Kazan Trjasun Tumblers

Bald-head Kazans
Photo courtesy of K. D. Spurling

The Kazan Trjasun Tumbler

Text by
K. D. Spurling

It was interesting to read Victor Herner's article "What Are Kazaners?" in the last big RBPC Directory, but it is clear that there is a need for greater elaboration upon the breed commonly known as the Kazan Tumbler or "Kazaner" to eliminate any further misunderstandings that have circulated throughout North America.

Located along the River Volga, roughly 400 miles due East of Moscow, is the city of Kazan. Kazan is one of the most valued and largest cities in Russia, due primarily to its location on the Volga itself and also due to the fact that it sits on the railway between Moscow and Ekaterinburg in the Urals ably connecting Moscow with the Siberian Urals. Precious metals, in particular silver and copper, having been abundant throughout the Urals, primarily near Ekaterinburg, were shipped by railway into Moscow for smiths and national commerce, naturally relying on Kazan's position on the railway. Kazan grew into a valuable and important city with the laying of the Trans-Siberian railway and with the city's importance also came people who cultured Domestic Pigeons of many varieties. In fact, not less than three breeds of Russian tumblers can call Kazan their city of birth.

Apart from the bird generally referred to as the "Kazan Tumbler" which is now bred around the world, Kazan is also home to the "Kazanski Panzernije" (German: Panzer Taube) which is a Russian version of the atypical Magpie Tumbler, and also to the Pachari Tumblers, which are also referred to as "Kazan Shield Tumblers" in some literature. Both breeds would have nothing in common with the breed at hand except a city of origin, and it is likely that other breeds, not yet known to the Western world call Kazan as their birthplace.

The true name of the breed in question is "Kazauski Trjasun Statnije" and these pigeons are a breed from Kazan which are members of a general family or theme of Tumblers found throughout the Russias. The breed's name can be broken down to mean "Neck shaking posture pigeon from Kazan." "Statnije" is a sort of surname that all members of this family of breeds maintain, and the Germans translate "Statnije" into the German "Positure." Both mean "Carriage or Stationing" pigeons. Herner has used terms such as "gorgeous" and "proud standing" to explain the term "Statnije" and these apply as well, although "Carriage or Stationing" is more self-explanatory, since an English Trumpeter fancier could say his breed is "gorgeous and proud standing"; though for me, I always saw them as what appeared to be a pile of dead feathers on the loft floor.

There are three types or subvarieties of the Statnije group of breeds.

1. "Trjasuni" -- with a short back and shaking neck.

2. "Katshuni" -- with a very, very, short back and the neck shaking as the bird walks.

3. "Vislokrilije" -- with a long back and lacking the shaking neck.

Typical features of all Statnije races include broadly feathered tails and the wings held below the tails. Otherwise, the over 50 Statnije breeds differ in their color varieties, markings, overall form, size and ornamentations. So for example, the Pokrov Statnije are barred ice pigeons with grouse legs, a shell crest and eye crests. The North Caucasus Statnije (or "Poltava") are shell crested, muffed white pigeons with a colored tail at times with a frontal snip. Taganrogs are clean legged, p-headed and always shield marked; or without a frontal snip. The Statnije would be muffed, shell crested and beak crested; generally all are grizzled birds. And so forth, with more variations of the Statnije found throughout Russia and only a true expert on Russian races would know where one breed ends and the next begins.

Classically, the Kazan was a small pigeon of a high carriage. The head is round and the barely medium length beak is slightly downset. The neck is elegant and swanlike, shaking (zittering) vibrantly. The chest is round, full, prominent and carried high. The wings are short, below the tail and touching the floor with tips. The back is wide, short and hollow; the lower back and rump vaulted. The tail is short, wide and 12 to 16 feathers with no gaps in tail. The tail is uplifted and pulled towards the body when the bird is in action and should be as flat as possible (no arch or dome in the tail). The legs are to be short and groused, the feathers barely extending over the toes.

This breed comes in a wide range of colors and markings. Traditional colors include White (bull-eyed; all others to be pearl in color), Blue Silver, Black, Dun, Ash Red, Cream, Rec. Red and Rec. Yellow. Markings include selfs, white flighted, white tailed, magpies, grizzles and Monk Marked. The latter are to have 5 white flights, a white tail, back, and white groused feet. The head is be to colored.

