Eye theory in practice for racing pigeons

Eye theory, or ‘eye-sign’ theory is one of the most divisive issues amongst the racing pigeon fraternity. Some top fanciers maintain however, that the secret to selecting top racing pigeons lies in the eyes.

Eye theory in practice for racing pigeons
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Heidi, a magnificent pigeon descended from the famous Kaasboer lineage in Belgium, is one of the finest racing hens and quality stock producers that money can buy. By applying some of the basic principles of eye theory, what do this top racing pigeon’s eyes tell us about it?

Heidi (Belg 6033117-07), imported from Belgium, is one of the top racing hens and producers of quality stock. It is bred from a powerful ‘click’ pair descended from the famous Kaasboer lineage of Belgium champion Gaston van de Wouwer.

Heidi’s genetic strength as a breeder already dominates three generations. Owner Gerhard van Aswegen of GJT Lofts says that he always looks for balance within the eye, with a strong but not ‘overfilled’ pigmentation.

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Heidi’s eye colours show an even orange/red pigmentation on a yellow background. The soft green granulation blending in with the yellow base is regarded as a sign of quality by eye-sign specialists.

Eye-sign theory – the first circle

The pupil is known as the first circle of the eye. Heidi’s pupils are rather small and centred within a spaciously pigmented ‘open eye’ – an indication of a quality middle- and long-distance racer.

The pupils of high-quality pigeons should be an intense black, not off-grey, as this is one of the indications of good sight. Pupils are generally expected to be well-rounded, but oblong pupils are sometimes found among birds of high quality.

Eye-sign theory – the second circle

The ‘circle of adaptation’ – the second circle – rests against the outer rim of the pupil. It is best seen through a loupe. It occurs in all variations of grey, brown and black, differing in size and strength. It may also be absent. Heidi’s eye boasts an extremely strong circle of adaptation: it is broad, very dark and cuts deeply, which means that it is fixed.

My own observation is that better results are obtained when using a strong circle of adaptation to ‘lift’ the fading circles and off-colours seen in the circle of adaptation of some promising pigeons that lack the eye-sign quality of great breeders.

Eye-sign theory – the third circle

The ‘circle of correlation’ often has various shades of grey and brown. Sometimes, it has the same yellow or blue base colour that shows through the upper layers of the entire eye.

The differently coloured parts within the circle of correlation may vary in size and texture and the circle’s outer borders or edges may form the divide between the third and fourth circles. A good circle of correlation must form a harmonious balance with the other parts of the eye.

The colours should not appear murky, but be clearly defined and bright, as with Heidi’s eyes. In practice, broader circles are linked to smaller circles.

Eye-sign theory – the fourth circle

The ‘circle of the iris’ embraces the largest portion of the eye. Heidi’s iris pigmentation becomes more dominant around the entire eye furthest from the pupil, and has the sought-after volcanic and moving lava appearance. The ridges, grooves and cuts are well embedded and distributed over most of the eye surface.

The strong pigmentation invades the fifth or outer circle slightly. This is believed to be linked to ample blood and oxygen supply.

Note that too much granulation (close eye) would distort the balance between the five eye circles and make the pupil unnaturally small.

Eye-sign theory – the fifth circle

The fifth circle is the final visible section of colour. In my own experience, a non-existent fifth circle and eyes overfilled with pigmentation are sure signs that a breeding plan is heading for trouble.

Heidi’s eyes are precious gems for the eye-sign connoisseur. Nonetheless, the theory needs further investigation and, as Van Aswegen says, pigeons should never be culled simply because of certain eye-signs!

Thomas Smit is a racing pigeon selector, and a freelance journalist and writer.