Not a member?     Existing members login below:
Holidays Offer
 

The Variation of Animals and Plants

Chapter VI: Pigeons – continued
ON THE ABORIGINAL PARENT-STOCK OF THE SEVERAL DOMESTIC RACES — HABITS OF
LIFE — WILD RACES OF THE ROCK-PIGEON — Dovecot-PIGEONS — PROOFS OF THE
DESCENT OF THE SEVERAL RACES FROM COLUMBA LIVIA — FERTILITY OF THE RACES
WHEN CROSSED — REVERSION TO THE PLUMAGE OF THE WILD ROCK-PIGEON —
CIRCUMSTANCES FAVOURABLE TO THE FORMATION OF THE RACES — ANTIQUITY AND
HISTORY OF THE PRINCIPAL RACES — MANNER OF THEIR FORMATION — SELECTION —
UNCONSCIOUS SELECTION — CARE TAKEN BY FANCIERS IN SELECTING THEIR BIRDS —
SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT STRAINS GRADUALLY CHANGE INTO WELL-MARKED BREEDS —
EXTINCTION OF INTERMEDIATE FORMS — CERTAIN BREEDS REMAIN PERMANENT,
WHILST OTHERS CHANGE — SUMMARY.
The differences described in the last chapter between the eleven chief domestic races and
between individual birds of the same race, would be of little significance, if they had not
all descended from a single wild stock. The question of their origin is therefore of
fundamental importance, and must be discussed at considerable length. No one will think
this superfluous who considers the great amount of difference between the races, who
knows how ancient many of them are, and how truly they breed at the present day.
Fanciers almost unanimously believe that the different races are descended from several
wild stocks, whereas most naturalists believe that all are descended from the Columba
livia or rock-pigeon.
Temminck has well observed, and Mr. Gould has made the same remark to me, that the
aboriginal parent must have been a species which roosted and built its nest on rocks; and
I may add that it must have been a social bird. For all the domestic races are highly
social, and none are known to build or habitually to roost on trees. The awkward manner
in which some pigeons, kept by me in a summer-house near an old walnut-tree,
occasionally alighted on the barer branches, was evident. Nevertheless, Mr. R. Scot
Skirving informs me that he often saw crowds of pigeons in Upper Egypt settling on low
trees, but not on palms, in preference to alighting on the mud hovels of the natives. In
India Mr. Blyth has been assured that the wild C. livia, var. intermedia, sometimes roosts
in trees. I may here give a curious instance of compulsion leading to changed habits: the
banks of the Nile above lat. 28° 30' are perpendicular for a long distance, so that when the
river is full the pigeons cannot alight on the shore to drink, and Mr. Skirving repeatedly
saw whole flocks settle on the water, and drink whilst they floated down the stream.
These flocks seen from a distance resembled flocks of gulls on the surface of the sea.
If any domestic race had descended from a species which was not social, or which built
its nest and roosted in trees, the sharp eyes of fanciers would assuredly have detected
some vestige of so different an aboriginal habit. For we have reason to believe that
aboriginal habits are long retained under domestication. Thus with the common ass we
see signs of its original desert life in its strong dislike to cross the smallest stream of
water, and in its pleasure in rolling in the dust. The same strong dislike to cross a stream
is common to the camel, which has been domesticated from a very ancient period. Young
 
 
Remove