A good pigeon: the importance of the eye and wing theory

One of our regular visitors, a great champion himself, sent us a letter and asked us to publish it on our website. The writer of this letter is surprised to see that so many fanciers hold to theories that should help them to recognise the best pigeons in their loft, especially in winter.

Here is his take on this subject:

“Every fancier has his own traditions, his own certainties and his own clues, which he tries to recognise when holding a real champion in the hand. Still we all have to agree that our theories and ideas do not match reality very often. Most of us have to admit that some fanciers have a better feeling than the average fancier, even though there are no visible or noticeable differences between a true champion and a less successful pigeon. As a result an increasing number of fanciers have been looking for all sorts of theories and ideas to actually recognise the quality of a pigeon. Besides some of the most ridiculous theories we are also familiar with the three big theories: the eye, wing and muscle theory. A fancier who adds value to either of these theories is bound to make mistakes.

The eye theory

You can read more about the eye theory by clicking here. (in Dutch)

Great books have been written about this theory and every inexperienced fancier tries to discover things in the eye of a pigeon. I think a veterinary surgeon would be highly amused to hear a big champion say that you should never pair two white eyed pigeons. Why would there be a difference between blue, white or green eyes? Sometimes the most wonderful eyes cannot see more than 10 metres (think for instance of short sighted people). On the other hand we can assume that a smart pigeon sees differently compared to less intelligent pigeons and that the smart pigeon has no fear.

The wing theory

A nice looking wing is a wonderful thing and the wing pattern has definitely improved over the years. However, when a fancier starts to measure the wing and looks for all sorts of inessentials you could say that he is on the wrong track. Some pigeon examiners pay particular attention to the length of the seventh primary. If this were really of any use why not make a study of the length of the big toe of Kim Gevaert and other sprint athletes? Indeed, the big toe helps an athlete to balance and to propel forward, so why not assume that the athlete with the longest toe is the best sprint athlete?

The muscle theory

This is the most mysterious theory of the three. According to insiders there are not many fanciers who can actually apply this theory. Nevertheless the length of a muscle or the muscle mass does not say anything about, for instance, an athlete. As in the eye and wing theory too many fanciers pay too much attention to peculiarities in the muscle system of a pigeon.


A top class pigeon is born with the good features that make it a top class pigeon and it is a good thing for our sport that we can only get a clear idea of the quality of a pigeon by simply basketing it. Imagine that one day a Japanese fancier would be able to identify the champions, just like you can identify a cock and a hen. In that case we would get rid of all the other birds and we could take the remaining champions with a small van to the release site, instead of using a train or large trucks like today.

That was the letter we received.

We conclude with a few interesting anecdotes:
A while ago a fancier saw a champion reveal all sorts of secrets that were allegedly hidden in the eye of a pigeon. He could gather all kinds of information from the eye. However, when he picked up the newspaper to read something the others noticed that he needed glasses to be able to read. How could he be able to extract information from the bird’s iris, which is much smaller than the small letters in his newspaper?

I was once at an event where a young bird was to be auctioned as a gift from one of the best fanciers in Limburg and possibly in Belgium. One of the other fanciers at the event took the four week old pigeon in the hand. He could tell from its muscles that this pigeon would not be able to fly more than 700km. A few moments later I picked up the young bird as well. I looked for the pectoral muscle but I could only feel some very weak muscles. This is normal; the pectoral muscles of a four week old young bird are not fully developed yet and yet there was a fancier who could tell by these muscles that this pigeon could not win prizes in races over 700km. This makes no sense of course. Only the basket can tell who is right.