The Variation of Animals and Plants by Charles Darwin - HTML preview
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Chapter V: Domestic Pigeons
ENUMERATION AND DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL BREEDS — INDIVIDUAL VARIABILITY — VARIATIONS OF A REMARKABLE NATURE — OSTEOLOGICAL CHARACTERS: SKULL, LOWER JAW, NUMBER OF vertebræ — CORRELATION OF GROWTH: TONGUE WITH BEAK; EYELIDS AND NOSTRILS WITH WATTLED SKIN — NUMBER OF WING-FEATHERS, AND LENGTH OF WING — COLOUR AND DOWN — WEBBED AND FEATHERED FEET — ON THE EFFECTS OF DISUSE — LENGTH OF FEET IN CORRELATION WITH LENGTH OF BEAK — LENGTH OF STERNUM, SCAPULA, AND FURCULUM — LENGTH OF WINGS — SUMMARY ON THE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE IN THE SEVERAL BREEDS.
I have been led to study domestic pigeons with particular care, because the evidence that all the domestic races are descended from one known source is far clearer than with any other anciently domesticated animal. Secondly, because many treatises in several languages, some of them old, have been written on the pigeon, so that we are enabled to trace the history of several breeds. And lastly, because, from causes which we can partly understand, the amount of variation has been extraordinarily great. The details will often be tediously minute; but no one who really wants to understand the progress of change in domestic animals, and especially no one who has kept pigeons and has marked the great difference between the breeds and the trueness with which most of them propagate their kind, will doubt that this minuteness is worth while. Notwithstanding the clear evidence that all the breeds are the descendants of a single species, I could not persuade myself until some years had passed that the whole amount of difference between them, had arisen since man first domesticated the wild rock-pigeon.
I have kept alive all the most distinct breeds, which I could procure in England or from the Continent; and have prepared skeletons of all. I have received skins from Persia, and a large number from India and other quarters of the world. Since my admission into two of the London pigeon-clubs, I have received the kindest assistance from many of the most eminent amateurs.
The races of the Pigeon which can be distinguished, and which breed true, are very numerous. MM. Boitard and Corbié describe in detail 122 kinds; and I could add several European kinds not known to them. In India, judging from the skins sent me, there are many breeds unknown here; and Sir W. Elliot informs me that a collection imported by an Indian merchant into Madras from Cairo and Constantinople included several kinds unknown in India. I have no doubt that there exist considerably above 150 kinds which breed true and have been separately named. But of these the far greater number differ from each other only in unimportant characters. Such differences will be here entirely passed over, and I shall confine myself to the more important points of structure. That many important differences exist we shall presently see. I have looked through the magnificent collection of the Columbidæ in the British Museum, and, with the exception of a few forms (such as the Didunculus, Calænas, Goura, etc.), I do not hesitate to affirm that some domestic races of the rock-pigeon differ fully as much from each other in external characters as do the most distinct natural genera. We may look in vain through the 288 known species for a beak so small and conical as that of the short-faced tumbler; for one so broad and short as that of the barb; for one so long, straight, and narrow, with its enormous wattles, as that of the English carrier; for an expanded upraised tail like that of the fantail; or for an œsophagus like that of the pouter. I do not for a moment pretend that the domestic races differ from each other in their whole organisation as much as the more distinct natural genera. I refer only to external characters, on which, however, it must be confessed that most genera of birds have been founded. When, in a future chapter, we discuss the principle of selection as followed by man, we shall clearly see why the differences between the domestic races are almost always confined to external, or at least to externally visible, characters.
Owing to the amount and gradations of difference between the several breeds, I have found it indispensable in the following classification to rank them under Groups, Races, and Sub-races; to which varieties and sub-varieties, all strictly inheriting their proper characters, must often be added. Even with the individuals of the same sub-variety, when long kept by different fanciers, different strains can sometimes be recognised. There can be no doubt that, if well-characterised forms of the several races had been found wild, all would have been ranked as distinct species, and several of them would certainly have been placed by ornithologists in distinct genera. A good classification of the various domestic breeds is extremely difficult, owing to the manner in which many of the forms graduate into each other; but it is curious how exactly the same difficulties are encountered, and the same rules have to be followed, as in the classification of any natural but difficult group of organic beings. An "artificial classification" might be followed which would present fewer difficulties than a "natural classification;" but then it would interrupt many plain affinities. Extreme forms can readily be defined; but intermediate and troublesome forms often destroy our definitions. Forms which may be called "aberrant" must sometimes be included within groups to which they do not accurately belong. Characters of all kinds must be used; but as with birds in a state of nature, those afforded by the beak are the best and most readily appreciated. It is not possible to weigh the importance of all the characters which have to be used so as to make the groups and sub-groups of equal value. Lastly, a group may contain only one race, and another and less distinctly defined group may contain several races and subraces, and in this case it is difficult, as in the classification of natural species, to avoid placing too high a value on the number of forms which a group may contain.
In my measurements I have never trusted to the eye; and when speaking of a part being large or small, I always refer to the wild rock-pigeon (Columba livia) as the standard of comparison. The measurements are given in decimals of an inch.
I will now give a brief description of all the principal breeds. The diagram above may aid the reader in learning their names and seeing their affinities. The rock-pigeon, or Columba livia (including under this name two or three closely-allied sub-species or geographical races, hereafter to be described), may be confidently viewed, as we shall see in the next chapter, as the common parent-form. The names in italics on the right-hand side of the page show us the most distinct breeds, or those which have undergone the greatest amount of modification. The lengths of the dotted lines rudely represent the degree of distinctness of each breed from the parent-stock, and the names placed under each other in the columns show the more or less closely connecting links. The distances of the dotted lines from each other approximately represent the amount of difference between the several breedsThis group includes a single race, that of the Pouters. If the most strongly marked sub-race be taken, namely, the Improved English Pouter, this is perhaps the most distinct of all domesticated pigeons.Race I. Pouter Pigeons. (Kropftauben, German. Grosses-gorges, or Boulans, French.) Œsophagus of great size, barely separated from the crop, often inflated. Body and legs elongated. Beak of moderate dimensions.
Sub-race I. —The improved English Pouter, when its crop is fully inflated, presents a truly astonishing appearance. The habit of slightly inflating the crop is common to all domestic pigeons, but is carried to an extreme in the Pouter. The crop does not differ, except in size, from that of other pigeons; but is less plainly separated by an oblique constriction from the œsophagus. The diameter of the upper part of the œsophagus is immense, even close up to the head. The beak in one bird which I possessed was almost completely buried when the œsophagus was fully expanded. The males, especially when excited, pout more than the females, and they glory in exercising this power. If a bird will not, to use the technical expression, "play," the fancier, as I have witnessed, by taking the beak into his mouth, blows him up like a balloon; and the bird, then puffed up with wind and pride, struts about, retaining his magnificent size as long as he can. Pouters often take flight with their crops inflated. After one of my birds had swallowed a good meal of peas and water, as he flew up in order to disgorge them and feed his nearly fledged young, I heard the peas rattling in his inflated crop as if in a bladder. When flying, they often strike the backs of their wings together, and thus make a clapping noise.
Pouters stand remarkably upright, and their bodies are thin and elongated. In connexion with this form of body, the ribs are generally broader and the vertebræ more numerous than in other breeds. From their manner of standing their legs appear longer than they really are, though, in proportion with those of C. livia, the legs and feet are actually longer. The wings appear much elongated, but by measurement, in relation to the length of body, this is not the case. The beak likewise appears longer, but it is in fact a little shorter (about ·03 of an inch), proportionally with the size of the body, and relatively to the beak of the rock-pigeon. The Pouter, though not bulky, is a large bird; I measured one which was 34½ inches from tip to tip of wing, and 19 inches from tip of beak to end of tail. In a wild rock-pigeon from the Shetland Islands the same measurements gave only 28¼ and 14¾. There are many sub-varieties of the Pouter of different colours, but these I pass over.
Sub-race II. Dutch Pouter. —This seems to be the parent-form of our improved English Pouters. I kept a pair, but I suspect that they were not pure birds. They are smaller than English pouters, and less well developed in all their characters. Neumeister says that the wings are crossed over the tail, and do not reach to its extremity.
Sub-race III. The Lille Pouter. —I know this breed only from description. It approaches in general form the Dutch Pouter, but the inflated œsophagus assumes a spherical form, as if the pigeon had swallowed a large orange, which had stuck close under the beak. This inflated ball is represented as rising to a level with the crown of the head. The middle toe alone is feathered. A variety of this sub-race, called the claquant, is described by MM. Boitard and Corbié; it pouts but little, and is characterised by the habit of violently hitting its wings together over its back,—a habit which the English Pouter has in a slight degree.
Sub-race IV. Common German Pouter. —I know this bird only from the figures and description given by the accurate Neumeister, one of the few writers on pigeons who, as I have found, may always be trusted. This sub-race seems considerably different. The upper part of the œsophagus is much less distended. The bird stands less upright. The feet are not feathered, and the legs and beak are shorter. In these respects there is an approach in form to the common rock-pigeon. The tail-feathers are very long, yet the tips of the closed wings extend beyond the end of the tail; and the length of the wings, from tip to tip, and of the body, is greater than in the English Pouter.
This group includes three Races, namely, Carriers, Runts, and Barbs, which are manifestly allied to each other. Indeed, certain carriers and runts pass into each other by such insensible gradations that an arbitrary line has to be drawn between them. Carriers also graduate through foreign breeds into the rock-pigeon. Yet, if well-characterised Carriers and Barbs (see figs 19 and 20) had existed as wild species, no ornithologist would have placed them in the same genus with each other or with the rock-pigeon. This group may, as a general rule, be recognised by the beak being long, with the skin over the nostrils swollen and often carunculated or wattled, and with that round the eyes bare and likewise carunculated. The mouth is very wide, and the feet are large. Nevertheless the Barb, which must be classed in this same group, has a very short beak, and some runts have very little bare skin round their eyes.Race II.—Carriers. (Türkische Tauben; pigeons turcs, dragons.) Beak elongated, narrow, pointed; eyes surrounded by much naked, generally carunculated, skin; neck and body elongated.
Sub-race I. The English Carrier. —This is a fine bird, of large size, close feathered, generally darkcoloured, with an elongated neck. The beak is attenuated and of wonderful length: in one specimen it was 1·4 inch in length from the feathered base to the tip; therefore nearly twice as long as that of the rockpigeon, which measured only ·77. Whenever I compare proportionally any part in the carrier and rockpigeon, I take the length of the body from the base of the beak to the end of the tail as the standard of comparison; and according to this standard, the beak in one Carrier was nearly half an inch longer than in the rock-pigeon. The upper mandible is often slightly arched. The tongue is very long. The development of the carunculated skin or wattle round the eyes, over the nostrils, and on the lower mandible, is prodigious. The eyelids, measured longitudinally, were in some specimens exactly twice as long as in the rock-pigeon. The external orifice or furrow of the nostrils was also twice as long. The open mouth in its widest part was in one case ·75 of an inch in width, whereas in the rock-pigeon it is only about ·4 of an inch. This great width of mouth is shown in the skeleton by the reflexed edges of the ramus of the lower jaw. The head is flat on the summit and narrow between the orbits. The feet are large and coarse; the length, as measured from end of hind toe to end of middle toe (without the claws), was in two specimens 2·6 inches; and this, proportionally with the rock-pigeon, is an excess of nearly a quarter of an inch. One very fine Carrier measured 31½ inches from tip to tip of wing. Birds of this sub-race are too valuable to be flown as carriers.
Sub-race II. Dragons; Persian Carriers. —The English Dragon differs from the improved English Carrier in being smaller in all its dimensions, and in having less wattle round the eyes and over the nostrils, and none on the lower mandible. Sir W. Elliot sent me from Madras a Bagdad Carrier (sometimes called khandesi), the name of which shows its Persian origin: it would be considered here a very poor Dragon; the body was of the size of the rock-pigeon, with the beak a little longer, namely, 1 inch from the tip to the feathered base. The skin round the eyes was only slightly wattled, whilst that over the nostrils was fairly wattled. The Hon. C. Murray, also, sent me two Carriers direct from Persia; these had nearly the same character as the Madras bird, being about as large as the rock-pigeon, but the beak in one specimen was asmuch as 1·15 in length; the skin over the nostrils was only moderately, and that round the eyes scarcely at all wattled.
Sub-race III. Bagadotten-Tauben of Neumeister (Pavdotten-or Hocker-Tauben).—I owe to the kindness of Mr. Baily, jun., a dead specimen of this singular breed imported from Germany. It is certainly allied to the Runts; nevertheless, from its close affinity with Carriers, it will be convenient here to describe it. The beak is long, and is hooked or bowed downwards in a highly remarkable manner, as will be seen in fig. 24-D when I treat of the skeleton. The eyes are surrounded by a wide space of bright red skin, which, as well as that over the nostrils, is moderately wattled. The breast-bone is remarkably protuberant, being abruptly bowed outwards. The feet and tarsi are of great length, larger than in first-rate English Carriers. The whole bird is of large size, but in proportion to the size of the body the feathers of the wing and tail are short; a wild rock-pigeon, of considerably less size, had tail-feathers 4·6 inches in length, whereas in the large Bagadotten these feathers were scarcely over 4·1 inches in length. Riedel remarks that it is a very silent bird.
Sub-race IV. Bussorah Carrier. —Two specimens were sent me by Sir W. Elliot from Madras, one in spirits and the other skinned. The name shows its Persian origin. It is much valued in India, and is considered as a distinct breed from the Bagdad Carrier, which forms my second sub-race. At first I suspected that these two sub-races might have been recently formed by crosses with other breeds, though the estimation in which they are held renders this improbable; but in a Persian treatise, believed to have been written about 100 years ago, the Bagdad and Bussorah breeds are described as distinct. The Bussorah Carrier is of about the same size as the wild rock-pigeon. The shape of the beak, with some little carunculated skin over the nostrils,— the much elongated eyelids,—the broad mouth measured internally,—the narrow head,—the feet proportionally a little longer than in the rock-pigeon,—and the general appearance, all show that this bird is an undoubted Carrier; yet in one specimen the beak was of exactly the same length as in the rockpigeon. In the other specimen the beak (as well as the opening of the nostrils) was only a very little longer, viz., by ·08 of an inch. Although there was a considerable space of bare and slightly carunculated skin round the eyes, that over the nostrils was only in a slight degree rugose. Sir W. Elliot informs me that in the living bird the eye seems remarkably large and prominent, and the same fact is noticed in the Persian treatise; but the bony orbit is barely larger than that in the rock-pigeon.
Amongst the several breeds sent to me from Madras by Sir W. Elliot there is a pair of the Kali Par, black birds with the beak slightly elongated, with the skin over the nostrils rather full, and with a little naked skin round the eyes. This breed seems more closely allied to the Carrier than to any other breed, being nearly intermediate between the Bussorah Carrier and the rock-pigeon.
The names applied in different parts of Europe and in India to the several kinds of Carriers all point to Persia or the surrounding countries as the source of this Race. And it deserves especial notice that, even if we neglect the Kali Par as of doubtful origin, we get a series broken by very small steps, from the rockpigeon, through the Bussorah, which sometimes has a beak not at all longer than that of the rock-pigeon and with the naked skin round the eyes and over the nostrils very slightly swollen and carunculated, through the Bagdad sub-race and Dragons, to our improved English Carriers, which present so marvellous a difference from the rock-pigeon or Columba livia.
(Scanderoons: die Florentiner Tauben and Hinkeltauben of Neumeister; pigeon bagadais, pigeon romain.)
amount of naked skin round the eyes, are excessively variable in Runts. When the naked skin over the nostrils and round the eyes is considerably developed and wattled, and when the size of body is not very great, Runts graduate in so insensible a manner into Carriers, that the distinction is quite arbitrary. This fact is likewise shown by the names given to them in different parts of Europe. Nevertheless, taking the most distinct forms, at least five sub-races (some of them including well-marked varieties) can be distinguished, which differ in such important points of structure, that they would be considered as good species in a state of nature.
Sub-race I. Scanderoon of English Writers (die Florentiner and Hinkeltauben of Neumeister).—Birds of this sub-race, of which I kept one alive and have since seen two others, differ from the Bagadotten of Neumeister only in not having the beak nearly so much curved downwards, and in the naked skin round the eyes and over the nostrils being hardly at all wattled. Nevertheless I have felt myself compelled to place the Bagadotten in Race II., or that of the Carriers, and the present bird in Race III., or that of the Runts. The Scanderoon has a very short, narrow, and elevated tail; wings extremely short, so that the first primary feathers were not longer than those of a small tumbler pigeon! Neck long, much bowed; breast-bone prominent. Beak long, being 1·15 inch from tip to feathered base; vertically thick; slightly curved downwards. The skin over the nostrils swollen, not wattled; naked skin round the eyes, broad, slightly carunculated. Legs long; feet very large. Skin of neck bright red, often showing a naked medial line, with a naked red patch at the distal end of the radius of the wing. My bird, as measured from the base of the beak to the root of the tail, was fully 2 inches longer than the rock-pigeon; yet the tail itself was only 4 inches in length, whereas in the rock-pigeon, which is a much smaller bird, the tail is 4-5/8 inches in length.
The Hinkel-or Florentiner Taube of Neumeister (Table 13 fig. 1) agrees with the above description in all the specified characters (for the beak is not mentioned), except that Neumeister expressly says that the neck is short, whereas in my Scanderoon it was remarkably long and bowed; so that the Hinkel forms a wellmarked variety.
Sub-race II. Pigeon cygne and Pigeon bagadais of Boitard and Corbié (Scanderoon of French writers).—I kept two of these birds alive, imported from France. They differed from the first sub-race or true Scanderoon in the much greater length of the wing and tail, in the beak not being so long, and in the skin about the head being more carunculated. The skin of the neck is red; but the naked patches on the wings are absent. One of my birds measured 38½ inches from tip to tip of wing. By taking the length of the body as the standard of comparison, the two wings were no less than 5 inches longer than those of the rock-pigeon! The tail was 6¼ inches in length, and therefore 2¼ inches longer than that of the Scanderoon,—a bird of nearly the same size. The beak is longer, thicker, and broader than in the rock-pigeon, proportionally with the size of body. The eyelids, nostrils, and internal gape of mouth are all proportionally very large, as in Carriers. The foot, from the end of the middle to end of hind toe, was actually 2·85 inches in length, which is an excess of ·32 of an inch over the foot of the rock-pigeon, proportionally to the relative size of the two birds.
Sub-race III. Spanish and Roman Runts. —I am not sure that I am right in placing these Runts in a distinct sub-race; yet, if we take well-characterised birds, there can be no doubt of the propriety of the separation. They are heavy, massive birds, with shorter necks, legs, and beaks than in the foregoing races. The skin over the nostrils is swollen, but not carunculated; the naked skin round the eyes is not very wide, and only slightly carunculated; and I have seen a fine so-called Spanish Runt with hardly any naked skin round the eyes. Of the two varieties to be seen in England, one, which is the rarer, has very long wings and tail, and agrees pretty closely with the last sub-race; the other, with shorter wings and tail, is apparently the Pigeon romain ordinaire of Boitard and Corbié. These Runts are apt to tremble like Fantails. They are bad flyers. A few years ago Mr. Gulliver exhibited a Runt which weighed 1 pound 14 ounces; and, as I am informed by Mr. Tegetmeier, two Runts from the south of France were lately exhibited at the Crystal Palace, each of which weighed 2 pounds 2½ ounces. A very fine rock-pigeon from the Shetland Islands weighed only 14½ ounces.Sub-race IV. Tronfo of Aldrovandi (Leghorn Runt?).—In Aldrovandi's work published in 1600 there is a coarse woodcut of a great Italian pigeon, with an elevated tail, short legs, massive body, and with the beak
short and thick. I had imagined that this latter character so abnormal in the group, was merely a false representation from bad drawing; but Moore, in his work published in 1735, says that he possessed a Leghorn Runt of which "the beak was very short for so large a bird." In other respects Moore's bird resembled the first sub-race or Scanderoon, for it had a long bowed neck, long legs, short beak, and elevated tail, and not much wattle about the head. So that Aldrovandi's and Moore's birds must have formed distinct varieties, both of which seem to be now extinct in Europe. Sir W. Elliot, however, informs me that he has seen in Madras a short-beaked Runt imported from Cairo.
Sub-race V. Murassa (adorned Pigeon) of Madras. —Skins of these handsome chequered birds were sent me from Madras by Sir W. Elliot. They are rather larger than the largest rock-pigeon, with longer and more massive beaks. The skin over the nostrils is rather full and very slightly carunculated, and they have some naked skin round the eyes; feet large. This breed is intermediate between the rock-pigeon and a very poor variety of Runt or Carrier.
From these several descriptions we see that with Runts, as with Carriers, we have a fine gradation from the rock-pigeon (with the Tronfo diverging as a distinct branch) to our largest and most massive Runts. But the chain of affinities, and many points of resemblance, between Runts and carriers, make me believe that these two races have not descended by independent lines from the rock-pigeon, but from some common parent, as represented in the Table, which had already acquired a moderately long beak with slightly swollen skin over the nostrils, and with some slightly carunculated naked skin round the eyes.Beak short, broad, deep; naked skin round the eyes, broad and carunculated; skin over nostrils slightly swollen.
Misled by the extraordinary shortness and form of the beak, I did not at first perceive the near affinity of this Race to that of Carriers until the fact was pointed out to me by Mr. Brent. Subsequently, after examining the Bussorah Carrier, I saw that no very great amount of modification would be requisite to convert it into a Barb. This view of the affinity of Barbs to Carriers is supported by the analogical difference between the short and long-beaked Runts; and still more strongly by the fact, that, young Barbs and Dragons, within 24 hours after being hatched, resemble each other much more closely than do young pigeons of other and equally distinct breeds. At this early age, the length of beak, the swollen skin over the rather open nostrils, the gape of the mouth, and the size of the feet, are the same in both; although these parts afterwards become widely different. We thus see that embryology (as the comparison of very young animals may perhaps be called) comes into play in the classification of domestic varieties, as with species in a state of nature.
