The Norwich Cropper

J. C. Lyell
The Norwich Cropper is a pigeon which is found in its’ purity in the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Essex.  It has
hitherto been undescribed by name in any book treating of English pigeons, though quite distinct from the large pouter;
but there are some allusions to it by Eaton, who was evidently sensible of its great beauty and fine style.  The uploper
and pouting-horseman are two varieties of croppers which Moore describes at pp. 37 and 38 of his “Columbarium,” as
follows:  “The Uploper is a Pigeon bred originally in Holland, its Make and Shape greos in every respect with the English
Powter, only it is smaller in every Property.  Its Crop is very round in which it generally buries its Bill; its Legs are very
small and slender, and its toes are short and close together, on which it treads so nicely, that when moving, you may put
anything under the Ball of its Foot;  it is close thigh’d, plays very upright, and when it approaches the Hen, generally
leaps to her, with its tail spread, which is the reason the Name is given to it, from the Dutch Word Uplopen, which
signifies to leap up.  These Pigeons are generally all blue, white, or black, tho’ I will not assert that there are no Pieds of
the Species.  There are but very few of them in England, and I have been inform’d that in Holland they have ask’d five
and twenty Guineas for a single pair of them.

Moore then describes the “Powting Horseman” as follows:  “This Pigeon is a bastard Strain between the Cropper and
the Horseman, and according to the Number of Times that their young ones are bred over from the Cropper, they are
call’s first, second or third, bred;  and the oftener they are bred over, the larger their Crop proves.  The reason of
breeding these Pigeons is to improve the Strain of the Powters by making them close thigh’d, tho’ it is apt to make them
rump, from the Horseman’s Blood.  They are a very merry Pigeon upon a House, and by often dashing off are good to
pitch stray pigeons, that are at a Loss to find their own Home;  they breed often and are good Nurses, generally feeding
their young ones well.  I have known these pigeons to be six Inches and six and half in Legs; they are a hearty Pigeon,
and , give’em but Meat and Water, need very little other Attendance.  Some of them will home ten or twenty Miles.”

There is certainly much in the description of the uploper which agrees with that of the Norwich cropper, and if Moore had
said that they were marked alike, I would consider the breeds identical.  The uploper was however, a self coloured  
cropper, and Moore could not say positively that there were pieds among the breed.  While the shape, carriage, and
general characteristics of the Norwich cropper are well described by Moore in his account of the uploper, its merry
disposition and peculiar flight is, to a slight extent, mentioned in his description of the Pouting Horseman; but I cannot
consider the latter to be the same variety, for it was evidently much nearer the pouter in size, nothing like 6 in. to 6 ½ in.
in limb being found in pure croppers, not have they the slightest indication of ever having been crossed with the
Horseman, their heads and beaks being of pure blue rock pigeon formation.  That the Norwich cropper as it exists, is a
much older and more constant breed of pigeon than the English pouter, I am well satisfied of, but I have no means of
knowing how long it has existed, or how it was originally produced.  Its marking; like the pouter’s, is found in several
continental breeds of croppers, and the probability is that both our pouter and cropper were gradually bred up from
continental varieties, perhaps brought here by immigrants in the middle ages.  Gonzales, in his account of Britain
(1730), says of Norwich, “the worsted manufacture, for which this city has long been famous, was first brought hither by
the Flemings, in the reign of Edward III., and afterwards improved to great perfection by the Dutch, who fled from the
Duke d’Alvas’ bloody persecutions.”

The properties of the Norwich cropper are size, shape, carriage, feather, and flight.  The latter is, indeed, the chief point
with many, who, though they may admire all the other points, consider them as of little consequence if a bird cannot
perform well in the air.  The German writers, Neumeister and Prutz, mention certain peculiarities in the flight of some of
the continental pigmy pouters; but that similar peculiarities are shared by a pure English variety, the fanciers of which
have an old, though unwritten, code of rules to guide them, is not generally known.  I learned much of what I know of
these rules from Mr. Boreham, of Colchester, who graduated under an old cropper fancier, the late Mr. Perry, of Great
Yarmouth, who, I believe, died at an advanced age somewhere about 1871.  He was a cropper fancier all his life, always
kept up a stock of good birds, and was always willing to buy a good one.  I have one old cock which belonged to him,
from which the best I have are descended.

