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The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication by Charles Darwin

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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.) 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 (6/24. 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 tail-feathers 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.), 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 purely-bred 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 dovecote-pigeons, 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. (6/25. 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.) We
have seen that the wild C. livia in Europe, and dovecotes 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 Corbie (6/26. 'Les Pigeons' etc. page 37.) having asserted
that from crosses between certain breeds it is rare to get anything but
bisets or dovecote 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 rock-pigeon;
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 wing-bars; 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 (6/27. 'Treatise on Pigeons' 1858 page 145.) 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. (6/28.
J. Moore 'Columbarium' 1735; in J.M. Eaton's edition 1852 page 71.) 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 wing-bars 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 tail-coverts (6/29. 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 bluish-grey. 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 aill-coverts, which were pale fawn, and except the faintest trace of
double wing-bars of the same pale fawn tint.) 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 dovecote-pigeon and the
chequered wild variety of the rock-pigeon, the statement before referred to
by MM. Boitard and Corbie 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 dovecote-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 dovecote-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

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
Columbidae 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

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 (6/30. 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.), 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
dovecote-pigeons inhabiting different countries, or between the various
kinds of toy-pigeons,--gradations which must certainly be attributed to

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. (6/31. 'Denkmaler' abth. 2 bl. 70.); 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. (6/32. 'The 'Dovecote' by the Rev. E.S. Dixon 1851 pages 11-13.
Adolphe Pictet (in his 'Les Origines Indo-Europeennes' 1859 page 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.) In the time of the Romans, as we
hear from Pliny (6/33. English translation 1601 book 10 ch. 37.), 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 Akber 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." (6/34. 'Ayeen Akbery'
translated by F. Gladwin 4to edition volume 1 page 270.) 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 pigeon-houses
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." (6/35. J.M. Eaton
'Treatise on the Almond Tumbler' 1851; Preface page 6.) 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.

discussion I often speak of the present time, I should state that this
chapter was completed in the year 1858.)

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.


These birds, as far as a very short description serves for comparison,
appear to have been well characterised in Aldrovandi's time (6/37.
'Ornithologie' 1600 volume 2 page 360.), 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 6 1/2 or 6 3/4 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
7 1/2 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 7 1/2 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 (6/38. 'A Treatise on Domestic Pigeons' dedicated to Mr. Mayor 1765
Preface page 14.) there was a change of fashion, stouter and more feathered
legs being preferred to thin and nearly naked legs.


The first notice of the existence of this breed is in India, before the
year 1600, as given in the 'Ayeen Akbery' (6/39. Mr. Blyth has given a
translation of part of the 'Ayeen Akbery' in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat.
Hist.' volume 19 1847 page 104.); 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 Corbie 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.


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.


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.


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 (6/40. 'L'Histoire de la Nature des Oiseaux'
page 314.) 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 short-faced 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 (6/41. 'Treatise on Pigeons' 1852 page
64.) 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 (page 14) 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

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 (6/42. J.M. Eaton 'Treatise on the Breeding and Managing of the Almond
Tumbler' 1851. Compare page 5 of Preface, page 9 and page 32), 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 dovecote-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.


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.


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.


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 (6/43. 'Treatise on Pigeons' 1852
page 41.) 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

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 eye-wattles, 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 rock-pigeon.


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
dovecotes 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, dovecote-
pigeons 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 (6/44. Eaton
'Treatise on Pigeons' 1858 page 86.), 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

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 (6/45. See
Neumeister's figure of the Florence Runt, tab. 13 in 'Das Ganze der
Taubenzucht.') 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 oesophagus 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 (6/46. Mr. W.J. Moore gives a full account of the Ground
Tumblers of India ('Indian Medical Gazette' January and February 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.) 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
well-marked 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 scutellae 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 vertebrae 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 vertebrae 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,--Barb-fanciers 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 dovecote-pigeons have remained unaltered from time immemorial; and
that some toy-pigeons, which differ in little else besides colour from the
dovecote-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
Columbidae, 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 wing-
feathers 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 scutellae. 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.