Fanciers, with some truth, compare the head and beak of the Barb to that of a bullfinch. The Barb, if found in a state of nature would certainly have been placed in a new genus formed for its reception. The body is a little larger than that of the rock-pigeon, but the beak is more than ·2 of an inch shorter; although shorter, it is both vertically and horizontally thicker. From the outward flexure of the rami of the lower jaw, the mouth internally is very broad, in the proportion of ·6 to ·4 to that of the rock-pigeon. The whole head is broad. The skin over the nostril is swollen, but not carunculated, except slightly in first-rate birds when old; whilst the naked skin round the eye is broad and much carunculated. It is sometimes so much developed, that a bird belonging to Mr. Harrison Weir could hardly see to pick up food from the ground. The eyelids in one specimen were nearly twice as long as those of the rock-pigeon. The feet are coarse and strong, but proportionally rather shorter than in the rock-pigeon. The plumage is generally dark and uniform. Barbs, in short, may be called short-beaked Carriers, bearing the same relation to Carriers that the Tronfo of Aldrovandi does to the common Runt.GROUP III.
This group is artificial, and includes a heterogeneous collection of distinct forms. It may be defined by the beak, in well-characterised specimens of the several races, being shorter than in the rock-pigeon, and by the skin round the eyes not being much developed.Sub-race I. European Fantails (Pfauentauben; trembleurs).
Tail expanded, directed upwards, formed of many feathers; oil-gland aborted; body and beak rather short.
The normal number of tail-feathers in the genus Columba is 12; but Fantails have from only 12 (as has been asserted) up to, according to MM. Boitard and Corbié, 42. I have counted in one of my own birds 33, and at Calcutta Mr. Blyth has counted in an imperfect tail 34 feathers. In Madras, as I am informed by Sir W. Elliot, 32 is the standard number; but in England number is much less valued than the position and expansion of the tail. The feathers are arranged in an irregular double row; their permanent fanlike expansion and their upward direction are more remarkable characters than their increased number. The tail is capable of the same movements as in other pigeons, and can be depressed so as to sweep the ground. It arises from a more expanded basis than in other pigeons; and in three skeletons there were one or two extra coccygeal vertebræ. I have examined many specimens of various colours from different countries, and there was no trace of the oil-gland; this is a curious case of abortion. The neck is thin and bowed backwards. The breast is broad and protuberant. The feet are small. The carriage of the bird is very different from that of other pigeons; in good birds the head touches the tail-feathers, which consequently often become crumpled. They habitually tremble much: and their necks have an extraordinary, apparently convulsive, backward and forward movement. Good birds walk in a singular manner, as if their small feet were stiff. Owing to their large tails, they fly badly on a windy day. The dark-coloured varieties are generally larger than white Fantails.
Although between the best and common Fantails, now existing in England, there is a vast difference in the position and size of the tail, in the carriage of the head and neck, in the convulsive movements of the neck, in the manner of walking, and in the breadth of the breast, the differences so graduate away, that it is impossible to make more than one sub-race. Moore, however, an excellent old authority says, that in 1735 there were two sorts of broad-tailed shakers (i.e. Fantails), "one having a neck much longer and more slender than the other;" and I am informed by Mr. B. P. Brent, that there is an existing German Fantail with a thicker and shorter beak.
Sub-race II. Java Fantail. —Mr. Swinhoe sent me from Amoy, in China, the skin of a Fantail belonging to a breed known to have been imported from Java. It was coloured in a peculiar manner, unlike any European Fantail; and, for a Fantail, had a remarkably short beak. Although a good bird of the kind, it had only 14 tail-feathers; but Mr. Swinhoe has counted in other birds of this breed from 18 to 24 tail-feathers. From a rough sketch sent to me, it is evident that the tail is not so much expanded or so much upraised as in even second-rate European Fantails. The bird shakes its neck like our Fantails. It had a well-developed oil-gland. Fantails were known in India, as We shall hereafter see, before the year 1600; and we may suspect that in the Java Fantail we see the breed in its earlier and less improved condition.Feathers divergent along the front of the neck and breast; beak very short, vertically rather thick; œsophagus somewhat enlarged.
Turbits and Owls differ from each other slightly in the shape of the head; the former have a crest, and the beak is differently curved; but they may be here conveniently grouped together. These pretty birds, some of which are very small, can be recognised at once by the feathers irregularly diverging, like a frill, along the front of the neck, in the same manner, but in a less degree, as along the back of the neck in the Jacobin. They have the remarkable habit of continually and momentarily inflating the upper part of the œsophagus, which causes a movement in the frill. When the œsophagus of a dead bird is inflated, it is seen to be larger than in other breeds, and not so distinctly separated from the crop. The Pouter inflates both its true crop and œsophagus; the Turbit inflates in a much less degree the œsophagus alone. The beak of the Turbit is very short, being ·28 of an inch shorter than that of the rock-pigeon, proportionally with the size of their bodies;and in some owls brought by Mr. E. Vernon Harcourt from Tunis, it was even shorter. The beak is vertically thicker, and perhaps a little broader, in proportion to that of the rock-pigeon.Race VII.—Tumblers. (Tümmler, or Burzeltauben; culbutants.) During flight, tumble backwards; body generally small; beak generally short, sometimes excessively short and conical.
This race may be divided into four sub-races, namely, Persian, Lotan, Common, and short-faced Tumblers. These sub-races include many varieties which breed true. I have examined eight skeletons of various kinds of Tumblers: excepting in one imperfect and doubtful specimen, the ribs are only seven in number, whereas the rock-pigeon has eight ribs.
Sub-race I. Persian Tumblers. —I received a pair direct from Persia, from the Hon. C. Murray. They are rather smaller birds than the wild rock-pigeon, about the size of the common dovecot pigeon, white and mottled, slightly feathered on the feet, with the beak just perceptibly shorter than in the rock-pigeon. H.M. Consul, Mr. Keith Abbott, informs me that the difference in the length of beak is so slight, that only practised Persian fanciers can distinguish these Tumblers from the common pigeon of the country. He informs me that they fly in flocks high up in the air and tumble well. Some of them occasionally appear to become giddy and tumble to the ground, in which respect they resemble some of our Tumblers.
Sub-race II. Lotan, or Lowtun: Indian Ground Tumblers. —These birds present one of the most remarkable inherited habits or instincts ever recorded. The specimens sent to me from Madras by Sir W. Elliot are white, slightly feathered on the feet, with the feathers on the head reversed; and they are rather smaller than the rock or dovecot pigeon. The beak is proportionally only slightly shorter and rather thinner than in the rock-pigeon. These birds when gently shaken and placed on the ground immediately begin tumbling head over heels, and they continue thus to tumble until taken up and soothed,—the ceremony being generally to blow in their faces, as in recovering a person from a state of hypnotism or mesmerism. It is asserted that they will continue to roll over till they die, if not taken up. There is abundant evidence with respect to these remarkable peculiarities; but what makes the case the more worthy of attention is, that the habit has been inherited since before the year 1600, for the breed is distinctly described in the 'Ayeen Akbery.' Mr. Evans kept a pair in London, imported by Captain Vigne; and he assures me that he has seen them tumble in the air, as well as in the manner above described on the ground. Sir W. Elliot, however, writes to me from Madras, that he is informed that they tumble exclusively on the ground, or at a very small height above it. He also mentions birds of another sub-variety, called the Kalmi Lotan, which begin to roll over if only touched on the neck with a rod or wand.
Sub-race III. Common English Tumblers. —These birds have exactly the same habits as the Persian Tumbler, but tumble better. The English bird is rather smaller than the Persian, and the beak is plainly shorter. Compared with the rock-pigeon, and proportionally with the size of body, the beak is from ·15 to nearly ·2 of an inch shorter, but it is not thinner. There are several varieties of the common Tumbler, namely, Baldheads, Beards, and Dutch Rollers. I have kept the latter alive; they have differently shaped heads, longer necks, and are feather-footed. They tumble to an extraordinary degree; as Mr. Brent remarks, "Every few seconds over they go; one, two, or three summersaults at a time. Here and there a bird gives a very quick and rapid spin, revolving like a wheel, though they sometimes lose their balance, and make a rather ungraceful fall, in which they occasionally hurt themselves by striking some object." From Madras I have received several specimens of the common Tumbler of India, differing slightly from each other in the length of their beaks. Mr. Brent sent me a dead specimen of a "House-tumbler," which is a Scotch variety, not differing in general appearance and form of beak from the common Tumbler. Mr. Brent states that these birds generally begin to tumble "almost as soon as they can well fly; at three months old they tumble well, but still fly strong; at five or six months they tumble excessively; and in the second year they mostly give up flying, on account of their tumbling so much and so close to the ground. Some fly round with the flock, throwing a clean summersault every few yards, till they are obliged to settle from giddiness and exhaustion.
These are called Air Tumblers, and they commonly throw from twenty to thirty summersaults in a minute, each clear and clean. I have one red cock that I have on two or three occasions timed by my watch, and counted forty summersaults in the minute. Others tumble differently. At first they throw a single summersault, then it is double, till it becomes a continuous roll, which puts an end to flying, for if they fly a few yards over they go, and roll till they reach the ground. Thus I had one kill herself, and another broke his leg. Many of them turn over only a few inches from the ground, and will tumble two or three times in flying across their loft. These are called House-tumblers, from tumbling in the house. The act of tumbling seems to be one over which they have no control, an involuntary movement which they seem to try to prevent. I have seen a bird sometimes in his struggles fly a yard or two straight upwards, the impulse forcing him backwards while he struggles to go forwards. If suddenly startled, or in a strange place, they seem less able to fly than if quiet in their accustomed loft." These House-tumblers differ from the Lotan or Ground Tumbler of India, in not requiring to be shaken in order to begin tumbling. The breed has probably been formed merely by selecting the best common Tumblers, though it is possible that they may have been crossed at some former period with Lotans.
Sub-race IV. Short-faced Tumblers. —These are marvellous birds, and are the glory and pride of many fanciers. In their extremely short, sharp, and conical beaks, with the skin over the nostrils but little developed, they almost depart from the type of the Columbidæ. Their heads are nearly globular and upright in front, so that some fanciers say"the head should resemble a cherry with a barleycorn stuck in it." These are the smallest kind of pigeons. Mr. Esquilant possessed a blue Baldhead, two years old, which when alive weighed, before feeding-time, only 6 ounces 5 drs.; two others, each weighed 7 ounces. We have seen that a wild rock-pigeon weighed 14 ounces 2 drs., and a Runt 34 ounces 4 drs. Short-faced Tumblers have a remarkably erect carriage, with prominent breasts, drooping wings, and very small feet. The length of the beak from the tip to the feathered base was in one good bird only ·4 of an inch; in a wild rock-pigeon it was exactly double this length. As these Tumblers have shorter bodies than the wild rock-pigeon, they ought of course to have shorter beaks; but proportionally with the size of the body, the beak is ·28 of an inch too short. So, again, the feet of this bird were actually ·45 shorter, and proportionally ·21 of an inch shorter, than the feet of the rock-pigeon. The middle toe has only twelve or thirteen, instead of fourteen or fifteen scutellæ. The primary wing-feathers are not rarely nine instead of ten in number. The improved short-faced Tumblers have almost lost the power of tumbling; but there are several authentic accounts of their occasionally tumbling. There are several sub-varieties, such as Bald-heads, Beards, Mottles, and Almonds; the latter are remarkable from not acquiring their perfectlycoloured plumage until they have moulted three or four times. There is good reason to believe that most of these sub-varieties, some of which breed truly, have arisen since the publication of Moore's treatise in 1735.
Finally, in regard to the whole group of Tumblers, it is impossible to conceive a more perfect gradation than I have now lying before me, from the rock-pigeon, through Persian, Lotan, and common Tumblers, up to the marvellous short-faced birds; which latter, no ornithologist, judging from mere external structure, would place in the same genus with the rock-pigeon. The differences between the successive steps in this series are not greater than those which may be observed between common dovecot-pigeons (C. livia) brought from different countries.Race VIII.—Indian Frill-back.Beak very short; feathers reversed.
A specimen of this bird, in spirits, was sent to me from Madras by Sir W. Elliot. It is wholly different from the Frill-back often exhibited in England. It is a smallish bird, about the size of the common Tumbler, but has a beak in all its proportions like our short-faced Tumblers. The beak, measured from the tip to the feathered base, was only ·46 of an inch in length. The feathers over the whole body are reversed or curl backwards. Had this bird occurred in Europe, I should have thought it only a monstrous variety of our improved Tumbler: but as short-faced Tumblers are not known in India, I think it must rank as a distinct breed. Probably this is the breed seen by Hasselquist in 1757 at Cairo, and said to have been imported from India.Race IX.—Jacobin. (Zopf-or Perrückentaube; nonnain.) Feathers of the neck forming a hood; wings and tail long; beak moderately short.
This pigeon can at once be recognised by its hood, almost enclosing the head and meeting in front of the neck. The hood seems to be merely an exaggeration of the crest of reversed feathers on the back of the head, which is common to many sub-varieties, and which in the Latztaube is in a nearly intermediate state between a hood and a crest. The feathers of the hood are elongated. Both the wings and tail are likewise much elongated; thus the folded wing of the Jacobin, though a somewhat smaller bird, is fully 1¼ inch longer than in the rock-pigeon. Taking the length of the body without the tail as the standard of comparison, the folded wing, proportionally with the wings of the rock-pigeon, is 2¼ inches too long, and the two wings, from tip to tip, 5¼ inches too long. In disposition this bird is singularly quiet, seldom flying or moving about, as Bechstein and Riedel have likewise remarked in Germany. The latter author also notices the length of the wings and tail. The beak is nearly ·2 of an inch shorter in proportion to the size of the body than in the rock-pigeon; but the internal gape of the mouth is considerably wider.GROUP IV.
The birds of this group may be characterised by their resemblance in all important points of structure, especially in the beak, to the rock-pigeon. The Trumpeter forms the only well-marked race. Of the numerous other sub-races and varieties I shall specify only a few of the most distinct, which I have myself seen and kept alive.Race X.—Trumpeter. (Trommeltaube; pigeon tambour, glouglou.) A tuft of feathers at the base of the beak curling forward; feet much feathered; voice very peculiar; size exceeding that of the rock-pigeon.
This is a well-marked breed, with a peculiar voice, wholly unlike that of any other pigeon. The coo is rapidly repeated, and is continued for several minutes; hence their name of Trumpeters. They are also characterised by a tuft of elongated feathers, which curls forward over the base of the beak, and which is possessed by no other breed. Their feet are so heavily feathered, that they almost appear like little wings. They are larger birds than the rock-pigeon, but their beak is of very nearly the same proportional size. Their feet are rather small. This breed was perfectly characterised in Moore's time, in 1735. Mr. Brent says that two varieties exist, which differ in size.Race XI.—Scarcely differing in structure from the wild Columba livia. Sub-race I. Laughers.—Size less than the Rock-pigeon; voice very peculiar.—As this bird agrees in nearly all its proportions with the rock-pigeon, though of smaller size, I should not have thought it worthy of
mention, had it not been for its peculiar voice—a character supposed seldom to vary with birds. Although the voice of the Laugher is very different from that of the Trumpeter, yet one of my Trumpeters used to utter a single note like that of the Laugher. I have kept two varieties of Laughers, which differed only in one variety being turn-crowned; the smooth-headed kind, for which I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Brent, besides its peculiar note, used to coo in a singular and pleasing manner, which, independently, struck both Mr. Brent and myself as resembling that of the turtle-dove. Both varieties come from Arabia. This breed was known by Moore in 1735. A pigeon which seems to say Yak-roo is mentioned in 1600 in the 'Ayeen Akbery' and is probably the same breed. Sir W. Elliot has also sent me from Madras a pigeon called Yahui, said to have come from Mecca, which does not differ in appearance from the Laugher; it has "a deep melancholy voice, like Yahu, often repeated." Yahu, yahu, means Oh God, oh God; and Sayzid Mohammed Musari, in the treatise written about 100 years ago, says that these birds "are not flown, because they repeat the name of the most high God." Mr. Keith Abbott, however, informs me that the common pigeon is called Yahoo in Persia.
Sub-race II. Common Frill-back (die Strupptaube).—Beak rather longer than in the rock-pigeon; feathers reversed.—This is a considerably larger bird than the rock-pigeon, and with the beak, proportionally with the size of body, a little (viz. by ·04 of an inch) longer. The feathers, especially on the wing-coverts, have their points curled upwards or back-wards.
Sub-race III. Nuns (Pigeons coquilles).—These elegant birds are smaller than the rock-pigeon. The beak is actually 1·7, and proportionally with the size of the body ·1 of an inch shorter than in the rock-pigeons, although of the same thickness. In young birds the scutellæ on the tarsi and toes are generally of a leadenblack colour; and this is a remarkable character (though observed in a lesser degree in some other breeds), as the colour of the legs in the adult state is subject to very little variation in any breed. I have on two or three occasions counted thirteen or fourteen feathers in the tail; this likewise occurs in the barely distinct breed called Helmets. Nuns are symmetrically coloured, with the head, primary wing-feathers, tail, and tailcoverts of the same colour, namely, black or red, and with the rest of the body white. This breed has retained the same character since Aldrovandi wrote in 1600. I have received from Madras almost similarly coloured birds.
Sub-race IV. Spots (die Blasstauben; pigeons heurtés).—These birds are a very little larger than the rockpigeon, with the beak a trace smaller in all its dimensions, and with the feet decidedly smaller. They are symmetrically coloured, with a spot on the forehead, with the tail and tail-coverts of the same colour, the rest of the body being white. This breed existed in 1676; and in 1735 Moore remarks that they breed truly, as is the case at the present day.
Sub-race V. Swallows. —These birds, as measured from tip to tip of wing, or from the end of the beak to the end of the tail, exceed in size the rock-pigeon; but their bodies are much less bulky; their feet and legs are likewise smaller. The beak is of about the same length, but rather slighter. Altogether their general appearance is considerably different from that of the rock-pigeon. Their heads and wings are of the same colour, the rest of the body being white. Their flight is said to be peculiar. This seems to be a modern breed, which, however, originated before the year 1795 in Germany, for it is described by Bechstein.
Besides the several breeds now described, three or four other very distinct kinds existed lately, or perhaps still exist, in Germany and France. Firstly, the Karmeliten, or carme pigeon, which I have not seen; it is described as of small size, with very short legs, and with an extremely short beak. Secondly, the Finnikin, which is now extinct in England. It had, according to Moore's treatise, published in 1735, a tuft of feathers on the hinder part of the head, which ran down its back not unlike a horse's mane. "When it is salacious it rises over the hen and turns round three or four times, flapping its wings, then reverses and turns as many times the other way." The Turner, on the other hand, when it "plays to the female, turns only one way." Whether these extraordinary statements may be trusted I know not; but the inheritance of any habit may be believed, after what we have seen with respect to the Ground-tumbler of India. MM. Boitard and Corbié describe a pigeon which has the singular habit of sailing for a considerable time through the air, without flapping its wings, like a bird of prey. The confusion is inextricable, from the time of Aldrovandi in 1600 to the present day, in the accounts published of the Draijers, Smiters, Finnikins, Turners, Claquers, etc., which
are all remarkable from their manner of flight. Mr. Brent informs me that he has seen one of these breeds in Germany with its wing-feathers injured from having been so often struck together but he did not see it flying. An old stuffed specimen of a Finnikin in the British Museum presents no well-marked character. Thirdly, a singular pigeon with a forked tail is mentioned in some treatises; and as Bechstein briefly describes and figures this bird, with a tail "having completely the structure of that of the house-swallow," it must once have existed, for Bechstein was far too good a naturalist to have confounded any distinct species with the domestic pigeon. Lastly, an extraordinary pigeon imported from Belgium has lately been exhibited at the Philoperisteron Society in London, which "conjoins the colour of an archangel with the head of an owl or barb, its most striking peculiarity being the extraordinary length of the tail and wing-feathers, the latter crossing beyond the tail, and giving to the bird the appearance of a gigantic swift (Cypselus), or longwinged hawk." Mr. Tegetmeier informs me that this bird weighed only 10 ounces, but in length was 15½ inches from tip to beak to end of tail, and 32½ inches from tip to tip of wing; now the wild rock-pigeon weighs 14½ ounces, and measures from tip to beak to end of tail 15 inches, and from tip to tip of wing only 26¾ inches.
I have now described all the domestic pigeons known to me, and have added a few others on reliable authority. I have classed them under four Groups, in order to mark their affinities and degrees of difference; but the third group is artificial. The kinds examined by me form eleven races, which include several sub-races; and even these latter present differences that would certainly have been thought of specific value if observed in a state of nature. The sub-races likewise include many strictly inherited varieties; so that altogether there must exist, as previously remarked, above 150 kinds which can be distinguished, though generally by characters of extremely slight importance. Many of the genera of the Columbidæ, admitted by ornithologists, do not differ in any great degree from each other; taking this into consideration, there can be no doubt that several of the most strongly characterised domestic forms, if found wild, would have been placed in at least five new genera. Thus a new genus would have been formed for the reception of the improved English Pouter: a second genus for Carriers and Runts; and this would have been a wide or comprehensive genus, for it would have admitted common Spanish Runts without any wattle, short-beaked Runts like the Tronfo, and the improved English Carrier: a third genus would have been formed for the Barb: a fourth for the Fantail: and lastly, a fifth for the short beaked, not-wattled pigeons, such as Turbits and short-faced Tumblers. The remaining domestic forms might have been included, in the same genus with the wild rock-pigeon.Individual Variability; variations of a remarkable nature.
The differences which we have as yet considered are characteristic of distinct breeds; but there are other differences, either confined to individual birds, or often observed in certain breeds but not characteristic of them. These individual differences are of importance, as they might in most cases be secured and accumulated by man's power of selection and thus an existing breed might be greatly modified or a new one formed. Fanciers notice and select only those slight differences which are externally visible; but the whole organisation is so tied together by correlation of growth, that a change in one part is frequently accompanied by other changes. For our purpose, modifications of all kinds are equally important, and if affecting a part which does not commonly vary, are of more importance than a modification in some conspicuous part. At the present day any visible deviation of character in a well-established breed is rejected as a blemish; but it by no means follows that at an early period, before well-marked breeds had been formed, such deviations would have been rejected; on the contrary, they would have been eagerly preserved as presenting a novelty, and would then have been slowly augmented, as we shall hereafter more clearly see, by the process of unconscious selection.
