Using DNA quality gene testing to improve breeding: LDHA, DRD4 and recently CRY1

Creating the racing-pigeon with the ideal combination of genes, or ideal genotype, is the big challenge to breed better pigeons for racing and breeding.

Vet. Dr. Ruben Lanckriet - as co-owner of the renowned pigeon genetics company PiGen - has been using quality gene testing to improve his breeding stock for a number of years.

According to Ruben, this made it a lot easier to breed better birds. Still he only uses these tests to improve breeding strategy, not as a selection method. In general he has increased the number of quality genes in the breeding stock which increases the chance to breed good pigeons. In his loft there are a lot of favorable genotypes to be found.

LDHA: the superior AA-genotype

The oldest and wellknown quality gene LDHA (lactate dehydrogenase A) is related with lactate levels in the muscles and so the ability to maintain higher speeds for a longer time. The AA and AB genotypes are preferred. An example of an excellent AA genotype breeder is basic pigeon of the Lanckriet-loft  ‘Unicum’ NL15-1688504 , a direct Marijke Vink pigeon out of famous world class pigeon ‘Verdi’. The advantage of the homozygote genotype AA is that all descendants always inherit this A gene from such a pigeon. That is why this is so interesting to have in breeding pigeons.

Unicum NL15-1688504
Genotype LDHA AA  - is (gr-grand)father of:

2. NAT Ace MD France (At Aviator’s Loft, FR)
2. NAT Ace young birds France (At Aviator’s Loft, FR)
10. NAT Ace young birds France (At Aviator’s Loft, FR)
14. NAT Ace KBDB Rhone (At Lanckriet, BE)
30. NAT Ace KBDB L.D. YL (At Roose-Pyra, BE)
10. PROV Ace KBDB (At Roose-Pyra, BE)

One of the first testimonials (and results) in genotype research was one of the best breeding hens worldwide for extreme long distance-races, the golden Yelena from Mr Etienne Meirlaen. This wonderhen was from the exceptional genotype LDHA AA- DRD4 CCCT.

DRD4: the impact of the T-variant

According to Ruben, the DRD4 gene (dopamine receptor type 4) is at least equally important. If there is a T-variant in the genotype this is already favorable, but ideally for racing the rare CTCT genotype is preferred. That’s why Ruben likes to couple pigeons with a ‘T’ in the first place of the gene with a pigeon that has a ‘T’ variant in the second place of the gene f.e. the parents of “Stan” were coupled with this purpose. Stan himself is indeed CTCT for DRD4.

Stan BE19-4130840

29. Nat Best Long Dist-racer 2022 over 5 races – PIPA-ranking
49. Nat Perigueux 3.783 d. ‘21 – 1. Club 225 d.
94. Nat Libourne  3.317 d. ’22 - 4. Club 133 d.
371. Nat Souillac 4.476 d. ’22
513. Nat Tulle 9.763 d. ’22
754. Nat Limoges 17.356 d. ’22…

This Stan is one of the actual top-racers on the loft of Ludo & Ruben Lanckriet. He made his topresults from Perigueux and Libourne in extreme hard circumstances, in sunny weather, with headwind and temperatures above the 30°C.

Note that worldstar Armando from Joël Verschoot (now Kaier), the best long distance pigeon ever, was also the DRD4 CTCT. Even the Jef: winner 1. Internat. Barcelona in 2019 is from the genotype AB DRD4 CTCT. And finally we can also mention wonderhen Golden Boxster from the PEC, which has the genotype LDHA AB DRD4 CCTT, which is an ideal combination for breeding.

CRY1: important new discovery

The newly discovered gene CRY1 (cryptochroom 1) could become even more important, according to Ruben. This gene codes for a cryptochrome protein in the retina of the eyes. These proteins have been associated with circadian rhythm and magnetoreception in birds. For this gene the TT variant is preferred. Also here the AGTT and certainly the TTTT genotype is quite rare. ‘Eden’, one of the best racing pigeons on extreme long distance in the Lanckriet-loft, was tested TTTT for this CRY1 gene.

Eden BE15-4008790

8. Nat Best Pigeon Pau 2018-’19 PIPA-ranking
29. Nat Pau 2.581 d.
82. Nat St.Vincent 2.758 d.
99. Nat Pau 2.797 d.
216. Nat Pau 2.919 d.
593. Intnat Agen 12.007 d...

An other example is superstar Victory Best Kittel: 1. Super Ace Victoria Falls World Challenge Pigeons Race 2021, which is also a CRY1 TTTT.

Note that all the pigeons that were mentioned in this article as example to prove the importance of topgenes and favorable genotypes, are exceptional racers and/or (new) top-breeders in the actual history of our pigeon sport.

Top-genes: the key to success

In general Dr. Ruben Lanckriet also tries to breed pigeons that are homozygote for the preferable variants of a gene to breed from f.e. LDHA AA. And, although quite difficult to breed, to try to get homozygotes for more than one gene in one pigeon, for example LDHA AA DRD4 CCTT or LDHA AA DRD4 TTCC . This makes it much easier to cross and immediately get good genotypes to race with even if the breeding partner lacks some genes.

The research to discover new topgenes at pigeons, is still going on and continued. This science can help us to find which genes - or combination of genes (and new genes?) - or genotype of pigeons, are important - and we need in our loft - to have better breeding results, and which can make it easier to win new top-results.
Creating/breeding the ideal combination of genes, is the big challenge for the future in pigeon sport.