Size.—I admire smallness of size in a cropper, though not at any sacrifice of what goes to make up general good shape.  
Mr. Boreham and others, with whom I have exchanged ideas on the subject, agree with me in this, while many pay no
regard to size if a bird flies well.  The best croppers I have seen were of a medium size, but there is little difference in
size between the largest and smallest of the pure breed.

Shape.—While it would take the best parts of several first-class English pouters to make up such a pigeon as my
drawing represents, I have seen many croppers quite equal in outline to my illustration.  The crop in these pigeons is,
for the most part, far better developed than in pouters, their respective sizes considered; indeed, many of these
beautiful little pigeons have crops that would be considered good in a large pouter.  The crop, or bladder as it is called
in Norwich, is often round as a ball, even filling out behind the neck, so that a perfectly spherical shape is sometimes
attained by it, and in it, as Moore says of the uploper, the bird “generally buries its Bill.”  The legs should be entirely free
of feathers; but about half the number of croppers I have seen and possessed have had some short feathers down the
outsides of the legs and on the middle toes, which I consider so far faulty, the bare-legged birds being very much
smarter in appearance.  However, as some of the best birds are slightly feather-legged. They are not to be discarded on
this account.  Flight being considered all in all by many cropper fanciers, feathered legs are of little consequence; at the
same time, bare legs are allowed to be correct.  I have not seen any pure croppers completely stocking-legged, and the
more they are so the worse they look.  No doubt the pouter is vastly improved with completely feathered stocking limbs;
but, as I have shown, it was bare-legged in Moore’s time.  The little cropper having, however, quite a different marriage
from the pouter, feathered legs give it a clumsy appearance, which is a settled question among many of those who keep
them.  The legs ought to be placed in the body as in the pouter, compared with which the cropper is straighter in limb,
not inclining so much at the hocks.  Slenderness of girth, or of waist as it is termed, is of course, an admirable property
in the cropper, and best seen in young birds, for they naturally thicken as they increase in age.

Regarding length of limb and feather in croppers, I give the following measurements of my own birds, some of which
were bred in Norfolk and the adjoining counties, and the others by myself.  Ten cocks average 5 3/4 in. in limb, and 15
in. in feather; they vary from 5 1/4 in to 5 ½ in. in limb and from 14 ½ in. to 15 ¼ in feather.  Nine hens average 5 1/4  in
limb, and 14 ½ in. in feather;  they vary from 5 in. to 5 ¾ in. in limb, and from 14 in to 15 in. in feather.  There is,
therefore, nothing like the variation in length of limb and feather among them that there is in pouters.  Their average
length of limb, in proportion t their average length of feather, is also equal to what is only rarely attained in pouters,
which proves them to be more easily bred good in shape than pouters.  This is, indeed the case, and many perfect
models in shape may be found among them, which of course makes them very much less valuable.  A good cropper
should feel no heavier in the hand than an average sized common flying tumbler.  They vary a little in size, like every
other variety.