As some naturalists may not be familiar with the chief breeds of the fowl,
it will be advisable to give a condensed description of them. (7/1. I have
drawn up this brief synopsis from various sources, but chiefly from
information given me by Mr. Tegetmeier. This gentleman has kindly looked
through this chapter; and from his well-known knowledge, the statements
here given may be fully trusted. Mr. Tegetmeier has likewise assisted me in
every possible way in obtaining for me information and specimens. I must
not let this opportunity pass without expressing my cordial thanks to Mr.
B.P. Brent, a well-known writer on poultry, for continuous assistance and
the gift of many specimens.) From what I have read and seen of specimens
brought from several quarters of the world, I believe that most of the
chief kinds have been imported into England, but many sub-breeds are
probably still unknown here. The following discussion on the origin of the
various breeds and on their characteristic differences does not pretend to
completeness, but may be of some interest to the naturalist. The
classification of the breeds cannot, as far as I can see, be made natural.
They differ from each other in different degrees, and do not afford
characters in subordination to each other, by which they can be ranked in
group under group. They seem all to have diverged by independent and
different roads from a single type. Each chief breed includes differently
coloured sub-varieties, most of which can be truly propagated, but it would
be superfluous to describe them. I have classed the various crested fowls
as sub-breeds under the Polish fowl; but I have great doubts whether this
is a natural arrangement, showing true affinity or blood relationship. It
is scarcely possible to avoid laying stress on the commonness of a breed;
and if certain foreign sub-breeds had been largely kept in this country
they would perhaps have been raised to the rank of main-breeds. Several
breeds are abnormal in character; that is, they differ in certain points
from all wild Gallinaceous birds. At first I made a division of the breeds
into normal and abnormal, but the result was wholly unsatisfactory.


This may be considered as the typical breed, as it deviates only slightly
from the wild Gallus bankiva, or, as perhaps more correctly named,
ferrugineus. Beak strong; comb single and upright. Spurs long and sharp.
Feathers closely appressed to the body. Tail with the normal number of 14
feathers. Eggs often pale buff. Disposition indomitably courageous,
exhibited even in the hens and chickens. An unusual number of differently
coloured varieties exist, such as black and brown-breasted reds, duckwings,
blacks, whites, piles, etc., with their legs of various colours.


Body of great size, with head, neck, and legs elongated; carriage erect;
tail small, sloping downwards, generally formed of 16 feathers; comb and
wattle small; ear-lobe and face red; skin yellowish; feathers closely
appressed to the body; neck-hackles short, narrow, and hard. Eggs often
pale buff. Chickens feather late. Disposition savage. Of Eastern origin.


Size great; wing feathers short, arched, much hidden in the soft downy
plumage; barely capable of flight; tail short, generally formed of 16
feathers, developed at a late period in the young males; legs thick,
feathered; spurs short, thick; nail of middle toe flat and broad; an
additional toe not rarely developed; skin yellowish. Comb and wattle well
developed. Skull with deep medial furrow; occipital foramen, sub-
triangular, vertically elongated. Voice peculiar. Eggs rough, buff-
coloured. Disposition extremely quiet. Of Chinese origin.


Size great; body square, compact; feet with an additional toe; comb well
developed, but varies much in form; wattles well developed; colour of
plumage various. Skull remarkably broad between the orbits. Of English

The white Dorking may be considered as a distinct sub-breed, being a less
massive bird.


5. SPANISH BREED (figure 30).

Tall, with stately carriage; tarsi long; comb single, deeply serrated, of
immense size; wattles largely developed; the large ear-lobes and sides of
face white. Plumage black glossed with green. Do not incubate. Tender in
constitution, the comb being often injured by frost. Eggs white, smooth, of
large size. Chickens feather late but the young cocks show their masculine
characters, and crow at an early age. Of Mediterranean origin.

The ANDALUSIANS may be ranked as a sub-breed: they are of a slaty-blue
colour, and their chickens are well feathered. A smaller, short-legged
Dutch sub-breed has been described by some authors as distinct.


6. HAMBURGH BREED (figure 31).

Size moderate; comb flat, produced backwards, covered with numerous small
points; wattle of moderate dimensions; ear lobe white; legs blueish, thin.
Do not incubate. Skull, with the tips of the ascending branches of the
premaxillary and with the nasal bones standing a little separate from each
other; anterior margin of the frontal bones less depressed than usual.

There are two sub-breeds; the SPANGLED Hamburgh, of English origin, with
the tips of the feathers marked with a dark spot; and the PENCILLED
Hamburgh, of Dutch origin, with dark transverse lines across each feather,
and with the body rather smaller. Both these sub-breeds include gold and
silver varieties, as well as some other sub-varieties. Black Hamburghs have
been produced by a cross with the Spanish breed.



Head with a large, rounded crest of feathers, supported on a hemispherical
protuberance of the frontal bones, which includes the anterior part of the
brain. The ascending branches of premaxillary bones and the inner nasal
processes are much shortened. The orifice of the nostrils raised and
crescentic. Beak short. Comb absent, or small and of crescentic shape;
wattles either present or replaced by a beard-like tuft of feathers. Legs
leaden-blue. Sexual differences appear late in life. Do not incubate. There
are several beautiful varieties which differ in colour and slightly in
other respects.

