I have put the genes for brown, reduced, and barless into Dragoons and have raised show quality birds in all three colors. I believe that, until 1999, I was the only one in the world to have raised barless Dragoons, and any others that exist at this time have been bred down from my original outcrosses. For a number of years I worked with dominant opal in the breed, and I exhibited a spread blue dominant opal cock at the 2003 National Young Bird Show. In 2005 I won Reserve Champion Dragoon and Best Opposite Sex with a spread brown hen, and best grizzle with a brown grizzle cock. I also breed Dragoons in blue, black, grizzle, mealy, red check and red. Because I keep just a small stud of Dragoons, I seldom have Dragoons for sale.
Foot soldier, or flying serpent? A case could be made for either, depending on one's interpretation of the bird's demeanor. Some see the military bearing of the king's dragoons; others see the eye and expression of the dragon slain by Saint George. (Picture the wings spread, the blazing eyes and fire roaring out of a gaping mouth and it is not hard to envision the latter.)
A medium-size pigeon with a blunt "bullet-beak", the Dragoon is said to be one of the ancestors of the present-day racing homer. The Dragoon is to the English Racing Homer what the Antwerp is to the Belgian strains. The distinguishing characteristics of the breed, in addition to the beak, are the large peg-shaped wattle, broad skull, blood-red eye with damson ceres in most color varieties, and the straight outlook, which along with the extra ring at the top front of the eye cere gives the impression that the bird is looking upward.
The damson cere, the blood-red eye, and the bullet beak are the three most difficult characteristics to breed for, particularly since these traits do not appear to be controlled by a single gene. The lower mandible must be of equal substance as the top, and this is not the natural state for a pigeon; hence constant attention must be given to the beak structure. The natural eye color of a pigeon is orange, and because the red eye is quite possibly the result of multiple gene combinations, a lack of careful attention by the breeder will result in the eye color in a strain of dragoons reverting to that natural state. Sometimes the eye color will instead tend toward a chestnut cast, possible evidence of the close relationship to the Racing Homer. The damson cere, on the other hand, can be enhanced if the bird is exposed to natural sunlight. It is very common for a Dragoon with beautiful damson ceres to have the ceres fade when the bird is confined for an extended period of time. In such a case the ceres will return to their original color once the bird again gains access to direct sunlight.
The breed is most often seen in blue bar and check, but other popular colors are mealy (ash red bar), red check, blue grizzle, black, red, yellow, and white. The blue grizzle Dragoon is often cited by those who study the genetics of pigeon color as the "ideal" grizzle coloration, although the show standard for the breed classifies all barred grizzles together: blue, silver, red. (Checkered grizzles must be shown in the AOC - "Any Other Color" - class.) Today in the United States the Dragoon is bred in all the common colors as well as many newer colors such as indigo, brown, almond, reduced, etc. Without question the blues are the best quality exhibited at most shows, with the reds and yellows the poorest. Some very good silvers (dilute blue) and blacks have been shown over the past several years as well. Among the rare colors, the indigos would appear to be the best we have seen so far. Reds and yellows are the most difficult to breed because of the difficulty in combining a rich color with a bird of proper type. Outcrosses to other colors are necessary to improve the type of reds and yellows, but in so doing the breeder is likely to lose the rich coloration, resulting in reds and yellows with smutty or plum-colored tails.
I recently judged the Dragoons at the Y2K National Young Bird Show in Louisville, Kentucky. At that time I observed what were unquestionably the best I had ever seen in their colors when John Heppner exhibited a yellow check hen and a silver check hen. These birds were truly outstanding, and they were right there competing on an equal footing with the "standard" colors. In 2005 I exhibited several browns in spread, bar, and grizzle at that show, and a spread brown hen was judged Reserve Champion and Best Opposite Sex.
Since 1975 the American Dragoon Club has recognized the following Master Breeders of the Dragoon: Harold Groll of Ohio, Clair Wright of Pennslvania, and Bill Schmidt and Henry Jaeger, both of Maryland. Groll passed away in 1997 at the age 94; Jaeger passed away in 2001. Schmidt and Wright are both retired from the fancy. Most recently, the American Dragoon Club presented the Master Breeder Award to John Heppner of California at the 2000 National Young Bird Show, and to R. Joel Kinkade at the 2005 NYBS.
George Roose - Lima, OH - September
Harold Groll - Holgate, OH - September 22, 1997
Walter Skotnicki - Grand Island, NY - October 11, 1997
Aaron Hicks - Forest, OH - June 11, 1999
Henry Jaeger - Baltimore, MD - February 2001
Clair Wright - Manchester, PA - September 2009
Paul Steiden - Louisville, KY - November 2009
American Dragoon Club. (Special note: This link is active but some of the information is out of date.)
Click here to see a picture of my outstanding spread brown Dragoon hen that was Reserve Champion and Best Opposite Sex at the 2005 National Young Bird Show.
Click here to see a picture of Bob Tauscher's "reduced ash red check" Dragoon hen that was judged Best Opposite Sex at the National Young Bird Show several years ago.
Click here to see another picture of a red check YC that I showed at the 1998 National Young Bird Show.