Of all the innovations at the 2017 edition of the Lizarddag, the introduction of a class for London Fancies is surely the one that will be remembered as a major step forward.
I realise that classes for London Fancies have been provided for several years at the National Exhibition of Birds and at the South Bucks Show, but until this year, the birds were more London Follies than London Fancies. The real breakthrough in the revival of the London Fancy occurred in Holland, when Piet Renders produced a strain that is strikingly similar to the extinct breed (1). It is the Dutch strain that holds the key to the future of the London Fancy, and it is in Holland that you will find the best specimens on the planet. The Lizarddag confirmed it.
There were only nine birds at the show, six of them from Piet Renders and the other three from Marko Dielen. They provided a fascinating snapshot of the current state of the variety in Holland. Piet has a head start: his breeding programme started around 18 years ago; he breeds on a large scale (2); and his show team has the benefit of several years of selective breeding. Every one of his birds was beautiful.
By contrast, Marko has been breeding London Fancies for only three years; he has a small stud (based on Piet’s bloodline) but has made significant progress. His show birds cannot match Piet’s, but they are brimming with potential. His over-year jonque cock came close, and has all the hallmarks of a foundation sire.
Piet duly won the award for Best London Fancy (3), but there were aspects of the judging that troubled me. I arrived at the show hall as two of the judges were having a preliminary look at the birds. They both rejected the white London Fancies on the grounds that the London Fancy was a yellow-ground bird. Historically that is correct, but their pedantry ignored three fundamental issues.
Firstly, COM has accepted white-ground London Fancies for assessment, and therefore the judges should have followed COM’s lead. Secondly, the judges were willing to accept white-ground Lizards, even though they are a modern invention, so why apply different standards to the London Fancy? Thirdly, and most importantly, the revival of the London Fancy is fragile; rejecting birds that possess the fundamental attributes of the breed (apart from ground colour) will deter people from taking up the challenge. The breed needs all the help it can get, but sadly, the judges thought otherwise.
The establishment of the new London Fancy cannot be compared to the revival of other old breeds. The modern Lancashire canary, for example, was the product of crossing the Yorkshire canary with the Crest. If the Lancashire ever disappeared, it would be quite straightforward to repeat the original cross and re-establish the breed. The same cannot be said of the new London Fancy; it is a unique mutation that cannot be reproduced at will.
In every other respect, the show was an important step in the development of the London Fancy. The birds ranged from near-perfect to works in progress. Crucially, every one of them was the genuine article, having moulted from dark to light, while retaining the dark wings and tail. Surely, the 2017 edition of the Lizarddag is a sign of things to come
- The key characteristic is the ability to moult from dark to light while retaining the dark wings and tail. The British strain cannot do this.
- Piet bred approximately 250 birds in 2017; Marko a tenth of that total.
- I have not used photographs of the birds at the show as Piet has provided me with superior photos taken in a photo cage, uncluttered by wire bars.