I have made numerous measurements of the various parts of the body in the several breeds, and have hardly ever found them quite the same in birds of the same breed,—the differences being greater than we commonly meet with in wild species within the same district. To begin with the primary feathers of the wing and tail; but I must first mention, as some readers may not be aware of the fact, that the number of the primary wing and tail-feathers in wild birds is generally constant, and characterises, not only whole genera, but even whole families. When the tail-feathers are unusually numerous, as for instance in the swan, they are apt to be variable in number; but this does not apply to the several species and genera of the Columbidæ, which never (as far as I can hear) have less than twelve or more than sixteen tail-feathers; and these numbers characterise, with rare exception, whole sub-families. The wild rock-pigeon has twelve tailfeathers. With Fantails, as we have seen, the number varies from fourteen to forty-two. In two young birds in the same nest I counted twenty-two and twenty-seven feathers. Pouters are very liable to have additional tail-feathers, and I have seen on several occasions fourteen or fifteen in my own birds. Mr. Bult had a specimen, examined by Mr. Yarrell, with seventeen tail-feathers. I had a Nun with thirteen, and another with fourteen tail-feathers; and in a Helmet, a breed barely distinguishable from the Nun, I have counted fifteen, and have heard of other such instances. On the other hand, Mr. Brent possessed a Dragon, which during its whole life never had more than ten tail-feathers; and one of my Dragons, descended from Mr. Brent's, had only eleven. I have seen a Bald-head Tumbler with only ten; and Mr. Brent had an AirTumbler with the same number, but another with fourteen tail-feathers. Two of these latter Tumblers, bred by Mr. Brent, were remarkable,—one from having the two central tail-feathers a little divergent, and the other from having the two outer feathers longer by three-eighths of an inch than the others; so that in both cases the tail exhibited a tendency, but in different ways, to become forked. And this shows us how a swallow-tailed breed, like that described by Bechstein, might have been formed by careful selection.
With respect to the primary wing-feathers, the number in the Columbidæ, as far as I can find out, is always nine or ten. In the rock-pigeon it is ten; but I have seen no less than eight short-faced Tumblers with only nine primaries, and the occurrence of this number has been noticed by fanciers, owing to ten primaries of a white colour being one of the points in Short-faced Bald-head-Tumblers. Mr. Brent, however, had an AirTumbler (not short-faced) which had in both wings eleven primaries. Mr. Corker, the eminent breeder of prize Carriers, assures me that some of his birds had eleven primaries in both wings. I have seen eleven in one wing in two Pouters. I have been assured by three fanciers that they have seen twelve in Scanderoons; but as Neumeister asserts that in the allied Florence Runt the middle flight-feather is often double, the number twelve may have been caused by two of the ten primaries having each two shafts to a single feather. The secondary wing-feathers are difficult to count, but the number seems to vary from twelve to fifteen. The length of the wing and tail relatively to the body, and of the wings to the tail, certainly varies; I have especially noticed this in Jacobins. In Mr. Bult's magnificent collection of Pouters, the wings and tail varied greatly in length; and were sometimes so much elongated that the birds could hardly play upright. In the relative length of the few first primaries I have observed only a slight degree of variability. Mr. Brent informs me that he has observed the shape of the first feather to vary very slightly. But the variation in these latter points is extremely slight compared with the differences which may be observed in the natural species of the Columbidæ.
In the beak I have seen very considerable differences in birds of the same breed, as in carefully bred Jacobins and Trumpeters. In Carriers there is often a conspicuous difference in the degree of attenuation and curvature of the beak. So it is indeed in many breeds: thus I had two strains of black Barbs, which evidently differed in the curvature of the upper mandible. In width of mouth I have found a great difference in two Swallows. In Fantails of first-rate merit I have seen some birds with much longer and thinner necks than in others. Other analogous facts could be given. We have seen that the oil-gland is aborted in all Fantails (with the exception of the sub-race from Java), and, I may add, so hereditary is this tendency to abortion, that some, although not all, of the mongrels which I reared from the Fantail and Pouter had no oilgland; in one Swallow out of many which I have examined, and in two Nuns, there was no oil-gland.
The number of the scutellæ on the toes often varies in the same breed, and sometimes even differs on the two feet of the same individual; the Shetland rock-pigeon has fifteen on the middle, and six on the hinder toe; whereas I have seen a Runt with sixteen on the middle and eight on the hind toe; and a short-faced Tumbler with only twelve and five on these same toes. The rock-pigeon has no sensible amount of skin between its toes; but I possessed a Spot and a Nun with the skin extending for a space of a quarter of an inch from the fork, between the two inner toes. On the other hand, as will hereafter be more fully shown, pigeons with feathered feet very generally have the bases of their outer toes connected by skin. I had a red Tumbler, which had a coo unlike that of its fellows, approaching in tone to that of the Laugher: this bird had the habit, to a degree which I never saw equalled in any other pigeon, of often walking with its wings raised and arched in an elegant-manner. I need say nothing on the great variability, in almost every breed, in size of body, in colour, in the feathering of the feet, and in the feathers on the back of the head being reversed. But I may mention a remarkable Tumbler exhibited at the Crystal Palace, which had an irregular crest of feathers on its head, somewhat like the tuft on the head of the Polish fowl. Mr. Bult reared a hen Jacobin with the feathers on the thigh so long as to reach the ground, and a cock having, but in a lesser degree, the same peculiarity: from these two birds he bred others similarly characterised, which were exhibited at the Philoperisteron Soc. I bred a mongrel pigeon which had fibrous feathers, and the wing and tail-feathers so short and imperfect that the bird could not fly even a foot in height.
There are many singular and inherited peculiarities in the plumage of pigeons: thus Almond-Tumblers do not acquire their perfect mottled feathers until they have moulted three or four times: the Kite Tumbler is at first brindled black and red with a barred appearance, but when "it throws its nest feathers it becomes almost black, generally with a bluish tail, and a reddish colour on the inner webs of the primary wing-feathers." Neumeister describes a breed of a black colour with white bars on the wing and a white crescent-shaped mark on the breast; these marks are generally rusty-red before the first moult, but after the third or fourth moult they undergo a change; the wing-feathers and the crown of the head likewise then become white or grey.
It is an important fact, and I believe there is hardly an exception to the rule, that the especial characters for which each breed is valued are eminently variable: thus, in the Fantail, the number and direction of the tail-feathers, the carriage of the body, and the degree of trembling are all highly variable points; in Pouters, the degree to which they pout, and the shape of their inflated crops; in the Carrier, the length, narrowness, and curvature of the beak, and the amount of wattle; in Short-faced Tumblers, the shortness of the beak, the prominence of the forehead, and general carriage, and in the AlmondTumbler the colour of the plumage; in common Tumblers, the manner of tumbling; in the Barb, the breadth and shortness of the beak and the amount of eye-wattle; in Runts, the size of body; in Turbits the frill; and lastly in Trumpeters, the cooing, as well as the size of the tuft of feathers over the nostrils. These, which are the distinctive and selected characters of the several breeds, are all eminently variable.
There is another interesting fact with respect to the characters of the several breeds, namely, that they are often most strongly displayed in the male bird. In Carriers, when the males and females are exhibited in separate pens, the wattle is plainly seen to be much more developed in the males, though I have seen a hen Carrier belonging to Mr. Haynes heavily wattled. Mr. Tegetmeier informs me that, in twenty Barbs in Mr. P. H. Jones's possession, the males had generally the largest eye-wattles; Mr. Esquilant also believes in this rule, but Mr. H. Weir, a first-rate judge, entertains some doubt on the subject. Male Pouters distend their crops to a much greater size than do the females; I have, however, seen a hen in the possession of Mr. Evans which pouted excellently; but this is an unusual circumstance. Mr. Harrison Weir, a successful breeder of prize Fantails, informs me that his male birds often have a greater number of tail-feathers than the females. Mr. Eaton asserts that if a cock and hen Tumbler were of equal merit, the hen would be worth double the money; and as pigeons always pair, so that an equal number of both sexes is necessary for reproduction, this seems to show that high merit is rarer in the female than in the male. In the development of the frill in Turbits, of the hood in Jacobins, of the tuft in Trumpeters, of tumbling in Tumblers, there is no difference between the males and females. I may here add a rather different case, namely, the existence in France of a winecoloured variety of the Pouter, in which the male is generally chequered with black, whilst the female is never so chequered. Dr. Chapuis also remarks that in certain lightcoloured pigeons the males have their feathers striated with black, and these striæ increase in size at each moult, so that the male ultimately becomes spotted with black. With Carriers, the wattle, both on the beak and round the eyes, and with Barbs that round the eyes, goes on increasing with age. This augmentation of character with advancing age, and more especially the difference between the males and females in the abovementioned several respects, are remarkable facts, for there is no sensible difference at any age between the two sexes in the aboriginal rock-pigeon; and not often any strongly marked difference throughout the family of the Columbidæ.Osteological Characters.
In the skeletons of the various breeds there is much variability; and though certain differences occur frequently, and others rarely, in certain breeds, yet none can be said to be absolutely characteristic of any breed. Considering that strongly-marked domestic races have been formed chiefly by man's selection, we ought not to expect to find great and constant differences in the skeleton; for fanciers neither see, nor do they care for, modifications of structure in the internal framework. Nor ought we to expect changes in the skeletons from changed habits of life; as every facility is given to the most distinct breeds to follow the same habits, and the much modified races are never allowed to wander abroad and procure their own food in various ways. Moreover, I find, on comparing the skeletons of Columba livia, oenas, palumbus, and turtur, which are ranked by all systematists in two or three distinct though allied genera, that the differences are extremely slight, certainly less than between the skeletons of some of the most distinct domestic breeds. How far the skeleton of the wild rock-pigeon is constant I have had no means of judging, as I have examined only two.
Skull. —The individual bones, especially those at the base, do not differ in shape. But the whole skull, in its proportions, outline, and relative direction of the bones, differs greatly in some of the breeds, as may be seen by comparing the figures of (A) the wild rock-pigeon, (B) the Short-faced Tumbler, (C) the English Carrier, and (D) the Bagadotten Carrier (of Neumeister), all drawn of the natural size and viewed laterally. In the Carrier, besides the elongation of the bones of the face, the space between the orbits is proportionally a little narrower than in the rock-pigeon. In the Bagadotten the upper mandible is remarkably arched, and the premaxillary bones are proportionally broader. In the Short-faced Tumbler the skull is more globular: all the bones of the face are much shortened, and the front of the skull and descending nasal bones are almost perpendicular: the maxillo-jugal arch and premaxillary bones form an almost straight line; the space between the prominent edges of the eye-orbits is depressed. In the Barb the premaxillary bones are much shortened, and their anterior portion is thicker than in the rock-pigeon, as is the lower part of the nasal
bone. In two Nuns the ascending branches of the premaxillaries, near their tips, were somewhat attenuated, and in these birds, as well as in some others, for instance in the Spot, the occipital crest over the foramen was considerably more prominent than in the rock-pigeonIn the lower jaw, the articular surface is proportionably smaller in many breeds than in the rock-pigeon; and the vertical diameter, more especially of the outer part of the articular surface, is considerably shorter. May not this be accounted for by the lessened use of the jaws, owing to nutritious food having been given during a long period to all highly improved pigeons? In Runts, Carriers, and Barbs (and in a lesser degree in several breeds), the whole side of the jaw near the articular end is bent inwards in a highly remarkable manner; and the superior margin of the ramus, beyond the middle, is reflexed in an equally remarkable manner, as may be seen in fig. 25, in comparison with the jaw of the rock-pigeon. This reflection of the upper margin of the lower jaw is plainly connected with the singularly wide gape of the mouth, as has been described in Runts, Carriers, and Barbs. The reflection is well shown in fig. 26 of the head of a Runt seen from above; here a wide open space may be observed on each side, between the edges of the lower jaw and of the premaxillary bones. In the rockpigeon, and in several domestic breeds, the edges of the lower jaw on each side come close up to the premaxillary bones, so that no open space is left. The degree of downward curvature of the distal half of the lower jaw also differs to an extraordinary degree in some breeds, as may be seen in the drawings (fig. 27 A) of the rock-pigeon, (B) of the Short-faced Tumbler, and (C) of the Bagadotten Carrier of Neumeister. In some Runts the symphysis of the lower jaw is remarkably solid. No one would readily have believed that jaws differing in the several above-specified points so greatly could have belonged to the same species.Vertebræ.—All the breeds have twelve cervical vertebræ. But in a Bussorah Carrier from India the twelfth vertebra carried a small rib, a quarter of an inch in length, with a perfect double articulation.
The dorsal vertebræ are always eight. In the rock-pigeon all eight bear ribs; the eighth rib being very thin, and the seventh having no process. In Pouters all the ribs are extremely broad, eight bear ribs; the eighth rib being very thin and the seventh having no process. In Pouters all the ribs are extremely broad, and, in three out of four skeletons examined by me, the eighth rib was twice or even thrice as broad as in the rockpigeon; and the seventh pair had distinct processes. In many breeds there are only seven ribs, as in seven out of eight skeletons of various Tumblers, and in several skeletons of Fantails, Turbits and Nuns.
In all these breeds the seventh pair was very small, and was destitute of processes, in which respect it differed from the same rib in the rock-pigeon. In one Tumbler, and in the Bussorah Carrier, even the sixth pair had no process. The hypapophysis of the second dorsal vertebra varies much in development; being sometimes (as in several, but not all Tumblers) nearly as prominent as that of the third dorsal vertebra; and the two hypapophyses together tend to form an ossified arch. The development of the arch, formed by the hypapophyses of the third and fourth dorsal vertebræ, also varies considerably, as does the size of the hypapophysis of the fifth vertebra.
The rock-pigeon has twelve sacral vertebræ; but these vary in number, relative size, and distinctness, in the different breeds. In Pouters, with their elongated bodies, there are thirteen or even fourteen, and, as we shall immediately see, an additional number of caudal vertebræ. In Runts and Carriers there is generally the proper number, namely twelve; but in one Runt, and in the Bussorah Carrier, there were only eleven. In Tumblers there are either eleven, or twelve, or thirteen sacral vertebræ.
The caudal vertebræ are seven in number in the rock-pigeon. In Fantails, which have their tails so largely developed, there are eight or nine, and apparently in one case ten, and they are a little longer than in the rock-pigeon, and their shape varies considerably. Pouters, also, have eight or nine caudal vertebræ. I have seen eight in a Nun and Jacobin. Tumblers, though such small birds, always have the normal number seven; as have Carriers, with one exception, in which there were only six.
The following table will serve as a summary, and will show the most remarkable deviations in the number of the vertebra and ribs which I have observed:—
Rock Pigeon. Pouter, from Mr. Bult.
Tumbler, Dutch Roller.
The 12th bore a small rib.
The 6th pair with processes, the 7th pair without a process.
The 6th and 7th pair with processes.
The 6th and 7th pair without processes.
The 6th and 7th pair without processes.
The pelvis differs very little in any breed. The anterior margin of the ilium, however, is sometimes a little more equally rounded on both sides than in the rock-pigeon. The ischium is also frequently rather more elongated. The obturator-notch is sometimes, as in many Tumblers, less developed than in the rock-pigeon. The ridges on the ilium are very prominent in most Runts.
In the bones of the extremities I could detect no difference, except in their proportional lengths; for instance, the metatarsus in a Pouter was 1·65 inch, and in a Short-faced Tumbler only ·95 in length; and this is a greater difference than would naturally follow from their differently-sized bodies; but long legs in the Pouter, and small feet in the Tumbler, are selected points. In some Pouters the scapula is rather straighter, and in some Tumblers it is straighter, with the apex less elongated, than in the rock-pigeon: in fig. 28, the scapula of the rock-pigeon (A), and of a short-faced Tumbler (B), are given. The processes at the summit of the coracoid, which receive the extremities of the furculum, form a more perfect cavity in some Tumblers than in the rock-pigeon: in Pouters these processes are larger and differently shaped, and the exterior angle of the extremity of the coracoid, which is articulated to the sternum, is squarer.
The two arms of the furculum in Pouters diverge less, proportionally to their length, than in the rockpigeon; and the symphysis is more solid and pointed. In Fantails the degree of divergence of the two arms varies in a remarkable manner. In fig. 29, B and C represent the furcula of two Fantails; and it will be seen that the divergence in B is rather less even than in the furculum of the short-faced, small-sized Tumbler (A), whereas the divergence in C equals that in a rock-pigeon, or in the Pouter (D), though the latter is a much larger bird. The extremities of the furculum, where articulated to the coracoids, vary considerably in outline.
In the sternum the differences in form are slight, except in the size and outline of the perforations, which, both in the larger and lesser sized breeds, are sometimes small. These perforations, also, are sometimes either nearly circular, or elongated as is often the case with Carriers. The posterior perforations occasionally are not complete, being left open posteriorly. The marginal apophyses forming the anterior perforations vary greatly in development. The degree of convexity of the posterior part of the sternumdiffers much, being sometimes almost perfectly flat. The manubrium is rather more prominent in some individuals than in others, and the pore immediately under it varies greatly in size.
Correlation of Growth. —By this term I mean that the whole organisation is so connected, that when one part varies, other parts vary; but which of two correlated variations ought to be looked at as the cause and which as the effect, or whether both result from some common cause, we can seldom or never tell. The point of interest for us is that, when fanciers, by the continued selection of slight variations, have largely modified one part, they often unintentionally produce other modifications. For instance, the beak is readily acted on by selection, and, with its increased or diminished length, the tongue increases or diminishes, but not in due proportion; for, in a Barb and Short-faced Tumbler, both of which have very short beaks, the tongue, taking the rock-pigeon as the standard of comparison, was proportionally not shortened enough, whilst in two Carriers and in a Runt the tongue, proportionally with the beak, was not lengthened enough, thus, in a firstrate English Carrier, in which the beak from the tip to the feathered base was exactly thrice as long as in a first-rate Short-faced Tumbler, the tongue was only a little more than twice as long. But the tongue varies in length independently of the beak: thus in a Carrier with a beak 1·2 inch in length, the tongue was ·67 in length: whilst in a Runt which equalled the Carrier in length of body and in stretch of wings from tip to tip, the beak was ·92 whilst the tongue was ·73 of an inch in length, so that the tongue was actually longer than in the carrier with its long beak. The tongue of the Runt was also very broad at the root. Of two Runts, one had its beak longer by ·23 of an inch, whilst its tongue was shorter by ·14 than in the other.
With the increased or diminished length of the beak the length of the slit forming the external orifice of the nostrils varies, but not in due proportion, for, taking the rockpigeon as the standard, the orifice in a Short-faced Tumbler was not shortened in due proportion with its very short beak. On the other hand (and this could not have been anticipated), the orifice in three English Carriers, in the Bagadotten Carrier, and in a Runt (pigeon cygne), was longer by above the tenth of an inch than would follow from the length of the beak proportionally with that of the rock-pigeon. In one Carrier the orifice of the nostrils was thrice as long as in the rock-pigeon, though in body and length of beak this bird was not nearly double the size of the rock-pigeon. This greatly increased length of the orifice of the nostrils seems to stand partly in correlation with the enlargement of the wattled skin on the upper mandible and over the nostrils; and this is a character which is selected by fanciers. So again, the broad, naked, and wattled skin round the eyes of Carriers and Barbs is a selected character; and in obvious correlation with this, the eyelids, measured longitudinally, are proportionally more than double the length of those of the rock-pigeon.
The great difference (see fig. 27) in the curvature of the lower jaw in the rock-pigeon, the Tumbler, and Bagadotten Carrier, stands in obvious relation to the curvature of the upper jaw, and more especially to the angle formed by the maxillo-jugal arch with the premaxillary bones. But in Carriers, Runts, and Barbs the singular reflexion of the upper margin of the middle part of the lower jaw (see fig. 25) is not strictly correlated with the width or divergence (as may be clearly seen in fig. 26) of the premaxillary bones, but with the breadth of the horny and soft parts of the upper mandible, which are always overlapped by the edges of the lower mandible.
In Pouters, the elongation of the body is a selected character, and the ribs, as we have seen, have generally become very broad, with the seventh pair furnished with processes; the sacral and caudal vertebræ have been augmented in number; the sternum has likewise increased in length (but not in the depth of the crest) by ·4 of an inch more than would follow from the greater bulk of the body in comparison with that of the rock-pigeon. In Fantails, the length and number of the caudal vertebræ have increased. Hence, during the gradual progress of variation and selection, the internal bony framework and the external shape of the body have been, to a certain extent, modified in a correlated manner.
Although the wings and tail often vary in length independently of each other, it is scarcely possible to doubt that they generally tend to become elongated or shortened in correlation. This is well seen in Jacobins, and still more plainly in Runts, some varieties of which have their wings and tail of great length, whilst others have both very short. With Jacobins, the remarkable length of the tail and wing-feathers is not a character which is intentionally selected by fanciers; but fanciers have been trying for centuries, at least since the year 1600, to increase the length of the reversed feathers on the neck, so that the hood may more completely enclose the head; and it may be suspected that the increased length of the wing and tail-feathers stand in correlation with the increased length of the neck-feathers. Short-faced Tumblers have short wings in nearly due proportion with the reduced size of their bodies; but it is remarkable, seeing that the number of the primary wing-feathers is a constant character in most birds, that these Tumblers generally have only nine instead of ten primaries. I have myself observed this in eight birds; and the Original Columbarian Society reduced the standard for Bald-head Tumblers from ten to nine white flight-feathers, thinking it unfair that a bird which had only nine feathers should be disqualified for a prize because it had not ten white flightfeathers. On the other hand, in Carriers and Runts, which have large bodies and long wings, eleven primary feathers have occasionally been observed.
Mr. Tegetmeier has informed me of a curious and inexplicable case of correlation, namely, that young pigeons of all breeds which when mature become white, yellow, silver (i.e., extremely pale blue), or dun-coloured, are born almost naked; whereas pigeons of other colours are born well-clothed with down. Mr. Esquilant, however, has observed that young dun Carriers are not so bare as young dun Barbs and Tumblers. Mr. Tegetmeier has seen two young birds in the same nest, produced from differently coloured parents, which differed greatly in the degree to which they were at first clothed with down.
I have observed another case of correlation which at first sight appears quite inexplicable, but on which, as we shall see in a future chapter, some light can be thrown by the law of homologous parts varying in the same manner. The case is, that, when the feet are much feathered, the roots of the feathers are connected by a web of skin, and apparently in correlation with this the two outer toes become connected for a considerable space by skin. I have observed this in very many specimens of Pouters, Trumpeters, Swallows, Roller-tumblers (likewise observed in this breed by Mr. Brent), and in a lesser degree in other feather-footed pigeons.
The feet of the smaller and larger breeds are of course much smaller or larger than those of the rock-pigeon; but the scutellæ or scales covering the toes and tarsi have not only decreased or increased in size, but likewise in number. To give a single instance, I have counted eight scutellæ on the hind toe of a Runt, and only five on that of a Short-faced Tumbler. With birds in a state of nature the number of the scutellæ on the feet is usually a constant character. The length of the feet and the length of the beak apparently stand in correlation; but as disuse apparently has affected the size of the feet, this case may come under the following discussion.
