous and have a greenish sheen on the plumage. Some birds have a few of the flight feathers the colour of the body, but they should be pure white, ten on each wing; all the other feathers on the wings should be the colour of the bird.
Some common faults found in Jacobins are shortness of feather on hood, mane, and chain; the head being exposed instead of being almost covered; the chain being loose and open instead of the tips of the feathers on each side of the neck fitting close together in front; a broken mane - that is, the feathers down the back of the neck being irregular, with a break between neck and back instead of being a continuous and graceful curve; head and beak too long; and some specimens have a few coloured feathers on the head.
A drawing that shows the chief points of a Jacobin pigeon. The feathers of the "chain " have been cut to show the shape of the head and the correct " pearl " eye
A good Jacobin should have a stylish and graceful carriage, which greatly sets off the beauty of the bird; some otherwise good birds fail in this point, and have a crouching and squatty appearance; the legs should be of medium length, not short, a short-legged bird failing in good style and carriage.
The centre of the feathers of the hood, mane, and chain is spoken of as the rose.
In breeding Jacobins it is very important to see that the cock and hen do not fail in the same points - viz., a cock that is deficient in mane should be mated with a hen that excels in this point, and a long-headed bird should be mated to a bird with an extra short head. The same applies to all the points, and, if you mate two foul-flighted birds (that is, with some coloured flighi feathers), it is probable that the progeny will be worse in this point than their parents.
In breeding blacks it is sometimes very advantageous to mate a black cock to a red hen. This, providing they are good birds and the red very strong in hood, mane, and chain, will greatly improve the strain. The young ones bred from this cross should be mated back to blacks.
When breeding reds and yellows a cross of the two colours is also very valuable; if yellows are continually bred without any red mating, the colour grows weaker and becomes mealy with a washed-out appearance.
There are some very good feathered birds amongst the splashed. variety, and a large percentage of Jacobins which have a splashed plumage the first year lose these coloured feathers the second year and become pure white; in fact, a great number of the best whites bred were splashes the first year of their lives.
During the breeding season I have found it a good plan to cut some of the chain feathers to make them shorter; this helps the parent birds when feeding their young.
The breeding of Jacobin pigeons is a fascinating and profitable hobby. A good pair of birds can be purchased from a guinea upwards, according to length and quality of feathers, etc.