The Moscow Gray Turmani
By K.D. Spurling
The Moscow Gray Turmani (Serije Turmani), is by the Western viewpoint, a rather obscure breed of Russian origin. Despite this, and the fact that the breed is 99% unknown outside of Western Russia, the Moscow Gray Turmani is actually regarded as among the most prestigious of Russia's 170 some odd flying breeds, and in Western Russia, especially among the members of the Russian Turmani cult living within a 100 mile radius of Moscow, nothing on this earth is considered more valueable and prestigious than a good specimen of the Serije breed. This sort of value is not measured in the Russian rubel, but in cold, hard American dollars and prices of 500, 1000 and 3000 U.S. dollars are certainly not unheard of for a good Moscow Gray, with a top pair often fetching tens of thousands of dollars among Russia's wealthy caste.
From a historical standpoint, the Moscow Gray or Serije Turmani is generally viewed as a refined example of the Moscow Gray Red Turmani which are thought to have arisen by the blending of the Moscow Red Turmani (Moscovski KrasnoPegije Turmani), the Kaluga Black Turmani (Kalujski Czernopegije Turmani) and the Tula Black Turmani (also known as "Tula Beetles" after its native name: Tulski Shuk). By the Western definitions, a Moscow Gray Red Turmani would be an Ash Red Checker with very light colored flights and tails and often ribbontailed after the Moscow Red ancestory. Through intense selection, the true Moscow Gray Turmans were produced by selecting birds with finer coloration which finally resulted in the two variations of "Russian Gray". The most regarded variant is the so called "true Russian Gray" which is little more than a very dark variation of Spread Ash Red which is not seen outside of Russian breeds, quite likely due to a yet to be identified modifier which has escaped Western pigeon genetics. This variation in appearence is rather an inbetween between a good pastel shaded Spread Ash Red and a true Black. To some, certain specimens are reminiscent of Indigo variations which are now commonly seen in many breeds, yet the true Russian Gray is not an Indigo factored pigeon. Kazys Scherbatov of Smolensk City, a leading authority of the East European fancy, the President of the International Federation of Slavic Breeds Clubs and also a top breeder and flier of Moscow Grays and Kalugas has suggested that the prestigious Russian Gray is possibly a result of a mutation of Lebanon Bronzing via the Turmani. The second variation of Gray is the so called "light Gray" which would be known in the West as a very fine Spread Ash Red which has a very light, even coloration throughout.
Moscow Grays are bred in two markings, selfs or Pegije. The Pegije marking is similiar to a Gansel or a Magpie, but differs somewhat. White are the wings, belly, thighs, the cheeks, extending around the eyes and then forming a small beard. The remainder of the bird's head, neck, chest, shoulders, back and tail are to always be colored. This is the same marking as seen in other Turmani breeds, such as the Rzhevski, Moscovski Reds, Morshanski Yellows, Kalujski Blacks and Blues, as well as others. Despite the marking requirements of Turmani breeds, the emphasis in judging is actually placed upon the head and beak structures, as well as upon the type and carriage, more so than upon the markings.
The Moscow Gray, as in Turmani in general,
is a small to medium-small pigeon. The head is square in shape with rounding
edges; the frontal rising like a steep wall from behind a short, thick
downset beak. The eye cere is pale in color and double tiered, often becoming
very substantial in cock birds. The eyes are bull in Pegije marked birds
and a gravel pearl in the selfs. The neck is somewhat thick at the breast,
and tapering towards the head. The chest is prominent, carried horizontally and sweeping into a long back and tail. The tail drops off at a steep angle from the rump and to the ground, is spread slightly and contains 12 to 16 retrices. The wings are long and carried below the tail with the tips of the primaries just off the ground. The legs and toes are thick and short and always free of feathers. Moscow Grays occur in plainheaded or shell crested.
