Over the past three quarters of a century Dr. Hollander affected nearly
everyone in the pigeon industry and "Fancy". His dedication to
everything pigeon is unmatched in history. It is likely that the pigeon
you last held in your hand had a genetic character that Dr. Hollander
analyzed, worked with, or even named.
In Austin, Texas his interests and experience with pigeons began as is it
did for many of us. At age 11 he had a makeshift loft, birds that he
captured himself, and tolerant parents. Unlike most of us though, his
hobby turned into a career and experiences that remain unmatched.
Throughout his academic career in Genetics he pioneered new fields of
study. His studies included the laboratory fly (Drosophila
melanogaster), and mice until the last couple of decades. His studies
with mice were important in the wake of World War II and use of the
Atomic Bomb. He studied the effects of X-rays on chromosomes and
inheritance of those effects. Especially with his continued pigeon
research, this broad background allowed him to develop methodologies
including improved genetic diagramming, symbols, and using a "wild type"
or standard type reference that makes generalizing and analyzing
classical genetics more clear and accurate than anyone before him.
His love for pigeons, nevertheless, was the focus
of his life's work. In the early days, he worked closely with Wendell
Levi at the Palmetto Pigeon Plant and was at the center of the squabing
industry where there were thousands of birds, and was able to
important contacts around the world. At this time he contributed
significantly to the production of what is considered
the pigeon breeder's bible, The Pigeon. Hollander wrote and illustrated
the entire chapter on Genetics and in Levi's own words, "the project
would have never been completed without him".
As time went on Dr. Hollander moved his family three times and always took his birds with them. He finally set roots in Ames, Iowa,
where he taught and conducted research at Iowa State University for many
years. Even after his retirement his research at home continued. His
interests in oddities, linkages, and new mutants was always at the
forefront of his life. During this time his projects included work with
chickens, ringneck doves, muscovy ducks, and of course his pigeons. It
was here that he found the Sideburns mutant in his own flock. Produced
by an elderly and slightly under the weather pair, this mutant causes
the feathers along the beak to grow forwards instead of the usual
backwards. Sometimes there is a tuft present above the beak as well as
ear whirls of feathers. The mutant is co-dominant, and the homozygote
has a head tremor. Besides this variable expressivity, sideburns was
possibly the first example in pigeons that also exhibited reduced
penetrance in that in a few birds, the gene could be present and not
show an effect until passed on to the next generation. Azuro, Gauzy and
other mutants that occurred in his research flock continue to be
with his research at home, Hollander felt it would be important to seek
out greater variation among pigeons near the probable center of origin
of domestic breeds. He set off on two such expeditions. one to Turkey
with long time friend Bob Pettit, and a second to Egypt with his son
Andy. These trips helped to build his encyclopedic knowledge of
historical pigeon breeds and how they were kept.
Over the course of his life, his published works
have been presented in every forum that a pigeon fancier may look
for information. He published several books, countless articles and
started the Pigeon Genetics News Letter as first editor. It later
became with other editors, the Pigeon Genetics News, Views & Comments
newsletter for many years, and he continued to contribute to it right up
to the end. It literally takes about an hour just to (even silently)
read the list of all of the articles that he has written.
Going to a Pigeon Show with him was like trying to get a Rock Star
through a crowd of screaming fans, without the screaming. From the time
we arrived, until he was too tired to go on, he was dragged willingly
from bird to bird looking at new developments in a breed that he likely
aided or advised on.
Maybe it was a mosaic that he was drawn to, (and he explained that
phenomenon in two scientific papers); or some color or combination no
one else could diagnose. There was always a question for him.
Frequently his answers were in the form of questions and his teaching
methods helped many learn about genetics, often without them knowing
it. He always helped anyone that asked, no matter what their level of
experience, and would often diagram matings on scratch paper that he
always carried just for that purpose.
For those who may not have attended the same shows, there was his
correspondence, which was voluminous. One recipient saved and counted
1051 letters over a 33 year period. That is just one example of a
staggering collection of letters that were passed back and forth over
the years. To this date, ALL of the letters he received and copies of
his responses are maintained in his archives.
at shows and by correspondence, Dr. Hollander gave away many pigeons.
He always donated them to breeders/fanciers. Nearly all were willing to
pay something, but he never charged anything.
Now he is gone. But like that same Rock Star, his memory and work will
continue forever. The tools that he left for us, and the work he
started, will be used for years to come. As we look at new mutations
and "oddities" we will be better able to understand them because of Dr.
Willard F. Hollander.
a Web site dedicated to Dr. Hollander was started by Dave Rinehart of
Ohio. The site,
www.rarepigeongenes.com , lists the
rare mutants that Dr. Hollander worked closely with and that may need
continued attention. Sources and descriptions of the genes are listed
along with pictures of the phenotypes they produce.
Dr. Hollander had an impact on all of us, and whether he was a reference
in a book, a source of advice through correspondence, a colleague, or a
good friend with a great sense of humor, we will all miss him.
As he used to say about Charles Darwin, I will say about him..." I don't
always remember exactly what Dr. Hollander said, but I am sure he was right".
Kevin Stalder and Dr. Wilmer Miller