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Judging Pigmy Pouters

By Howard Kogan, Stephentown, New York

Few experiences in showing Pigmy Pouters are more disheartening than seeing the pride of the loft suddenly panic when it is placed in the judging cage with other birds. When the panic is severe the bird will try to escape through the bars, fly up, or duck into a corner and try to disappear. Needless to say the chance of it calming down enough to show well is remote. So are your chances of winning.

As much as its the breeders responsibility to train and prepare the bird for this moment, once the bird is in the judging cage, it is the judge's responsibility to help each bird show as best it can. Judges should take their time! Many shows are hectic and a judge who moves the class along quickly is appreciated. But Pouters and Croppers cannot be rushed. Nor should they be crowded! Six birds per judging cage is plenty for Pigmies, three and four is better for larger breeds. The judge should work with at least to side by side judging cages to divide the classes into reasonable numbers or classes should be divided by the breed secretary so that each class is smaller.

Once a reasonable number of Pigmies are in front of the judge, his or her first task is to do nothing. Let the birds relax and get adjusted to their new surroundings. After a few minutes start talking and cooing to the birds to get them to start showing. At first, reach into the cage to break up a fight or give a bird that's stuck in the corner some space to walk around in.

At this time you will also begin to notice any birds with serious faults or, on the other side, any real good lookers. Try to get all the birds blowing but do it gently and slowly. Avoid sudden noises and movements.

Hopefully at this point most of the birds will be working. If one or two have not responded, try to work with them to see if you can get them to show. Dont ignore them! Remember some breeder has spent a lot of time and energy getting this bird to your cage and they deserve a little extra effort on you.

Ultimately, of course, if a bird will not inflate its globe at all, or spends all its time ducking, running and flying up, it will have to be eliminated to allow the others an opportunity to show. Pigeons are, by nature, members of a flock and if one among them is panicky, it will undermine the security of the others and interfere with their showing well.

It should go without saying that the judge should be familiar both with Pigmies and their show standard. In general what you are looking for is a thin, upright bird ha large, round globe, a long narrow waist and long legs that move easily and gracefully. When judging, overall factors such as structural balance, way of moving, playfulness and liveliness must be factored into your final decisions. In fact, though points are assigned the various aspects of the Pigmy, the standard specifically instructs the judge to consider the harmonious combination of the Pigmies properties rather than to judge by simply adding up the point value of its features.

Globe(15points): The Pigmies globe should be well inflated including some roundness at the back of the neck. It should spring sharply away from the waist and be round and symmetrical from all any angle. It should be large and carried comfortably without a tendency to over-blow causing the bird to stagger backwards. It should be stably inflated rather than going from inflated slack every minute or so.

Waist(15 points): The Pigmy's waist should be long, slim and well defined. The more length from the base of the globe to the legs, the better. It should be V-shaped with a long straight keel.

Limbs(15 points): The Pigmy's limbs should be long, close together and straight from the body to the hocks. At the hocks they should turn outward slightly - the opposite of pigeon-toed -thereby allowing the feet enough room to clear each other. How close the upper part of the limbs should be is often discussed. Basically the closer the better so long as there is no indication of hip dysplasia and the bird can walk easily without rolling or straddling. The shanks should be as long as possible though short shanks are pretty common. From a side view the legs should be straight to the hocks then slightly bent at the hocks. The overall impression of the limbs should be length, grace, smoothness, and ease of movement. Legs should connect smoothly to the body without any sign of hinging.

Station and Showmanship (10 points): Here we want to see a reachy bird that is upright -as near as possible to having its eye plumb over the ball of the foot with a well inflated globe, that moves easily and gracefully.

These four are the most important features of the Pigmy Pouter.

Major faults in any of these areas must set the bird back to the bottom of the class. Major faults in these areas include lack of globe, a clearly out of round globe, over-blowing, a horizontal station, severe straddling or rolling, or a bird that is too down in the hocks. This might be a good time to note size. Generally the bird that has it all and is smaller is preferred over a larger one. Pigmies should stand about 11 to 12 inches from the floor to the top of the head, however, a taller, thin bird is to be preferred over a shorter, thicker one.

At this point we are at a total of 55 points with the remaining features being allotted only five points each. By now you should have placed the birds in your mind in rough order. Certainly the top and the bottom of the classes should be pretty clear.

Now, I'll move on to other areas you will want to take note of before handling each bird. For a more detailed discussion of these features, refer to the standard.

Wings should be narrow and carried well up to show the waist to the maximum. Wing butts should be well hidden and the flight end should be neatly carried on the tail. Wings that cross on the back (termed scissoring) are a fault. The back should be slightly concave. A convex or roach back is a fault. The tail should be narrow" appearing only one or, at most one and a half feathers wide. Here watch for wry or split tails, both serious faults. A V-tail is also a fault. The Pigmies head is dove-like and is rarely a problem. Understandably Pigmies are prone to foot problems especially bent toes. Toes should be normally placed without bending under the ball of the foot or twisting over one another. Two or more severely bent toes is a serious fault. Of course a bird that is walking with toes bent under the ball of their foot won't walk too well. So they are penalized on that account as well.

Now is a good time to handle a Pigmy though many times surprisingly they are judged without being handled. First they should be checked for feather condition and freedom vermin. An out of condition or a heavy louse infested bird should be set back in their class there is really no excuse for this. While in the hand check to be sure bird's eyes are not cracked and that they are the proper color to match the plumage color. You can also take a closer look at the toes and tail if you have any questions about them. This is also the time to check the birds flights which should all be white.

This brings us to final considerations - feathering and markings. Of importance here is that the Pouter's
legs be well covered with fine feathers ending in somewhat longer feathers (slippers) that cover the toes. These feathers should be all white. The plucking of feathers is considered excessive if bare spots show. No tailor flight feathers should ever be led. Any of these major feathers that are missing were probably pulled to remove a wrong colored feather and should be discouraged. It is ok, however to pluck a few feathers from around the markings or the body of the body as long as the bird retains a normal well-feathered, well-covered appearance.
With the exception of whites, all Pigmies should be pied marked. Whites should be white throughout and for s reason in a contest between an equal white and a pied bird, the pied bird is favored.

In addition to the flights already mentioned, the Pigmy should have an entirely white underside extending from a defined line mid-waist to their toes. In addition they should have a rose mark on their shoulders consisting of 5 to 7 white feathers in a circle. These white feathers should not extend to the wing butt. If the white does run into the wing butt it is called hop-marked and is a fault. The Pigmy should also have white crescent on its globe, the horns of which extend one half inch below each eye. Markings are, of course, very attention getting and a well marked bird is beautiful to behold. But don't get carried away by markings, they are assigned only five points in the standard.

Keep your eye where it belongs: Globe, Waist, Limbs, Showmanship!