"Barnhart and Son Lofts"? "Not a very imaginative name", you might be thinking, but looking upon our history it certainly makes sense. We actually go way back to the late nineteen-fifties, and the "Son" was always part of it in one way or another. I'll try to explain.
The actual beginning was in 1959, and Harold Barnhart of Tiffin, Ohio, decided to return to the love he developed as a farm boy in Putnam County, when he had a barn full of common pigeons and rejoiced at the sight of a squab that showed evidence of being either white, pied, or anything else that was not the standard run-of-the-mill blue bar or blue check. He no doubt figured it would also be a good pastime for his teenage son who always showed an interest in animals, birds, etc. His stated goal was to get "a couple pair for the kid". He just liked pigeons, plain and simple, and although he travelled with his friend, the late Harold Bour, to several pigeon shows in Ohio, he never exhibited a pigeon and he never became someone who worried about breeding to a show standard. Within a few years he was out of the pigeon fancy entirely.
As you probably have guessed, I was "the kid" he was speaking of, and I'm still at it. We started out with a lot of 50-cent and dollar pigeons back then. Our first "good" pair was a pair of English Trumpeters that cost $3.00. I remember my Dad turning down a good pair of yellow saddle Fantails because the asking price of $6.00 was too high. (And heaven forbid that we even consider that pair of white Show Kings Paul Huffman wanted to sell for ten dollars!) We had a loft full of homers, rollers, trumpeters, and other assorted fancy breeds that had eye appeal, like the 50-cent mismarked red nun and the $1 red baldhead roller cock with the oversized bib. (Dad was always a sucker for a pretty pigeon.) I eventually settled down to raising American Giant Homers, and I raised them for thirty years, eventually showing a cream bar hen that was District Champion at Bay City, Michigan, in 1979. (Actually, looking back on my first few years in pigeons I had a pigeon buddy/best friend who suggested I use the name "Hawkeye Lofts". At the time I was a big fan of American Giant Homers and my buddy said I should call them the "Hawkeye Strain" because they had that menacing look about them. So for a while I billed my loft "Hawkeye Lofts", but that would have made more sense if I lived in Iowa instead of Ohio.) Here's a picture of me about that time (actually 1962), along with an avian friend and my little brother (front) and the neighbor boy.
When my first son Mike was born in 1970, he quickly became interested in the pigeons, as will be the case with most children. As he got a little older he started to take an interest in certain breeds, eventually - with the help of a good friend, the late attorney Paul Kretschmar of South Dakota - settling on Pomeranian Pouters. He showed these regularly at many major shows and did quite well with them. He also followed the lead of most young boys and lost interest as he entered the teen years. It was a similar situation with second son Dan, who was born in 1973. He too liked the big pouter breeds and his birds were Dutch Croppers. Matt, the current "Son" in Barnhart and Son Lofts, was born in 1984, and you can read about him in the next paragraph. (There is also a daughter Andrea, born in 1977, who as a child was interested in the birds but never quite as involved as her brothers. She, however, is currently running her own white bird release business in central Ohio.)
Matt is now 27, but since his early years of high school he has been my mentor and main resource in constructing and updating this web site since its inception over ten years ago. (He also did much of the work on his high school's web site, improving it greatly from the "generic" appearance it started with. He graduated from Rhodes State College here in Lima in 2005, where he earned an associate's degree in digital media.) Matt raises Parlor Rollers and until recently Fantails, as well as Racing Homers. He also is working with Danish Suabians, thanks to our friend Frank Mosca in California. (See the link to Frank's page at left.) In 2004 one of his Suabians received a "highly superior" rating at the Rare Breeds meet in conjunction with the National Young Bird Show in Louisville, KY. For the last several years Matt has been an active participant in planning matings, selecting and preparing race birds, and caring for the birds in general. He also races his own team in both clubs where we are currently members. In December of 2000 he took on his first judging assignment, doing the flying type Racing Homers at the Southern Ohio Pigeon Association's "Buckeye Classic" show, and he also judged homers at the January, 2003, Fremont Pigeon Show, and again in 2006. In 2001 he bred the first-place winner in the AU Youth Race. In October of 2002 he attended the AU Annual Convention in Denver, courtesy of the AU for winning that race. He served as our club's hauler and liberator for both old and young bird series from 2003 through 2005. Matt now has his own loft about five miles from here and is concentrating on breeding from the "Creator" and "Hollywood" lines of top-quality racing pigeons.
Currently I breed Dragoons and Racing Homers. Over the years I have had many different breeds, including Damascenes, Dutch Whiteside Highflyers, Frillbacks, German Beauty Homers, English and Vogtlander Trumpeters, Pomeranian, Brunner and Pigmy Pouters, Jerezano Pouters, Norwich and Dutch Croppers, Nuns, Swiss Mondains, Oriental Frills, Helmets, Saxon Whitetails, Archangels, Swallows, Flying Rollers, Show Kings, Modenas in Gazzi, Schietti and Argent, Vienna Highflyers, Vienna Tumblers, Parlor Rollers, and English Exhibition Homers. Many of these breeds, of course, were kept during my early years in the pigeon fancy, when it seemed necessary to sample as many different breeds as possible. I certainly was never what one could call a "serious" breeder of every one of these breeds listed, but I do claim a good knowledge of most of them.
My main interest is in the genetics of color breeding, both in Dragoons and Racing Homers. This interest can be traced back to two significant events in my life as a pigeon fancier. The first was a visit to the loft of the late Gerhard Hasz of Indianapolis, Indiana, during my freshman year of college. There I saw colors I had never dreamed of, and this sparked my interest. Later I lived for one year in the Akron, Ohio area, and there I met the late Carl Graefe, a self-taught expert on pigeon genetics. It was at his office during discussions with Joe Quinn and Dave Rinehart that I first learned many of the things you'll read about on my genetics page. These three gentlemen, along with Dr. Willard Hollander, with whom I corresponded quite frequently over the years, were my mentors as far as pigeon genetics is concerned. In later years I became acquainted with Dr. Paul Gibson, Ron Huntley, Larry Long, Frank Mosca, Joel and Ray Kinkade, and several other genetics enthusiasts. I am currently trying to sort out some of the various expressions of recessive opal and am investigating a possible new allele of recessive red that has emerged from the red "Hollywood" family of homers.
Occasionally I speak to local groups such as the Boy Scouts, Audubon Society, etc., regarding the hobby and I have been providing ceremonial homing pigeon releases prior to the official start of the annual "Positive Addiction Run" sponsored by the Lima Catholic Schools. In February of 2000 I was retained by the city of Los Angeles to testify as an expert witness on domestic pigeons. Although the case (involving the values of several fancy pigeons that were confiscated by the city as a result of a complaint) was eventually settled out of court, I did provide the city with valuable information that allowed them to defend themselves in the suit and eventually obtain a settlement.