The Genetics
of the
English Show Tippler

The intrinsic beauty of the Show Tippler is the colour, a colour which is universally known as ‘Brander Bronze’ – taking its name from the old Danish Brander Tumbler or Copenhagen Tumbler which was also known as the “Fire Pigeon”. In other parts of the World, the colour is colloquially known as ‘Copper’, ‘Chimney Sweeper’, and ‘Coffee brown’. 

There are various other breeds around the World with Brander Bronze colouring, in some of these the colour has been inherited from the Show Tippler, but in others has no direct relationship with our breed. There is a great difference between the Show Tippler and the majority of other Brander coloured varieties; the Show Tippler has been perfected to the highest degree and has a tail of rich chocolate brown colour with a distinct black bar, whereas other breeds have a blue black tail with a darker bar.  Show Tipplers showing tails of this colouring are bred (not to be confused with ‘dark phase’ birds) and are definitely NOT acceptable.

In the Show Tippler the basic colour is a rich chocolate/chestnut brown (not dissimilar to a deep recessive red colour) with a rich metallic mauve/pink sheen, the primary and secondary flights have a clearly defined solid black tip, and the tail  shows a distinct solid black bar; any ‘dusting’ of black colouration is a definite fault.

In pigeon breeds there are various types of ‘Bronze‘ affecting different parts of the bird, of different intensity, and of widely differing expression; they are mostly of complex genetic make-up.  In ‘The Pigeon Breeder’s Notebook’ published in 1971, Joe W Quinn identified eight different types of Bronze colouring:

Kite Bronze – as seen in the flights of ‘Kite’ birds bred from Almond series
Modena Bronze – or Mahogany, now known to be part of Toy Stencil series
Archangel Bronze – also the dilute as seen in the Nuremburg Lark
Roller Bronze – similar in effect as Modena Bronze
Brander Bronze - seen in Danish Branders, Berlin Copper Tumblers
Tippler Bronze - in the Flying and Show-Type Tipplers with grizzle
Toy Stencil Bronze – as seen in some of the German Toy breeds.
Lebanon Bronze - in some of the Middle-Eastern breeds.

The Bronze colours have not, as yet, been definitively established and there is still a degree of confusion, some of those identified by Quinn are now thought to be of common derivation. In Show Rollers there are several forms of Bronze with ‘Roller Bronze’ being the least common! That there are references in the early 1900's to 'Brander bronze' being introduced to the Show Tippler to improve the colour, implies that ‘Tippler Bronze’ may well be part of the Show Tippler genotype, but secondary to ‘Brander Bronze’ …. It has to be remembered that because the ‘bronzes’ are not an allelic series they are not mutually exclusive, and any bronze pigeon may be in possession of more than just one form of bronze.  One thing that is certain is that numerous secondary genes and polygenes enhance all ‘exhibition’ forms of rich bronze colouring, and the presence of recessive red seems to be an essential factor.

There seems to be some confusion over terminology - the breed we know in Great Britain as the Show Tippler (as seen in the Self) is of perfected Brander Bronze; whether ‘Tippler Bronze’ exists as a separate entity, or indeed is part of the ‘Show Tippler’ genotype is open to conjecture.

The typical colour of copper/chestnut with black tips to flights and a black tail bar is not the result of a single gene, but rather a complex grouping of numerous genes and polygenes that act on blue colour. Spread is NOT part of the Show Tippler genotype. It is generally accepted that T-Pattern, Recessive Red, and Bronze are fundamental components of the Show Tippler genotype.

T-Pattern, symbolised CT, is the top of the pattern series, and is dominant to Dark Chequer, Light Chequer, Bar, and Barless. Blues showing the strongest expression of CT look very similar to a Black Self (spread) though they will still exhibit a tail bar, which is not visible in a Spread.  In America birds showing a high expression of CT are referred to as ‘Velvet’.

Recessive red 
Recessive Red symbolised e is, as its name implies, a recessive, and it is only in the homozygote [e //e] that the red colour shows. Unlike ash reds which show ash/grey colour in the primary and secondary flights, recessive red have even colour in these areas.   It is not dominant to other colours, but in the homozygous form [e // e] it is epistatic and masks most colours.   One effect of this interesting gene is that it lightens the skin, beak and claws – a fact not overlooked by meat pigeon producers!

Recent research on the pigeon genome has indicated that recessive red may be  an allele of dirty [V], which may require the symbol e being changed. The theory now is that recessive red is a bronze form of dirty - we will watch this with interest.

Kite Bronze
There appear to be different forms of Kite, however in general terms it is the colour of the Kite English Short Face Tumbler - a dark blackish blue with reddening in the webbing of the flights. The combination of CT, e and K is the same combination in Kite and Agate from Almond breeding.  If there isn’t a specific ‘Brander’ allele, then why doesn’t Brander colouring turn up from almond/kite/agate matings?

It is impossible to ‘create’ Brander colouring unless one parent is Brander colour, one has to assume therefore that there is a specific bronze gene which is a fundamental part of the basic Brander colour; Joe Quinn has recognised this as KB.

