English Short Face Tumblers
Article prepared for the European Tumbler Club, by Dennis F. Ison
The Short Faced Tumbler of England has a just claim to being one of the very oldest breeds of fancy pigeons. Their history can go back over three hundred years. Willoughby, the noted naturalist in his 'Ornithology' of 1676 briefly mentions that "Tumblers are small and of diverse colours". Almonds came into public favour at a very early period for they were already an established variety before the first Pigeon Society of which any record in England is known was formed in London in 1720. In John Moores' book of 1735, "The Columbarian", he writes; "The Tumbler is a very small pigeon, short bodied, full breasted, thin necked, very short and spindle beaked, and a round button head, short legs; the iris of the eye of a bright pearl colour". At the time of Moore, the breed was three coloured, called Almond or Ermine.
In 1764, the Columbarian Society published a standard for the breed. The breed has the honour of being the first single breed to have a book published about it- in March 1802, the Treatise on the art of breeding and managing the Almond Tumbler, believed to have been written by W.P.Windus.
In 1800, a Club for Almonds, Mottle, Balds and Beards was formed. Mr Bellamy a noted Almond Breeder and Sir John Sebright were founder members. J.C. Lyell in his book of 1881 suggested that the breed was developed from a cross with the Goolee, which at that time was said to 'bear a remarkable resemblance in type to the short Faced Tumbler', but there was no authentic record to confirm this idea.
A report in "The Field" of 19th October 1872, of an address given by Mr Jayne to the National Peristeronic Society when he was President when his subject was 'The Almond Tumbler', he said "...I should admire it as a purely English manufactured pigeon". He also referred to his friend the late Mr. Harry Edward Money, past Chairman of the City Columbarian Society, as being the only one who knew the make-up of the breed, which consisted of thirty two crosses from which the breed was produced. We must not get the idea of a vast number of different breeds being used in these early days; I would suggest that perhaps it took some 32 matings to produce the breed to its type at that time. Certainly the Mookee was in England by 1676 so there is no reason why the Goolee should not have been present and also used as a cross. The drawings in Eaton's book and the coloured plates in Fulton's which devotes much space to that breed, suggest type has not changed very much over the past one hundred years. Many will accept the birth of the breed in 1886 when our present Short Face Tumbler Club was founded.
ORDINANCES ESTABLISHED BY THE COLUMBARIAN SOCIETY
at the Globe Tavern, Fleet Street, London
Representing the Perfections or Imperfections of Almond or Ermine Tumblers 1764
Consists of three colours, viz black, white and yellow, intermixed or variously and richly displayed. Ground, the best yellow; the rump, yellow and spangled; tail, the most yellow and striped.
To be round and small, the forehead high, the beak short and small; the eye a bright pearl colour round the pupil
A small body; prominent chest and good symmetry.
Ash Colour, or blue, barred on the flight.
Thin, long snouted, beak long and thick, eye all black or red or broken colour.
Long body, large with small chest.
Imperfections inadmissible at a show for the prize.
Blue Ermines, Ermines with entire blue tails and ash coloured Ermines.
The English Short Face Tumbler is one of the small breeds, but they are by no means delicate and require no extra attention, other than good management. They are a quiet and friendly breed. Full of charm and action, jaunting about on tip toes. Fanciers who fly them out speak highly of their ability to retain peak health.
Like most of the Short Faced breeds, they require foster parents or feeders and it is best to choose a breed not too large. In England such breeds would be the Birmingham roller or flying tippler. Often the birds themselves are able to feed their own youngsters for just over a week which helps, if one's feeders are not quite ready.
The breed must be classified as one of structure. The head must rise abruptly from the beak, the forehead being as high and broad as possible, forming the so called bulge and stop. The beak should be both fine and small, finch like, set very straight when viewed from the side with the forehead projecting over it, giving an appearance of roundness. The eye must be round and prominent, of clear pearl colour with a cere of very fine texture. The wattles too must be fine, small and set neatly showing no signs of coarseness. The head should be carried back with the chest well thrown out, full and well developed in all directions. The body is small and gives an appearance of roundness set on fine small feet and legs free from any coarseness. The flights are carried below the tail, resting on the ground which is very slightly raised at the base. When standing, the bird has a fascinating cheeky look, with a jaunty body leaning slightly forward, standing on tip-toes so the base or pad of the foot is raised from the ground.