The following sub-breeds agree in having a crest, more or less developed,
with the comb, when present, of crescentic shape. The skull presents nearly
the same remarkable peculiarities of structure as in the true Polish fowl.


A Turkish breed, resembling white Polish fowls with a large crest and beard
with short and well-feathered legs. The tail is furnished with additional
sickle feathers. Do not incubate. (7.2. The best account of Sultans is by
Miss Watts in 'The Poultry Yard' 1856 page 79. I owe to Mr. Brent's
kindness the examination of some specimens of this breed.)


An inferior breed closely allied to the last, white, rather small, legs
much feathered, with the crest pointed; comb small, cupped; wattles small.


Another Turkish breed having an extraordinary appearance; black and
tailless; crest and beard large; legs feathered. The inner processes of the
two nasal bones come into contact with each other, owing to the complete
abortion of the ascending branches of the premaxillaries. I have seen an
allied white, tailless breed from Turkey.


A French breed of large size, barely capable of flight, with short black
legs, head crested, comb produced into two points or horns, sometimes a
little branched like the horns of a stag; both beard and wattles present.
Eggs large. Disposition quiet. (7/3. A good description, with figures, is
given of this sub-breed in the 'Journal of Horticulture' June 10, 1862 page


With a small crest; comb produced into two great points, supported on two
bony protuberances.


A French breed; of moderate size, short-legged with five toes, well
developed; plumage invariably mottled with black, white, and straw-yellow;
head furnished with a crest, on a triple comb placed transversely; both
wattles and beard present. (7/4. A description, with figures, is given of
this breed in 'Journal of Horticulture' June 3, 1862 page 186. Some writers
describe the comb as two-horned.)


No comb, head said to be surmounted by a longitudinal crest of soft velvety
feathers; nostrils said to be crescentic; wattles well developed; legs
feathered; colour black. From North America. The Breda fowl seems to be
closely allied to the Guelderland.


Originally from Japan (7/5. Mr. Crawfurd 'Descript. Dict. of the Indian
Islands' page 113. Bantams are mentioned in an ancient native Japanese
Encyclopaedia, as I am informed by Mr. Birch of the British Museum.)
characterised by small size alone; carriage bold and erect. There are
several sub-breeds, such as the Cochin, Game, and Sebright Bantams, some of
which have been recently formed by various crosses. The Black Bantam has a
differently shaped skull, with the occipital foramen like that of the
Cochin fowl.


These are so variable in character (7/6. 'Ornamental and Domestic Poultry'
1848.) that they hardly deserve to be called a breed. Any one who will
examine the caudal vertebrae will see how monstrous the breed is.


These are characterised by an almost monstrous shortness of legs, so that
they move by jumping rather than by walking; they are said not to scratch
up the ground. I have examined a Burmese variety, which had a skull of
rather unusual shape.


Not uncommon in India, with the feathers curling backwards, and with the
primary feathers of the wing and tail imperfect; periosteum of bones black.


Feathers silky, with the primary wing and tail-feathers imperfect; skin and
periosteum of bones black; comb and wattles dark leaden-blue; ear-lappets
tinged with blue; legs thin, often furnished with an additional toe. Size
rather small.


An Indian breed, having the peculiar appearance of a white bird smeared
with soot, with black skin and periosteum. The hens alone are thus

From this synopsis we see that the several breeds differ considerably, and
they would have been nearly as interesting for us as pigeons, if there had
been equally good evidence that all had descended from one parent-species.
Most fanciers believe that they are descended from several primitive
stocks. The Rev. E.S. Dixon (7/7. 'Ornamental and Domestic Poultry' 1848.)
argues strongly on this side of the question; and one fancier even
denounces the opposite conclusion by asking, "Do we not perceive pervading
this spirit, the spirit of the DEIST?" Most naturalists, with the exception
of a few, such as Temminck, believe that all the breeds have proceeded from
a single species; but authority on such a point goes for little. Fanciers
look to all parts of the world as the possible sources of their unknown
stocks; thus ignoring the laws of geographical distribution. They know well
that the several kinds breed truly even in colour. They assert, but, as we
shall see, on very weak grounds, that most of the breeds are extremely
ancient. They are strongly impressed with the great difference between the
chief kinds, and they ask with force, can differences in climate, food, or
treatment have produced birds so different as the black stately Spanish,
the diminutive elegant Bantam, the heavy Cochin with its many
peculiarities, and the Polish fowl with its great top-knot and protuberant
skull? But fanciers, whilst admitting and even overrating the effects of
crossing the various breeds, do not sufficiently regard the probability of
the occasional birth, during the course of centuries, of birds with
abnormal and hereditary peculiarities; they overlook the effects of
correlation of growth--of the long-continued use and disuse of parts, and
of some direct result from changed food and climate, though on this latter
head I have found no sufficient evidence; and lastly, they all, as far as I
know, entirely overlook the all-important subject of unconscious or
unmethodical selection, though they are well aware that their birds differ
individually and that by selecting the best birds for a few generations
they can improve their stocks.