It is interesting to note that N. A. Vasiliev in his work Pitzevodsto (Moscow, 1972) had this to note about the Black Whitetailed variety: "In 1914 a famous breeder in Kazan offered two prizes worth 300 rubels each for a perfect Kazan Trjasun, and one prize worth 500 rubels for a perfect black whitetailed Kazan Trjasun. The latter prize was never awarded."

However, even though this is the typical description of this breed, do not think that the breed found in Germany is identical to what is found in Russia, or that the ones bred here in North America are identical to either.

The Germans have taken great interest in Russian pigeons and poultry for more than a century. In poultry, it is not well known that the Hamburg Fowl, now so famous around the world, are the descendants of the Russian breed of fowls known in the Western world as "Barbanters." Among German pigeon races, it is a fact that the Berliner Kurzen, or Berliner Shortfaced Tumblers and the Regensburg Tumbler are extracts of the Russian Kazan, although the Regensburg would also have the influence of Koros Tumblers and other breeds of tumblers. For fact, it is known that the famous old time breeder of Berliners, R. E. Skambraks of Germany, used the Kazans early. It is also very likely that other German SF tumbler races such as Ancients and similar breeds were also very heavily influenced by the old Russian Kazan. But, at that time the breed was very, very different than it is today; being much shorter in beak and nearly bordering on being a true Shortfaced tumbler. This old model is shown in the accompanying line drawing of the period of 1890 to 1895 and is contrary to what is seen today and is said to have died out during the Bolshevik Revolution and World War One.

The war having taken a great toll on Germany, many pigeons were lost, including Kazans in Germany. It is also possible that the old Russian Kazan in Germany was simply bred out and absorbed 100% by Ancients, Berliners and so on. In any event, many years later, the Germans again directed great interest to the breed known as the Kazan. Many of the first birds they acquired were obtained from the Romanians, Poles and Hungarians. Many of the birds were not true Kazans, but also Rostovs, Volgas and other Statnije races and as a result, these different birds merged together in Germany. Whether this was simply accident or intentional is unknown. For example, in my papers are photocopies from Romania and elsewhere depicting Rostovs and others as "Kazans." Again, only the true expert can be sure to know where each Russian breed begins and ends; but, it is possible that a few Eastern fanciers saw the Germans coming. With the dire economic circumstances in Eastern Europe, it always likely that a few hard pressed individuals intentionally sold other breeds as Kazans. On the other hand, it is a fact that the Germans did not breed 100% to Russian ideals and some breeders did crossbreed intentionally. As one example, the famous breeder Hans Joachim Karsten did cross some "Siberian highfliers," which were similar to Kazans, into his birds. Quite irregardless of how it all happened, the German bred "Kazaner" is truly a German pigeon -- although constructed of and following the Russian Statnije theme. Today, German fanciers are split into two camps. One has chosen to continue the evolution of the German Kazaner; the other is attempting to recreate, through selection, the old Russian Kazan as it existed in Imperial Russia (pre-1917). I would also like to point out that we often see birds here in North America labeled and sold as "Kazaner Tumblers." The name "Kazaner" is not correct! Use of the name "Kazaner" should be restricted to only the German birds. Again, it is KAZAN -- and it is not "Kazaner"!

Word of the breed began to reach North America in the 1960s and it was during the latter half of that decade that the birds were first imported into Canada. The Canadians generally have a longer tradition with Russian breeds than we Americans. This is due largely to the fact that Toronto has been a mecca for many Russian immigrants who have brought their pigeons in tow. The breed first appeared in the USA in the mid to late 80s, but remains rare. Here again, we will see a new variation of the breed that is contrary to what is found today in Germany or Russia. I have records of over one dozen different importations of the breed into North America. Very few of these birds have came from Russia or Germany, but the main bulk from Britain, Poland, Hungary and Holland. All of these imports varied a great deal from one another and as time passed, these subsequent lines have merged together. This is largely due to the fact that most breeders have literally hunted the breed in this country and I know of fanciers who will buy any member of the breed they can, even if they already have dozens at home. As a result, very few have a pure line of any particular import and a new type has emerged which can be called an American type Kazan -- as is very typical here in any breed.