Whilst originally the standard almond was the only one exhibited, it was soon found that one needed several other colours to produce the almond. The present colours cover a wide range and for those interested much pleasure and knowledge will be gained from a close study. I feel the colours and markings should be divided into four: (1) the Almond: (2) sub varieties of the Almond: (3) Self coloured birds: (4) Marked birds. Originally I used to class the almond and its' sub varieties together, but difficulty in breeding a standard almond compared with the various sub varieties is very marked. Few judges in recent years have made any true allowance for the very real difficulty in breeding a good coloured almond compared with a good coloured self or even any of the sub-varieties.
The Almond must have a deep rich yellow body or ground colour, without signs of red or whiteness and be even all over. This should be spangled with black evenly distributed all over the body. This is referred to as 'well broken'. The flights and tail feathers should have three colours. In addition to yellow and black, white must be present. Pattern is not important as long as the three colours are present on each of the flight and tail feathers and with no signs of grey or grizzle. It takes two to three years for a cock to acquire the standard colour. Then after two or three seasons they get darker with each moult. Hens are usually slower in getting the standard colour - a year or two; and, again, they are very much slower in getting darker. The beak is horn or flesh coloured. The Almond splash is lacking in the ground colour, showing black and white nearly all over.
Kites should be deep metallic black with flights, tail and chest showing a rich bronze: beak colour black.
Agates are of two types, whole coloured red or yellow all over with the centre of the feathers showing white, often grizzled. The ordinary agates are sound in colour, but have white feathers often all over the body, but more usually on the wing coverts. De Roy lies in between red and yellow, the bird usually showing a little darker colour on the neck and chest. Duns and golden duns are very few. The golden dun has a yellow frostiness on neck and chest.
Selfs are now only seen in reds and yellows, the latter being in rather short supply. Blacks and other colours, which once were seen in small numbers, have not been seen for many years.
Mottles, Rosewings, Balds and Beards from the marked varieties. Unfortunately, all these have run into hard times and when seen, usually are lacking in head points. Mottles and rosewings have not been seen in this country since the second world war. Few short faced Balds or Beards have lasted through this difficult period. The late W.J.Empson and the late A.J Parker possessed the last few. The latter fancier made a very serious attempt to breed short faced Balds and beards in all colours, and nearly all the birds about at this time, what few there are, go back to the work and crossing the late Arnold Parker did to get them going again. In Balds and Beards there were once to be found blacks, blues, reds, yellows and silvers.
Breeding the Short Face Tumbler must be one of the most enjoyable challenges in pigeon culture. Blending the colours in the production of an Almond requires great skill and care - like that of an artist blending his paints. Rarely are almonds mated with each other. The more usual practice is to mate them to one of their sub-varieties which possesses the colour not too well defined in the Almond. When Almonds are mated together, on average one produces 50% Almonds of either sex, 25% Kite hens, and 25% white Almond cocks which nearly all possess bladder-eye and deficiency in sight. Almond is one of the most potent colours at present known. When an Almond hen is mated even to a self cock, owing to sex-linkage, the young almonds are cocks and the hens self. The Kites find few friends, but even on its own it is very exciting and I would call it the key to all colours. Much depends on how they are bred, but a pair of kites have been recorded to produce Almonds, Reds, Yellows and Duns. Once Almond was reached, there is no reason why its' sub-varieties should not also be available.
Often on the continent, I have seen judges prefer a biggish type of almond compared to a good small stylish self or agate. Perhaps they are basically correct in the view that all other colours are only subordinate to almond, but I feel they should not point big-bodied birds with imperfect colour markings too high.
For a fancier or breeder who likes a small breed of attractive structure and charm with a large range of colours, the English Short Face Tumbler has no equal.