An amateur writes (7/8. Ferguson 'Illustrated Series of Rare and Prize
Poultry' 1834 page 6 Preface.) as follows: "The fact that poultry have
until lately received but little attention at the hands of the fancier, and
been entirely confined to the domains of the producer for the market, would
alone suggest the improbability of that constant and unremitting attention
having been observed in breeding, which is requisite to the consummating in
the offspring of any two birds transmittable forms not exhibited by the
parents." This at first sight appears true. But in a future chapter on
Selection, abundant facts will be given showing not only that careful
breeding, but that actual selection was practised during ancient periods,
and by barely civilised races of man. In the case of the fowl I can adduce
no direct facts showing that selection was anciently practised; but the
Romans at the commencement of the Christian era kept six or seven breeds,
and Columella "particularly recommends as the best, those sorts that have
five toes and white ears." (7/9. Rev. E.S. Dixon in his 'Ornamental
Poultry' page 203 gives an account of Columella's work.) In the fifteenth
century several breeds were known and described in Europe; and in China, at
nearly the same period, seven kinds were named. A more striking case is
that at present, in one of the Philippine Islands, the semi-barbarous
inhabitants have distinct native names for no less than nine sub-breeds of
the Game fowl. (7/10. Mr. Crawfurd 'On the Relation of the Domesticated
Animals to Civilization' separately printed page 6; first read before the
Brit. Assoc. at Oxford 1860.) Azara (7/11. 'Quadrupedes du Paraguay' tome 2
page 324.), who wrote towards the close of the last century, states that in
the interior parts of South America, where I should not have expected that
the least care would have been taken of poultry, a black-skinned and black-
boned breed is kept, from being considered fertile and its flesh good for
sick persons. Now every one who has kept poultry knows how impossible it is
to keep several breeds distinct unless the utmost care be taken in
separating the sexes. Will it then be pretended that those persons who, in
ancient times and in semi-civilised countries took pains to keep the breeds
distinct, and who therefore valued them, would not occasionally have
destroyed inferior birds and occasionally have preserved their best birds?
This is all that is required. It is not pretended that any one in ancient
times intended to form a new breed, or to modify an old breed according to
some ideal standard of excellence. He who cared for poultry would merely
wish to obtain, and afterwards to rear, the best birds which he could; but
this occasional preservation of the best birds would in the course of time
modify the breed, as surely, though by no means as rapidly, as does
methodical selection at the present day, If one person out of a hundred or
out of a thousand attended to the breeding of his birds, this would be
sufficient; for the birds thus tended would soon become superior to others,
and would form a new strain; and this strain would, as explained in the
last chapter, slowly have its characteristic differences augmented, and at
last be converted into a new sub-breed or breed. But breeds would often be
for a time neglected and would deteriorate; they would, however, partially
retain their character, and afterwards might again come into fashion and be
raised to a standard of perfection higher than their former standard; as
has actually occurred quite recently with Polish fowls. If, however, a
breed were utterly neglected, it would become extinct, as has recently
happened with one of the Polish sub-breeds. Whenever in the course of past
centuries a bird appeared with some slight abnormal structure, such as with
a lark-like crest on its head, it would probably often have been preserved
from that love of novelty which leads some persons in England to keep
rumpless fowls, and others in India to keep frizzled fowls. And after a
time any such abnormal appearance would be carefully preserved, from being
esteemed a sign of the purity and excellence of the breed; for on this
principle the Romans eighteen centuries ago valued the fifth toe and the
white ear-lobe in their fowls.

Thus from the occasional appearance of abnormal characters, though at first
only slight in degree; from the effects of the use and the disuse of parts;
possibly from the direct effects of changed climate and food; from
correlation of growth; from occasional reversions to old and long-lost
characters; from the crossing of breeds, when more than one had been
formed; but, above all, from unconscious selection carried on during many
generations, there is no insuperable difficulty, to the best of my
judgment, in believing that all the breeds have descended from some one
parent-source. Can any single species be named from which we may reasonably
suppose that all are descended? The Gallus bankiva apparently fulfils every
requirement. I have already given as fair an account as I could of the
arguments in favour of the multiple origin of the several breeds; and now I
will give those in favour of their common descent from G. bankiva.

