Horseman Thief Pouters are a type of pouter pigeon used for hundreds of years to capture other pigeons as a sport. The sport of using pigeons to capture other pigeons appears to have its roots in Spain and it spread Northward through Europe to other regions where it eventually reached Great Britain. The Horseman Thief Pouter is the type of thief pouter most commonly used in this region. To many of the people using these birds in the thief sport, Horseman are referred to by their vernacular name: "Big Doos".
A Brief History:
In a text from the year 1735 John Moore wrote the following of Horseman Pouters:
"The Powting Horseman…. a Bastard strain . . . They are a very merry Pigeon upon a house and by often dashing off are good to pitch stray Pigeons. . . Blue and Blue Pieds are most noted to be genuine and good."
In 1738 Eleazer Albin wrote this of Horseman Thief pouters:
"Bastard breed …. they are very apt to decoy other pigeons and is often practised by our London pigeon merchants. They take the cock as soon as the young are hatched and carrying him where there is any dove-houses, they throw him up and he will, by taking turns about, be sure to carry off some of the pigeons from the place, or if he meet any in his way, he will endeavour to take them with him."
Horseman Thief Pouters remain today a mix of various breeds and well-bred individuals are adept at capturing other pigeons. As was done historically they are often cross-bred to better improve their skills as working birds and therefore come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. These variations are quite accepted by those using Horseman Thief Pouters as working birds. The focus in breeding a true working type Horseman Thief Pouter is put onto their ability to capture other pigeons, with appearance always following that.
A modern day quote from a seasoned Glasgow, Scotland pigeon man on the "Big Doos" (AKA Horseman Thief pouters):
"We flew every type of pigeon as long as it could charm the opposite sex and shift finish its work in the holers."
And a quote form an experienced breeder and judge of both working type and show type thief pouters:
"The Horseman, like many Spanish working breeds, are nothing more than crosses that tend to portrait a similar look within the name ... and that they are truly and better measured by their performance in the air ... and really their name is only representative of a particular, but generic fenotype & style ... that when interbred may sustain their look or give you throughbacks to their questionable ancestry ... The genetic pool of the Horseman tends to carry everything and anything from a Homer ... to a Tumbler ... to one of the many breeds of Pouters"
Some confusion exists about the feather markings of Horseman due to the erroneous belief that Horseman Thief Pouters must be bred to a show standard. The show standard that was written for exhibition type Horseman considers pied markings to be a fault. However, the show standard only applies to exhibition type Horseman and in no way defines or applies to Horseman that are bred for performance outside of the show pen. In the year 1738 Eleazer Albin wrote of "blue pied" Horseman pouters, so we know that pied Horseman pouters have been around longer than the show standard. A quote on this topic from yet another present day Scotsman:
"it dont matter wat colour they are they could be blue blue tipped (white flighted) blue starrie blue bullpit (pied) i dont think any one can deny that this is a horseman it dosent matter about the markings if you new anyone that flies against me they would tell you the same."
Another quote on this topic from another very experienced Scottish Horseman breeder:
"some breeders, including myself, still have a line from old glasgow birds which produce white flights and or white bibs."
And finally a quote from a modern text about Horseman Thief Pouters titled "Horseman the Thief Pouter", by James Dolier:
"Another old friend of mine, from the South Side of the city at Shawlands, was Andy Kelly, who died in 1985. He was one of the old timers who used Norwich Croppers, Homers and West of England high-flying Tumblers with their grouse-like feathered legs to create his own flying horseman through interbreeding. This produced all sorts of mutli-colored white-faced bonnie birds with their feathered legs."
This last quote brings the Horseman full circle to the quotes above made nearly 300 years ago. Both written history and modern day accounts make it clear that the working type Horseman Thief Pouter was, and remains today, a mixed breed type of pigeon that is not bred to just have a specific appearance, but is instead bred to be an excellent working bird.