A Further Discussion on Almonds
February 2000

By: Terry Bishop
Ah yes, the Almonds, a true classic beauty when properly colored. There are a large number of our members who are raising Almonds those who are in pursuit of these classically colored birds. I, like Chuck, do not have the number of years breeding them to fully form an opinion based on my own breeding. I therefore defer to the wisdom of the accepted genetic experts, my favorite of which is Axel Sell. Before I delve further into the discussion of Almonds, let me just say that if you have any interest whatsoever in the genetics of pigeons, I can't more strongly advise you to purchase the book ‘BREEDING AND INHERITANCE IN PIGEONS’ by Axel Sell. It is a little pricey, but I think it is the best $50 (from Foy's) you can spend.

Chuck has brought forth some interesting and useful information regarding the breeding of Almonds and their sub-varieties. Before I go any further on my opinion of Almond breeding, I think it is necessary for all those who desire to breed in the Almond family to define their goals. Is it simply to raise the best colored Almonds, or the best Almonds and Kites, or the best Almonds and all of their sub-varieties? That is for each individual to decide, for beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I have admired the beauty of a nice colored Almond since I was a kid in the hobby. I recall seeing some of the beautifully colored Rollers bred by Sam Lisky at the shows many years ago. In fact the Almonds were the reason I got into Wests. Since that time I have grown to appreciate the beauty of a well bronzed Kite. So for me the goal is to breed the best colored Almonds and Kites that I possibly can. I have no desire to raise and show the Deroys and Agates involved with the Almond family. Therefore I have defined my goals. Only good colored Almonds and Kites are my desired result, anything else I produce is not of use to me - a ‘throw away".

So now that I have defined my goal, I must look at what will produce the best possibility of achieving my goal. Chuck uses the term "breeding the classic colored almond on a consistent basis". After reading the words of the experts, I find the use of the word "consistent" rather puzzling. Axel Sell's findings on the Almond family do not differ from the findings of the other experts in the field of genetics, such as Quinn and Hollander, so I will use the writings of Axel Sell as the basis for my opinion. His discussion of the Almond group begins on page 74 of his book. Later on page 80 he lists all 16 of the possible matings within the Almond group, and the expected outcome of each mating. In all 16 of the possible matings which includes parents of Almond, Kite, Agate, and Deroy, the very highest rate one can expect to produce the proper classical colored Almond is 25%. There is no mating in the Almond group that will produce any more than 25% proper colored Almonds.

If 25% is the highest percentage that we can expect from any mating, then I don't think we can use the term consistent in it's proper context. In his example #1, an Almond X Kite mating we can expect 25% proper colored Almonds, and 25% proper colored Kites. The other 50% are poor colored Almonds and Kites, as well as Deroys and Agates. Thus, if our goal is proper colored Almonds and Kites we have 50% throw aways. In his breeding example #3, the same Almond bred to an Agate, we still only get 25% proper colored Almonds and 25% proper colored Kites, the other 50% being Deroys and Agates. The achievement of our goal remains the same in this mating, 25% Almond and 25% Kite of proper color. The other 50% are still throw aways. The main difference between the 2 pairings is that if proper colored Almonds and Kites are the goal, I don't have to keep the Agates around in my breeding in order to achieve the same results. Thus my breeding stock can also serve as my show stock in my desire to have only Almonds and Kites. As I said before, I do not wish to breed and show Deroys and Agates.

The examples that Axel Sell displays in the use of Deroys produce no greater result than the simple Almond to Kite pairings, still only 25% of the classical colored proper Almonds, and 25% of the well colored Kites. That is the very best you can "consistently" produce. If I can achieve my goal by not using the Agates and Deroys, then that is that many fewer birds I have to have in my loft come breeding time. Now, having said that, if you appreciate and desire to breed Agates and Deroys like some do, then yes by all means increase your chances of raising them by using them in your breeding stock. In fact, if Agates are your main goal, you can produce 100% of these Recessive Red Kites simply by mating two of them together. It would be just like dying and going to Agate Heaven. If Kites are your sole desire you can increase your percentages in them by breeding Kite to Kite or Kite to Agate. It all depends on what your goals are.

If your goals are like mine, only to raise the beautiful proper colored Almonds and Kites, then you can rest assured that you will have just as good a chance of doing so by only breeding from proper colored Almonds and Kites. As proven by Axel Sell, the use of Agates and Deroys will not increase your chances of raising the birds that meet this goal, the proper colored Almonds and Kites, on a consistent basis or otherwise. 25% is the best you are going to get. This factual information is not just the opinion or breeding results from Terry Bishop, this information is from one of the foremost and highly regarded geneticists in the world. He has had the benefit of studying the writing of the old pigeon books, and the results of their breeding. He has had the assistance of some of the other world renowned geneticists, most notably W.F. Hollander, and most importantly he has bred many thousands of pigeons to prove his results. Don't take Chuck Zeller's word for it. Don't take Terry Bishop's word for it. Neither one of us are experts. Do take the time to read and learn from the true experts, only one of which is Axel Sell.

I will continue in my efforts to raise the "classical" colored Almonds, and well bronzed Kites, for the sole reason that I appreciate their beauty. I will do so knowing the challenge that is involved, and knowing that 25% proper colored offspring is the best results I can achieve. That fact alone mayshy some people away from breeding in the Almond group, but those who stick with it will know they have really achieved something when they eventually do breed the beautiful Almond color we desire. And that satisfaction alone will make it worth the trouble. I certainly haven't reached my goal in that regard. In fact their are several other breeders of the Almonds that are ahead of me in terms of color. But I have made color progress in both my Almonds and my Kites, and I have done so while maintaining the desired type (the other 90 points in the standard). That progress is enough inspiration to keep me going. There is no easy path to raising these fine birds, but usually the most satisfying results are the ones that are most difficult to achieve.

 Terry Bishop
A Further Discussion on Almonds
February 2000

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