[But it will be convenient first briefly to describe all the known species
of Gallus. The G. sonneratii does not range into the northern parts of
India; according to Colonel Sykes (7/12. 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1832 page
151.), it presents at different heights of the Ghauts, two strongly marked
varieties, perhaps deserving to be called species. It was at one time
thought to be the primitive stock of all our domestic breeds, and this
shows that it closely approaches the common fowl in general structure; but
its hackles partially consist of highly peculiar, horny laminae,
transversely banded with three colours; and I have met no authentic account
of any such character having been observed in any domestic breed. (7/13.
These feathers have been described by Dr. W. Marshall 'Der Zoolog. Garten'
April 1874 page 124. I examined the feathers of some hybrids raised in the
Zoological Gardens between the male G. sonneratii and a red game-hen, and
they exhibited the true character of those of G. sonneratii, except that
the horny laminae were much smaller.) This species also differs greatly
from the common fowl, in the comb being finely serrated, and in the loins
being destitute of true hackles. Its voice is utterly different. It crosses
readily in India with domestic hens; and Mr. Blyth (7/14. See also an
excellent letter on the Poultry of India by Mr. Blyth in 'Gardener's
Chronicle' 1851 page 619.) raised nearly 100 hybrid chickens; but they were
tender and mostly died whilst young. Those which were reared were
absolutely sterile when crossed inter se or with either parent. At the
Zoological Gardens, however, some 'hybrids of the same parentage were not
quite so sterile: Mr. Dixon, as he informed me, made, with Mr. Yarrell's
aid, particular inquiries on this subject, and was assured that out of 50
eggs only five or six chickens were reared. Some, however, of these half-
bred birds were crossed with one of their parents, namely, a Bantam, and
produced a few extremely feeble chickens. Mr. Dixon also procured some of
these same birds and crossed them in several ways, but all were more or
less infertile. Nearly similar experiments have recently been tried on a
great scale in the Zoological Gardens with almost the same result. (7/15.
Mr. S.J. Salter in 'Natural History Review' April 1863 page 276.) Out of
500 eggs, raised from various first crosses and hybrids, between G.
sonneratii, bankiva, and varius, only 12 chickens were reared, and of these
only three were the product of hybrids inter se. From these facts, and from
the above-mentioned strongly-marked differences in structure between the
domestic fowl and G. sonneratii, we may reject this latter species as the
parent of any domestic breed.

Ceylon possesses a fowl peculiar to the island, viz. G. stanleyii; this
species approaches so closely (except in the colouring of the comb) to the
domestic fowl, that Messrs. Layard and Kellaert (7/16. See also Mr.
Layard's paper in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. History' 2nd series volume 14
page 62.) would have considered it, as they inform me, as one of the
parent-stocks, had it not been for its singularly different voice. This
bird, like the last, crosses readily with tame hens, and even visits
solitary farms and ravishes them. Two hybrids, a male and female, thus
produced, were found by Mr. Mitford to be quite sterile: both inherited the
peculiar voice of G. stanleyii. This species, then, may in all probability
be rejected as one of the primitive stocks of the domestic fowl.

Java and the islands eastward as far as Flores are inhabited by G. varius
(or furcatus), which differs in so many characters--green plumage,
unserrated comb, and single median wattle--that no one supposes it to have
been the parent of any one of our breeds; yet, as I am informed by Mr.
Crawfurd (7/17. See also Mr. Crawfurd 'Descriptive Dict. of the Indian
Islands' 1856 page 113.), hybrids are commonly raised between the male G.
varius and the common hen, and are kept for their great beauty, but are
invariably sterile: this, however, was not the case with some bred in the
Zoological Gardens. These hybrids were at one time thought to be
specifically distinct, and were named G. aeneus. Mr. Blyth and others
believe that the G. temminckii (7/18. Described by Mr. G.R. Gray 'Proc.
Zoolog. Soc' 1849 page 62.) (of which the history is not known) is a
similar hybrid. Sir J. Brooke sent me some skins of domestic fowls from
Borneo, and across the tail of one of these, as Mr. Tegetmeier observed,
there were transverse blue bands like those which he had seen on the tail-
feathers of hybrids from G. varius, reared in the Zoological Gardens. This
fact apparently indicates that some of the fowls of Borneo have been
slightly affected by crosses with G. varius, but the case may possibly be
one of analogous variation. I may just allude to the G. giganteus, so often
referred to in works on poultry as a wild species; but Marsden (7/19. The
passage from Marsden is given by Mr. Dixon in his 'Poultry Book' page 176.
No ornithologist now ranks this bird as a distinct species.) the first
describer, speaks of it as a tame breed; and the specimen in the British
Museum evidently has the aspect of a domestic variety.

