THE HISTORY OF THE MODENA PIGEON
BYJAMES R.LAIRMORE (1960)*
|Modenas in 18th century|| Modenas in present day
While historical evidence carries the
sport of flying Modenas back to the year of 1327, it was in the year of 1876
that Prof. Bonizzi set forth his great works, giving the 152 colors of the
Modena. In this group of 152 colors, 76 were Schietti, (selfs) and 76 were Gazzi
may be of some importance to my readers that while we have read and beard down
through the years ofthe 152 colors of the Modena, 1 think that we can safely cut
this number down to around 40 colors in each of the main groups, Schietti and
Gazzi, and to this we can add 19 Magnani colors in each of the two groups.
Giving us a grand total of 59 colors each in Schietti and Gazzi. Mr. Holmes
(1921) right away admits that no one except for Prof. Bonizzi, seems to have
ever seen the Zarzanel, of which there were 17 colors each, listed in Gazzi and
To continue with the history of the
Modena, in the year of 1878, Prof. Bonizzi sent 50 pairs of Modenas into
Germany. And as the flying sport had begun to disappear, the fancier now keptthe
Modena more forthe purpose of exhibiting them, than for their flying qualities.
And during these years, the Modena was crossed with the self and marked
Florentine, and through these crosses, many of the beautiful colors were lost
But the short body and the wide breast were bred in and so the beginning of our
present day Modena. Some of these beautiful colors have been regained and other
new colors have been made, still several are today (1972) in the process of
being made, but many of them will never again be bred.
shall now try to trace this undying race down through the many great fanciers in
Europe, of course, the main fanciers among this group being from England. As you
will note in this chapter, 1 have no trouble doing this from the year 1878 to
the year of 1920, thanks being due to our good friend Mr. Holmes and his great
book, THE MODENA (1921). And from this date until the present time (1972), 1
have many of the year books as published by the respective clubs and 1 feel sure
that 1 shall not miss many of those fanciers who we have considered as the
greats of the Modena fame, down through the years.
R.C. Chavasse of Sutton, Coldfield, England, seems to have been the first
English fancier to have i m ported and bred the Modena. His first Modenas were
imported from Berlin, Germany, sometime between the years 1876 and 1878. This
pair was bronze gazzi, with the cock being regarded as outstanding for type.
This, ,pair also ked both bronze and black gazzi. They were shown by M r.
Chavasse in 1880 and in 1881 and then were claimed for F 10, a very good price
in those days.
undying race then tails to a M r. Otto Neef, in the year of 1879. The German
Consulate in London employed Mr. Neef. Here again, 1 am inclined to believe that
Prof. Bonizzi from the original 50 pairs sent Mr. Neff’s birds into Germany.
The first recorded entry of Modenas by Mr. Neff was in 1879. They were labeled
as "Moderns," an obvious mistake for Modenas. We again bear of M r.
Neff in 1880, having shown a pen of Modenas at the National Peristeronic Society
at the Crystal Palace. These birds attracted much attention and caused the
following comment by Mr. Esquilant, a then veteran judge, that his opinion of
the Modena was that it was a descendant of the legborn Runt. He further stated
that they had the character of the small legborn Runt, common enough in his
younger days, and he believed them to be merely a variegated variety of the
Neef again showed a single entry of the modena in 1881 at the palance, causing
the following comment to appear in the "Live Stock Journal," quote:
"But perhaps the most interesting features of the show were Mr. Neff's
bronze-winged Italian Pigeon named Modena."
on January 6, 1882, appeared what is believed to have been the first
advertisement of Modenas being offered for sale, and a year later (1883) the
entire stud was offered for sale.
the year 1883 to the year 1889, there seems to have been a lapse in Modena
history. For Holmes (1920) could find no trace of the Modena being bred or shown
by anyone. But in the year 1889, a Mr. Rutherford of Waltham Abbey, England,
exhibited Modenas. This stud was believed to have been from Mr. Neef's original
1 can see very little use in showing these exhibits, other than to name these
fine gentlemen who were pioneers of the Modena. And so we follow the Modena
history from Bonizzi, Baidamus,
Rutherford, and finally to a Mr. Waiter Butcher. And from Mr. Burcher, we come
to Captain Heseltine, who perhaps was the founder of the bronze that we know
today .His first birds were from Mr. Butcher, along with a hen from a Mr.