On the Effects of Disuse. —In the following discussion on the relative proportions of the feet, sternum, furculum, scapulæ, and wings, I may premise, in order to give some confidence to the reader, that all my measurements were made in the same manner, and that they were made without the least intention of applying them to the following purpose.
Table I. Pigeons with their beaks generally shorter than that of the Rock-pigeon, proportionally to the size of their bodies.Actual
Name of Breed.
length of Feet Difference between actual and calculated length of feet, in proportion to length of feet and size of body in the Rock-pigeon.
Short-faced Tumbler, blad-head 1·57 0·11 --
Short-faced Tumbler, almond 1·60 0·16 --
Tumbler, red magpie 1·75 0·19 --
Tumbler, red common (by standard to end of tail) 1·85 0·07 --
Tumbler, common bald-head 1·85 0·18 --
Tumbler, roller 1·80 0·06 --
Turbit 1·75 0·17 -- Turbit 1·80 0·01 -- Turbit 1·84 0·15 -- Jacobin 1·90 0·02 -- Trumpeter, white 2·02 0·06 --
Trumpeter, mottled 1·95 0·18 --
Fantail (by standard to end of tail) 1·85 0·15 --
Fantail (by standard to end of tail) 1·95 0·15 --
Fantail crested va. (by standard to end of tail) 1·95 0·0 0·0
Indian Frill-back (by standard to end of tail) 1·80 0·19 --
English Frill-back 2·10 0·03 --
Nun 1·82 0·02 -- Laugher 1·65 0·16 -- Barb 2·00 0·03 -- Barb 2·00 -- 0·03 Spot 1·90 0·02 -- Spot 1·90 0·07 -- Swallow, red 1·85 0·18 --
Swallow, blue 2·00 -- 0·03
Pouter 2·42 -- 0·11 Pouter, German 2·30 -- 0·09
Bussorah Carrier 2·17 -- 0·09
Number of specimens 28 22 5
I measured most of the birds which came into my possession, from the feathered base of the beak (the length of beak itself being so variable) to the end of the tail, and to the oil-gland, but unfortunately (except in a few cases) not to the root of the tail; I measured each bird from the extreme tip to tip of wing; and the length of the terminal folded part of the wing, from the extremity of the primaries to the joint of the radius. I measured the feet without the claws, from the end of the middle toe to the end of the hind toe; and the tarsus and middle toe together. I have taken in every case the mean measurement of two wild rock-pigeons from the Shetland Islands, as the standard of comparison. The following table shows the actual length of the feet in each bird; and the difference between the length which the feet ought to have had according to the size of body of each, in comparison with the size of body and length of feet of the rock-pigeon, calculated (with a few specified exceptions) by the standard of the length of the body from the base of the beak to the oil-gland. I have preferred this standard, owing to the variability of the length of tail. But I have made similar calculations, taking as the standard the length from tip to tip of wing, and likewise in most cases from the base of the beak to the end of the tail; and the result has always been closely similar. To give an example: the first bird in the table, being a Short-faced Tumbler, is much smaller than the rock-pigeon, and would naturally have shorter feet; but it is found on calculation to have feet too short by ·11 of an inch, in comparison with the feet of the rock-pigeon, relatively to the size of the body in these two birds, as measured from the base of beak to the oil-gland. So again, when this same Tumbler and the rock-pigeon were compared by the length of their wings, or by the extreme length of their bodies, the feet of the Tumbler were likewise found to be too short in very nearly the same proportion. I am well aware that the measurements pretend to greater accuracy than is possible, but it was less trouble to write down the actual measurements given by the compasses in each case than an approximation.
Table II. Pigeons with their beaks longer than that of the Rock-pigeon, proportionally to the size of their bodies.Difference between
Actual actual and calculated
Name of Breed.
length length of feet, in
of proportion to length of
Feet feet and size of body
Too short Too long Wild rock-pigeon (mean measurement) 2·02 by by
Short-faced Tumbler, bald-head 1·57 0·11 --
Carrier 2·60 -- 0·31 Carrier 2·60 -- 0·25 Carrier 2·40 -- 0·21 Carrier Dragon 2·25 -- 0·06
Bagadotten Carrier 2·80 -- 0·56
Scanderoon, white 2·80 -- 0·37
Scanderoon, Pigeon cygne 2·85 -- 0·29
Runt 2·75 -- 0·27 Number of specimens 8 -- 8
In these two tables (Tables I and II) we see in the first column the actual length of the feet in thirty-six birds belonging to various breeds, and in the two other columns we see by how much the feet are too short or too long, according to the size of bird, in comparison with the rock-pigeon. In the first table twenty-two specimens have their feet too short, on an average by a little above the tenth of an inch (viz. ·107); and five specimens have their feet on an average a very little too long, namely, by ·07 of an inch. But some of these latter cases can be explained; for instance, with Pouters the legs and feet are selected for length, and thus any natural tendency to a diminution in the length of the feet will have been counteracted. In the Swallow and Barb, when the calculation was made on any standard of comparison besides the one used (viz. length of body from base of beak to oil-gland), the feet were found to be too small.
In the second table we have eight birds, with their beaks much longer than in the rock-pigeon, both actually and proportionally with the size of body, and their feet are in an equally marked manner longer, namely, in proportion, on an average by ·29 of an inch. I should here state that in Table I there are a few partial exceptions to the beak being proportionally shorter than in the rock-pigeon: thus the beak of the English Frill-back is just perceptibly longer, and that of the Bussorah Carrier of the same length or slightly longer, than in the rock-pigeon. The beaks of Spots, Swallows, and Laughers are only a very little shorter, or of the same proportional length, but slenderer. Nevertheless, these two tables, taken conjointly, indicate pretty plainly some kind of correlation between the length of the beak and the size of the feet. Breeders of cattle and horses believe that there is an analogous connection between the length of the limbs and head; they assert that a race-horse with the head of a dray-horse, or a grey-hound with the head of a bulldog, would be a monstrous production. As fancy pigeons are generally kept in small aviaries, and are abundantly supplied with food, they must walk about much less than the wild rock-pigeon; and it may be admitted as highly probable that the reduction in the size of the feet in the twenty-two birds in the first table has been caused
by disuse,38 and that this reduction has acted by correlation on the beaks of the great majority of the birds in Table I. When, on the other hand, the beak has been much elongated by the continued selection of successive slight increments of length, the feet by correlation have likewise become much elongated in comparison with those of the wild rock-pigeon, notwithstanding their lessened use.
As I had taken measures from the end of the middle toe to the heel of the tarsus in the rock-pigeon and in the above thirty-six birds, I have made calculations analogous with those above given, and the result is the same— namely, that in the short-beaked breeds, with equally few exceptions as in the former case, the middle toe conjointly with the tarsus has decreased in length; whereas in the long-beaked breeds it has increased in length, though not quite so uniformly as in the former case, for the leg, in some varieties of the Runt varies much in length.
As fancy pigeons are generally confined in aviaries of moderate size, and as even when not confined they do not search for their own food, they must during many generations have used their wings incomparably less than the wild rock-pigeon. Hence it seemed to me probable that all the parts of the skeleton subservient to flight would be found to be reduced in size. With respect to the sternum, I have carefully measured its extreme length in twelve birds of different breeds, and in two wild rock-pigeons from the Shetland Islands. For the proportional comparison I have tried three standards of measurement, with all twelve birds namely, the length from the base of the beak to the oil-gland, to the end of the tail, and from the extreme tip to tip of wings. The result has been in each case nearly the same, the sternum being invariably found to be shorter than in the wild rock-pigeon. I will give only a single table, as calculated by the standard from the base of the beak to the oil-gland; for the result in this case is nearly the mean between the results obtained by the two other standards.Length of Sternum.Actual Too Name of Breed Length. short byInches
Wild Rock-pigeon 2·55 --
Wild Rock-pigeon 2·55 --
Pied Scanderoon 2·80 0·60
Bagadotten Carrier 2·80 0·17
Dragon 2·45 0·41 Carrier 2·75 0·35 Short-faced Tumbler 2·05 0·28
Barb 2·35 0·34 Nun 2·27 0·15 German Pouter 2·36 0·54
Jacobin 2·33 0·22 English Frill-back 2·40 0·43
Swallow 2·45 0·17
This table shows that in these twelve breeds the sternum is of an average one-third of an inch (exactly ·332) shorter than in the rock-pigeon, proportionally with the size of their bodies; so that the sternum has been reduced by between one-seventh and one-eighth of its entire length; and this is a considerable reduction.
I have also measured in twenty-one birds, including the above dozen, the prominence of the crest of the sternum relatively to its length, independently of the size of the body. In two of the twenty-one birds the crest was prominent in the same relative degree as in the rock-pigeon; in seven it was more prominent; but in five out of these seven, namely, in a Fantail, two Scanderoons, and two English Carriers, this greater prominence may to a certain extent be explained, as a prominent breast is admired and selected by fanciers; in the remaining twelve birds the prominence was less. Hence it follows that the crest exhibits a slight, though uncertain, tendency to be reduced in prominence in a greater degree than does the length of the sternum relatively to the size of body, in comparison with the rock-pigeon.
I have measured the length of the scapula in nine different large and small-sized breeds, and in all the scapula is proportionally shorter (taking the same standard as before) than in the wild rock-pigeon. The reduction in length on an average is very nearly one-fifth of an inch, or about one-ninth of the length of the scapula in the rock-pigeon.
The arms of the furcula in all the specimens which I compared, diverged less, proportionally with the size of body, than in the rock-pigeon; and the whole furculum was proportionally shorter. Thus in a Runt, which measured from tip to tip of wings 38½ inches, the furculum was only a very little longer (with the arms hardly more divergent) than in a rock-pigeon which measured from tip to tip 26½ inches. In a Barb, which in all its measurements was a little larger than the same rock-pigeon, the furculum was a quarter of an inch shorter. In a Pouter, the furculum had not been lengthened proportionally with the increased length of the body. In a Short-faced Tumbler, which measured from tip to tip of wings 24 inches, therefore only 2½ inches less than the rock-pigeon, the furculum was barely two-thirds of the length of that of the rockpigeon.
We thus clearly see that the sternum, scapula, and furculum are all reduced in proportional length; but when we turn to the wings we find what at first appears a wholly different and unexpected result. I may here remark that I have not picked out specimens, but have used every measurement made by me. Taking the length from the base of beak to the end of the tail as the standard of comparison, I find that, out of thirty-five birds of various breeds, twenty-five have wings of greater, and ten have them of less proportional length, than in the rock-pigeon. But from the frequently correlated length of the tail and wing-feathers, it is better to take as the standard of comparison the length from the base of the beak to the oil-gland; and by this standard, out of twenty-six of the same birds which had been thus measured, twenty-one had wings too long, and only five had them too short. In the twenty-one birds the wings exceeded in length those of the rock-pigeon, on an average, by 1-1/3 inch; whilst in the five birds they were less in length by only ·8 of an inch. As I was much surprised that the wings of closely confined birds should thus so frequently have been increased in length, it occurred to me that it might be solely due to the greater length of the wing-feathers; for this certainly is the case with the Jacobin, which has wings of unusual length. As in almost every case I had measured the folded wings, I subtracted the length of this terminal part from that of the expanded wings, and thus I obtained, with a moderate degree of accuracy, the length of the wings from the ends of the two radii, answering from wrist to wrist in our arms. The wings, thus measured in the same twenty-five birds, now gave a widely different result; for they were proportionally with those of the rock-pigeon too short in seventeen birds, and in only eight too long. Of these eight birds, five were long-beaked, and this fact perhaps indicates that there is some correlation of the length of the beak with the length of the bones of the wings, in the same manner as with that of the feet and tarsi. The shortening of the humerus and radius in the seventeen birds may probably be attributed to disuse, as in the case of the scapula and furculum to which the wing-bones are attached;—the lengthening of the wing-feathers, and consequently the expansion of the wings from tip to tip, being, on the other hand, as completely independent of use and disuse as is the growth of the hair or wool on our long-haired dogs or long-woolled sheep.
To sum up: we may confidently admit that the length of the sternum, and frequently the prominence of its crest, the length of the scapula and furculum, have all been reduced in size in comparison with the same parts in the rock-pigeon. And I presume that this may be attributed to disuse or lessened exercise. The wings, as measured from the ends of the radii, have likewise been generally reduced in length; but, owing to the increased growth of the wing-feathers, the wings, from tip to tip, are commonly longer than in the rockpigeon. The feet, as well as the tarsi conjointly with the middle toe, have likewise in most cases become reduced; and this it is probable has been caused by their lessened use; but the existence of some sort of correlation between the feet and beak is shown more plainly than the effects of disuse. We have also some faint indication of a similar correlation between the main bones of the wing and the beak.
Summary on the Points of Difference between the several Domestic Races, and between the individual Birds.—The beak, together with the bones of the face, differ remarkably in length, breadth, shape, and curvature. The skull differs in shape, and greatly in the angle formed by the union of the pre-maxillary, nasal, and maxillo-jugal bones. The curvature of the lower jaw and the reflection of its upper margin, as well as the gape of the mouth, differ in a highly remarkable manner. The tongue varies much in length, both independently and in correlation with the length of the beak. The development of the naked, wattled skin over the nostrils and round the eyes varies in an extreme degree. The eyelids and the external orifices of the nostrils vary in length, and are to a certain extent correlated with the degree of development of the wattle. The size and form of the œsophagus and crop, and their capacity for inflation, differ immensely. The length of the neck varies. With the varying shape of the body, the breadth and number of the ribs, the presence of processes, the number of the sacral vertebræ, and the length of the sternum, all vary. The number and size of the coccygeal vertebræ vary, apparently in correlation with the increased size of the tail. The size and shape of the perforations in the sternum, and the size and divergence of the arms of the furculum, differ. The oil-gland varies in development, and is sometimes quite aborted. The direction and length of certain feathers have been much modified, as in the hood of the Jacobin and the frill of the Turbit. The wing and tail-feathers generally vary in length together, but sometimes independently of each other and of the size of the body. The number and position of the tail-feather vary to an unparalleled degree. The primary and secondary wing-feathers occasionally vary in number, apparently in correlation with the length of the wing. The length of the leg and the size of the feet, and, in connection with the latter, the number of the scutellæ, all vary. A web of skin sometimes connects the bases of the two inner toes, and almost invariably the two outer toes when the feet are feathered.
The size of the body differs greatly: a Runt has been known to weigh more than five times as much as a Short-faced Tumbler. The eggs differ in size and shape. According to Parmentier, some races use much straw in building their nests, and others use little; but I cannot hear of any recent corroboration of this statement. The length of time required for hatching the eggs is uniform in all the breeds. The period at which the characteristic plumage of some breeds is acquired, and at which certain changes of colour supervene, differs. The degree to which the young birds are clothed with down when first hatched is different, and is correlated in a singular manner with the colour of the plumage. The manner of flight, and certain inherited movements, such as clapping the wings, tumbling either in the air or on the ground, and the manner of courting the female, present the most singular differences. In disposition the several races differ. Some races are very silent; others coo in a highly peculiar manner.
Although many different races have kept true in character during several centuries, as we shall hereafter more fully see, yet there is far more individual variability in the most constant breeds than in birds in a state of nature. There is hardly any exception to the rule that those characters vary most which are now most valued and attended to by fanciers, and which consequently are now being improved by continued selection. This is indirectly admitted by fanciers when they complain that it is much more difficult to breed high fancy pigeons up to the proper standard of excellence than the so-called toy pigeons, which differ from each other merely in colour; for particular colours when once acquired are not liable to continued improvement or augmentation. Some characters become attached, from quite unknown causes, more strongly to the male than to the female sex; so that we have in certain races, a tendency towards the appearance of secondary sexual characters, of which the aboriginal rock-pigeon displays not a trace.REFERENCES 1. The Hon. C. Murray has sent me some very valuable specimens from Persia; and H.M. Consul, Mr. Keith Abbott, has given me information on the pigeons of the same country. I am deeply indebted to Sir Walter Elliot for an immense collection of skins from Madras, with much information regarding them. Mr. Blyth has freely communicated to me his stores of knowledge on this and all other related subjects. The Rajah Sir James Brooke sent me specimens from Borneo, as has H.M. Consul, Mr. Swinhoe, from Amoy in China, and Dr. Daniell from the west coast of Africa. 2. Mr. B. P. Brent, well known for his various contributions to poultry literature, has aided me in every way during several years: so has Mr. Tegetmeier, with unwearied kindness. This latter gentleman, who is well known for his works on poultry, and who has largely bred pigeons, has looked over this and the following chapters. Mr. Bult formerly showed me his unrivalled collection of Pouters, and gave me specimens. I had access to Mr. Wicking's collection, which contained a greater assortment of kinds than could anywhere else be seen; and he has always aided me with specimens and information given in the freest manner. Mr. Haynes and Mr. Corker have given me specimens of their magnificent Carriers. To Mr. Harrison Weir I am likewise indebted. Nor must I by any means pass over the assistance received from Mr. J. M. Eaton, Mr. Baker, Mr. Evans, and Mr. J. Baily, jun., of Mount-street—to the latter gentleman I have been indebted for some valuable specimens. To all these gentlemen I beg permission to return my sincere and cordial thanks. 3. 'Les Pigeons de Volière et de Colombier' Paris 1824. During forty-five years the sole occupation of M. Corbié was the care of the pigeons belonging to the Duchess of Berry. Bonizzi has described a large number of coloured varieties in Italy: 'Le variazioni dei colombi Domestici,' Padova, 1873. 4. 'Coup d'Oeil sur l'Ordre des Pigeons' par Prince C. L. Bonaparte, Paris, 1855. This author makes
288 species, ranked under 85 genera.
5. As I so often refer to the size of the C. livia, or rock-pigeon, it may be convenient to give the mean
between the measurements of two wild birds, kindly sent me by Dr. Edmondstone from the
Inches From feathered base of beak to end of tail: 14·25 From feathered base of beak to oil-gland: 9·50 From tip of beak to end of tail: 15·02 Of tail-feathers: 4·62 From tip to tip of wing: 26·75 Of folded wing: 9·25 Beak:
Length from tip of beak to feathered base: ·77
Thickness, measured vertically at distal end of nostrils: ·23
Breadth, measured at same place: ·16
From end of middle toe (without claw) to distal end of tibia: 2·77 From end of middle toe to end of hind toe (without claws): 2·02 Weight: 14-1/4 ounces.
6. This drawing was made from a dead bird. The six following figures were drawn with great care by Mr. Luke Wells from living birds selected by Mr. Tegetmeier. It may be confidently asserted that the characters of the six breeds which have been figured are not in the least exaggerated.
7. 'Das Ganze der Taubenzucht:' Weimar, 1837, pl. 11 and 12.
8. Boitard and Corbié, 'Les Pigeons,' etc., p. 177, pl. 6.
9. 'Die Taubenzucht,' Ulm, 1824, s. 42.
10.This treatise was written by Sayzid Mohammed Musari, who died in 1770: I owe to the great kindness of Sir W. Elliot a translation of this curious treatise.
11. 'Poultry Chronicle,' vol. 2, p. 573.
12. 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. History,' vol. xix, 1847, p. 105.
13. This gland occurs in most birds; but Nitzsch (in his 'Pterylographie,' 1840, p. 55) states that it is absent in two species of Columba, in several species of Psittacus, in some species of Otis, and in most or all birds of the Ostrich family. It can hardly be an accidental coincidence that the two species of Columba, which are destitute of an oil-gland, have an unusual number of tail-feathers, namely 16, and in this respect resemble Fantails.
14. See the two excellent editions published by Mr. J. M. Eaton in 1852 and 1858, entitled 'A Treatise on Fancy Pigeons.'
15. English translation, by F. Gladwin, 4th edition, vol. i. The habit of the Lotan is also described in the Persian treatise before alluded to, published about 100 years ago: at this date the Lotans were generally white and crested as at present. Mr. Blyth describes these birds in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.,' vol. xiv., 1847, p. 104; he says that they "may be seen at any of the Calcutta birddealers."
16. 'Journal of Horticulture,' Oct. 22, 1861, p. 76.
17. See the account of the House-tumblers kept at Glasgow, in the 'Cottage Gardener,' 1858, p. 285. Also Mr. Brent's paper, 'Journal of Horticulture,' 1861, p. 76.
18. J. M. Eaton, 'Treatise on Pigeons,' 1852, p. 9.
19. J. M. Eaton, 'Treatise,' edit. 1858, p. 76.
20. Neumeister, 'Taubenzucht,' tab. 4. fig. i.
21. Riedel, 'Die Taubenzucht,' 1824, s. 26. Bechstein, 'Naturgeschichte Deutschlands,' Band iv. s. 36, 1795.
22. Willughby's 'Ornithology,' edited by Ray.
23. J. M. Eaton's edition (1858) of Moore, p. 98.
24. Pigeon pattu plongeur. 'Les Pigeons,' etc., p. 165.
25. 'Naturgeschichte Deutschlands,' Band iv. s. 47.
26. Mr. W. B. Tegetmeier, 'Journal of Horticulture,' Jan. 20, 1863, p. 58.
27.'Coup-d'œil sur L'Ordre des Pigeons,' par C. L. Bonaparte ('Comptes Rendus'), 1854-55. Mr. Blyth, in 'Annals of Nat. Hist.,' vol. xix., 1847, p. 41, mentions, as a very singular fact, "that of the two species of Ectopistes, which are nearly allied to each other, one should have fourteen tailfeathers, while the other, the passenger pigeon of North America, should possess but the usual number—twelve."
28. Described and figured in the 'Poultry Chronicle,' vol. iii., 1855, p. 82.
29. 'The Pigeon Book,' by Mr. B. P. Brent, 1859, p. 41.
30. 'Die staarhälsige Taube. Das Ganze, etc.,' s. 21, tab. i. fig. 4.
31. 'A Treatise on the Almond-Tumbler,' by J. M. Eaton, 1852, p. 8, et passim.
32. 'A Treatise, etc.,' p. 10.
33. Boitard and Corbié 'Les Pigeons,' etc., 1824, p. 173.
34. 'Le Pigeon Voyageur Belge,' 1865, p. 87. I have given in my 'Descent of Man' (6th edit. p. 466) some curious cases, on the authority of Mr. Tegetmeier, of silver-coloured (i.e. very pale blue) birds being generally females, and of the ease with which a race thus characterised could be produced. Bonizzi (see 'Variazioni dei Columbi domestici:' Padova, 1873) states that certain coloured spots are often different in the two sexes, and the certain tints are commoner in females than in male pigeons.
