The Voorburg Cropper -- Rare Gem!

Reproduced with permission from Feather Fancier

A member of the Pouter Family of pigeons, the Voorburg Cropper was a creation of the famous geneticist and illustrator, the late Mr. C. S. van Gink, who at his twenties, was obsessed by his intense desire to someday breed White Croppers with colored breast. It was not until 1929 that his dream came true and the actual breed originated. This breed owes its name to the fact that its cradle stood in one of the finest gardens in the town of Voorburg, near the Hague. Mr. van Gink spent a few years in the United States improving his technique of drawing and painting, but inspite of his preoccupation with building his future in the arts, he managed to put forth his efforts also in the improvement and development of a sizeable quantity of good Voorburg Croppers. Needless to say during those ten years, he had many disappointments and many hundreds of young pigeons had to be reared before he achieved his first satisfying results. His reward came in June 1938 when this breed was acknowledged by the former Council of Pigeon Experts. A number of breeds were selected to give the Voorburg its present shape and characteristics; as in the Norwich Cropper, the Brunner, the Steiger Cropper, English Cropper, Emperor Smierel Cropper and others.

To acquire the beautiful markings and color, van Gink also started cross-breeding with the Schild pigeons. The disadvantage of this extensive cross-breeding was sometimes off-colored young pigeons were born and also, the birds showed light feathering of the claws, which is characteristic of the English Pygmy Croppers. This type of pigeon when mated to a clean-legged pigeon will result again in a beautiful clean-legged young. Because many breeders lost hope in the beginning of the creation of this new breed (and there were relatively few breeders), a decision was made to establish a special breeders club. Hence at the Avicultura Exhibition, the Voorburg Schild Cropper club started. However, in spite of all efforts and much propaganda, it discontinued its activities in 1954. In the mid-sixties, the breeding of these pigeons received new impetus, thanks to Mrs. H. van Gink-Porsgen, who with a number of new breeders, resumed the breeding of these special pigeons. Many high quality Voorburgs had been exhibited in Europe as well as in the U.S.; some important German authors had written favorably about the Voorburg Cropper, that is now permanently recognized in the pigeon world.

The Voorburg Cropper is a plump, elegant, middle sized bird. Basically the quality of this bird is gauged through the following points: (a) type and posture; (b) pouter capacity; (c) color and markings which are very important. Type: The Voorburg presents itself as a well-erect bird, with the tail sloping downward and not carried too high. A narrow, but not too long tail, plus a good full sized pouter make an elegant bird. A bird with too short a neck or legs can never present a good type, and a crooked or too short breastbone is unacceptable. Type is and always will be the basis on which ideal Voorburg Shild Croppers will be bred. Therefore when buying birds, it is essential to buy from a reliable and successful breeder, and to buy birds of good type, build and vitality. Good tough birds with plenty of vitality are fundamental for healthy pedigree birds. A high, upright posture, a good long neck and well-built legs are very important. Legs should not be too widespread. The tail is also an important part of the pigeon which unfortunately receives too little attention. A good tail should not be too long, not too wide and should not touch the ground while in the resting position. A rather narrow tail is beautiful, if not too long, and gives the bird that special look. Split tails are fairly rare nowadays, but every care should be taken to avoid this. The tail always has 12 quills which lie closely together and overlaps, giving a beautiful, thin tail end. A beautiful body with good proportions can only make an impression if it is crowned by a fine, noble head with slightly high forehead, rather long, strong, flesh colored beak which is slightly bent at the tip and has white, powdered fine nostrils. A dark and deformed beak will disqualify the bird. Eyes are always dark, deep dark brown and a pair of narrow, fine eye ceres with light color is very important. Without its crop, a Cropper does not deserve its name; therefore, it is essential to breed good blowing birds. Female pigeons with good blowing qualities are not only an ornament in the show pen and in the loft, but a basis or foundation for an excellent stock. A female pigeon of good type and crop is highly valuable for the breeder, even if it has a small shortcoming in the markings. The blowing capability of the Croppers is characteristic of the breed. Sometimes the young birds which have just started blowing, give a comical expression, when sometimes they do not know the effect of their crop and sometimes even blow up their abdomen.

However, this will improve after the molting period or even at an earlier stage. The name 'Schild Cropper' (Shield Cropper) explains everything, yet not all birds competing in exhibitions have a completely covered wing shield. In fact, only the wing shield including the coat quills which are the round-shaped, inside wing quills, starting from the 11th quill counted from the outside) are to be colored. The 7th to the 10th flying quills should form the basis; however, there are some more white quills which indicate that also some coat quills are white, but do not necessarily detract from the bird. On the contrary, this means some important advantages like a completely white thigh feathers, often called 'clean trousers', as well as an attractive white triangle at the back of the neck. Formerly, little attention was paid to this characteristic , but nowadays, the average quality has increased so much that this deviation of marking on the neck (the lack of a white triangle) has been considered a serious defect. Also, a colored tilde in front of the legs is a serious fault. It is extremely essential to avoid a display of birds with so-called 'shackle' quills in the outer, seven white wing quills because if one or more colored quills are present, this would be a disqualification. A 'shackle' quill in the outside 7 wing quills is also a disturbing fault because it is visible when the bird has its wing in a folded position. A 'shackle' quill can either be a colored quill in a white field or a white quill among colored ones. Colors are very attractive in Shield Croppers. The usual magnificent deep color of the shield, on the white front of the other parts of the body gives the bird that fantastic beauty hardly found in other pigeons. The Black Shields are really as black as lacquer, and as a result of the strong contrast, black on white, this variety will fascinate those who admire strong colors, but it is sometimes said that neither black nor white is a color. Nevertheless, it is a striking combination. Sometimes, breeders of black shields are troubled by partially or completely dark beaks or black toenails- these are inherent faults and should be bred out. The Red and Yellow Shields are mentioned simultaneously and are sometimes bred together. These two colors always meet the requirements provided they are sufficiently warm-tinted without a black or a blue film. Blue Shield is also a fascinating color because of its effect through its beautiful light blue and two narrow black bars. The males are usually lighter in tint than the females, and they can be put together and also mated with black shield and red, yellow, blue silvers. (Three silver varieties or fine pastel tint for the real experts.) The cream colored shield of the Yellow Silvers with two warm, yellow bars is a fantastically beautiful bird and the Blue Silvers have colors ranging from the deep, glossy black to the soft silver tint. We have only mentioned a few color varieties, but there are others such as blue-white striped and laced ones. At present, the laced variety can be found only in Red, Blue, Black and Yellow.