By Western classifications, Turmani, in particular the Rzhev Turmani, have always been regarded as Tumblers which has been much to the downfall of Turmani in America due to fanciers "encouraging" tumbling and rolling, often through breed crossing. The reality is that Turmani are actually Turmani, having no equiviliant or classification outside of Russia. In this sense, they are neither Tumblers, nor Highfliers, much in the same way as the Tutcheresi races, but a seperate branch of the Tumbler/Highflier family. Any mode of tumbling in any Turmani breed would be regarded as a damning aerial fault and it cannot be disputed that many inferior specimens that fit this mould are cultivated not only in the United States and Canada, but also in Germany, and even within the very heart of Moscow by the backyard keepers who know no better despite 600 to 800 years of strict aerial culture to an organized aerial standard for Turmani. By this standard, a true Turmani should hover slightly in place, its wings flashing straight up over its head and its vivid tail spread wide and flashing back and forth. In fact, no other class of pigeons has been cultivated and judged in the air to a set standard for as such a consecutive period of time as the Turmani. Organized Turmani breeding has existed in Moscow under accepted physical and aerial ideals spanning as far back as to the period of approximately 1580 A.D. In those days, the Bojaren gathered together on a regular basis as an organized society to evaluate vast numbers of Turmani which were being flown in and around Moscow. Flown three Turmani at a time from small wooden boxes, the birds were evaluated by a panel of judges based upon the ideals listed above. Exclusive exhibitions (shows) were also held amongst this group. During the reign of the Tsar - Liberator Alexander I, as part of the freeing of the the Russian vassalage, these actrivities became open to all. This is despite the often arrogantly ignorant misconception of the Westerner who assumes that because so little news is shared outside of Russia or other portions of the world, that the Westerner "invented" the gears of modern animal breeding in the form of the exhibition, both for conformation and performance. What is known is this: it is generally assumed that the West's organized breeding of animals originated with Western nobility, in particular with the British. Yet when one studies this history, they will discover that even the earliest Western organization for pigeons did not exist until after Russian Bojaren forged a friendship with Western nobility, bringing in their tow, not only gifts of stock, but the very concept of serious animal breeding for other than utility usage.
Today, this is largely a shadowy idea in the
back of the Russian Fancy's mind that is about as fallable as the concept
of Russian Imperialism and both went hand in hand. With the destruction
of the Bojaren in Russia, Russia's animal culture, especially the culture
of non working animals, largely was reduced to absolute ruin. Entire stocks
of animals were burnt to death after the Bolsheviks set fire to their loft,
aviary, kennel or stables in their attempts to completely eradicate Autocratic
Imperialism from Russia as they set fire to the palaces and manors of the
Bojaren. Russian Animal Culture was uprooted to the point that 90% of all
domestic Russian animals were either plunged into extinction or so severely
damaged that only a few have truly recovered 90 years
later. Even the famous "Borzoi Russe" (Russian Wolfhound) which is today one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, was severely damaged to the extent that by 1919, of the thousands of Borzoi that had been kept in Moscow prior to the Revolution, only 6 dogs of this breed remained left in the city. The revolution, followed by Germany's invasion of Russia during WWII that left cities as large as Kiev 90% destroyed, as well as 70 years of socialism plunged Russian animal breeding to the dark ages.
During the communist era, especially in West Russia, many people were moved into Socialist style high-rise housing in major cities, no different than occurred in Romania and other portions of East Europe. The socialist idea was that the people are more easily watched if they are living in large, cramped housing units. Naturally, this made it very difficult for people to breed pigeons or other animals successfully. As well, animal breeding organizations were overseen by the KGB. Agents served as the leadership of every organization, even if the agent knew nothing about pigeons or other animals.
Ironically, it was this same Soviet government who would be responsible for saving many Russian breeds of Pigeons and even restoring many damaged breeds to a state more reminiscent of the quality of the Imperialist era. The Soviet government during the late 50's and early 60's began to see Domestic Animals native to Russian soil as a symbol of national pride and as a national resource. Government breeding stations were built to house, preserve and improve the birds. Several such compounds were built across Russia and the Ukraine, the largest being at Nikolayev in the south Ukraine which is still operational today. Due to these government breeding stations, the breeds have survived and there has been a gradual recovery.
The Moscow Gray of today is still rather rare
in some locales of Western Russia, but despite this has a tremendous group
of enthusiastic breeders and fliers. The breed reached North America in
1998 with my importation of 1 cock and 2 hens from Kazys Scherbatov of
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