35.Prof. A. Newton ('Proc. Zoolog. Soc.,' 1865, p. 716) remarks that he knows no species which present any remarkable sexual distinction; but Mr. Wallace informs me, that in the sub-family of the Treronidæ the sexes often differ considerably in colour. See also on sexual differences in the Columbidæ, Gould, 'Handbook to the Birds of Australia,' vol. ii., pp. 109-149.
36. I am not sure that I have designated the different kinds of vertebræ correctly: but I observe that different anatomists follow in this respect different rules, and, as I use the same terms in the comparison of all the skeletons, this, I hope, will not signify.
37. J. M. Eaton's 'Treatise,' edit. 1858, p. 78.
38. In an analogous, but converse, manner, certain natural groups of the Columbidæ, from being more terrestrial in their habits than other allied groups, have larger feet. See Prince Bonaparte's 'Coup d'œil sur l'Ordre des Pigeons.'
39. It perhaps deserves notice that besides these five birds two of the eight were Barbs, which, as I have shown, must be classed in the same group with the long-beaked Carriers and Runts. Barbs may properly be called short-beaked Carriers. It would, therefore, appear as if, during the reduction of their beaks, their wings had retained a little of that excess of length which is characteristic of their nearest relations and progenitors.
40. Temminck, 'Hist. Nat. Gén. des Pigeons et des Gallinacés,' tom. i., 1813, p. 170.
41.This term was used by John Hunter for such differences in structure between the males and females, as are not directly connected with the act of reproduction, as the tail of the peacock, the horns of deer, etc.
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 pigs, though so tame, sometimes squat when frightened, and thus try to conceal themselves even on an open and bare place. Young turkeys, and occasionally even young fowls, when the hen gives the danger-cry, run away and try to hide themselves, like young partridges or pheasants, in order that their mother may take flight, of which she has lost the power. The musk-duck (Cairina moschata) in its native country often perches and roosts on trees, and our domesticated musk-ducks, though such sluggish birds, "are fond of perching on the tops of barns, walls, etc., and, if allowed to spend the night in the hen-house, the female will generally go to roost by the side of the hens, but the drake is too heavy to mount thither with ease." We know that the dog, however well and regularly fed, often buries, like the fox, any superfluous food; and we see him turning round and round on a carpet, as if to trample down grass to form a bed; we see him on bare pavements scratching backwards as if to throw earth over his excrement, although, as I believe, this is never effected even where there is earth. In the delight with which lambs and kids crowd together and frisk on the smallest hillock, we see a vestige of their former alpine habits.
We have therefore good reason to believe that all the domestic races of the pigeon are descended either from some one or from several species which both roosted and built their nests on rocks, and were social in disposition. As only five or six wild species have these habits, and make any near approach in structure to the domesticated pigeon, I will enumerate them.
Firstly, the Columba leuconota resembles certain domestic varieties in its plumage, with the one marked and never-failing difference of a white band which crosses the tail at some distance from the extremity. This species, moreover, inhabits the Himalaya, close to the limit of perpetual snow; and therefore, as Mr. Blyth has remarked, is not likely to have been the parent of our domestic breeds, which thrive in the hottest countries. Secondly, the C. rupestris, of Central Asia, which is intermediate between the C. leuconota and livia; but has nearly the same coloured tail as the former species. Thirdly, the Columba littoralis builds and roosts, according to Temminck, on rocks in the Malayan archipelago; it is white, excepting parts of the wing and the tip of the tail, which are black; its legs are livid-coloured, and this is a character not observed in any adult domestic pigeon; but I need not have mentioned this species or the closely-allied C. luctuosa, as they in fact belong to the genus Carpophaga. Fourthly, Columba guinea, which ranges from Guinea to the Cape of Good Hope, and roosts either on trees or rocks, according to the nature of the country. This species belongs to the genus Strictoenas of Reichenbach, but is closely allied to Columba; it is to some extent coloured like certain domestic races, and has been said to be domesticated in Abyssinia; but Mr. Mansfield Parkyns, who collected the birds of that country and knows the species, informs me that this is a mistake. Moreover, the C. guinea is characterised by the feathers of the neck having peculiar notched tips,—a character not observed in any domestic race. Fifthly, the Columba œnas of Europe, which roosts on trees, and builds its nest in holes, either in trees or the ground; this species, as far as external characters go, might be the parent of several domestic races; but, though it crosses readily with the true rock-pigeon, the offspring, as we shall presently see, are sterile hybrids, and of such sterility there is not a trace when the domestic races are intercrossed. It should also be observed that if we were to admit, against all probability, that any of the foregoing five or six species were the parents of some of our domestic pigeons, not the least light would be thrown on the chief differences between the eleven most strongly-marked races.
We now come to the best known rock-pigeon, the Columba livia, which is often designated in Europe preeminently as the Rock-pigeon, and which naturalists believe to be the parent of all the domesticated breeds. This bird agrees in every essential character with the breeds which have been only slightly modified. It differs from all other species in being of a slaty-blue colour, with two black bars on the wings, and with the croup (or loins) white. Occasionally birds are seen in Faroe and the Hebrides with the black bars replaced by two or three black spots; this form has been named by Brehm C. amaliæ, but this species has not been
admitted as distinct by other ornithologists. Graba even found a difference in the bars on the right and left wings of the same bird in Faroe. Another and rather more distinct form is either truly wild or has become feral on the cliffs of England and was doubtfully named by Mr. Blythas C. affinis, but is now no longer considered by him as a distinct species. C. affinis is rather smaller than the rock-pigeon of the Scottish islands, and has a very different appearance owing to the wing-coverts being chequered with black, with similar marks often extending over the back. The chequering consists of a large black spot on the two sides, but chiefly on the outer side, of each feather. The wing-bars in the true rock-pigeon and in the chequered variety are, in fact, due to similar though larger spots symmetrically crossing the secondary wing-feather and the larger coverts. Hence the chequering arises merely from an extension of these marks to other parts of the plumage. Chequered birds are not confined to the coasts of England; for they were found by Graba at Faroe; and W. Thompson says that at Islay fully half the wild rock-pigeons were chequered. Colonel King, of Hythe, stocked his dovecot with young wild birds which he himself procured from nests at the Orkney Islands; and several specimens, kindly sent to me by him, were all plainly chequered. As we thus see that chequered birds occur mingled with the true rock-pigeon at three distinct sites, namely, Faroe, the Orkney Islands, and Islay, no importance can be attached to this natural variation in the plumage.
Prince C. L. Bonaparte, a great divider of species, enumerates, with a mark of interrogation, as distinct from C. livia, the C. turricola of Italy, the C. rupestris of Daouria, and the C. schimperi of Abyssinia; but these birds differ from C. livia in characters of the most trifling value. In the British Museum there is a chequered pigeon, probably the C. schimperi of Bonaparte, from Abyssinia. To these may be added the C. gymnocyclus of G. R. Gray from W. Africa, which is slightly more distinct, and has rather more naked skin round the eyes than the rock-pigeon; but from information given me by Dr. Daniell, it is doubtful whether this is a wild bird, for dovecot-pigeons (which I have examined) are kept on the coast of Guinea.
The wild rock-pigeon of India ( C. intermedia of Strickland) has been more generally accepted as a distinct species. It differs chiefly in the croup being blue instead of snow-white; but as Mr. Blyth informs me, the tint varies, being sometimes albescent. When this form is domesticated chequered birds appear, just as occurs in Europe with the truly wild C. livia. Moreover we shall immediately have proof that the blue and white croup is a highly variable character; and Bechstein asserts that with dovecot-pigeons in Germany this is the most variable of all the characters of the plumage. Hence it may be concluded that C. intermedia cannot be ranked as specifically distinct from C. livia.
In Madeira there is a rock-pigeon which a few ornithologists have suspected to be distinct from C. livia. I have examined numerous specimens collected by Mr. E. V. Harcourt and Mr. Mason. They are rather smaller than the rock- pigeon from the Shetland Islands, and their beaks are plainly thinner, but the thickness of the beak varied in the several specimens. In plumage there is remarkable diversity; some specimens are identical in every feather (I speak after actual comparison) with the rock-pigeon of the Shetland Islands; others are chequered, like C. affinis from the cliffs of England, but generally to a greater degree, being almost black over the whole back; others are identical with the so-called C. intermedia of India in the degree of blueness of the croup; whilst others have this part very pale or very dark blue, and are likewise chequered. So much variability raises a strong suspicion that these birds are domestic pigeons which have become feral.
From these facts it can hardly be doubted that C. livia, affinis, intermedia, and the forms marked with an interrogation by Bonaparte ought all to be included under a single species. But it is quite immaterial whether or not they are thus ranked, and whether some one of these forms or all are the progenitors of the various domestic kinds, as far as any light can thus be thrown on the differences between the more strongly-marked races. That common dovecot-pigeons, which are kept in various parts of the world, are descended from one or from several of the above-mentioned wild varieties of C. livia, no one who compares them will doubt. But before making a few remarks on dovecot-pigeons, it should be stated that the wild rock-pigeon has been found easy to tame in several countries. We have seen that Colonel King at Hythe stocked his dovecot more than twenty years ago with young wild birds taken at the Orkney Islands, and since then they have greatly multiplied. The accurate Macgillivray asserts that he completely tamed a wild rock-pigeon in the Hebrides; and several accounts are on records of these pigeons having bred in dovecots in the Shetland Islands. In India, as Captain Hutton informs me, the wild rock-pigeon is easily
tamed, and breeds readily with the domestic kind; and Mr. Blyth asserts that wild birds come frequently to the dovecots and mingle freely with their inhabitants. In the ancient 'Ayeen Akbery' it is written that, if a few wild pigeons be taken, "they are speedily joined by a thousand others of their kind."
Dovecot-pigeons are those which are kept in dovecots in a semi- domesticated state; for no special care is taken of them, and they procure their own food, except during the severest weather. In England, and, judging from MM. Boitard and Corbié's work, in France, the common dovecot- pigeon exactly resembles the chequered variety of C. livia; but I have seen dovecots brought from Yorkshire without any trace of chequering, like the wild rock-pigeon of the Shetland Islands. The chequered dovecots from the Orkney Islands, after having been domesticated by Colonel King for more than twenty years, differed slightly from each other in the darkness of their plumage and in the thickness of their beaks; the thinnest beak being rather thicker than the thickest one in the Madeira birds. In Germany, according to Bechstein, the common dovecot-pigeon is not chequered. In India they often become chequered, and sometimes pied with white; the croup also, as I am informed by Mr. Blyth, becomes nearly white. I have received from Sir. J. Brooke some dovecot-pigeons, which originally came from the S. Natunas Islands in the Malay Archipelago, and which had been crossed with the Singapore dovecots: they were small and the darkest variety was extremely like the dark chequered variety with a blue croup from Madeira; but the beak was not so thin, though decidedly thinner than in the rock- pigeon from the Shetland Islands. A dovecot-pigeon sent to me by Mr. Swinhoe from Foochow, in China, was likewise rather small, but differed in no other respect. I have also received through the kindness of Dr. Daniell, four living dovecot-pigeons from Sierra Leone, these were fully as large as the Shetland rock-pigeon, with even bulkier bodies. In plumage some of them were identical with the Shetland rock pigeon, but with the metallic tints apparently rather more brilliant; others had a blue croup, and resembled the chequered variety of C. intermedia of India; and some were so much chequered as to be nearly black. In these four birds the beak differed slightly in length, but in all it was decidedly shorter, more massive, and stronger than in the wild rock-pigeon from the Shetland Islands, or in the English dovecot. When the beaks of these African pigeons were compared with the thinnest beaks of the wild Madeira specimens, the contrast was great; the former being fully one-third thicker in a vertical direction than the latter; so that any one at first would have felt inclined to rank these birds as specifically distinct; yet so perfectly graduated a series could be formed between the above-mentioned varieties, that it was obviously impossible to separate them.
To sum up: the wild Columba livia, including under this name C. affinis, intermedia, and the other still more closely-affined geographical races, has a vast range from the southern coast of Norway and the Faroe Islands to the shores of the Mediterranean, to Madeira and the Canary Islands, to Abyssinia, India, and Japan. It varies greatly in plumage, being in many places chequered with black, and having either a white or blue croup or loins; it varies also slightly in the size of the beak and body. Dovecot-pigeons, which no one disputes are descended from one or more of the above wild forms, present a similar but greater range of variation in plumage, in the size of body, and in the length and thickness of the beak. There seems to be some relation between the croup being blue or white, and the temperature of the country inhabited by both wild and dovecot pigeons; for nearly all the dovecot-pigeons in the northern parts of Europe have a white croup, like that of the wild European rock-pigeon; and nearly all the dovecot-pigeons of India have a blue croup like that of the wild C. intermedia of India. As in various countries the wild rock-pigeon has been found easy to tame, it seems extremely probable that the dovecot-pigeons throughout the world are the descendants of at least two and perhaps more wild stocks; but these, as we have just seen, cannot be ranked as specifically distinct.
With respect to the variation of C. livia, we may without fear of contradiction go one step further. Those pigeon-fanciers who believe that all the chief races, such as Carriers, Pouters, Fantails, etc., are descended from distinct aboriginal stocks, yet admit that the so-called toy-pigeons, which differ from the rock-pigeon in little except colour, are descended from this bird. By toy-pigeons are meant such birds as Spots, Nuns, Helmets, Swallows, Priests, Monks, Porcelains, Swabians, Archangels, Breasts, Shields, and others in Europe, and many others in India. It would indeed be as puerile to suppose that all these birds are descended from so many distinct wild stocks as to suppose this to be the case with the many varieties of the gooseberry, heartsease, or dahlia. Yet these kinds all breed true, and many of them include sub-varieties which likewise transmit their character truly. They differ greatly from each other and from the rock-pigeon in plumage, slightly in size and proportions of body, in size of feet, and in the length and thickness of their beaks. They differ from each other in these respects more than do dovecot-pigeons. Although we may safely admit that dovecot-pigeons, which vary slightly, and that toy- pigeons, which vary in a greater degree in accordance with their more highlydomesticated condition, are descended from C. livia, including under this name the above-enumerated wild geographical races; yet the question becomes far more difficult when we consider the eleven principal races, most of which have been profoundly modified. It can, however, be shown, by indirect evidence of a perfectly conclusive nature, that these principal races are not descended from so many wild stocks; and if this be once admitted, few will dispute that they are the descendants of C. livia, which agrees with them so closely in habits and in most characters, which varies in a state of nature, and which has certainly undergone a considerable amount of variation, as in the toypigeons. We shall moreover presently see how eminently favourable circumstances have been for a great amount of modification in the more carefully tended breeds.The reasons for concluding that the several principal races are not descended from so many aboriginal and unknown stocks may be grouped under the following six heads:—
Firstly. —If the eleven chief races have not arisen from the variation of some one species, together with its geographical races, they must be descended from several extremely distinct aboriginal species; for no amount of crossing between only six or seven wild forms could produce races so distinct as Pouters, Carriers, Runts, Fantails, Turbits, Shortfaced Tumblers, Jacobins, and Trumpeters. How could crossing produce, for instance, a Pouter or a Fantail, unless the two supposed aboriginal parents possessed the remarkable characters of these breeds? I am aware that some naturalists, following Pallas, believe that crossing gives a strong tendency to variation, independently of the characters inherited from either parent. They believe that it would be easier to raise a Pouter or Fantail pigeon from crossing two distinct species, neither of which possessed the characters of these races, than from any single species. I can find few facts in support of this doctrine, and believe in it only to a limited degree; but in a future chapter I shall have to recur to this subject. For our present purpose the point is not material. The question which concerns us is, whether or not many new and important characters have arisen since man first domesticated the pigeon. On the ordinary view, variability is due to changed conditions of life; on the Pallasian doctrine, variability, or the appearance of new characters, is due to some mysterious effect from the crossing of two species, neither of which possesses the characters in question. In some few instances it is possible that wellmarked races may have been formed by crossing; for instance, a Barb might perhaps be formed by a cross between a long-beaked Carrier, having large eye-wattles, and some short-beaked pigeon. That many races have been in some degree modified by crossing, and that certain varieties which are distinguished only by peculiar tints have arisen from crosses between differently-coloured varieties, is almost certain. On the doctrine, therefore, that the chief races owe their differences to their descent from distinct species, we must admit that at least eight or nine, or more probably a dozen species, all having the same habit of breeding and roosting on rocks and living in society, either now exist somewhere, or formerly existed, but have become extinct as wild birds. Considering how carefully wild pigeons have been collected throughout the world, and what conspicuous birds they are, especially when frequenting rocks, it is extremely improbable that eight or nine species, which were long ago domesticated and therefore must have inhabited some anciently known country, should still exist in the wild state and be unknown to ornithologists.
The hypothesis that such species formerly existed, but have become extinct, is in some slight degree more probable. But the extinction of so many species within the historical period is a bold hypothesis, seeing how little influence man has had in exterminating the common rock-pigeon, which agrees in all its habits of life with the domestic races. The C. livia now exists and flourishes on the small northern islands of Faroe, on many islands off the coast of Scotland, on Sardinia, and the shores of the Mediterranean, and in the centre of India. Fanciers have sometimes imagined that the several supposed parent-species were originally confined to small islands, and thus might readily have been exterminated; but the facts just given do not favour the probability of their extinction, even on small islands. Nor is it probable, from what is known of the distribution of birds, that the islands near Europe should have been inhabited by peculiar species of pigeons; and if we assume that distant oceanic islands were the homes of the supposed parent-species, we must remember that ancient voyages were tediously slow, and that ships were then illprovided with fresh food, so that it would not have been easy to bring home living birds. I have said ancient voyages, for nearly all the races of the pigeon were known before the year 1600, so that the supposed wild species must have been captured and domesticated before that date.
Secondly. —The doctrine that the chief domestic races are descended from several aboriginal species, implies that several species were formerly so thoroughly domesticated as to breed readily when confined. Although it is easy to tame most wild birds, experience shows us that it is difficult to get them to breed freely under confinement; although it must be owned that this is less difficult with pigeons than with most other birds. During the last two or three hundred years, many birds have been kept in aviaries, but hardly one has been added to our list of thoroughly reclaimed species: yet on the above doctrine we must admit that in ancient times nearly a dozen kinds of pigeons, now unknown in the wild state, were thoroughly domesticated.
Thirdly. —Most of our domesticated animals have run wild in various parts of the world; but birds, owing apparently to their partial loss of the power of flight, less often than quadrupeds. Nevertheless I have met with accounts showing that the common fowl has become feral in South America and perhaps in West Africa, and on several islands: the turkey was at one time almost feral on the banks of the Parana; and the Guinea-fowl has become perfectly wild at Ascension and in Jamaica. In this latter island the peacock, also, "has become a maroon bird." The common duck wanders from its home and becomes almost wild in Norfolk. Hybrids between the common and musk-duck which have become wild have been shot in North America, Belgium, and near the Caspian Sea. The goose is said to have run wild in La Plata. The common dovecot-pigeon has become wild at Juan Fernandez, Norfolk Island, Ascension, probably at Madeira, on the shores of Scotland, and, as is asserted, on the banks of the Hudson in North America. But how different is the case, when we turn to the eleven chief domestic races of the pigeon, which are supposed by some authors to be descended from so many distinct species! no one has ever pretended that any one of these races has been found wild in any quarter of the world; yet they have been transported to all countries, and some of them must have been carried back to their native homes. On the view that all the races are the product of variation, we can understand why they have not become feral, for the great amount of modification which they have undergone shows how long and how thoroughly they have been domesticated; and this would unfit them for a wild life.
Fourthly. —If it be assumed that the characteristic differences between the various domestic races are due to descent from several aboriginal species, we must conclude that man chose for domestication in ancient times, either intentionally or by chance, a most abnormal set of pigeons; for that species resembling such birds as Pouters, Fantails, Carriers, Barbs, Short-faced Tumblers, Turbits, etc., would be in the highest degree abnormal, as compared with all the existing members of the great pigeon family, cannot be doubted. Thus we should have to believe that man not only formerly succeeded in thoroughly domesticating several highly abnormal species, but that these same species have since all become extinct, or are at least now unknown. This double accident is so extremely improbable that the assumed existence of so many abnormal species would require to be supported by the strongest evidence. On the other hand, if all the races are descended from C. livia, we can understand, as will hereafter be more fully explained, how any slight deviation in structure which first appeared would continually be augmented by the preservation of the most strongly marked individuals; and as the power of selection would be applied according to man's fancy, and not for the bird's own good, the accumulated amount of deviation would certainly be of an abnormal nature in comparison with the structure of pigeons living in a state of nature.
I have already alluded to the remarkable fact that the characteristic differences between the chief domestic races are eminently variable; we see this plainly in the great difference in the number of the tail-feathers in the Fantail, in the development of the crop in Pouters, in the length of the beak in Tumblers, in the state of the wattle in Carriers, etc. If these characters are the result of successive variations added together by selection, we can understand why they should be so variable: for these are the very parts which have varied since the domestication of the pigeon, and therefore would be likely still to vary; these variations moreover have been recently, and are still being accumulated by man's selection; therefore they have not as yet become firmly fixed.
Fifthly. —All the domestic races pair readily together, and, what is equally important, their mongrel offspring are perfectly fertile. To ascertain this fact I made many experiments, which are given in the note below; and recently Mr. Tegetmeier has made similar experiments with the same result. The accurate Neumeister asserts that when dovecots are crossed with pigeons of any other breed, the mongrels are extremely fertile and hardy. MM. Boitard and Corbié affirm, after their great experience, that the more distinct the breeds are which are crossed, the more productive are their mongrel offspring. I admit that the doctrine first broached by Pallas is highly probable, if not actually proved, namely, that closely allied species, which in a state of nature or when first captured would have been in some degree sterile if crossed, lose this sterility after a long course of domestication; yet when we consider the great difference between such races as Pouters, Carriers, Runts, Fantails, Turbits, Tumblers etc., the fact of their perfect, or even increased, fertility when intercrossed in the most complicated manner becomes a strong argument in favour of their having all descended from a single species. This argument is rendered much stronger when we hear (I append in a note all the cases which I have collected) that hardly a single well-ascertained instance is known of hybrids between two true species of pigeons being fertile, inter se, or even when crossed with one of their pure parents.