Carriage.—The cropper has the most upright carriage of any variety of pouting pigeon I know of.  They occasionally
overcharge their crop with wind when young, but generally soon grow out of this habit.  Slack-winded birds are almost
unknown among them.  So long as they keep in health they remain in show, and in this respect present the greatest
contrast to large pouters.  For the most part they walk perfectly upright, their wings being carried tightly to their sides,
and their flights never crossed at the points.  They are, however, inclined to carry their wings rather low, thereby not
showing  much of their belly and thighs in profile as is desirable.  The flights ought not to reach to the end of the tail by
nearly an inch, long flighted birds being bad fliers.  It is noticeable that the best flying varieties, such as blue rocks,
tumblers, dragoons, Antwerpe, triganecas, and croppers, are all rather short in flights, long wings being impedimental to
pigeons in their flight, whatever they may be to some other kinds of birds.  The tail of the cropper is carried as shown in
the drawing, and seldom any higher.  In stretching itself to its utmost height it often walks only on its front toes, the back
ones being off the ground, or just touching it, resembling in this respect the uploper, regarding which, Moore says, “that
when moving you may put anything under the Ball of its Foot.”  Its style of movement so far resembles the pouters; but it
is allowable for the cropper to spring off the ground when playing to another pigeon, and this it often does in leaps of
three or four feet across the floor, opening its wings on its way and quickly closing them as it alights.  This leaping, which
is so ungainly in the pouter, is executed with such expertness by the cropper that it is pleasant to see them perform it.

Feather.—The cropper is found in eight principal pied colours, all of which are admired, because they are all beautiful.  
Four of these are solid colours, and the others are their corresponding barred colours.  Some of them being known, in
the cropper fancy, by different names from what is usual, the following is the Norwich and general nomenclatures:

              English Pouter                                Norwich Cropper
                      Black                                              Black
                      Red                                                Cinnamon
                      Yellow                                             Yellow
                      Dun                                                Mouse
                      Blue                                                Blue
                      Mealy                                             Dun
                      Yellow.Mealy                                  Cream
                      Silver                                              Cloth

Black, owing to the practice of breeding the best flying birds together, regardless of their colour, is seldom seen very
glossy in croppers.  Some of the best shaped and marked birds I have seen were of this colour.  Black pieds are often
quite free of objectionable leg feathering, and generally very good fliers.  Cinnamons (reds) and yellows are scarce and
difficult to get.  I have seen and had well marked and fairly coloured birds of both.  They are generally somewhat
feathered-legged, which makes them valuable to breeders of stocking-legged pied pigmy pouters.  Mouse-coloured
croppers (i.e. dun, as in carriers) are not common.  I was told that the late Mr. Perry, of Yarmouth, had a good bird of
this colour, and as I bred one myself from the bird which formerly belonged to him, it may have been a descendant of
the one he had.

The great proportion of croppers are of the bar-winged colours, blue and dun (i.e. mealy) being the commonest.  The
blue ought, of course, to have black bars, but kite-barred blues are very common.  The dun, like all mealy pigeons, has
a light tail.  Its neck and wing bars ought to be bright red, and its wing coverts of a clear light mealy, when it is called a
miller dun.  A red dun has the wing coverts of a reddish tinge, and between the miller dun and cinnamon there are many
degrees of colour, according to the amount of red in the plumage.  Cloth (i.e., silver) is one of the prettiest colours, and
is of many shades.  Its neck and wing bars vary from a light dove-coloured to a hard blackish dun; a beautiful golden
chestnut dun being the most pleasing tint.  Its wing coverts ought to be of a soft creamy dun, only dark enough to show
up the rose pinion.  This colour has, of course, a dun tail, barred to match the neck and wings.  Cloths are mostly hens,
a really good cloth cock being rather a scarce pigeon.  They have, of course, a light tail, and their colour is so delicate
that a rose pinion is scarcely distinguishable on their wings.  Their necks and wing bars ought to be rich yellow.  The
barred colours are very much inter-bred, the result being left to chance; in fact, it is usual to breed two good birds
together, no matter what colour they are; hence, unless when breeding from a pair of the same colour, and not always
then, it is impossible to predict what the young ones will be like.  To improve blacks, yellows, and cinnamons, they ought,
of course, to be kept distinct from the barred colours.  As all the solid and primary barred colours are found in croppers,
the intermediate or chequered also exist in great variety of shades, but they are not generally liked or bred for.  Pure
white birds are occasionally seen, and whites with coloured tails are an old and favourite variety.  There are three
colours of them, viz., black, blue, and cloth-tailed birds.  To be properly marked they ought to be entirely white, with the
exception of the tail and its upper and under coverts.  Some coloured feathers on the head are often found in them, as
well as a white feather or two in the tail or among the under tail coverts, which do not look well when they are flying;  
Their tail primaries ought to be sound in colour, but are frequently very much grizzled with white.  The cropper is very
often mis-marked in having an excess of white, though I have had a few of them very well marked to the pouter
standard.  A deficiency or total want of bib, causing the ugly swallow throat, is very common; so is the blaze face, or snip
on the forehead.  A flesh-coloured beak usually accompanies a large snip; they are then said to be pink-nosed.  The
whole front of the crop is often white, and ring-necks are sometimes found.  The rose pinion is, however, occasionally
seen beautifully defined, but a wing free of any white is more seldom seen that a bishop wing.  A good flying bird,
however ill marked, is bred from, because perfect flight is not easily got, and so bad marking is perpetuated.