The last species to be mentioned, namely, Gallus bankiva, has a much wider
geographical range than the three previous species; it inhabits Northern
India as far west as Sinde, and ascends the Himalaya to a height of 4000
ft.; it inhabits Burmah, the Malay peninsula, the Indo-Chinese countries,
the Philippine Islands, and the Malayan archipelago as far eastward as
Timor. This species varies considerably in the wild state. Mr. Blyth
informs me that the specimens, both male and female, brought from near the
Himalaya, are rather paler coloured than those from other parts of India;
whilst those from the Malay peninsula and Java are brighter coloured than
the Indian birds. I have seen specimens from these countries, and the
difference of tint in the hackles was conspicuous. The Malayan hens were a
shade redder on the breast and neck than the Indian hens. The Malayan males
generally had a red ear-lappet, instead of a white one as in India; but Mr.
Blyth has seen one Indian specimen without the white ear-lappet. The legs
are leaden blue in the Indian, whereas they show some tendency to be
yellowish in the Malayan and Javan specimens. In the former Mr. Blyth finds
the tarsus remarkably variable in length. According to Temminck (7/20.
'Coup-d'oeil general sur l'Inde Archipelagique' tome 3 1849 page 177; see
also Mr. Blyth in 'Indian Sporting Review' volume 2 page 5 1856.) the Timor
specimens differ as a local race from that of Java. These several wild
varieties have not as yet been ranked as distinct species; if they should,
as is not unlikely, be hereafter thus ranked, the circumstance would be
quite immaterial as far as the parentage and differences of our domestic
breeds are concerned. The wild G. bankiva agrees most closely with the
black-breasted red Game-breed, in colouring and in all other respects,
except in being smaller, and in the tail being carried more horizontally.
But the manner in which the tail is carried is highly variable in many of
our breeds, for, as Mr. Brent informs me, the tail slopes much in the
Malays, is erect in the Games and some other breeds, and is more than erect
in Dorkings, Bantams, etc. There is one other difference namely, that in G.
bankiva, according to Mr. Blyth, the neck-hackles when first moulted are
replaced during two or three months not by other hackles, as with our
domestic poultry, but by short blackish feathers. (7/21. Mr. Blyth 'Annals
and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' 2nd series volume 1 1848 page 455.) Mr. Brent,
however, has remarked that these black feathers remain in the wild bird
after the development of the lower hackles, and appear in the domestic bird
at the same time with them: so that the only difference is that the lower
hackles are replaced more slowly in the wild than in the tame bird; but as
confinement is known sometimes to affect the masculine plumage, this slight
difference cannot be considered of any importance. It is a significant fact
that the voice of both the male and female G. bankiva closely resembles, as
Mr. Blyth and others have noted, the voice of both sexes of the common
domestic fowl; but the last note of the crow of the wild bird is rather
less prolonged. Captain Hutton, well known for his researches into the
natural history of India, informs me that he has seen several crossed fowls
from the wild species and the Chinese bantam; these crossed fowls BRED
FREELY with bantams, but unfortunately were not crossed inter se. Captain
Hutton reared chickens from the eggs of the Gallus bankiva; and these,
though at first very wild, afterwards became so tame that they would crowd
round his feet. He did not succeed in rearing them to maturity; but as he
remarks, "no wild gallinaceous bird thrives well at first on hard grain."
Mr. Blyth also found much difficulty in keeping G. bankiva in confinement.
In the Philippine Islands, however, the natives must succeed better, as
they keep wild cocks to fight with their domestic game-birds. (7/22.
Crawfurd 'Desc. Dict. of Indian Islands' 1856 page 112.) Sir Walter Elliot
informs me that the hen of a native domestic breed of Pegu is
undistinguishable from the hen of the wild G. bankiva; and the natives
constantly catch wild cocks by taking tame cocks to fight with them in the
woods. (7/23. In Burmah, as I hear from Mr. Blyth, the wild and tame
poultry constantly cross together, and irregular transitional forms may be
seen.) Mr. Crawfurd remarks that from etymology it might be argued that the
fowl was first domesticated by the Malays and Javanese. (7/24. Ibid page
113.) It is also a curious fact, of which I have been assured by Mr. Blyth,
that wild specimens of the Gallus bankiva, brought from the countries east
of the Bay of Bengal, are far more easily tamed than those of India; nor is
this an unparalleled fact, for, as Humboldt long ago remarked, the same
species sometimes evinces a more tameable disposition in one country than
in another. If we suppose that the G. bankiva was first tamed in Malaya and
afterwards imported into India, we can understand an observation made to me
by Mr. Blyth, that the domestic fowls of India do not resemble the wild G.
bankiva of India more closely than do those of Europe.]

