One of the most brilliantly colored of all pigeons  is the Archangel/Gimpel. It is a member of the German Color Pigeon Group, at times also refered to as the German Toy Group.  This small, slender, elegant bird is a feast for the eyes in any cote even though it is a bit skittish. The Gimpel, AKA Archangel, is now generally regarded as an old breed from Southern Germany because it can be authenticated there for such a long time.    It represents a large group of pigeons known for their elaborate coloration and structural features.  The Gimpels have two main body colors, bronze and copper as shown below, and three wing colours—black, blue and white.

The name Archangel is used for these pigeons in the United States.  The name Gimpel is used for them in all of Europe except Britain.  In Britain, the name Archangel is used to describe only the dark copper variety shown above.  The British fanciers, through the Archangel Club, only allow "The peak crested copper black wing" to be known as the Archangel. This Archangel club has thrived in Britain since 1844.  All other colors are known as Gimpels.  To make things more difficult, the British call the copper color "Old Red Copper" and describe it as Dark Red; the bronze color is called dark yellow .  I hope after all this you get the picture.  Gimpel or Archangel, it really does not matter.  They are the same gorgous pigeon breed.
There are several main colors in the present day Gimpels, and some with white flights; they are: (Reds) Red/Black wing, Red/Blue wing, Red/ Black wing with six to ten white flights, Red/Blue wing with six to ten white flights, Red/White wing; (Yellows) Yellow/Black wing, Yellow/Blue wing, Yellow/Black wing with six to ten white flights, Yellow/Blue wing with six to ten white flights, Yellow/White wing.  Some rarer colors can also be found, such as this Dominant Opal.  From an historical point of view it is interesting to note that before 1930, there was a color known as the Monk Marked Archangel.
The most noticable characteristic, that you can't really see the depth of here, is the depth of  color of the head, neck, breast, belly, lower tail feathering and thighs.   The red is an intense dark red copper color with metallic brilliance; the belly and lower tail covering are somewhat duller. The yellow; or bronze, is a deep, dark golden yellow with metallic luster, but again  somewhat duller on belly and lower tail cover. The dark copper and bronze with metallic sheen is really very descriptive of these beautiful pigeons.   The black wings are an extremely lustrous ebony black.  To most people, the Archangel/Gimpel is the most beautiful colored pigeon.
The Gimpel is of medium size, between 33 and 34 centimeters long, and is slender and graceful. The head is narrow, long, and slightly arched, plain headed or peak crested, the pointed crest highly placed in a sharp point.  All examples shown here sport the peak crest.  The eyes are deep, bright orange, enclosed by a cere of coral tint, enhancing the brilliant metallic sheen of the head and neck. ( The eye cere is the narrow band of skin around the eye.)  The beak is long, moderately thin, and bent slightly downward at the tip.  The wings are moderately long and rest on the tail when not in flight.
The exact history of the breed cannot be confirmed, but it was known in Germany in 1820, and imported into Britain via Ghent by Sir John Sebright in 1839.  There are three theories as to why the breed become known as Archangel in Britain.:
  • Because they were imported from North Russia from the port of Archangel-- a boring story, or that
  • The name is a corruption of the French word 'Arc-en-ciel', meaning 'rainbow'--somewhat better, or my personal favorite, offered by the famous 19th  Century Pigeon breeder, Lyell,
  • That the name is derived from the metallic luster on the bird's back and wing feathers, which resembles that shown by painters on the wings of the heavenly archangels.
And so our knowledge of this queen of color sat, until recent research performed by Josip Pekanovic, translated by Thomas Hellmann, brought a far more ancient history to light.  The Archangel/Gimpel was formally known as the Illyrian Pigeon or Holy Pigeon, deriving from Mesoptamia.  This is the same location as the Tower of Babylon, and of the same period.
Owing to its smallness, the Archangel will thrive in a small enclosure, where gentle treatment will soon tame it.  Being a splendid breeder and dependable feeder, this brilliantly colored pigeon of sturdy physique adapts itself readily to rigorous climatic conditions. Its lively, graceful manner and handsome plumage combine to make it one of the most delightful pigeons for any fancier.  You owe it to yourself to get one, or at least to go look at a few at a local pigeon show.  Shows in the States and Canada are usually free, and only a small fee is charged in Europe.
With special thanks to Marvin Jones and Layne Gardner for photo contributions, and to Josip Pekanovic and Thomas Hellmann for the article on the Illyrian Pigeon.