Bowyer, and another hen from a Mr. Swift. It was from one of these two pairs
that the celebrated bronze hen was bred. Captain Heseltine showed frequently and
was a breeder of bronze gazzi for several years.
now we have traced the complete history of the modena in information years,
beginning with Prof. Bonizzi (1876) down to the time of Mr. Holmes' book. In the
years from 1910 to 1920, the leading breeders of Modenas in England included Mr.
Holmes, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mr. Gittee, Miss Lyon, and several others. However,
the Modena fancy did have one period prior to these 10 years when there were no
Modenas shown. Mr. Butcher and Captain Heseltine won every major award offered
for Modenas and did so until there were no classes for Modenas. But in the year
1910, Mr. Holmes took up the breeding of Modenas, and there began a new era for
the Modena Pigeon, and has until this day (1972) never looked backwards. The
Modena as a breed is the most popular breed in England today, and the entries in
this section far outclass all other breeds in the English shows.
1 have stated above, Mr. Holmes started breeding the Modena in the year 1909 and
bred them until 1958. At which time his stud was disposed of to both English and
the year 1920 until the present date, there have been many great breeders in the
Modena field in England. Among these breeders are the following Blackwell,
Spivey, McCreath, Whiter, Jones, Gee, Sharp, Marshall, Main, Holroyd, McKeand,
Luck, Machin, Uttley, Shackleton, Nicholson, Epson, Helliwell, Sharpe Magee,
Watmough, Morton, Tom Millar, Ken Millar, and Mr. John Sears.
now have come to the end of our Modena history for the English counterpart of
the Modena. And 1 now propose to go back to the year of 1884, in order to trace
the Modena in America. And in this part of my book, 1 have no trouble tracing
the Modena. As during these formation years 1 have several yearbooks and these
begin with the American Modena Club Yearbook, and also everyone of the yearbooks
which the National Modena Club has published since its formation in 1936.
Harry Rudy of Hagerstown, Maryland, was the importer of the first Modenas in
America. His first importation was made in 1834 from
He later made a second importation from Scotland in 1894 and a third and last
group came from Scotland in the year of 1903. All of the above birds were Gazzi.
Our first Schietti in America were brought to Hagerstown, Maryland, in 1915 by
either an Italian or a Sicilian, these Schietti were Bronze and Rusty Checked.
It is my opinion that they were Bronze Schietti, and Bronze Checkered Schietti.
this point of our history of the Modena in America, we find the names of some of
the foremost breeders of the Modena. Mr. Glen Obler procured his first birds
from Mr. Rudy in 1904 and bred them until his entrance into the service during
World War 1 in 1917. He again took up their breeding in 1919 upon his return
from the service.
American Modena Club was formed in 1926 and at the formation meeting the
following fanciers were present: Charles Sutter, William Butts, H.D. Weber, F.L.
MeCleary, C.E. Raffensberger, and Glen Obler. Mr. Ohier was elected their first
president. And at the passing of this club in 1936, Mr. W.W. Deissler was its
Mr. Rudy comes a Mr. Elmer S. Bird in the importing department. Mr. Bird went to
a great deal of expense to import the cream of the crop of the winners at all of
the classic shows in England. And following shortly behind Mr. Bird in this
department comes perhaps the greatest of them all, insofar as helping the Modena
as we know it and love it today. For atthistime, Mr. W.W. Deissier takes over in
the importing of Modenas by the hundreds.
the greatest of all importations by Mr. Deissler were two pair of Bronze Gazzi
from the lofts of a Mr. Whiter. From these two pairs, the Bronze became one of
the most popular colors in numbers and some present day studs are direct
descendants from these two pair. A Mr. Stoddard took one of these two cocks
mated to a Major Heseltine hen. Mr. Humber also received one of these two cocks.
Two youngsters were bred by Mr. Deissler from the Humber cock before shipping.
