The Fantail--In Search of an Adjective

By: Dr. B. Wylie, CD., PhD., FSA-Scot

When new to the pigeon fancy, I had investigated and owned several different breeds before deciding that I would keep what is simply called "The Fantail'. My investigations prove that there are four types of Fantail pigeons. Arguably five! In fact, the progenitor of any fantail breed is unproven, as is their place of origin. The only illustrated fantail of antiquity is the 'Peacock pigeon', which resembles an Archangel (complete with a crest) and having a funnel like tail. Levi (The Pigeon) illustrates four species of the fantailed pigeons: the Indian; the Thailand; the Syrian; and the Fantail. The Thailand type very closely resembles an Indian fantail, but has a longer back and a more funnel like tail. In fact, were it not for the Thai's muffs it is obviously the Peacock pigeon. The Syrian type is distinctive in that it resembles a Homing pigeon with a funnel tail. Levi states that the Syrian was introduced into America in 1954. The {adjective less} Fantail is also distinctive. When I first sought to purchase Fantails, I telephoned many Ontario fanciers of whom were listed in the CFPA's 2000 Directory as having Fantails. To my surprise, every person (of whom I contacted) corrected me in stating that they owned 'Indian' Fantails. With this lesson in mind when later purchasing birds from a Dealer I too made the distinction of asking him if he had any 'American' fantails for sale, so as not to acquire Indians. He corrected me in calling them' English' fantails! Now keeping this type of fantail, I have researched its history. A bibliography that does include Levi's books. Succinctly, here are my findings. Today's Fantail was first introduced into' Great Britain' by trade Ships from the Far East during the early 1600's. Corrected research states 'Great Britain' which does include Scotland, and is not just England! The fantail was bred toward different standards in Scotland than that of the English type. Pigeon historian Mr. H. Moore noted that " 1735 the Scots calls them 'broad tailed' Shakers, although some call them 'fantail' Shakers." Other historians go on {in agreement} to state that: 'As the breed gained widespread prominence and popularity there was a gradual tendency to favour those fantails as were bred in Scotland.' Later historians, as confirmed by Levi's books, note that: 'during 1865 - 1870, and beyond, Fancy Pigeon Breeders, from various parts of the USA (IE: Ball, Brown, Goebel and Hofheins) imported the' Scottish' type of fantail from Great Britain, it having less out-crossing than any other breed of fancy pigeon' Interestingly enough, I have not read a single article written by a knowledgeable fancier, who uses either 'Scottish, or English', as an adjective for the Fantail. Recently, however, I read a book which, written by Tim Burke & Rod Slysne and published in 1981, is titled 'The Modem Fantail'. At last, a printed adjective! And yet; throughout the book the bird is still simply called THE Fantail. There are, however, several pages, to include an illustrated comparison, which notes the distinctive differences between the American and the British fantails. Other sections of the book identify the fantail by applying the name (S) of various Countries as an adjective in making comparisons of how it is bred World wide (IE: German fantail, Australian fantail, etc.). Perhaps it was the later arrival of the 'Indian Fantail' that gave cause to the adjective of 'English' then being applied by an unknowing handful of fantail fanciers. For me, as a Scottish Shieftain, and without my going as far as to call them Shakers, I am just biased enough to settle on the adjective of'Scottish'. Scottish fantails. A complimentary adjective in fact, when considering that I have now established their house as correctly being a Cote; a Scottish Dove Cote! Ah, but I digress. In conclusion, the question must be asked; when will the fanciers of the Fantail cease in their competitions, and comparisons by Country, just long enough to agree upon a descriptive name, and adjective, for this beautiful little fantail. Perhaps I wasn't wrong when speaking with that Dealer after all.