Sixthly. —Excluding certain important characteristic differences, the chief races agree most closely both with each other and with C. livia in all other respects. As previously observed, all are eminently sociable; all dislike to perch or roost, and refuse to build in trees; all lay two eggs, and this is not a universal rule with the Columbidæ; all, as far as I can hear, require the same time for hatching their eggs; all can endure the same great range of climate; all prefer the same food, and are passionately fond of salt; all exhibit (with the asserted exception of the Finnikin and Turner which do not differ much in any other character) the same peculiar gestures when courting the females; and all (with the exception of Trumpeters and Laughers, which likewise do not differ much in any other character) coo in the same peculiar manner, unlike the voice of any other wild pigeon. All the coloured breeds display the same peculiar metallic tints on the breast, a character far from general with pigeons. Each race presents nearly the same range of variation in colour; and in most of the races we have the same singular correlation between the development of down in the young and the future colour of plumage. All have the proportional length of their toes, and of their primary wing-feathers, nearly the same,— characters which are apt to differ in the several members of the Columbidæ. In those races which present some remarkable deviation of structure, such as in the tail of Fantails, crop of Pouters, beak of Carriers and Tumblers, etc., the other parts remain nearly unaltered. Now every naturalist will admit that it would be scarcely possible to pick out a dozen natural species in any family which should agree closely in habits and in general structure, and yet should differ greatly in a few characters alone. This fact is explicable through the doctrine of natural selection; for each successive modification of structure in each natural species is preserved, solely because it is of service; and such modifications when largely accumulated imply a great change in the habits of life, and this will almost certainly lead to other changes of structure throughout the whole organisation. On the other hand, if the several races of the pigeon have been produced by man through selection and variation, we can readily understand how it is that they should still all resemble each other in habits and in those many characters which man has not cared to modify, whilst they differ to so prodigious a degree in those parts which have struck his eye or pleased his fancy.
Besides the points above enumerated, in which all the domestic races resemble C. livia and each other, there is one which deserves special notice. The wild rock-pigeon is of a slaty-blue colour; the wings are crossed by two bars; the croup varies in colour, being generally white in the pigeon of Europe, and blue in that of India; the tail has a black bar close to the end, and the outer webs of the outer tail-feathers are edged with white, except near the tips. These combined characters are not found in any wild pigeon besides C. livia. I have looked carefully through the great collections of pigeons in the British Museum, and I find that a dark bar at the end of the tail is common; that the white edging to the outer tail-feathers is not rare; but that the white croup is extremely rare, and the two black bars on the wings occur in no other pigeon, excepting the alpine C. leuconota and C. rupestris of Asia. Now if we turn to the domestic races, it is highly remarkable, as an eminent fancier, Mr. Wicking, observed to me, that, whenever a blue bird appears in any race, the wings almost invariably show the double black bars. The primary wing-feathers may be white or black, and the whole body may be of any colour, but if the wing-coverts are blue, the two black bars are sure to appear. I have myself seen, or acquired trustworthy evidence, as given below, of blue birds with black bars on the wing, with the croup either white or very pale or dark blue, with the tail having a terminal black bar, and with the outer feathers externally edged with white or very pale coloured, in the following races, which, as I carefully observed in each case, appeared to be perfectly true: namely, in Pouters, Fantails, Tumblers, Jacobins, Turbits, Barbs, Carriers, Runts of three distinct varieties, Trumpeters, Swallows, and in many other toy-pigeons, which as being closely allied to C. livia, are not worth enumerating. Thus we see that, in purelybred races of every kind known in Europe, blue birds occasionally appear having all the marks which characterise C. livia, and which concur in no other wild species. Mr. Blyth, also, has made the same observation with respect to the various domestic races known in India.
Certain variations in the plumage are equally common in the wild C. livia, in dovecotpigeons, and in all the most highly modified races. Thus, in all, the croup varies from white to blue, being most frequently white in Europe, and very generally blue in India. We have seen that the wild C. livia in Europe, and dovecots in all parts of the world, often have the upper wing-coverts chequered with black; and all the most distinct races, when blue, are occasionally chequered in precisely the same manner. Thus I have seen Pouters, Fantails, Carriers, Turbits, Tumblers (Indian and English), Swallows, Bald-pates, and other toy-pigeons blue and chequered; and Mr. Esquilant has seen a chequered Runt. I bred from two pure blue Tumblers a chequered bird.
The facts hitherto given refer to the occasional appearance in pure races of blue birds with black wing-bars, and likewise of blue and chequered birds; but it will now be seen that when two birds belonging to distinct races are crossed, neither of which have, nor probably have had during many generations, a trace of blue in their plumage, or a trace of wing-bars and the other characteristic marks, they very frequently produce mongrel offspring of a blue colour, sometimes chequered, with black wing-bars, etc.; or if not of a blue colour, yet with the several characteristic marks more or less plainly developed. I was led to investigate this subject from MM. Boitard and Corbié having asserted that from crosses between certain breeds it is rare to get anything but bisets or dovecot pigeons, which, as we know, are blue birds with the usual characteristic marks. We shall hereafter see that this subject possesses, independently of our present object, considerable interest, so that I will give the results of my own trials in full. I selected for experiment races which, when pure, very seldom produce birds of a blue colour, or have bars on their wings and tail.
The Nun is white, with the head, tail, and primary wing-feathers black; it is a breed which was established as long ago as the year 1600. I crossed a male Nun with a female red common Tumbler, which latter variety generally breeds true. Thus neither parent had a trace of blue in the plumage, or of bars on the wing and tail. I should premise that common Tumblers are rarely blue in England. From the above cross I reared several young: one was red over the whole back, but with the tail as blue as that of the rockpigeon; the terminal bar, however, was absent, but the outer feathers were edged with white: a second and third nearly resembled the first, but the tail in both presented a trace of the bar at the end: a fourth was brownish, and the wings showed a trace of the double bar: a fifth was pale blue over the whole breast, back, croup, and tail, but the neck and primary wing-feathers were reddish; the wings presented two distinct bars of a red colour; the tail was not barred, but the outer feathers were edged with white. I crossed this last curiously coloured bird with a black mongrel of complicated descent, namely, from a black Barb, a Spot, and Almond-tumbler, so that the two young birds produced from this cross included the blood of five varieties, none of which had a trace of blue or of wing and tail-bars: one of the two young birds was brownish-black, with black wingbars; the other was reddish-dun, with reddish wing-bars, paler than the rest of the body, with the croup pale blue, the tail bluish with a trace of the terminal bar.
Mr. Eaton matched two Short-faced Tumblers, namely, a splash cock and kite hen (neither of which are blue or barred), and from the first nest he got a perfect blue bird, and from the second a silver or pale blue bird, both of which, in accordance with all analogy, no doubt presented the usual characteristic marks.
I crossed two male black Barbs with two female red Spots. These latter have the whole body and wings white, with a spot on the forehead, the tail and tail-coverts red; the race existed at least as long ago as 1676, and now breeds perfectly true, as was known to be the case in the year 1735. Barbs are uniformly-coloured birds, with rarely even a trace of bars on the wing or tail; they are known to breed very true. The mongrels thus raised were black or nearly black, or dark or pale brown, sometimes slightly piebald with white: of these birds no less than six presented double wing-bars; in two the bars were conspicuous and quite black; in seven some white feathers appeared on the croup; and in two or three there was a trace of the terminal bar to the tail, but in none were the outer tail-feathers edged with white.
I crossed black Barbs (of two excellent strains) with purely-bred, snow-white Fantails. The mongrels were generally quite black, with a few of the primary wing and tail feathers white: others were dark reddish-brown, and others snow-white: none had a trace of wingbars or of the white croup. I then paired together two of these mongrels, namely, a brown and black bird, and their offspring displayed wing-bars, faint, but of a darker brown than the rest of body. In a second brood from the same parents a brown bird was produced, with several white feathers confined to the croup.
I crossed a male dun Dragon belonging to a family which had been dun- coloured without wing-bars during several generations, with a uniform red Barb (bred from two black Barbs); and the offspring presented decided but faint traces of wing-bars. I crossed a uniform red male Runt with a White trumpeter; and the offspring had a slaty-blue tail with a bar at the end, and with the outer feathers edged with white. I also crossed a female black and white chequered Trumpeter (of a different strain from the last) with a male Almond-tumbler, neither of which exhibited a trace of blue, or of the white croup, or of the bar at end of tail: nor is it probable that the progenitors of these two birds had for many generations exhibited any of these characters, for I have never even heard of a blue Trumpeter in this country, and my Almond-tumbler was purely bred; yet the tail of this mongrel was bluish, with a broad black bar at the end, and the croup was perfectly white. It may be observed in several of these cases, that the tail first shows a tendency to become by reversion blue; and this fact of the persistency of colour in the tail and tailcoverts will surprise no one who has attended to the crossing of pigeons.
The last case which I will give is the most curious. I paired a mongrel female Barb-fantail with a mongrel male Barb-spot; neither of which mongrels had the least blue about them. Let it be remembered that blue Barbs are excessively rare; that Spots, as has been already stated, were perfectly characterised in the year 1676, and breed perfectly true; this likewise is the case with white Fantails, so much so that I have never heard of white Fantails throwing any other colour. Nevertheless the offspring from the above two mongrels was of exactly the same blue tint as that of the wild rock-pigeon from the Shetland Islands over the whole back and wings; the double black wing-bars were equally conspicuous; the tail was exactly alike in all its characters, and the croup was pure white; the head, however, was tinted with a shade of red, evidently derived from the Spot, and was of a paler blue than in the rock-pigeon, as was the stomach. So that two black Barbs, a red Spot, and a white Fantail, as the four purely-bred grandparents, produced a bird exhibiting the general blue colour, together with every characteristic mark, the wild Columba livia.
With respect to crossed breeds frequently producing blue birds chequered with black, and resembling in all respects both the dovecot-pigeon and the chequered wild variety of the rock-pigeon, the statement before referred to by MM. Boitard and Corbié would almost suffice; but I will give three instances of the appearance of such birds from crosses in which one alone of the parents or great-grandparents was blue, but not chequered. I crossed a male blue Turbit with a snow-white Trumpeter, and the following year with a dark, leaden-brown, Short-faced Tumbler; the offspring from the first cross were as perfectly chequered as any dovecot-pigeon; and from the second, so much so as to be nearly as black as the most darkly chequered rock-pigeon from Madeira. Another bird, whose great-grandparents were a white Trumpeter, a white Fantail, a white Red-spot, a red Runt, and a blue Pouter, was slaty-blue and chequered exactly like a dovecot-pigeon. I may here add a remark made to me by Mr. Wicking, who has had more experience than any other person in England in breeding pigeons of various colours: namely, that when a blue, or a blue and chequered bird, having black wing- bars, once appears in any race and is allowed to breed, these characters are so strongly transmitted that it is extremely difficult to eradicate them.
What, then, are we to conclude from this tendency in all the chief domestic races, both when purely bred and more especially when intercrossed, to produce offspring of a blue colour, with the same characteristic marks, varying in the same manner, as in Columbia livia? If we admit that these races are all descended from C. livia, no breeder will doubt that the occasional appearance of blue birds thus characterised is accounted for on the well-known principle of "throwing back" or reversion. Why crossing should give so strong a tendency to reversion, we do not with certainty know; but abundant evidence of this fact will be given in the following chapters. It is probable that I might have bred even for a century pure black Barbs, Spots, Nuns, white Fantails, Trumpeters, etc., without obtaining a single blue or barred bird; yet by crossing these breeds I reared in the first and second generation, during the course of only three or four years, a considerable number of young birds, more or less plainly coloured blue, and with most of the characteristic marks. When black and white, or black and red birds, are crossed, it would appear that a slight tendency exists in both parents to produce blue offspring, and that this, when combined, overpowers the separate tendency in either parent to produce black, or white, or red offspring.
If we reject the belief that all the races of the pigeon are the modified descendants of C. livia, and suppose that they are descended from several aboriginal stocks, then we must choose between the three following assumptions: firstly, that at least eight or nine species formerly existed which were aboriginally coloured in various ways, but have since varied in exactly the same manner so as to assume the colouring of C. livia; but this assumption throws not the least light on the appearance of such colours and marks when the races are crossed. Or secondly, we may assume that the aboriginal species were all coloured blue, and had the wing-bars and other characteristic marks of C. livia,—a supposition which is highly improbable, as besides this one species no existing member of the Columbidæ presents these combined characters; and it would not be possible to find any other instance of several species identical in plumage, yet as different in important points of structure as are Pouters, Fantails, Carriers, Tumblers, etc. Or lastly, we may assume that all the races, whether descended from C. livia or from several aboriginal species, although they have been bred with so much care and are so highly valued by fanciers, have all been crossed within a dozen or score of generations with C. livia, and have thus acquired their tendency to produce blue birds with the several characteristic marks. I have said that it must be assumed that each race has been crossed with C. livia within a dozen, or, at the utmost, within a score of generations; for there is no reason to believe that crossed offspring ever revert to one of their ancestors when removed by a greater number of generations. In a breed which has been crossed only once, the tendency to reversion will naturally become less and less in the succeeding generations, as in each there will be less and less of the blood of the foreign breed; but when there has been no cross with a distinct breed, and there is a tendency in both parents to revert to some long-lost character, this tendency, for all that we can see to the contrary, may be transmitted undiminished for an indefinite number of generations. These two distinct cases of reversion are often confounded together by those who have written on inheritance.
Considering, on the one hand, the improbability of the three assumptions which have just been discussed, and, on the other hand, how simply the facts are explained on the principle of reversion, we may conclude that the occasional appearance in all the races, both when purely bred and more especially when crossed, of blue birds, sometimes chequered, with double wing-bars, with white or blue croups, with a bar at the end of the tail, and with the outer tail-feathers edged with white, affords an argument of the greatest weight in favour of the view that all are descended from Columba livia, including under this name the three or four wild varieties or sub-species before enumerated.
To sum up the six foregoing arguments, which are opposed to the belief that the chief domestic races are the descendants of at least eight or nine or perhaps a dozen species; for the crossing of any less number would not yield the characteristic differences between the several races. Firstly, the improbability that so many species should still exist somewhere, but be unknown to ornithologists, or that they should have become within the historical period extinct, although man has had so little influence in exterminating the wild C. livia. Secondly, the improbability of man in former times having thoroughly domesticated and rendered fertile under confinement so many species. Thirdly, these supposed species having nowhere become feral. Fourthly, the extraordinary fact that man should, intentionally or by chance, have chosen for domestication several species, extremely abnormal in character; and furthermore, the points of structure which render these supposed species so abnormal being now highly variable. Fifthly, the fact of all the races, though differing in many important points of structure, producing perfectly fertile mongrels; whilst all the hybrids which have been produced between even closely allied species in the pigeon-family are sterile. Sixthly, the remarkable statements just given on the tendency in all the races, both when purely bred and when crossed, to revert in numerous minute details of colouring to the character of the wild rock-pigeon, and to vary in a similar manner. To these arguments may be added the extreme improbability that a number of species formerly existed, which differed greatly from each other in some few points, but which resembled each other as closely as do the domestic races in other points of structure, in voice, and in all their habits of life. When these several facts and arguments are fairly taken into consideration, it would require an overwhelming amount of evidence to make us admit that the chief domestic races are descended from several aboriginal stocks; and of such evidence there is absolutely none.
The belief that the chief domestic races are descended from several wild stocks no doubt has arisen from the apparent improbability of such great modifications of structure having been effected since man first domesticated the rock-pigeon. Nor am I surprised at any degree of hesitation in admitting their common parentage: formerly, when I went into my aviaries and watched such birds as Pouters, Carriers, Barbs, Fantails, and Short-faced Tumblers, etc., I could not persuade myself that all had descended from the same wild stock, and that man had consequently in one sense created these remarkable modifications. Therefore I have argued the question of their origin at great, and, as some will think, superfluous length.
Finally, in favour of the belief that all the races are descended from a single stock, we have in Columba livia a still existing and widely distributed species, which can be and has been domesticated in various countries. This species agrees in most points of structure and in all its habits of life, as well as occasionally in every detail of plumage, with the several domestic races. It breeds freely with them, and produces fertile offspring. It varies in a state of nature, and still more so when semi-domesticated, as shown by comparing the Sierra Leone pigeons with those of India, or with those which apparently have run wild in Madeira. It has undergone a still greater amount of variation in the case of the numerous toy-pigeons, which no one supposes to be descended from distinct species; yet some of these toy-pigeons have transmitted their character truly for centuries. Why, then, should we hesitate to believe in that greater amount of variation which is necessary for the production of the eleven chief races? It should be borne in mind that in two of the most strongly-marked races, namely, Carriers and Short-faced Tumblers, the extreme forms can be connected with the parent-species by graduated differences not greater than those which may be observed between the dovecot-pigeons inhabiting different countries, or between the various kinds of toy-pigeons,—gradations which must certainly be attributed to variation.
That circumstances have been eminently favourable for the modification of the pigeon through variation and selection will now be shown. The earliest record, as has been pointed out to me by Professor Lepsius, of pigeons in a domesticated condition, occurs in the fifth Egyptian dynasty, about 3000 B.C.; but Mr. Birch, of the British Museum, informs me that the pigeon appears in a bill of fare in the previous dynasty. Domestic pigeons are mentioned in Genesis, Leviticus, and Isaiah. In the time of the Romans, as we hear from Pliny, immense prices were given for pigeons; "nay, they are come to this pass, that they can reckon up their pedigree and race." In India, about the year 1600, pigeons were much valued by Akbar Khan: 20,000 birds were carried about with the court, and the merchants brought valuable collections. "The monarch of Iran and Turan sent him some very rare breeds. His Majesty," says the courtly historian, "by crossing the breeds, which method was never practised before, has improved them astonishingly." Akber Khan possessed seventeen distinct kinds, eight of which were valuable for beauty alone. At about this same period of 1600 the Dutch, according to Aldrovandi, were as eager about pigeons as the Romans had formerly been. The breeds which were kept during the fifteenth century in Europe and in India apparently differed from each other. Tavernier, in his Travels in 1677, speaks, as does Chardin in 1735, of the vast number of pigeonhouses in Persia; and the former remarks that, as Christians were not permitted to keep pigeons, some of the vulgar actually turned Mahometans for this sole purpose. The Emperor of Morocco had his favourite keeper of pigeons, as is mentioned in Moore's treatise, published 1737. In England, from the time of Willughby in 1678 to the present day, as well as in Germany and in France, numerous treatises have been published on the pigeon. In India, about a hundred years ago, a Persian treatise was written; and the writer thought it no light affair, for he begins with a solemn invocation, "in the name of God, the gracious and merciful." Many large towns, in Europe and the United States, now have their societies of devoted pigeon-fanciers: at present there are three such societies in London. In India, as I hear from Mr. Blyth, the inhabitants of Delhi and of some other great cities are eager fanciers. Mr. Layard informs me that most of the known breeds are kept in Ceylon. In China, according to Mr. Swinhoe of Amoy, and Dr. Lockhart of Shangai, Carriers, Fantails, Tumblers, and other varieties are reared with care, especially by the bonzes or priests. The Chinese fasten a kind of whistle to the tail-feathers of their pigeons, and as the flock wheels through the air they produce a sweet sound. In Egypt the late Abbas Pacha was a great fancier of Fantails. Many pigeons are kept at Cairo and Constantinople, and these have lately been imported by native merchants, as I hear from Sir W. Elliot, into Southern India, and sold at high prices.
The foregoing statements show in how many countries, and during how long a period, many men have been passionately devoted to the breeding of pigeons. Hear how an enthusiastic fancier at the present day writes: "If it were possible for noblemen and gentlemen to know the amazing amount of solace and pleasure derived from Almond Tumblers, when they begin to understand their properties, I should think that scarce any nobleman or gentleman would be without their aviaries of Almond Tumblers." The pleasure thus taken is of paramount importance, as it leads amateurs carefully to note and preserve each slight deviation of structure which strikes their fancy. Pigeons are often closely confined during their whole lives; they do not partake of their naturally varied diet; they have often been transported from one climate to another; and all these changes in their conditions of life would be likely to cause variability. Pigeons have been domesticated for nearly 5000 years, and have been kept in many places, so that the numbers reared under domestication must have been enormous: and this is another circumstance of high importance, for it obviously favours the chance of rare modifications of structure occasionally appearing. Slight variations of all kinds would almost certainly be observed, and, if valued, would, owing to the following circumstances, be preserved and propagated with unusual facility. Pigeons, differently from any other domesticated animal, can easily be mated for life, and, though kept with other pigeons, rarely prove unfaithful to each other. Even when the male does break his marriage-vow, he does not permanently desert his mate. I have bred in the same aviaries many pigeons of different kinds, and never reared a single bird of an impure strain. Hence a fancier can with the greatest ease select and match his birds. He will also see the good results of his care; for pigeons breed with extraordinary rapidity. He may freely reject inferior birds, as they serve at an early age as excellent food.History of the principal Races of the Pigeon.
Before discussing the means and steps by which the chief races have been formed, it will be advisable to give some historical details, for more is known of the history of the pigeon, little though this is, than of any other domesticated animal. Some of the cases are interesting as proving how long domestic varieties may be propagated with exactly the same or nearly the same characters; and other cases are still more interesting as showing how slowly but steadily races have been greatly modified during successive generations. In the last chapter I stated that Trumpeters and Laughers, both so remarkable for their voices, seem to have been perfectly characterised in 1735; and Laughers were apparently known in India before the year 1600. Spots in 1676, and Nuns in the time of Aldrovandi, before 1600, were coloured exactly as they now are. Common Tumblers and Ground Tumblers displayed in India, before the year 1600, the same extraordinary peculiarities of flight as at the present day, for they are well described in the 'Ayeen Akbery.' These breeds
may all have existed for a much longer period; we know only that they were perfectly characterised at the dates above given. The average length of life of the domestic pigeon is probably about five or six years; if so, some of these races have retained their character perfectly for at least forty or fifty generations.
Pouters. —These birds, as far as a very short description serves for comparison, appear to have been well characterised in Aldrovandi's time, before the year 1600. Length of body and length of leg are at the present time the two chief points of excellence. In 1735 Moore said (see Mr. J. M. Eaton's edition)—and Moore was a first-rate fancier—that he once saw a bird with a body 20 inches in length, "though 17 or 18 inches is reckoned a very good length;" and he has seen the legs very nearly 7 inches in length, yet a leg 6½ or 6¾ long "must be allowed to be a very good one." Mr. Bult, the most successful breeder of Pouters in the world, informs me that at present (1858) the standard length of the body is not less than 18 inches; but he has measured one bird 19 inches in length, and has heard of 20 and 22 inches, but doubts the truth of these latter statements. The standard length of the leg is now 7 inches, but Mr. Bult has recently measured two of his own birds with legs 7½ long. So that in the 123 years which have elapsed since 1735 there has been hardly any increase in the standard length of the body; 17 or 18 inches was formerly reckoned a very good length, and now 18 inches is the minimum standard; but the length of leg seems to have increased, as Moore never saw one quite 7 inches long; now the standard is 7, and two of Mr. Bult's birds measured 7½ inches in length. The extremely slight improvement in Pouters, except in the length of the leg, during the last 123 years, may be partly accounted for by the neglect which they suffered, as I am informed by Mr. Bult, until within the last 20 or 30 years. About 1765 there was a change of fashion, stouter and more feathered legs being preferred to thin and nearly naked legs.