Although the breed remains largely obscure and rare in the USA today, the last few years have witnessed an incredible surge of interest in Russian breeds. It is my personal opinion that what we have seen thus far is a mere beginning and a drop in a bucket to what the future holds. There is a steady increase almost monthly in the demands for all Russian breeds and there are no signs of it letting up anytime soon. The Kazans are one of the most highly sought after breeds, and likely the most popular of all Russian breeds in North America. As we have now had a club for South East European and Russian breeds like Kazans, Rzhevs, Nikolajevski and others these may someday actually be "Top 20" breeds in this country. Perhaps not soon, but in time. If you are not breeding any East European breeds now, you are missing out on the most fantastic group of the pigeon world. I would like to mention here that at this writing our organization is filming a tape of East European breeds to make available to all interested at no cost.

I am often asked if the Kazan and other Statinje live up to the name of "tumblers." In the past, some writers have claimed that this breed maintains good flying ability. However, this is not so true. The Statnije breeds are good performers, but are not fliers of any true caliber. By this I mean that the Statnije do not fly in real kits or at any true altitudes for any great amount of time. In East Europe, especially in Russia, a wide range of breeds is known that are labeled as "Courtyard," "Splendor" or "Decor" performers. In Russia, this refers to most Statnije breeds. In Bulgaria, breeds such as the Tipelli; in Romania, the Craiova Tumbler, Bucharest Blacks and the Vargat. These pigeons were all cultivated to grace the gardens of the wealthy. It is also a fact, that many Statnije breeds were favorites of Russian boy and the palace courtyards of families such as Romanov, Scherbatov, Yussoupov, Orlov, Repin and others were graced with Statnije. Tsar Alexander III, who died in 1894 and was the father of the doomed Nicholas II, kept the Pokrov Statnije flying at liberty in the gardens of his palace at Gatchina. The purpose of these breeds is to grace the gardens with their beauty and to amuse the admirers with their antics. Classically, these birds are to fly at liberty from roof to roof, roof to garden, roof to fountain, etc., and execute various modes of performance enroute. At very most they may fly as a group for a few laps just over the roof lines. The idea is for a true performing pigeon of a beautiful form, gentle and tame mannerisms, that will always remain present to amuse all visitors of the house. A favorite of the noble ladies, East Europe's answer to the Fantail and every bit as fashionable, but more adept at flight and with the added bonus of performance. While the concept of a performer who is not a kit flier appears strange and unusual, other regions of the world have their equivalents. Scotland produced the Parlor which is incapable of flight, but performs violently. The Middle East produced the Moos-Suli, Takla and other Coop Performing tumblers. The Czech-Bohemians (my mother's family's place of origin) produced a wide range of Pouters, such as Swings, Reverse-wings, Czech Ice and others that perform in swinging, gliding and clapping motions during their short flights. The Dutch produced the Slenker, and infusion of performing Pouter/Cropper and tumbler. The Belgians and Germans, from Anatolien birds produced in the Rhineland and Belgian Ringbeaters produced the Speelderken and the Smiter whose specialties are heavy wing beating while turning in circles with their mates just off the floors. Technically, in the early history of the Mookee, the birds were to perforn' similarly to the Ringbeater races. While Ihis ability has been lost today the Mookee still exhibits heavy degrees of wing clapping in the loft and I always saw a great deal in common between Mookees and Rhinelands. India also produced another strange performer in the Lotan, a pigeon which is technically an extraordinary kit flier but never performs in flight; it can be induced to perform on the ground even more violently than the best Parlor Roller. So what appears to be strange is not so strange, for there are many good performing breeds who are not real fliers of any true caliber. This is not to say that all Russian breeds are of this same design in the air, for I am prepared to put my Tutchereti up against any high or long flying breed being flown in North America today and I am equally prepared to put my Grivun up against any type of performing tumbler or roller. It is simply to say that the Statnije are cultivated to perform, but flying to any great extent is not desired. While this is not aspired for in many breeds, this is the way the Statnije are meant to be bred.