From the extremely close resemblance in colour, general structure, and
especially in voice, between Gallus bankiva and the Game fowl; from their
fertility, as far as this has been ascertained, when crossed; from the
possibility of the wild species being tamed, and from its varying in the
wild state, we may confidently look at it as the parent of the most typical
of all the domestic breeds, namely, the Game fowl. It is a significant
fact, that almost all the naturalists in India, namely Sir W. Elliot, Mr.
S.N. Ward, Mr. Layard, Mr. J.C. Jerdon, and Mr. Blyth (7/25. Mr. Jerdon in
the 'Madras Journ. of Lit. and Science' volume 22 page 2 speaking of G.
bankiva says "unquestionably the origin of most of the varieties of our
common fowls." For Mr. Blyth see his excellent article in 'Gardener's
Chronicle' 1851 page 619; and in 'Annals and Mag. of Nat. Hist.' volume 20
1847 page 388.), who are familiar with G. bankiva, believe that it is the
parent of most or all our domestic breeds. But even if it be admitted that
G. bankiva is the parent of the Game breed, yet it may be urged that other
wild species have been the parents of the other domestic breeds; and that
these species still exist, though unknown, in some country, or have become
extinct. The extinction, however, of several species of fowls, is an
improbable hypothesis, seeing that the four known species have not become
extinct in the most ancient and thickly peopled regions of the East. There
is, in fact, not one other kind of domesticated bird, of which the wild
parent-form is unknown, that is become extinct. For the discovery of new,
or the rediscovery of old species of Gallus, we must not look, as fanciers
often look, to the whole world. The larger gallinaceous birds, as Mr. Blyth
has remarked (7/26. 'Gardener's Chronicle' 1851 page 619.), generally have
a restricted range: we see this well illustrated in India, where the genus
Gallus inhabits the base of the Himalaya, and is succeeded higher up by
Gallophasis, and still higher up by Phasianus. Australia, with its islands,
is out of the question as the home for unknown species of the genus. It is,
also, as improbable that Gallus should inhabit South America (7/27. I have
consulted an eminent authority, Mr. Sclater, on this subject, and he thinks
that I have not expressed myself too strongly. I am aware that one ancient
author, Acosta, speaks of fowls as having inhabited S. America at the
period of its discovery; and more recently, about 1795, Olivier de Serres
speaks of wild fowls in the forests of Guiana; these were probably feral
birds. Dr. Daniell tells me, he believes that fowls have become wild on the
west coast of Equatorial Africa; they may, however, not be true fowls, but
gallinaceous birds belonging to the genus Phasidus. The old voyager Barbut
says that poultry are not natural to Guinea. Capt. W. Allen ('Narrative of
Niger Expedition' 1848 volume 2 page 42) describes wild fowls on Ilha dos
Rollas, an island near St. Thomas's on the west coast of Africa; the
natives informed him that they had escaped from a vessel wrecked there many
years ago; they were extremely wild and had "a cry quite different to that
of the domestic fowl," and their appearance was somewhat changed. Hence it
is not a little doubtful, notwithstanding the statement of the natives,
whether these birds really were fowls. That the fowl has become feral on
several islands is certain. Mr. Fry, a very capable judge, informed Mr.
Layard, in a letter, that the fowls which have run wild on Ascension "had
nearly all got back to their primitive colours, red, and black cocks, and
smoky-grey hens." But unfortunately we do not know the colour of the
poultry which were turned out. Fowls have become feral on the Nicobar
Islands (Blyth in the 'Indian Field' 1858 page 62), and in the Ladrones
(Anson's Voyage). Those found in the Pellew Islands Crawfurd) are believed
to be feral; and lastly, it is asserted that they have become feral in New
Zealand, but whether this is correct I know not.) as that a humming-bird
should be found in the Old World. From the character of the other
gallinaceous birds of Africa, it is not probable that Gallus is an African
genus. We need not look to the western parts of Asia, for Messrs. Blyth and
Crawfurd, who have attended to this subject, doubt whether Gallus ever
existed in a wild state even as far west as Persia. Although the earliest
Greek writers speak of the fowl as a Persian bird, this probably merely
indicates its line of importation. For the discovery of unknown species we
must look to India, to the Indo-Chinese countries, and to the northern
parts of the Malay Archipelago. The southern portion of China is the most
likely country; but as Mr. Blyth informs me, skins have been exported from
China during a long period, and living birds are largely kept there in
aviaries, so that any native species of Gallus would probably have become
known. Mr. Birch, of the British Museum, has translated for me passages
from a Chinese Encyclopaedia published in 1609, but compiled from more
ancient documents, in which it is said that fowls are creatures of the
West, and were introduced into the East (i.e. China) in a dynasty 1400 B.C.
Whatever may be thought of so ancient a date, we see that the Indo-Chinese
and Indian regions were formerly considered by the Chinese as the source of
the domestic fowl. From these several considerations we must look to the
present metropolis of the genus, namely, to the south-eastern parts of
Asia, for the discovery of species which were formerly domesticated, but
are now unknown in the wild state; and the most experienced ornithologists
do not consider it probable that such species will be discovered.