Flight.—The cropper is the merriest and liveliest, and can be made the tamest and most familiar, of all pigeons.  In the
loft, or out of it, he is always on the move, and so long as he remains in health he keeps in show.  The rules for good
flying are as follow:  A good bird should spring up from his trap like an acrobat from a spring board, and go off in a
circle, loudly clapping his wings, so that he can be heard from afar.  His tail must be carried spread out like a fan, but
depressed in the middle, so that it has the shape of a scoop.  A well spread scoop tail is valuable, because rare to get.  
Extra tail feathers are often found in croppers, some having fourteen or more.  A well-carried tail is all the better to have
these extra feathers.  Like other breeds in which more than twelve tail primaries are often seen, croppers generally want
the oil gland on the rump.  A good cropper must have a rocking action in his flight, his head and tail going up and down
like the movement of a rocking horse.  Then, as soon as he gets enough way on his flight, he must stop using his wings,
and raising them, so that they nearly touch at the points, sail motionless through the air, and the longer he can so sail,
the more valuable he is.  A good bird will sail along for fifty yard, gradually lowering as he goes; then, again using his
wings with loud claps, he will rise as much as he has fallen, and go on alternately in this way till he pitches.  A cropper
ought not to fly far nor long at a time.  He may go twice or thrice round his house in a wide circle, the pitch, play up to his
hen, and fly off again.  The time they fly best is the week or ten days before she lays, when their courting is going on;
but even when sitting or feeding young ones each will fly well alone, though not in such good style as during the time
mentioned.  A good way to gain the flight of croppers is to let out a lot of odd cocks and one proud hen, when good
sport may be had.

There is certainly nothing in the whole pigeon fancy from which greater pleasure can be derived than a flight of well
trained Norwich croppers.  Beautiful in shape and feather, grand fliers, ever dashing about with spirit, both in the loft and
out of it, the owner possesses in them a source of inexhaustible amusement.  I have always kept the noble and majestic
pouter, which everyone will allow is one of the choicest pigeons in the fancy, but he sadly wants the spirit and life of the
active, merry cropper.  The pouter can certainly fly, after a fashion, and if flown from his squeakerhood is fairly able to
take care of himself when allowed liberty; but the choicest large birds cannot be said to be at home in the air, which the
cropper is, to a much greater extent than most pigeons.

The remarks on pouters by Dixon, in his “Dovecote and Aviary,” apply solely to the Norwich cropper, as can be seen by
his allusions to its flight, colour, &c.  His illustration of it represents a bare-legged blue cropper, and is perhaps, the best
and most life-like picture of a pigeon in his book.  I observe from the province of the work that he was living at Norwich
when it was issued.  He says, at page 122: “The flight also of the cropper is stately and dignified in its way.  The inflated
crop is not generally collapsed by the exertion, but is seen to move slowly forward through the air, like a large
permanent soap-bubble with a body and wings attached to it.  The bird is fond of slapping his wings loudly at first
starting to take his few lazy rounds in the air, for his is too much of a fine gentleman to condescend to violent exertion.  
Other pigeons will indulge in the same action in a less degree, but croppers are the claquers par excellence; and hence
we believe the Smiters of Willughby to be only a synonym of the present kind.”  This description is very true to nature;
but, as I have shown, the smiter of Willughby is the bird known in Germany as the ringbeater.