Both young were Bronze cocks. Mr. I.F. Rue received one of these young cocks,
the other one going to Mr. Earl Emery and later to Mr. A.M. Herzog. Both of
Bronze cocks became foundation birds in the respective studs and many great
winners were bred down from them.
this World War 1 period, there were several breeders taking up the breeding of
the Modena. Among these we find the following: Mr. Washburn of California, Mr.
Stichley of Pennsylvania, Mr. Roszell of Maryland, Mr. Humber of Georgia, Mr.
Rue of Kentucky, Mr. Winn of Georgia, Mr. Raffensberger of Pennsylvania and Mr.
Stoddard from Georgia.
the years that followed this period, and up to the year of 1936, the Modena
ranks grew by leaps and bounds. In addition to the above named men, we find
listed as members of the American Modena Club, the following breeders: Mr. H.O.
Keesling, Dr. Peter Treleaven, Dr. Christy Johnson, Mr. W.O. (Bill) Harvey, Mr.
Petersen, Mr. George Hoerr, Mr. lrving DeGaris, Mr. A.A. Bianchi, Mr. Roy
Malone, Mr. J.J. Keiffer, Mr. J.W. Bartlett, Mr. C.E. Dimon, Mr. Wendel L. Levi,
and Mr. Bob Linden. It is interesting to note that many of the above named men
are still with us today, and others are with us today but no longer breed the
1935 there was a movement started to form a new Modena club. And in 1936 the
National Modena Club was formed with Mr. Turner Collins being elected its first
President and Henry Franks Jr. being elected the first Secretary. And here 1
would like to add that Henry Franks has served a total of seven years as the
Secretary of the National Modena Club over the period of years since the club
would take a great many pages to list all the breeders who have belonged to this
great club, but 1 will in time refer to the ones who have done a major share in
promoting the Modena. And heading this list, we again find Mr. W.W. Deissler,
who imported so many great Modenas into the U.S.A. and who spread this stock
around to a great many breeders. Closely following him comes Mr. R.N. (Bob)
Hancock of Texas, who brought over the best in Blue and Bronze Tri Gazzi and has
passed this great blood on to many fanciers. 1 think it is safe to say that
every stud of Blue and Bronze Tri in the United States contains some of this
bloodline. So, to Mr. Hancock must go a great deal of the credit for the Blue
and Bronze Tri Gazzi that we know and love so much today.
1960, 1 predicted that the membership of the National Modena Club would surpass
the 500 mark. Today (1972), that prediction has come to pass and the membership
of our club now stands at better than 500 members. 1 would like to pay tribute
to a few of these breeders who have in the last 25 years promoted the Modena.
Mr. Emmett Butts, Shorty Evans, Charles Hermann, Guy Sprankle, Dr. Cheek, Nels
Nelson, Roy Sandin, Mr. John Sandin,
Mr.Marion S.Church,(d),Mr.T.B.MacDonald, Dr.Nugent, Albert Peek (d), Mr. J.W.
Bort(d),JohnBecker, JohnJensen ,RussSapp, WayneRife, Bob lentz, Ken Tremaine,
lee Rodgers, Mr. AI Josselyn (d), Mel Avers, Will Christensen, Mr. Charles Bahr
Sr. (d), Mack Johnson, Mr. John Fordon, Normanlindsay,Mr.William Pensom
(d),LaMarBernard,BobWeyrauch,Cari Ewert, Mr. C.O. Crawford, Mr. HughBuckley,
DoddR.Young,JoeBruce,Mr.D. Monroe Green (d), Bob Pettit, lrving DeGaris, Don
Hagen, I.F. Rue, Bob Spratte, Mr. Herman Buri (d), Bob English, lester
Mickelberry, Mr. C.E. and R.J. Raffensberger, Henry Franks, Mr. Wright Parkins,
and last but not the least, my good friend, Bill Droessier.
have, 1 believe traced the Modena Pigeon down through the years, in the United
States. 1 have made no attempt to list the time or year in which each of the
above named fanciers came into the fancy. But all of them have promoted the
Modena for many years, and each of them has, in my opinion, contributed to the
advancement of the breed. For this, we owe them a vote of thanks.
*FROM THE MODREN MODENA PIGEON BOOK