Fantails. —The first notice of the existence of this breed is in India, before the year 1600, as given in the 'Ayeen Akbery;'at this date, judging from Aldrovandi, the breed was unknown in Europe. In 1677 Willughby speaks of a Fantail with 26 tail-feathers; in 1735 Moore saw one with 36 feathers; and in 1824 MM. Boitard and Corbié assert that in France birds can easily be found with 42 tail-feathers. In England, the number of the tail-feathers is not at present so much regarded as their upward direction and expansion. The general carriage of the bird is likewise now much valued. The old descriptions do not suffice to show whether in these latter respects there has been much improvement: but if Fantails with their heads and tails touching had formerly existed, as at the present time, the fact would almost certainly have been noticed. The Fantails which are now found in India probably show the state of the race, as far as carriage is concerned, at the date of their introduction into Europe; and some, said to have been brought from Calcutta, which I kept alive, were in a marked manner inferior to our exhibition birds. The Java Fantail shows the same difference in carriage; and although Mr. Swinhoe has counted 18 and 24 tail-feathers in his birds, a first-rate specimen sent to me had only 14 tail-feathers.
Jacobins. —This breed existed before 1600, but the hood, judging from the figure given by Aldrovandi, did not enclose the head nearly so perfectly as at present: nor was the head then white; nor were the wings and tail so long, but this last character might have been overlooked by the rude artist. In Moore's time, in 1735, the Jacobin was considered the smallest kind of pigeon, and the bill is said to be very short. Hence either the Jacobin, or the other kinds with which it was then compared, must since that time have been considerably modified; for Moore's description (and it must be remembered that he was a first-rate judge) is clearly not applicable, as far as size of body and length of beak are concerned, to our present Jacobins. In 1795, judging from Bechstein, the breed had assumed its present character.
Turbits. —It has generally been supposed by the older writers on pigeons, that the Turbit is the Cortbeck of Aldrovandi; but if this be the case, it is an extraordinary fact that the characteristic frill should not have been noticed. The beak, moreover, of the Cortbeck is described as closely resembling that of the Jacobin, which shows a change in the one or the other race. The Turbit, with its characteristic frill, and bearing its present name, is described by Willughby in 1677; and the bill is said to be like that of the bullfinch,—a good comparison, but now more strictly applicable to the beak of the Barb. The sub-breed called the Owl was well known in Moore's time, in 1735.Tumblers.—Common Tumblers, as well as Ground Tumblers, perfect as far as tumbling is concerned, existed in India before the year 1600; and at this period diversified modes of flight, such as flying at night,
the ascent to a great height, and manner of descent, seem to have been much attended to in India, as at the present time. Belon in 1555 saw in Paphlagonia what he describes as "a very new thing, viz. pigeons which flew so high in the air that they were lost to view, but returned to their pigeon-house without separating." This manner of flight is characteristic of our present Tumblers, but it is clear that Belon would have mentioned the act of tumbling if the pigeons described by him had tumbled. Tumblers were not known in Europe in 1600, as they are not mentioned by Aldrovandi, who discusses the flight of pigeons. They are briefly alluded to by Willughby, in 1687, as small pigeons "which show like footballs in the air." The shortfaced race did not exist at this period, as Willughby could not have overlooked birds so remarkable for their small size and short beaks. We can even trace some of the steps by which this race has been produced. Moore in 1735 enumerates correctly the chief points of excellence, but does not give any description of the several sub-breeds; and from this fact Mr. Eaton infers that the Short-faced Tumbler had not then come to full perfection. Moore even speaks of the Jacobin as being the smallest pigeon. Thirty years afterwards, in 1765, in the Treatise dedicated to Mayor, short-faced Almond Tumblers are fully described, but the author, an excellent fancier, expressly states in his Preface (p. xiv.) that, "from great care and expense in breeding them, they have arrived to so great perfection and are so different from what they were 20 or 30 years past, that an old fancier would have condemned them for no other reason than because they are not like what used to be thought good when he was in the fancy before." Hence it would appear that there was a rather sudden change in the character of the short-faced Tumbler at about this period; and there is reason to suspect that a dwarfed and half-monstrous bird, the parent-form of the several short-faced sub-breeds, then appeared. I suspect this because short-faced Tumblers are born with their beaks (ascertained by careful measurement) as short, proportionally with the size of their bodies, as in the adult bird; and in this respect they differ greatly from all other breeds, which slowly acquire during growth their various characteristic qualities.
Since the year 1765 there has been some change in one of the chief characters of the short-faced Tumbler, namely, in the length of the beak. Fanciers measure the "head and beak" from the tip of the beak to the front corner of the eyeball. About the year 1765 a "head and beak" was considered good, which, measured in the usual manner, was 7/8 of an inch in length; now it ought not to exceed 5/8 of an inch; "it is however possible," as Mr. Eaton candidly confesses, "for a bird to be considered as pleasant or neat even at 6/8 of an inch, but exceeding that length it must be looked upon as unworthy of attention." Mr. Eaton states that he has never seen in the course of his life more than two or three birds with the "head and beak" not exceeding half an inch in length; "still I believe in the course of a few years that the head and beak will be shortened, and that half-inch birds will not be considered so great a curiosity as at the present time." That Mr. Eaton's opinion deserves attention cannot be doubted, considering his success in winning prizes at our exhibitions. Finally in regard to the Tumbler it may be concluded from the facts above given that it was originally introduced into Europe, probably first into England, from the East; and that it then resembled our common English Tumbler, or more probably the Persian or Indian Tumbler, with a beak only just perceptibly shorter than that of the common dovecot-pigeon. With respect to the short-faced Tumbler, which is not known to exist in the East, there can hardly be a doubt that the whole wonderful change in the size of the head, beak, body and feet, and in general carriage, has been produced during the last two centuries by continued selection, aided probably by the birth of a semi- monstrous bird somewhere about the year 1750.
Runts. —Of their history little can be said. In the time of Pliny the pigeons of Campania were the largest known; and from this fact alone some authors assert that they were Runts. In Aldrovandi's time, in 1600, two sub-breeds existed; but one of them, the short-beaked, is now extinct in Europe.
Barbs. —Notwithstanding statements to the contrary, it seems to me impossible to recognise the Barb in Aldrovandi's description and figures; four breeds, however, existed in the year 1600 which evidently were allied both to Barbs and Carriers. To show how difficult it is to recognise some of the breeds described by Aldrovandi I will give the different opinions in regard to the above four kinds, named by him C. indica, cretensis, gutturosa, and persica. Willughby thought that the Columba indica was a Turbit, but the eminent fancier Mr. Brent believes that it was an inferior Barb: C. cretensis, with a short beak and a swelling on the upper mandible, cannot be recognised: C. (falsely called) gutturosa, which from its rostrum, breve, crassum, et tuberosum seems to me to come nearest to the Barb, Mr. Brent believes to be a Carrier; and lastly, the C. persica et turcica, Mr. Brent thinks, and I quite concur with him, was a short-beaked Carrier
with very little wattle. In 1687 the Barb was known in England, and Willughby describes the beak as like that of the Turbit; but it is not credible that his Barbs should have had a beak like that of our present birds, for so accurate an observer could not have overlooked its great breadth.
English Carrier. —We may look in vain in Aldrovandi's work for any bird resembling our prize Carriers; the C. persica et turcica of this author comes the nearest, but is said to have had a short thick beak; therefore it must have approached in character a Barb, and have differed greatly from our Carriers. In Willughby's time, in 1677, we can clearly recognise the Carrier, yet he adds, "the bill is not short, but of a moderate length;" a description which no one would apply to our present Carriers, so conspicuous for the extraordinary length of their beaks. The old names given in Europe to the Carrier, and the several names now in use in India, indicate that Carriers originally came from Persia; and Willughby's description would perfectly apply to the Bussorah Carrier as it now exists in Madras. In later times we can partially trace the progress of change in our English Carriers: Moore, in 1735, says "an inch and a half is reckoned a long beak, though there are very good Carriers that are found not to exceed an inch and a quarter." These birds must have resembled or perhaps been a little superior to the Carriers, previously described, now found in Persia. In England at the present day "there are," as Mr. Eaton states, "beaks that would measure (from edge of eye to tip of beak) one inch and three-quarters, and some few even two inches in length."
From these historical details we see that nearly all the chief domestic races existed before the year 1600. Some remarkable only for colour appear to have been identical with our present breeds, some were nearly the same, some considerably different, and some have since become extinct. Several breeds, such as Finnikins and Turners, the swallow-tailed pigeon of Bechstein and the Carmelite, seem to have originated and to have disappeared within this same period. Any one now visiting a well-stocked English aviary would certainly pick out as the most distinct kinds, the massive Runt, the Carrier with its wonderfully elongated beak and great wattles, the Barb with its short broad beak and eyewattles, the short-faced Tumbler with its small conical beak, the Pouter with its great crop, long legs and body, the Fantail with its upraised, widely-expanded, well-feathered tail, the Turbit with its frill and short blunt beak, and the Jacobin with his hood. Now, if this same person could have viewed the pigeons kept before 1600 by Akber Khan in India and by Aldrovandi in Europe, he would have seen the Jacobin with a less perfect hood; the Turbit apparently without its frill; the Pouter with shorter legs, and in every way less remarkable—that is, if Aldrovandi's Pouter resembled the old German kind; the Fantail would have been far less singular in appearance, and would have had much fewer feathers in its tail; he would have seen excellent flying Tumblers, but he would in vain have looked for the marvellous short-faced breeds; he would have seen birds allied to Barbs, but it is extremely doubtful whether he would have met with our actual Barbs; and lastly, he would have found Carriers with beaks and wattle incomparably less developed than in our English Carriers. He might have classed most of the breeds in the same groups as at present; but the differences between the groups were then far less strongly pronounced than at present. In short, the several breeds had at this early period not diverged in so great a degree as now from their aboriginal common parent, the wild rockpigeon.Manner of Formation of the chief Races.
We will now consider more closely the probable steps by which the chief races have been formed. As long as pigeons are kept semi-domesticated in dovecots in their native country, without any care in selecting and matching them, they are liable to little more variation than the wild C. livia, namely, in the wings becoming chequered with black, in the croup being blue or white, and in the size of the body. When, however, dovecotpigeons are transported into diversified countries, such as Sierra Leone, the Malay archipelago, and Madeira, they are exposed to new conditions of life; and apparently in consequence vary in a somewhat greater degree. When closely confined, either for the pleasure of watching them, or to prevent their straying, they must be exposed, even in their native climate, to considerably different conditions; for they cannot obtain their natural diversity of food; and, what is probably more important, they are abundantly fed, whilst debarred from taking much exercise. Under these circumstances we might expect to find, from the analogy of all other domesticated animals, a greater amount of individual variability than with the wild pigeon; and this is the case. The want of exercise apparently tends to reduce the size of the feet and organs of flight; and then, from the law of correlation of growth, the beak apparently becomes affected. From what we now see occasionally taking place in our aviaries, we may conclude that sudden variations or sports, such as the appearance of a crest of feathers on the head, of feathered feet, of a new shade of colour, of an additional feather in the tail or wing, would occur at rare intervals during the many centuries which have elapsed since the pigeon was first domesticated. At the present day such "sports" are generally rejected as blemishes; and there is so much mystery in the breeding of pigeons that, if a valuable sport did occur, its history would often be concealed. Before the last hundred and fifty years, there is hardly a chance of the history of any such sport having been recorded. But it by no means follows from this that such sports in former times, when the pigeon had undergone much less variation, would have been rejected. We are profoundly ignorant of the cause of each sudden and apparently spontaneous variation, as well as of the infinitely numerous shades of difference between the birds of the same family. But in a future chapter we shall see that all such variations appear to be the indirect result of changes of some kind in the conditions of life.
Hence, after a long course of domestication, we might expect to see in the pigeon much individual variability, and occasional sudden variations, as well as slight modifications from the lessened use of certain parts, together with the effects of correlation of growth. But without selection all this would produce only a trifling or no result; for without such aid differences of all kinds would, from the two following causes, soon disappear. In a healthy and vigorous lot of pigeons many more young birds are killed for food or die than are reared to maturity; so that an individual having any peculiar character, if not selected, would run a good chance of being destroyed; and if not destroyed, the peculiarity in question would generally be obliterated by free intercrossing. It might, however, occasionally happen that the same variation repeatedly occurred, owing to the action of peculiar and uniform conditions of life, and in this case it would prevail independently of selection. But when selection is brought into play all is changed; for this is the foundation-stone in the formation of new races; and with the pigeon, circumstances, as we have already seen, are eminently favourable for selection. When a bird presenting some conspicuous variation has been preserved, and its offspring have been selected, carefully matched, and again propagated, and so onwards during successive generations, the principle is so obvious that nothing more need be said about it. This may be called methodical selection, for the breeder has a distinct object in view, namely, to preserve some character which has actually appeared; or to create some improvement already pictured in his mind.
Another form of selection has hardly been noticed by those authors who have discussed this subject, but is even more important. This form may be called unconscious selection, for the breeder selects his birds unconsciously, unintentionally, and without method, yet he surely though slowly produces a great result. I refer to the effects which follow from each fancier at first procuring and afterwards rearing as good birds as he can, according to his skill, and according to the standard of excellence at each successive period. He does not wish permanently to modify the breed; he does not look to the distant future, or speculate on the final result of the slow accumulation during many generations of successive slight changes; he is content if he possesses a good stock, and more than content if he can beat his rivals. The fancier in the time of Aldrovandi, when in the year 1600 he admired his own Jacobins, Pouters, or Carriers, never reflected what their descendants in the year 1860 would become: he would have been astonished could he have seen our Jacobins, our improved English Carriers, and our Pouters; he would probably have denied that they were the descendants of his own once-admired stock, and he would perhaps not have valued them, for no other reason, as was written in 1765, "than because they were not like what used to be thought good when he was in the fancy." No one will attribute the lengthened beak of the Carrier, the shortened beak of the Short-faced Tumbler, the lengthened leg of the Pouter, the more perfectly enclosed hood of the Jacobin, etc.—changes effected since the time of Aldrovandi, or even since a much later period,—to the direct and immediate action of the conditions of life. For these several races have been modified in various and even in directly opposite ways, though kept under the same climate and treated in all respects in as nearly uniform a manner as possible. Each slight change in the length or shortness of the beak, in the length of leg, etc., has no doubt been indirectly and remotely caused by some change in the conditions to which the bird has been subjected, but we must attribute the final result, as is manifest in those cases of which we have any historical record, to the continued selection and accumulation of many slight successive variations.
The action of unconscious selection, as far as pigeons are concerned, depends on a universal principle in human nature, namely, on our rivalry, and desire to outdo our neighbours. We see this in every fleeting fashion, even in our dress, and it leads the fancier to endeavour to exaggerate every peculiarity in his breeds. A great authority on pigeons, says, "Fanciers do not and will not admire a medium standard, that is, half and half, which is neither here nor there, but admire extremes." After remarking that the fancier of Short-faced Beard Tumblers wishes for a very short beak, and that the fancier of Long-faced Beard Tumblers wishes for a very long beak, he says, with respect to one of intermediate length, "Don't deceive yourself. Do you suppose for a moment the short or the long-faced fancier would accept such a bird as a gift? Certainly not; the short-faced fancier could see no beauty in it; the long-faced fancier would swear there was no use in it, etc." In these comical passages, written seriously, we see the principle which has ever guided fanciers, and has led to such great modifications in all the domestic races which are valued solely for their beauty or curiosity.
Fashions in pigeon-breeding endure for long periods; we cannot change the structure of a bird as quickly as we can the fashion of our dress. In the time of Aldrovandi, no doubt the more the pouter inflated his crop, the more he was valued. Nevertheless, fashions do to a certain extent change; first one point of structure and then another is attended to; or different breeds are admired at different times and in different countries. As the author just quoted remarks, "the fancy ebbs and flows; a thorough fancier now-a-days never stoops to breed toy-birds;" yet these very "toys" are now most carefully bred in Germany. Breeds which at the present time are highly valued in India are considered worthless in England. No doubt, when breeds are neglected, they degenerate; still we may believe that, as long as they are kept under the same conditions of life, characters once gained will be partially retained for a long time, and may form the starting-point for a future course of selection.
Let it not be objected to this view of the action of unconscious selection that fanciers would not observe or care for extremely slight differences. Those alone who have associated with fanciers can be thoroughly aware of their accurate powers of discrimination acquired by long practice, and of the care and labour which they bestow on their birds. I have known a fancier deliberately study his birds day after day to settle which to match together and which to reject. Observe how difficult the subject appears to one of the most eminent and experienced fanciers. Mr. Eaton, the winner of many prizes, says, "I would here particularly guard you against keeping too great a variety of pigeons, otherwise you will know a little about all the kinds, but nothing about one as it ought to be known." "It is possible there may be a few fanciers that have a good general knowledge of the several fancy pigeons, but there are many who labour under the delusion of supposing they know what they do not." Speaking exclusively of one sub- variety of one race, namely, the short-faced almond tumbler, and after saying that some fanciers sacrifice every property to obtain a good head and beak, and that other fanciers sacrifice everything for plumage, he remarks: "Some young fanciers who are over covetous go in for all the five properties at once, and they have their reward by getting nothing." In India, as I hear from Mr. Blyth, pigeons are likewise selected and matched with the greatest care. We must not judge of the slight divergences from existing varieties which would have been valued in ancient days, by those which are now valued after the formation of so many races, each with its own standard of perfection, kept uniform by our numerous Exhibitions. The ambition of the most energetic fancier may be fully satisfied by the difficulty of excelling other fanciers in the breeds already established, without trying to form a new one.
A difficulty with respect to the power of selection will perhaps already have occurred to the reader, namely, what could have led fanciers first to attempt to make such singular breeds as Pouters, Fantails, Carriers, etc.? But it is this very difficulty which the principle of unconscious selection removes. Undoubtedly no fancier ever did intentionally make such an attempt. All that we need suppose is that a variation occurred sufficiently marked to catch the discriminating eye of some ancient fancier, and then unconscious selection carried on for many generations, that is, the wish of succeeding fanciers to excel their rivals, would do the rest. In the case of the Fantail we may suppose that the first progenitor of the breed had a tail only slightly erected, as may now be seen in certain Runts, with some increase in the number of the tail-feathers, as now occasionally occurs with Nuns. In the case of the Pouter we may suppose that some bird inflated its crop a little more than other pigeons, as is now the case in a slight degree with the œesophagus of the Turbit. We do not know the origin of the common Tumbler, but we may suppose that a bird was born with some affection of the brain, leading it to make somersaults in the air; and before the year 1600 pigeons remarkable for their diversified manner of flight were much valued in India, and by the order of the Emperor Akber Khan were sedulously trained and carefully matched.
In the foregoing cases we have supposed that a sudden variation, conspicuous enough to catch a fancier's eye, first appeared; but even this degree of abruptness in the process of variation is not necessary for the formation of a new breed. When the same kind of pigeon has been kept pure, and has been bred during a long period by two or more fanciers, slight differences in the strain can often be recognised. Thus I have seen first- rate Jacobins in one man's possession which certainly differed slightly in several characters from those kept by another. I possessed some excellent Barbs descended from a pair which had won a prize, and another lot descended from a stock formerly kept by that famous fancier Sir John Sebright, and these plainly differed in the form of the beak; but the differences were so slight that they could hardly be given by words. Again, the common English and Dutch Tumbler differ in a somewhat greater degree, both in length of beak and shape of head. What first caused these slight differences cannot be explained any more than why one man has a long nose and another a short one. In the strains long kept distinct by different fanciers, such differences are so common that they cannot be accounted for by the accident of the birds first chosen for breeding having been originally as different as they now are. The explanation no doubt lies in selection of a slightly different nature having been applied in each case; for no two fanciers have exactly the same taste, and consequently no two, in choosing and carefully matching their birds, prefer or select exactly the same. As each man naturally admires his own birds, he goes on continually exaggerating by selection whatever slight peculiarities they may possess. This will more especially happen with fanciers living in different countries, who do not compare their stocks or aim at a common standard of perfection. Thus, when a mere strain has once been formed, unconscious selection steadily tends to augment the amount of difference, and thus converts the strain into a sub-breed and this ultimately into a wellmarked breed or race.
The principle of correlation of growth should never be lost sight of. Most pigeons have small feet, apparently caused by their lessened use, and from correlation, as it would appear, their beaks have likewise become reduced in length. The beak is a conspicuous organ, and, as soon as it had thus become perceptibly shortened, fanciers would almost certainly strive to reduce it still more by the continued selection of birds with the shortest beaks; whilst at the same time other fanciers, as we know has actually been the case, would in other sub-breeds, strive to increase its length. With the increased length of the beak, the tongue becomes greatly lengthened, as do the eyelids with the increased development of the eye-wattles; with the reduced or increased size of the feet, the number of the scutellæ vary; with the length of the wing, the number of the primary wing-feathers differ; and with the increased length of the body in the pouter the number of the sacral vertebræ is augmented. These important and correlated differences of structure do not invariably characterise any breed; but if they had been attended to and selected with as much care as the more conspicuous external differences, there can hardly be a doubt that they would have been rendered constant. Fanciers could assuredly have made a race of Tumblers with nine instead of ten primary wing-feathers, seeing how often the number nine appears without any wish on their part, and indeed in the case of the white-winged varieties in opposition to their wish. In a similar manner, if the vertebræ had been visible and had been attended to by fanciers, assuredly an additional number might easily have been fixed in the Pouter. If these latter characters had once been rendered constant, we should never have suspected that they had at first been highly variable, or that they had arisen from correlation, in the one case with the shortness of the wings, and in the other case with the length of the body.