Character: Croppers have a complete character of their own. They are lively and extremely faithful to their owners. These characteristics are entirely akin to the Shield Cropper They are very affectionate and tame and when one enters the loft, one is greeted by the birds with outspread wings. The males, as well as the females show this characteristic; sometimes the male while flying to the perch, would even hop at the same time. This feature undoubtedly goes back to the Norwich Cropper. However, not all males will demonstrate this extraordinary feature and it is certain that their tameness is one of the results of cross-breeding between Norwich, Brunner and English Pygmy Pouters. These breeds have played a leading role in the formation of character, and to be honest, no matter how beautiful the color or structure of the pigeon, it will never possess the tameness of a Cropper.

Breeding: Apart from their cheerfulness, vitality and tameness as positive qualities, one further important characteristic is the fact that one does not require feeders in the breeding of Voorburgs. They are prolific breeders and they take care of their young in every way. Often, some hens start laying eggs again, sometimes even when the young are not quite 14 days old. The young, however, are self supporting and do without their parents very well. After 4 weeks, they can be moved to the young birds' cages and they can take care of themselves without trouble. Care should be taken that some older pigeons do not tease them; this only happens during the first day and for a short period of time. It is recommended to put a container with small amount of food, like turtle dove food and clean water in the breeding cage after the young are about 3 weeks old in order to train them to feed themselves. After 3 weeks, they are beautiful and well-developed and one can tell what quality of birds they will become. For the majority of color varieties, the first selection can take place when the chicks are a week old. In some colored varieties, as in the case of Silvers, it takes a little longer because only after the little ribbons become visible can the approximate color structure become apparent. In birds with a plain or dark shield, this is apparent after a week. It is therefore advisable not to dispose of this type of bird too early, because they may turn out to be first class breeding birds. Type, built, crop and vitality are major factors to be considered in breeding the Voorburg; it is important to breed only hardy birds.

Training: Because training is part of raising young birds, it is important to start young. The breeding of excellent specimens alone is not sufficient to achieve success at exhibitions. They have to be trained to show their good points. If you are participating in exhibitions, you have to see to it that the birds become alert as soon as the judge approaches them, and they will show their qualities. A judge is not interested at what your birds can achieve in their own surroundings. Starting at the age of 2 or 3 months, put them in a clean training pen; and as in the case of children, some young Croppers will respond more quickly than others. The more forward ones will start cooing very quickly in confined quarters, and many a young pigeon will start nodding as if it is conscious of its grace. At the beginning of training, never leave the birds longer than one day in the quarters even if they do not repeat the training a week later. Very often by this time and with success, the birds start showing themselves, blowing and preening themselves. Should the birds not respond to the second session of training, repeat a week later. Those young birds which have not learned what is expected of them, will then have to be left alone for a little while. A short review every month for a few hours will assure you that they are ready for showing, because once a Cropper has been trained correctly, it will always respond in the future. It is recommended to always wear a white coat and always handle your stick carefully and sparingly. This will make the bird become accustomed to being handled by the judge. The Voorburg Cropper will show its beautiful facets, and as a breeder and trainer you are your own judge and it is you who will carry out the selection of the birds that you will exhibit. Make sure you avoid over-training and don't allow your birds to get into the habit of beating their wings and pecking at the judge's stick. If they start doing this, make less use of the training coop and touch them as little as possible with your stick. It is important to approach your birds quietly; take them carefully in your hand regularly and speak to them frequently. The moment you enter the loft let them hear your voice. They like it and will respond immediately. And if you want to handle a pigeon, do it without grabbing. Grabbing is detrimental to the bird and will cause it to become less friendly. After the molt you will already have cut away the superfluous feathers. Sometimes it is essential to wash the crop and tail lightly and thoroughly rinse with lukewarm water. Avoid wetting the wingshield. If necessary remove all possible short feathers from the legs and toes about a week before the show. These feathers can be removed easily and once removed, they will not grow back in. Should the removal of the short feathers cause a bit of bleeding, use an antiseptic pencil and put the bird back in its training cage containing some clean sawdust. While making the preparations to transport the birds to the exhibition, the legs and band should be washed carefully. To intensify the beautiful red color of the legs and toes some fanciers use a drop of oil or vaseline and rub it gently with the fingertips. Upon arrival at the show and after having been caged, the well prepared and trained Voorburg Shield Cropper will feel at ease immediately. These birds, having been prepared for their task properly, will take the lead over other birds, although a breeder-exhibitor cannot make a good bird from a bad one inspite of proper training. A man with experience knows that he can make a better bird from a good one.

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