The Damascene
As with many ancient breeds, it is impossible to determine the definitive origin of the Damascene. Damascenes, or Mahomets, as they are often referred to in early written and oral accounts, are even mentioned on Egyptian papyrus rolls and stone carvings. Although it is commonly believed that the Damascene originated in Damascus, Syria (hence the name Damascene), there are indications that the breed might have been developed in either Turkey or Iran (Persia). Even back then in the 17th century, Willughby (1667) described the breed as being an old breed. He compares the large beautiful dark eye ceres of the Mahomets to the "large, dark eyes" of the people from Middle Eastern countries. The dark plum colored eye ceres and bright lively eyes are one of the two main features that make this breed so strikingly attractive.

Some two hundred years later in A Treatise of Domestic Pigeons, it is suggested that they were then called Mahomets because of their associated with the founder of Islam, Muhammed. Therein he provides us with the tale that a Mahomet (Damascene) spoke into Muhammed’s ear. This bird, the Holy Spirit, told Muhammed the dictates of the Almighty and from that day forward was given the name Mahomet. Well, at least until the Europeans started calling it the Damascene. The first Mahomets were imported into England in 1868. These pigeons were imported from Constantinople (Istanbul)  and were sold to James Wallace of Glasgow. When Wallace showed them in 1879, he referred to them as Damascenes. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Records show that Damascenes continued to be imported into Europe from Afghanistan as late as 1914. It is, therefore, evident that the breed was rather widespread throughout the middle east.  But the breed did not fare well in Europe through the intervening world wars, and actually died out in Europe by the end of the second world war. Luckily, they have since been re-introduced, and are again found throughout Europe and North America.

Though now considered an exhibition breed, the Turks were using the Damascene for flying as late as 1954. If at all possible, Damascenes should be afforded ample flying exercise. Their frosty colors are a sight to behold against a blue sky as they dart, dive, and slice the air with their graceful flight. They are agile, energetic flyers, and there is really no danger of them straying from the home loft. In fact they may bring back a friend. Just as we humans do, other pigeons appear to find them rather attractive. Damascenes have no difficulty finding a mate and when they start to coo and strut, an audience is always attracted.

The Damascene presents a bold and vigorous carriage of about 15 ounces. The males on average are an ounce or two heavier than the females. The English Owl has a similar head and beak structure and many believe the Damascene was used in the development of the English Owl. Two distinctive points, peculiar to these birds, set the Damascene apart from all other breeds of pigeon: the large bright eyes surrounded with damson purple/blue eye ceres; and the color of their plumage, which is of a clear milky or frosted silver, providing the perfect contrasting backdrop for their intense ebony black wing bars. Though the plumage of these birds is so smooth and light on the outer surface, the under hue of each feather, especially those of the neck, is a dark color. The skin, beak, nails and legs are also black or nearly so.

Unfortunately, only a few discriminating fanciers breed this exotic, strikingly beautiful bird. It is still rather a novelty, and is considered a rare breed in the United States. Even though it is a rare breed, it is widely dispersed and can be located without a great deal of effort. Prices for these pigeons are also relatively inexpensive for even show quality specimens. Show elements to look for in this breed include:

  • The head is fairly large and somewhat round, with moderate stop over the wattle.
  • Eye ceres of damson or plum in color, the darker the better.
  • Eyes very bright deep orange/gravel to almost red with red being preferred.
  • The Damascene is a "one color" pigeon, but with this one color who needs anything else? It is a very smooth, even, frosty, powdered blue of the same shade and intensity over the head, neck, shoulders, body, rump and tail, with the exception of the ebony black wing bars, tail bar, and flights. The underside of the feathers should be a dark sooty hue, including dark to nearly black skin, beak, nails, and legs.
  • Two ebony black wing bars must run parallel to each other and extend across the entire shield.
  • The heart shaped wattle is moderate in size and chalky white in color.
  • The blunt beak is dark colored and stocky, being nearly as wide as long. While relatively short for pigeons in general, it must be long enough to feed its own young. The upper mandible has a slight downward curve.
  • The breast is broad, prominent and protrudes forward.
  • The wings are held tight against the body, lying over the tail with the tips just touching.
  • The feet and legs are dark red with black toenails, and are free of feathers below the hock joint.