In order to understand how the chief domestic races have become distinctly separated from each other, it is important to bear in mind, that fanciers constantly try to breed from the best birds, and consequently that those which are inferior in the requisite qualities are in each generation neglected; so that after a time the less improved parent-stocks and many subsequently formed intermediate grades become extinct. This has occurred in the case of the Pouter, Turbit, and Trumpeter, for these highly improved breeds are now left without any links closely connecting them either with each other or with the aboriginal rock-pigeon. In other countries, indeed, where the same care has not been applied, or where the same fashion has not prevailed, the earlier forms may long remain unaltered, or altered only in a slight degree, and we are thus sometimes enabled to recover the connecting links. This is the case in Persia and India with the Tumbler and Carrier, which there differ but slightly from the rock-pigeon in the proportions of their beaks. So again in Java, the Fantail sometimes has only fourteen caudal feathers, and the tail is much less elevated and expanded than in our improved birds; so that the Java bird forms a link between a first-rate Fantail and the rock-pigeon.
Occasionally a breed may be retained for some particular quality in a nearly unaltered condition in the same country, together with highly modified off-shoots or sub-breeds, which are valued for some distinct property. We see this exemplified in England, where the common Tumbler, which is valued only for its flight, does not differ much from its parent-form, the Eastern Tumbler; whereas the Short-faced Tumbler has been prodigiously modified, from being valued, not for its flight, but for other qualities. But the common-flying Tumbler of Europe has already begun to branch out into slightly different sub-breeds, such as the common English Tumbler, the Dutch Roller, the Glasgow House-tumbler, and the Long-faced Beard Tumbler, etc.; and in the course of centuries, unless fashions greatly change, these sub-breeds will diverge through the slow and insensible process of unconscious selection, and become modified, in a greater and greater degree. After a time the perfectly graduated links which now connect all these sub-breeds together, will be lost, for there would be no object and much difficulty in retaining such a host of intermediate sub-varieties.
The principle of divergence, together with the extinction of the many previously existing intermediate forms, is so important for understanding the origin of domestic races, as well as of species in a state of nature, that I will enlarge a little more on this subject. Our third main group includes Carriers, Barbs, and Runts, which are plainly related to one another, yet wonderfully distinct in several important characters. According to the view given in the last chapter, these three races have probably descended from an unknown race having an intermediate character, and this race from the rock-pigeon. Their characteristic differences are believed to be due to different breeders having at an early period admired different points of structure; and then, on the acknowledged principle of admiring extremes, having gone on breeding, without any thought of the future, as good birds as they could,—Carrier-fanciers preferring long beaks with much wattle,—Barbfanciers preferring short thick beaks with much eye-wattle,—and Runt-fanciers not caring about the beak or wattle, but only for the size and weight of the body. This process would have led to the neglect and final extinction of the earlier, inferior, and intermediate birds; and thus it has come to pass, that in Europe these three races are now so extraordinarily distinct from each other. But in the East, whence they were originally brought, the fashion has been different, and we there see breeds which connect the highly modified English Carrier with the rock-pigeon, and others which to a certain extent connect Carriers and Runts. Looking back to the time of Aldrovandi, we find that there existed in Europe, before the year 1600, four breeds which were closely allied to Carriers and Barbs, but which competent authorities cannot now identify with our present Barbs and Carriers; nor can Aldrovandi's Runts be identified with our present Runts. These four breeds certainly did not differ from each other nearly so much as do our existing English Carriers, Barbs, and Runts. All this is exactly what might have been anticipated. If we could collect all the pigeons which have ever lived, from before the time of the Romans to the present day, we should be able to group them in several lines, diverging from the parent rock-pigeon. Each line would consist of almost insensible steps, occasionally broken by some slightly greater variation or sport, and each would culminate in one of our present highly modified forms. Of the many former connecting links, some would be found to have become absolutely extinct without having left any issue, whilst others, though extinct, would be recognised as the progenitors of the existing races.
I have heard it remarked as a strange circumstance that we occasionally hear of the local or complete extinction of domestic races, whilst we hear nothing of their origin. How, it has been asked, can these losses be compensated, and more than compensated, for we know that with almost all domesticated animals the races have largely increased in number since the time of the Romans? But on the view here given, we can understand this apparent contradiction. The extinction of a race within historical times is an event likely to be noticed; but its gradual and scarcely sensible modification through unconscious selection, and its subsequent divergence, either in the same or more commonly in distant countries, into two or more strains, and their gradual conversion into sub-breeds, and these into well- marked breeds are events which would rarely be noticed. The death of a tree, that has attained gigantic dimensions, is recorded; the slow growth of smaller trees and their increase in number excite no attention.
In accordance with the belief in the great power of selection, and of the little direct power of changed conditions of life, except in causing general variability or plasticity of organisation, it is not surprising that dovecot-pigeons have remained unaltered from time immemorial; and that some toy-pigeons, which differ in little else besides colour from the dovecot-pigeon, have retained the same character for several centuries. For when one of these toy-pigeons had once become beautifully and symmetrically coloured,—when, for instance, a Spot had been produced with the crown of its head, its tail, and tail-coverts of a uniform colour, the rest of the body being snow-white,—no alteration or improvement would be desired. On the other hand, it is not surprising that during this same interval of time our highly-bred pigeons have undergone an astonishing amount of change; for in regard to them there is no defined limit to the wish of the fancier, and there is no known limit to the variability of their characters. What is there to stop the fancier desiring to give to his Carrier a longer and longer beak, or to his Tumbler a shorter and shorter beak? nor has the extreme limit of variability in the beak, if there be any such limit, as yet been reached. Notwithstanding the great improvement effected within recent times in the Short-faced Almond Tumbler, Mr. Eaton remarks, "the field is still as open for fresh competitors as it was one hundred years ago;" but this is perhaps an exaggerated assertion, for the young of all highly-improved fancy birds are extremely liable to disease and death.
I have heard it objected that the formation of the several domestic races of the pigeon throws no light on the origin of the wild species of the Columbidæ, because their differences are not of the same nature. The domestic races, for instance do not differ, or differ hardly at all, in the relative lengths and shape of the primary wing-feathers, in the relative length of the hind toe, or in habits of life, as in roosting and building in trees. But the above objection shows how completely the principle of selection has been misunderstood. It is not likely that characters selected by the caprice of man should resemble differences preserved under natural conditions either from being of direct service to each species, or from standing in correlation with other modified and serviceable structures. Until man selects birds differing in the relative length of the wingfeathers or toes, etc., no sensible change in these parts should be expected. Nor could man do anything unless these parts happened to vary under domestication: I do not positively assert that this is the case, although I have seen traces of such variability in the wing-feathers, and certainly in the tail-feathers. It would be a strange fact if the relative length of the hind toe should never vary, seeing how variable the foot is both in size and in the number of the scutellæ. With respect to the domestic races not roosting or building in trees, it is obvious that fanciers would never attend to or select such changes in habits; but we have seen that the pigeons in Egypt, which do not for some reason like settling on the low mud hovels of the natives, are led, apparently by compulsion, to perch in crowds on the trees. We may even affirm that, if our domestic races had become greatly modified in any of the above specified respects, and it could be shown that fanciers had never attended to such points, or that they did not stand in correlation with other selected characters, the fact, on the principles advocated in this chapter, would have offered a serious difficulty.
Let us briefly sum up the last two chapters on the pigeon. We may conclude with confidence that all the domestic races, notwithstanding their great amount of difference, are descended from the Columba livia, including under this name certain wild races. But the differences between the latter throw no light whatever on the characters which distinguish the domestic races. In each breed or sub-breed the individual birds are more variable than birds in a state of nature; and occasionally they vary in a sudden and strongly-marked manner. This plasticity of organisation apparently results from changed conditions of life. Disuse has reduced certain parts of the body. Correlation of growth so ties the organisation together, that when one part varies other parts vary at the same time. When several breeds have once been formed, their intercrossing aids the progress of modification, and has even produced new sub-breeds. But as, in the construction of a building, mere stones or bricks are of little avail without the builder's art, so, in the production of new races, selection has been the presiding power. Fanciers can act by selection on excessively slight individual differences, as well as on those greater differences which are called sports. Selection is followed methodically when the fancier tries to improve and modify a breed according to a prefixed standard of excellence; or he acts unmethodically and unconsciously, by merely trying to rear as good birds as he can, without any wish or intention to alter the breed. The progress of selection almost inevitably leads to the neglect and ultimate extinction of the earlier and less improved forms, as well as of many intermediate links in each long line of descent. Thus it has come to pass that most of our present races are so marvellously distinct from each other, and from the aboriginal rock-pigeon.
REFERENCES a year. Dr. Lawrence Edmondstone informs me that a wild rock-pigeon came and settled in his dovecot in Balta Sound in the Shetland Islands, and bred with his pigeons; he has also given me other instances of the wild rock-pigeon having been taken young and breeding in captivity.
1. Temminck 'Hist. Nat. Gén. des Pigeons,' etc., tom. i. p. 191.
2. I have heard through Sir C. Lyell from Miss Buckley, that some half-bred Carriers kept during many years near London regularly settled by day on some adjoining trees, and, after being disturbed in their loft by their young being taken, roosted on them at night.
3. 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.,' 2nd ser., vol. xx., 1857, p. 509; and in a late volume of the Journal of the Asiatic Society.
4. In works written on the pigeon by fanciers I have sometimes observed the mistaken belief expressed that the species which naturalists called ground-pigeons (in contradistinction to arboreal pigeons) do not perch and build on trees. In these same works by fanciers wild species resembling the chief domestic races are often said to exist in various parts of the world; but such species are quite unknown to naturalists.
5. Sir R. Schomburgk in 'Journal R. Geograph. Soc.,' vol. xiii., 1844, p. 32.
6. Rev. E. S. Dixon 'Ornamental Poultry,' 1848, pp. 63, 66.
7. 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.,' 1859, p. 400.
8. Temminck, 'Hist. Nat. Gén. des Pigeons,' tom. i.; also 'Les Pigeons' par Mme. Knip and Temminck. Bonaparte, however, in his 'Coup- d'œil' believes that two closely allied species are confounded together under this name. The C. leucocephala of the West Indies is stated by Temminck to be a rock-pigeon; but I am informed by Mr. Gosse that this is an error.
9. 'Handbuch der Naturgesch. Vögel Deutschlands.'
10. 'Tagebuch, Reise nach Färo,' 1830, s. 62.
11. 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.,' vol. xix., 1847, p. 102. This excellent paper on pigeons is well worth consulting.
12. 'Natural History of Ireland,' Birds, vol. ii. (1850), p. 11. For Graba see previous reference.
13. 'Coup-d'œil sur l'Ordre des Pigeons,' 'Comptes Rendus,' 1854-55.
14. 'Naturgeschichte. Deutschlands,' Band. iv. 1795, s. 14.
15. 'History of British Birds,' vol. i. pp. 275-284. Mr. Andrew Duncan tamed a rock-pigeon in the Shetland Islands. Mr. James Barclay, and Mr. Smith of Uyea Sound, both say that the wild rockpigeon can be easily tamed; and the former gentleman asserts that the tamed birds breed four times
16. 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. History,' vol. xix. 1847, p. 103, and vol. for 1857, p. 512.
17. Domestic pigeons of the common kind are mentioned as being pretty numerous in John Barbut's 'Description of the Coast of Guinea' (p. 215), published in 1746; they are said, in accordance with the name which they bear, to have been imported.
18. With respect to feral pigeons—for Juan Fernandez, see Bertero in 'Annal. des Sc. Nat.,' tom. xxi. p. 351. For Norfolk Islands, see Rev. E. S. Dixon in the 'Dovecote,' 1851, p. 14, on the authority of Mr. Gould. For Ascension I rely on MS. information given me by Mr. Layard. For the banks of the Hudson, see Blyth in 'Annals of Nat. Hist.,' vol. xx., 1857, p. 511. For Scotland, see Macgillivray, 'British Birds,' vol. i. p. 275; also Thompson's 'Nat. Hist. of Ireland, Birds,' vol. ii. p. 11. For ducks, see Rev. E. S. Dixon, 'Ornamental Poultry,' 1847, p. 122. For the feral hybrids of the common and musk-ducks, see Audubon's 'American Ornithology,' and Selys-Longchamp's 'Hybrides dans la Famille des Anatides.' For the goose, Isidore Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, 'Hist. Nat. Gén.,' tom. iii. p. 498. For guinea-fowls, see Gosse's 'Naturalist's Sojourn in Jamaica,' p. 124; and his 'Birds of Jamaica,' for fuller particulars. I saw the wild guinea-fowl in Ascension. For the peacock, see 'A Week at Port Royal,' by a competent authority, Mr. R. Hill, p. 42. For the turkey I rely on oral information; I ascertained that they were not Curassows. With respect to fowls I will give the references in the next chapter.
19.I have drawn out a long table of the various crosses made by fanciers between the several domestic breeds but I do not think it worth while publishing. I have myself made for this special purpose many crosses, and all were perfectly fertile. I have united in one bird five of the most distinct races, and with patience I might undoubtedly have thus united all. The case of five distinct breeds being blended together with unimpaired fertility is important, because Gärtner has shown that it is a very general, though not, as he thought, universal rule, that complex crosses between several species are excessively sterile. I have met with only two or three cases of reported sterility in the offspring of certain races when crossed. Pistor ('Das Ganze der Feldtaubenzucht,' 1831, s. 15) asserts that the mongrels from Barbs and Fantails are sterile: I have proved this to be erroneous, not only by crossing those hybrids with several other hybrids of the same parentage, but by the more severe test of pairing brother and sister hybrids inter se, and they were perfectly fertile. Temminck has stated ('Hist. Nat. Gén. des Pigeons,' tom. i. p. 197) that the Turbit or Owl will not cross readily with other breeds: but my Turbits crossed, when left free with Almond Tumblers and with Trumpeters; the same thing has occurred (Rev. E. S. Dixon, 'The Dovecote,' p. 107) between Turbits and Dovecots and Nuns. I have crossed Turbits with Barbs, as has M. Boitard (p. 34), who says the hybrids were very fertile. Hybrids from a Turbit and Fantail have been known to breed inter se (Riedel, 'Taubenzucht,' s. 25, and Bechstein, 'Naturgesch. Deutsch.,' B. iv. s. 44. Turbits (Riedel, s. 26) have been crossed with Pouters and with Jacobins, and with a hybrid Jacobin-trumpeter (Riedel, s. 27). The latter author has, however, made some vague statements (s. 22) on the sterility of Turbits when crossed with certain other crossed breeds. But I have little doubt that the Rev. E. S. Dixon's explanation of such statements is correct, viz. that individual birds both with Turbits and other breeds are occasionally sterile.
20. 'Das Ganze der Taubenzucht,' s. 18.
21. 'Les Pigeons,' etc., p. 35.
22. Domestic pigeons pair readily with the allied C. œnas (Bechstein, 'Naturgesch. Deutschlands,' B. iv. s. 3); and Mr. Brent has made the same cross several times in England, but the young were very apt to die at about ten days old; one hybrid which he reared (from C. œnas and a male Antwerp Carrier) paired with a Dragon, but never laid eggs. Bechstein further states (s. 26) that the domestic pigeon will cross with C. palumbus, Turtur risoria, and T. vulgaris, but nothing is said of the fertility of the hybrids, and this would have been mentioned had the fact been ascertained. In the Zoological Gardens (MS. report to me from Mr. James Hunt) a male hybrid from Turtur vulgaris and a domestic pigeon "paired with several different species of pigeons and doves, but none of the eggs were good." Hybrids from C. œnas and gymnophthalmos were sterile. In Loudon's 'Mag. of Nat. Hist.,' vol. vii. 1834, p. 154, it is said that a male hybrid (from Turtur vulgaris male, and the cream-coloured T. risoria female) paired during two years with a female T. risoria, and the latter laid many eggs, but all were sterile. MM. Boitard and Corbié ('Les Pigeons,' p. 235) state that the hybrids from these two turtle-doves are invariably sterile both inter se and with either pure parent. The experiment was tried by M. Corbié "avec une espèce d'obstination;" and likewise by M. Mauduyt, and by M. Vieillot. Temminck also found the hybrids from these two species quite barren. Therefore, when Bechstein ('Naturgesch. Deutschlands Vögel,' B. iv. s. 101) asserts that the hybrids from these two turtle-doves propagate inter se equally well with pure species, and when a writer in the 'Field' newspaper (in a letter dated Nov. 10th, 1858) makes a similar assertion, it would appear that there must be some mistake; though what the mistake is I know not, as Bechstein at least must have known the white variety of T. risoria: it would be an unparalleled fact if the same two species sometimes produced extremely fertile, and sometimes extremely barren, offspring. In the MS. report from the Zoological Gardens it is said that hybrids from Turtur vulgaris and suratensis, and from T. vulgaris and Ectopistes migratorius, were sterile. Two of the latter male hybrids paired with their pure parents, viz. Turtur vulgaris and the Ectopistes, and likewise with T. risoria and with Columba œnas, and many eggs were produced, but all were barren. At Paris, hybrids have been raised (Isid. Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, 'Hist. Nat. Générale,' tom. iii. p. 180) from Turtur auritus with T. cambayensis and with T. suratensis; but nothing is said of their fertility. At the Zoological Gardens of London the Goura coronata and victoriæ produced a hybrid which paired with the pure G. coronata, and laid several eggs, but these proved barren. In 1860 Columba gymnophthalmos and maculosa produced hybrids in these same gardens.
23. There is one exception to the rule, namely, in a sub-variety of the Swallow of German origin, which is figured by Neumeister, and was shown to me by Mr. Wicking. This bird is blue, but has not the black wing-bars; for our object, however, in tracing the descent of the chief races, this exception signifies the less as the Swallow approaches closely in structure to C. livia. In many sub-varieties the black bars are replaced by bars of various colours. The figures given by Neumeister are sufficient to show that, if the wings alone are blue, the black wing-bars appear.
24.I have observed blue birds with all the above-mentioned marks in the following races, which seemed to be perfectly pure, and were shown at various exhibitions. Pouters, with the double black wing-bars, with white croup, dark bar to end of tail, and white edging to outer tail-feathers. Turbits, with all these same characters. Fantails with the same; but the croup in some was bluish or pure blue. Mr. Wicking bred blue Fantails from two black birds. Carriers (including the Bagadotten of Neumeister) with all the marks: two birds which I examined had white, and two had blue croups; the white edging to the outer tail-feathers was not present in all. Mr. Corker, a great breeder, assures me that, if black carriers are matched for many successive generations, the offspring become first ash-coloured, and then blue with black wing-bars. Runts of the elongated breed had the same marks, but the croup was pale blue; the outer tail-feathers had white edges. Neumeister figures the great Florence Runt of a blue colour with black bars. Jacobins are very rarely blue, but I have received authentic accounts of at least two instances of the blue variety with black bars having appeared in England; blue Jacobins were bred by Mr. Brent from two black birds. I have seen common Tumblers, both Indian and English, and Short-faced Tumblers, of a blue colour, with black wing-bars, with the black bar at the end of the tail, and with the outer tailfeathers edged with white; the croup in all was blue, or extremely pale blue, never absolutely white. Blue Barbs and Trumpeters seem to be excessively rare; but Neumeister, who may be implicitly trusted, figures blue varieties of both, with black wing-bars. Mr. Brent informs me that he has seen a blue Barb; and Mr. H. Weir, as I am informed by Mr. Tegetmeier, once bred a silver (which means very pale blue) Barb from two yellow birds.
25.Mr. Blyth informs me that all the domestic races in India have the croup blue; but this is not invariable, for I possess a very pale blue Simmali pigeon with the croup perfectly white, sent to me by Sir W. Elliot from Madras. A slaty-blue and chequered Nakshi pigeon has some white feathers on the croup alone. In some other Indian pigeons there were a few white feathers confined to the croup, and I have noticed the same fact in a carrier from Persia. The Java Fantail (imported into Amoy, and thence sent me) has a perfectly white croup.
26. 'Les Pigeons,' etc., p. 37.
27. 'Treatise on Pigeons,' 1858, p. 145.
28. J. Moore's 'Columbarium,' 1735; in J. M. Eaton's edition, 1852, p. 71.
29. I could give numerous examples; two will suffice. A mongrel, whose four grandparents were a white Turbit, white Trumpeter, white Fantail, and blue Pouter, was white all over, except a very few feathers about the head and on the wings, but the whole tail and tail-coverts were dark bluishgrey. Another mongrel whose four grandparents were a red Runt, white Trumpeter, white Fantail, and the same blue Pouter, was pure white all over, except the tail and upper tail-coverts, which were pale fawn, and except the faintest trace of double wing-bars of the same pale fawn tint.
30. It deserves notice, as bearing on the general subject of variation, that not only C. livia presents several wild forms, regarded by some naturalists as species and by others as sub-species or as mere varieties, but that the species of several allied genera are in the same predicament. This is the case, as Mr. Blyth has remarked to me, with Treron, Palumbus, and Turtur.
31. 'Denkmäler,' Abth. ii. Bl. 70.
32. 'The 'Dovecote,' by the Rev. E. S. Dixon, 1851, pp. 11-13. Adolphe Pictet (in his 'Les Origines Indo-Européennes,' 1859, p. 399) states that there are in the ancient Sanscrit language between 25 and 30 names for the pigeon, and other 15 or 16 Persian names; none of these are common to the European languages. This fact indicates the antiquity of the domestication of the pigeon in the East.
33. English translation, 1601, Book x. ch. xxxvii.
34. 'Ayeen Akbery,' translated by F. Gladwin, 4to edit., vol. i. p. 270.
35. J. M. Eaton, 'Treatise on the Almond Tumbler,' 1851; Preface, p. 6.
36. As in the following discussion I often speak of the present time, I should state that this chapter was completed in the year 1858.
37. 'Ornithologie,' 1600, vol. ii. p. 360.
38. 'A Treatise on Domestic Pigeons,' dedicated to Mr. Mayor, 1765. Preface, p. 14.
39. Mr. Blyth has given a translation of part of the 'Ayeen Akbery' in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.,' vol. xix. 1847, p. 104.
40. 'L'Histoire de la Nature des Oiseaux,' p. 314.
41. 'Treatise on Pigeons,' 1852, p. 64.
42. J. M. Eaton 'Treatise on the Breeding and Managing of the Almond Tumbler,' 1851. Compare p. v. of Preface, p. 9, and p. 32.
43. 'Treatise on Pigeons,' 1852, p. 41.
44. Eaton's 'Treatise on Pigeons,' 1858, p. 86.
45. See Neumeister's figure of the Florence Runt, tab. 13 in 'Das Ganze der Taubenzucht.'
46. Mr. W. J. Moore gives a full account of the Ground Tumblers of India ('Indian Medical Gazette,' Jan. and Feb. 1873), and says the pricking the base of the brain, and giving hydrocyanic acid, together with strychnine, to an ordinary pigeon, brings on convulsive movements exactly like those of a Tumbler. One pigeon, the brain of which had been pricked, completely recovered, and ever afterwards occasionally made somersaults.