Eaton could appreciate the excellence of the cropper, which he writes of as the Pouting Horseman as follows:  “I have
seen some of these light-bodied Pouting Horsemen that appeared to me to fly as light as Tumblers, and when flying with
the Tumblers, their round globular crops, well filled and up, have a very pleasing effect, owing to the contrast of the
Tumblers.  With regard to dashing off, they are not only a merry but a spirited Pigeon; not only spirited, but graceful in
the extreme; I would rather see an elegant shape, small or narrow-girt Pouting Horseman, 6 ½ in. in the leg (think of this,
Gentlemen of the Pouting Fancy!) than an English Pouter, even if it would measure 7 in.  A large English Pouter, with
thick girt and hog-backed.  Style is a grand thing, and the Pouting Horseman is the English Pouter in miniature, retaining
all its properties.”  As I have explained, croppers are nothing like 6 ½ in. in limb; but Eaton, if he ever measure any, was
probably unwilling to write what at the time, would have been regarded as something very heterodox.  How well he goes
on to describe what may be seen at any show of pouters; “How often it happens at a grand show of these remarkable,
fine, large, English Pouters, after having been previously prepared for showing, that is separating each cock and hen,
and not allowing them to see a Pigeon, show well in their own pens; but when put into the show pen, a male bird,
expecting it will show, it stretches forth its head and neck, apparently taking a sight of all the Fanciers in the room,
almost as much as to say to some of them—you owe me something; some may show to a certain extent.  It is very
disheartening to Gentlemen Fanciers of the English Pouter when this takes place, after forwarding their birds miles, etc.,
to give their brother Fanciers a treat, as it was supposed; it does not always turn out to be so, owing to their not
showing, as it is called.  Nevertheless, it often proves a treat to see what length of body and shape, length in leg and
beautiful in feather.  It is otherwise with the light (not heavy) merry spirited Pouting Horseman cock, when put into the
show pen, always up and ready for his work, not long in stripping himself, putting himself in attitude, and suiting the
action to the word, display that fine action of showing which is well understood by the Gentlemen of the Fancy; giving
infinite satisfaction with regard to being a merry pigeon, &c. . . . . I have this week bought two pretty little Pouting
Horseman cocks; I am informed they come from Norwich.  I am given to understand they fly tremendously, with very large
crops. . . . The Gentlemen Fanciers of the English Pouter man assume that I admire the small Pouting Horseman more
than the large English Pouter.   The contrary is the fact; I never have and never shall advise the young and
inexperienced Fancier to attempt to breed a second-rate bird, while he has the opportunity to breed a first-rate bird,
therefore I shall not advise him to breed the Pouting Horseman, while he has the opportunity to attempt to breed the
English Pouter, any more than I shall advise him to breed a Skienum, Dragoon, or Horseman, while he has the
opportunity to attempt to breed a Carrier, for degeneracy will do that, in spite of the effort of the experienced Fanciers;
but I am desirous you should breed the English Pouter with more style and grace, with a hollow back, smaller in the girt,
stout legs, but not the mill-posts, soft downy or snow-like feather legs; but not rushed and sprouted with feathers that
almost prevent the bird for walking.”

All the forgoing is in a long note to Moore’s description of the “Powting Horseman,” which I have already given.  Eaton
took for granted that the Norwich cropper was identical with it, and could evidently not see, though he had had birds
direct from Norwich, that they were a pure and distinct breed, having nothing to do with the Horseman.  His remarks on
their fine style, in comparison with that of the pouter, are however, well weighed and very conclusive.