If I was asked what is my favorite gene of all, I would be hard pressed... I love them all. But, if cornered, I would say it is the reduced gene. The following is an article I wrote for the National Modena Club 2002 Yearbook:
The Reduced Gene
By Karl Rau
In my previous pigeon life, fantails were my breed of choice. I spent many hours talking and comparing notes with as many of the breeders as I could. One breeder that stood out above all others in his knowledge of genetics was Bob McKee. We corresponded countless times. He was outspoken for sure, but knew as much "practical" pigeon genetics as anyone I knew or for that matter have known. It’s one thing to read books and understand theoretical genetics, but it is something else again to have experienced it in the loft. He had tried it all… the last project he was working on before I left the fantail fancy was introducing "ice" into the fantail breed. His first advice for me re: ice was that it was only partially dominant… thus creating some very interesting "partial ice" specimens. Some of his birds were impressive. I was lucky enough to acquire some… they spurred my interest of color genetics to even greater heights!
Of all the color genes I have worked with, the one that excited me the most was the reduced gene discovered in 1951 by Carl Graefe. The discovery was one of chance in a pair of rollers and one wonders if it hadn’t been brought to the attention of a knowledgeable breeder, would the gene still lie dormant even today. The following is an excerpt from Joe Quinn’s "A Pigeon Breeders Notebook" c 1971. I highly recommend his 114 page treatise on pigeon genetics.
"A boy Carl Graefe had helped in starting in rollers, brought him a pair of birds and asked , "What color are they?" Carl answered, "I don’t know." The chance mutation, coupled with the odds against it being reproduced in a homozygous cock, seems fantastic, when we consider that the pair is presented to one of the few men who might recognize their value. An attempt was made to trace the birds, but to no avail."
This was the beginning of the reduced gene as we know it today. Mr. Graefe, curious with this new color, proceeded to cross and backcross this color gene. It did not take him long to discover that it was a sex-linked dilution gene and recessive to the wild type.
He discovered that reduced will influence every color. "Pastel" is a word that best describes the influence of the reduced gene. Most breeders tend to prefer reduced coupled with black (spread blue). Phenotypically (the color that you see), reduced on black looks like a silver bird with the wing shield feathers laced with a black edge. Certainly very eye-catching. I once spoke with an elderly homer breeder on the East Coast that wanted to sell me some blue laced homers. At the time I had no idea what color he was referring too. I now know what he had were reduced black homers. Some genetics people think the term reduced is not a good one. However, Mr Graefe had the right to call it what he may, and quite frankly I think the name is perfect.
To digress for a moment, my experience with the reduced gene has traveled through the breeds of fantails, rollers, homing pigeons and now modenas. MY most exciting moment in many years of showing fantails, was the day I entered a reduced black fantail hen that I had raised at the EFC annual meet in PA. There were some there that thought the hen was as good as any fantail in the show…. But alas… as is the case many times… judges sometimes are afraid to "put up" for champion any color other than one of those that "usually win." She was quite a young lady. In fact I kept her until she passed on… even after I retired from showing fantails. The homing pigeons that now reside in their coop are made up of many colors… recessive red and yellow, yellow check and cream, andalusion, brown, almond, black, recessive opal, grizzle, dun, white and of course REDUCED. All must fly a minimum of 100 miles to maintain a perch!
Well what about reduced modenas you ask. Well, I am just a beginner in the Modena fancy, but I have a start. Presently, I am working with limited numbers in reduced black and brown. Although working with recessive genes is a relatively slow process, I am in hopes that soon there will be an array of some very competitive reduced modenas in my loft. Mr. Ewert, I hope to have some competition for you in Hartford!
So you would like to give reduced a try? Because of their sex-linked nature, good quality hens are much easier to find than cocks. But a start with either can work out just fine. Even the base color of your initial bird(s) doesn’t really matter. Once you establish the reduced gene, you can create whatever you want. Even in gazzi!
The following illustrates some outcomes that you may experience while breeding with the reduced gene. Of course, these are all theoretical results… but raise enough and the results will come.
1.Reduced Cock x Reduced Hen
2.Reduced Cock x Any Color Hen
Cocks: All will be of color/ split for reduced.
Hens: All will be reduced
3.Any Color Cock x Reduced Hen
Cocks: All will be of color and will carry the reduced gene.
Hens: All will be of color and NOT carry the gene
4.Split Cock from #3 mating x Color Hen
Cocks: 50% will be of color and not carry the reduced gene, 50% will be of color and carry the reduced gene.
Hens: 50% will be of color 50% will be reduced
5.Split Cock from #3 mating x Reduced Hen
Cocks: 50% will be of color and split for reduced. 50% will be reduced.
Hens: 50% will be of color, 50% will be reduced.
Below are 3 photos of the reduced gene. The top & lower right photos are reduced brown (modena). The lower left is reduced blue bar (homer).
As one can readily see, it is beneficial to start out with a reduced cock, as you can raise some reduced young in the first year. With the initial stock bird being a hen…. it will take a second breeding season to produce reduced progeny. Please DO NOT try to start with a hen of color that is a daughter, cousin or any relation to a reduced Modena. She will NOT carry the gene and all breeding attempts will prove futile to produce a reduced young! Although I have not attempted to combine ash-red with reduced, Axel Sell claims that when combined, these two genes will produce a pinkish hue. He further states that complications will arise due to the fact that both the ash-red and the reduced gene lie on the sex-chromosome. I assume he means the percentage of ash-red/reduced combinations will be diminished, i.e. fewer young produced of the reduced color.
It should be noted that not all birds raised will follow a certain consistent hue or color, as the gene produces a variable effect.
If you are looking for a new "Modena" challenge, I suggest you give the "reduced gene" a try… either schietti or gazzi… the myriad of color possibilities will impress you! With any new breeding endeavor, courage and staying power is needed, but the results will be worth it.
Karl Rau South China, Maine
Excellent sources for color genetics in pigeons:
"The Pigeon Breeder’s Notebook", Joe Quinn, c 1971
"Breeding and Inheritance in Pigeons", Axel Sell, ISBN 3-88620-034-5, c 1994
A monthly subscription to "Pigeon Genetics News, Views and Comments", compiled by Lester Gibson ($15) can be received by writing to Lester @ Lester Gibson 417 S. Chillicote St., Plain City, Ohio 043064