Breeding new varieties of peafowl
Joshua R. Nelson
Rocking B-A-B Ranch
Here at Rocking B-A-B Ranch we are so passionate about breeding peafowl that we are often accused of being slightly obsessive….…by our wives! However we are described, many visitors to our ranch feel that what we do is interesting. Although there are many factors to breeding peafowl that make it a very gratifying and rewarding endeavor, it is the idea of making something better, making something new that really gets us excited here at our ranch. You see, peafowl colors and varieties were not always so diverse. Nearly all the birds that we currently have the pleasure of viewing and breeding did not always exist. The only two types of peafowl that naturally occur in the wild are the Pavo cristatus (India Blue) and the Pavo muticus (Green); that is it, Green and Blue. Although India Blue and Green peafowl are undeniably amazing birds, God has blessed us with the creation of new and exciting colors and varieties of peafowl that rival the beauty of their predecessors.
So, where did all the different kinds of peafowl come from? All the colors and patterns of peafowl, with the exception of India Blue and Green peafowl, are the result of genetic mutations. Although genetic mutations are influenced by the captive breeding of wild animals, it is nature that produces the mutation. The two types of mutations that occur in peafowl are color mutations and pattern mutations, and have only occurred in the India Blue peafowl. We can not actually create a new color or a new pattern in peafowl! We can only reproduce those colors and patterns after they naturally occur. (Recent findings indicate that it may actually be possible to create a new color of peafowl by selectively breeding 2 different colors of peafowl into a single individual bird. What has yet to be determined is if 2 colors actually mix to create a new different color, or if actual mutations have occurred while trying to breed two different colors of peafowl together) Different types of peafowl are categorized into varieties. The variety of a peafowl is defined by the unique combination of its color and pattern or patterns. Each unique combination of color and pattern makes a different variety of peafowl, and according to the UPA approved varieties list there are 185 possible varieties of peafowl. I say possible because all the unique combinations, or varieties, have not yet been produced. There are new varieties that are waiting to be made!
As I noted earlier we can not create new colors or patterns, we can only work with the genetics we have been given. We can, however, produce new varieties by breeding unique color and pattern combinations into the peafowl. So, lets discuss the recipe for making a new variety of peafowl. We can start by imagining a bird variety that we have never seen. For example, how many of you have seen a Buford Bronze black shoulder pied peacock? Most of us have seen a Buford Bronze peacock, some of us have seen a Buford Bronze black shoulder peacock, and a few of us have seen a Buford Bronze pied peacock. To produce this bird you will have to have the right ingredients. Unfortunately I have yet to find a genie in a bottle, so we will have to use DNA from peafowl that carry the ingredients (genetics) we need to bake (produce) a Buford Bronze black shoulder pied peacock. The ingredients we need are:
1 Buford Bronze colored gene from the mother
1 Buford Bronze colored gene from the father
1 Black shoulder gene from the mother
1 Black shoulder gene from the father
1 White gene from the mother or the father
1 Pied gene from the mother or the father
The very time consuming and statistical challenge is to get 1 India Blue peacock to inherit all these ingredients (genetics) from his mother and/or his father.
Each peafowl inherits 1 colored gene from the mother and 1 colored gene from the father, it takes 2 of the same colored genes in the same bird to express that color (the exception is sex linked colors in which a hen only requires 1 colored gene inherited from the father to express that color, sex linked colors are Purple, Cameo, and Peach). A peafowl would also have to inherit 1 black shoulder gene from the mother and 1 black shoulder gene from the father in order to express itself in a particular bird. A peafowl can inherit 1 white gene from the mother or father as well as 1 pied gene from the mother or father; however, a bird cannot inherit both the white and the pied genes from 1 parent. As long as both the pied gene and the white gene are present in the same bird (each gene being inherited from different parents), that bird will be pied in appearance. The bronze color and the two pattern mutations work independently of one another. A variety like a Buford Bronze black shoulder pied peacock can not be made over night. It must be done through several generations of selective breeding, which requires some knowledge about genetics and some good record keeping. But, with a lot of patience and passion mixed with a little bit of luck you may be the first person to present a spectacular bird of that caliber.
Here at our ranch in Florida we not only strive to breed and produce the finest birds of each variety we collect, we live to make new varieties of peafowl. When you get tired of coloring with the 24 crayola crayons that came in the box what do you do……..? You go to the store and buy the box of crayons that contain 64 colors!!