Translated from the Italian by Sebastian Vallelunga
It is surely the most widespread and most commonly raised of the canary song breeds. To be realistic one must say that a decade or so ago this would have been a title to be hotly contested by the harz roller, but surely this breed has overtaken the harz in popularity. Its exact origins are somewhat nebulous as is the case with any race of canary. The use of the computer and printed pedigree are, after all, a recent thing!
In any case, it seems that malinois origins must be searched for in Flanders among largish yellow birds raised for their song from the start. Naturally, it was a canary breed born of the fruit of crossbreeding with other birds of the general appearance of the great holland canary (what the English canary writers call the old dutch canary variety, blood stock that may figure in the development of both the waterslager and the humpback among others—trans.) as well as German birds from the Tyrol. These, however, are theories passed on by word of mouth long after the fact. It is certain that the first club established for this breed was founded in Anvers in 1872. And, at the same time, a breed called the great yellow canary, a direct descendent of the great holland was very common. The fact that this bird is later crossed with German birds causes one to think that there is harz or common canary blood being bred into birds of the area at the time, something which cannot be denied. At any rate, that particular line ended up in quite a different state than that in which it had begun. The breeders of the malinois, in fact, mainly oriented themselves toward perfecting the famous water song typical of the nightingale, leaving the harz to its own rolled song. Naturally, even within the context of song selection alone, there arose “currents” that were dictated by the geographical location of the breeders.
As is normal, each breeder sought to forge the song of the canary according to his own personal tastes. The water sounds, however, have always been a peculiar characteristic of these canaries and, in fact, they had come to be called nachtegaalslager (nightingale singers), in that the water sounds were characteristic of the nightingale as has been already mentioned. Only later did the name become transformed into waterslager (water singers). Today this singer goes by the name of malinois waterslager and also of belgian waterslager. The term malinois comes from the city of Malines (Mechelen) near Brussels and the term waterslager points to the sounds of murmuring water. We Italians generally shorten the name to malinois. In 1926 there was a first tentative step in unifying the various tastes in order to create one single malinois type, but it wasn’t accomplished until the Paris Congress of 1956 with its constitution of a unique international organization for all the breeds: the C.O.M.
The malinois arrived in Italy in the 60’s thanks to the efforts of breeders of the city of Pescara (about 70 miles north east of Rome on the Adriatic coast—trans.). Although one doesn’t put great importance on the form or color of the birds, the standard foresees a smallish head, rich and brilliant plumage, a slightly curved stance, a color of yellow or yellow ticked, and a slender body. At any rate, one must say that the only factors that merit much attention are length and color. In fact, the malinois must be longer than the common canary due to the probable presence of great yellow bloodlines. This is also the cause of the color, which in the beginning was acceptable only in intense yellow, especially in the case of males. Only later, and with great effort did first the slightly ticked and then more greatly ticked birds gain acceptance. Beyond all of these discussions is the fact that the basis of this canary breed is nothing other than the song, and in the end the colors and other parameters of appearance mean very little. One should mention, however that the major portion of the canaries of this breed commonly show a uniform, more or less rich, yellow color and a small dark spot on the head. As far as the rustic good health of this bird is concerned, one must say that it is one of the most prolific and robust of breeds. And, it is not at all rare to see female malinois used to foster more difficult breeds.
In the breeding of this race, as with all of the song canary races, there pervades the use of particular special practices and equipment. On the other hand, the young males of the malinois breed are treated differently than the males of other breeds. It is important to note that beyond the innate and inherited propensity to sing, these subjects must learn their adult song and for this reason must attend “song school”!
In short, they are lodged in small individual song cages and kept in the darkness for a good part of the day. Without prolonging this writing, let’s just say that in the beginning they had been placed in groups in flights according to their singing ability and similarity of song style and only later are they placed in the smaller cages. These cages are covered with a piece of cloth or curtain, and the birds are fed on Spartan fare, only canary and rape seed. At this important phase the pupils can listen to the song of their maestro in a context which encourages them to imitate him. One can hear their bravado at the moment when the curtain rises and the lights come up, and they begin to perform their own repertoire. It goes without saying that the singers must live in an area which is as isolated as possible from the acoustic point of view, so that they do not pollute their song with strange noises. At the contests, teams of four birds are presented which must have, more or less, the same repertoires. This fact is very important because the uniformity of the song is an indicator of the purity of the breeder’s song line (i.e.: that which distinguishes between a strain and a mere collection of waterslagers—trans.). It is not impossible to participate with a single bird, but the contest is really an opportunity to demonstrate that one is in possession of a well-defined line of birds more than a single star bird which may well be an isolated case. Hand in hand with the lengthening of training, comes a modification of the diet with the reduction of the canary seed and the augmenting of the sweet rape which betters and facilitates the song. To describe the song with letters is a truly complicated thing; therefore, the table of melodies which is included in the judge’s card follows.