In addition to the above alleles the following also play a major part in genotype of the Show Tippler:

Dirty also Verdunkel, symbolised V, causes a darkening of the colour of the plumage, beak, feet, and skin of the birds; to such a degree that a bird with Dirty appear to be a darker versions of standard colour.  Sooty and Dirty are generally considered to be unattractive factors but in some cases, as with the Show Tippler, is extremely useful

Sooty is variously symbolised as so and So and there is some dispute as to its dominance. The gene causes darker areas in the centre of feathers most noticeable in the wing shield, creating a dappled effect. In combination Dirty and Sooty cause a noticeable darkening of colour, greatly enhancing the depth and richness of colour in Recessive Red and various forms of Bronze colouration.  Neither Sooty nor Dirty are sex-linked.

Undergrizzle, symbolised Ug, is a dominant gene and plays an important part in the makeup of the Show Tippler.  In “Genetics of Pigeons” 2005, Paul Gibson gives an excellent description:  “Usually the feather is normal color at the tip followed by some bronzing and then white basally.  The effect is most noticeable on the flight and tail feathers.  In the homozygous state, the juvenile feathers are white with colored tips over the entire body and may appear somewhat piebald or mottled in some areas…changes at the first moult so that the covert feathers may make the bird look normal color with the wings closed.”

Undergrizzle behaves as an incomplete or partial dominant, the heterozygote [Ug//+] shows only ba slight lightening, whereas the homozygote (Ug//Ug) shows a far more noticeable lightening of the flight and tail feathers except for the tips of the flights and the tail bar.

The Grizzles:
Grizzle, symbolised G, is an incomplete or partial dominant; it has a lightening effect on the feather colour, and shows a very wide range of expression.   Some birds may only show one or two whitened feathers. Heterozygotes [G//+]  generally show typical Grizzle colouration, whereas the homozygote [G//G] shows a far greater expression of the factor and are white bodied with colouring on the flights and tail, often called ‘Stork’ markings.

Tiger Grizzle, symbolised GT, produces a mottle effect of alternate coloured and white feathers, the feathers being either white or full colour. The tail feathers and flight feathers are full colour.  The youngsters are fully coloured in the nest and the white moults in as the bird moults, often not developing the full extent of white for a couple of years.

White Grizzle, symbolised Gw, is another partial or incomplete dominant where the heterozygote Gw //+ produces ‘stork’ markings not dissimilar to the homozygous form of Grizzle [G//G], whilst the homozygote Gw // Gw is a white self.

There is no specific gene responsible for ‘Print Grizzle' markings, it is the result of a combination of Undergrizzle, Grizzle and Bronze on a bird of blue colour, and we know that all these are present in the Show Tippler. It is interesting to note that in the homozygous recessive red Show Tippler ‘Print’ markings are often seen as well as the more common ‘mottle’ markings.

The question is which of these Grizzle factors are part of the Show Tippler genotype – one, two or all of them? It is clear that there is a grizzle factor required to produce the Light Mottle and the Dark Mottle, but in the absence of research it is difficult to reach a conclusion. It is however likely that the difference between the Light and Dark Mottles is the result of the homozygote and heterozygote of a grizzle factor or combination of factors.

Pearl eye
The gene, symbolised tr, which is responsible for the pearl eye colour of the Show Tippler is a recessive, and can therefore be carried by birds with other colour eyes. Pearl eyes [tr//tr] are sometimes referred to as “white” or “fish” eye.

Recessive Red -  ‘moult-in’ white
The ‘moult-in’ white which is so commonly seen in recessive red looks like the effect of Tiger grizzle, but it is not typical grizzle because it only shows in recessive red – a red mottle paired to any
colour self will not produce mottles in any colour other than recessive red.  There is some speculation that ‘moult-in’, or ‘moult-to’ white is caused by one of the bronze factors, but the basis is as yet unknown. In homozygous recessive red Show Tipplers there is considerable variation in the degree of white. All the youngsters leave the nest as red self, and as they grow the white moults in.

In addition to the above genes there may well be others contributing to the Show Tippler genotype, and without doubt there will be many polygenes which will enhance the various characteristics.  From breeding results with the  Selfs it is apparent that the Show Tippler is homozygous for all the genes identified above with the exception of recessive red [e]; the heterozygote [e//+] being the desired show colour,  the homozygote [e//e] being the red mottle, and the bird with no recessive red [+//+] being the dark phase bronze, also called kite or ‘black’.  The only other exception may well be the grizzle factor as outlined above.

Because of the complex genotype of the Show Tippler which is a highly enhanced form of Brander colouring outcrosses to other breeds are not practical, and at best must be considered only as a very long term process only to be considered as a last resort. The genotype of the Show Tippler took many years to perfect, and one ‘wrong’ mating could undo all that good work.

 © John S Harrison

The four varieties of the English Show Tippler as depicted in 1912.
The Self
The Dark Mottle
The Light Mottle
The Chuck

Genetic Resources

Some of the best websites for genetics information are listed below:-

Frank Mosca's
Pigeon Genetics Pages

Ron Huntley's
Rare Colored Homing Pigeons

Robert J Mangile's
Pigeon Pages

Barnhart & Son
Genetics Page

Dr Axell Sell

Reference Books

Axel Sell
"Breeding and Inheritance in Pigeons"