Unfortunately, to my knowledge, I am the only one in this country who actually flies Kazans, Rostovs, Astrakhans, Szirans and other similar Russian races. My emphasis is to maintain the true aerial abilities, while still seeking to compete in the show room. While this cannot really be achieved today in Rollers, Komorners, Helmets, Oriental Rollers and many others because the birds have largely been reduced to nonfliers and nonperformers, it can be achieved in most East European breeds because they have not yet been spoilt by simple trophy hunters. In fact, having been a Roller fancier for over 20 years, I once thought it was impossible to maintain a family of pigeons that can excel in the air AND in the showroom. To me, one had to keep two separate lines of birds to do it. I am pleased to admit that my belief, while true in Birmingham Rollers, Tipplers and Homers, does not apply to all flying pigeons. At a show last year, a fancier came up and admired the three Rzhev Startails I was showing and exclaimed: "They are some show team!." I said "No. They are one hell of a kit!" Because that was my #1 1997 kit. Two of the three were rated "HS," the same two took Champion and Reserve of our SE-Russian meet and one took Reserve Rare at that show! So it can be done. However, I would like to point out that we are not living in 19th Century Imperial Russia. Even though there is Russian boyar blood in my own veins and I'd like to manage my pigeons as they were in the last century, it should not be done! This is a different country in a different century and we cannot do things exactly like the old Russian breeders did. No true fancier should ever allow his pigeons 100% complete uncontrolled liberty. Free-flying is just not to be done. The sky is thick with birds of prey, half the population owns unruly felines; both will destroy your birds very easily. There are few open skylines in backyards today. I still live on the property that my mother's family homesteaded three generations ago. At one time we had a large Bantam hatchery on the property, but years ago it was sold off piece by piece. 10 and 15 years ago I could step out the back -door and what I saw was pasture and 20 head of cattle. A barn and a few sheds - not more. Today, all I see are roofs; duplexes! In fact, I can go five miles out and I'm seeing duplexes and new houses everywhere regardless of the direction. That is contrary to even a mere decade ago. 15 years ago one could travel down the main road near me and see a loft of pigeons about every half mile. In the evenings, you might see 10 or 11 kits of highfliers or tumblers in a 2 mile radius. On Saturday evening sit on the dog kennel roof and see hundreds of Homers coming in small or large groups as they sped back to nearby lofts from training releases. Today, all you see are a few commons and strays. The bottom line is that as an area grows, it becomes more difficult to fly or even breed pigeons. At one time, I was a fairly serious Bantam fancier, but I can't keep them anymore. I had over 20 trios I bred from, all in very nice chain link coops, and they built a duplex 10 feet from my Bantam coops. 20 roosters make a lot of noise and so all the Bantams had to go. Today, unless a person lives out in the middle of nowhere -- it is nearly impossible to keep or fly pigeons.

Today, even if one has a breed that was developed to be a free flying or fielding pigeon, they cannot and should not be given complete liberty They will only fall prey to cats, winged demons, boys with pellet rifles and irate neighbors who moved nearby from a large city and see pigeons as "flying rats" (even if THEIR cats and dogs use your yard as their litterbox and are a menace to every property within a half mile).

I still fly my Kazans, Rostovs and other Statnije. They are still effectively "Courtyard," "Splendor" and "Decor" pigeons, but are as strictly managed as any kit should be. For an hour a day they do what the breed has done for 600 years They play in the grass, bathe in the sprinkler, bask in the sun and they will fly from the ground to the loft roof, house roof or take a short lap around the yard; and still gliding, wing clapping, tail sitting and tumbling at good intervals in sequence. Never leaving the property or sitting on neighbor's rooftops, but existing solely in their own yard as if it is their own world. After the short hour I call them in, like any other flying breed and shut the loft door. They still continue to do what they were meant to do.

A show pair of Kazan Tumblers
Photo courtesy of John Van Veen

Another Kazan
Photo courtesy of K. D. Spurling

A Kazan cock (left) and hen
Photos courtesy of John Van Veen

Another Kazaner
Photo courtesy of Dan Hein



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