In considering whether the domestic breeds are descended from one species,
namely, G. bankiva, or from several, we must not quite overlook, though we
must not exaggerate, the importance of the test of fertility. Most of our
domestic breeds have been so often crossed, and their mongrels so largely
kept, that it is almost certain, if any degree of infertility had existed
between them, it would have been detected. On the other hand, the four
known species of Gallus when crossed with each other, or when crossed, with
the exception of G. bankiva, with the domestic fowl, produce infertile

Finally, we have not such good evidence with fowls as with pigeons, of all
the breeds having descended from a single primitive stock. In both cases
the argument of fertility must go for something; in both we have the
improbability of man having succeeded in ancient times in thoroughly
domesticating several supposed species,--most of these supposed species
being extremely abnormal as compared with their natural allies,--all being
now either unknown or extinct, though the parent-form of no other
domesticated bird has been lost. But in searching for the supposed parent-
stocks of the various breeds of the pigeon, we were enabled to confine our
search to species having peculiar habits of life; whilst with fowls there
is nothing in their habits in any marked manner distinct from those of
other gallinaceous birds. In the case of pigeons, I have shown that purely-
bred birds of every race and the crossed offspring of distinct races
frequently resemble, or revert to, the wild rock-pigeon in general colour
and in each characteristic mark. With fowls we have facts of a similar
nature, but less strongly pronounced, which we will now discuss.


Purely-bred Game, Malay, Cochin, Dorking, Bantam, and, as I hear from Mr.
Tegetmeier, Silk fowls, may frequently or occasionally be met with, which
are almost identical in plumage with the wild G. bankiva. This is a fact
well deserving attention, when we reflect that these breeds rank amongst
the most distinct. Fowls thus coloured are called by amateurs black-
breasted reds. Hamburghs properly have a very different plumage;
nevertheless, as Mr. Tegetmeier informs me, "the great difficulty in
breeding cocks of the golden-spangled variety is their tendency to have
black breasts and red backs. The males of white Bantams and white Cochins,
as they come to maturity, often assume a yellowish or saffron tinge; and
the longer neck hackles of black Bantam cocks" (7/28. Mr. Hewitt in 'The
Poultry Book' by W.B. Tegetmeier 1866 page 248.), when two or three years
old, not uncommonly become ruddy; these latter Bantams occasionally "even
moult brassy-winged, or actually red-shouldered." So that in these several
cases we see a plain tendency to reversion to the hues of G. bankiva, even
during the lifetime of the individual bird. With Spanish, Polish, pencilled
Hamburgh, silver-spangled Hamburgh fowls, and with some other less common
breeds, I have never heard of a black-breasted red bird having appeared.

From my experience with pigeons, I made the following crosses. I first
killed all my own poultry, no others living near my house, and then
procured, by Mr. Tegetmeier's assistance, a first-rate black Spanish cock,
and hens of the following pure breeds,--white Game, white Cochin, silver-
spangled Polish, silver-spangled Hamburgh, silver-pencilled Hamburgh, and
white Silk. In none of these breeds is there a trace of red, nor when kept
pure have I ever heard of the appearance of a red feather; though such an
occurrence would perhaps not be very improbable with white Games and white
Cochins. Of the many chickens reared from the above six crosses the
majority were black, both in the down and in the first plumage; some were
white, and a very few were mottled black and white. In one lot of eleven
mixed eggs from the white Game and white Cochin by the black Spanish cock,
seven of the chickens were white, and only four black. I mention this fact
to show that whiteness of plumage is strongly inherited, and that the
belief in the prepotent power in the male to transmit his colour is not
always correct. The chickens were hatched in the spring, and in the latter
part of August several of the young cocks began to exhibit a change, which
with some of them increased during the following years. Thus a young male
bird from the silver-spangled Polish hen was in its first plumage coal-
black, and combined in its comb, crest, wattle, and beard, the characters
of both parents; but when two years old the secondary wing-feathers became
largely and symmetrically marked with white, and, wherever in G. bankiva
the hackles are red, they were in this bird greenish-black along the shaft,
narrowly bordered with brownish-black, and this again broadly bordered with
very pale yellowish-brown; so that in general appearance the plumage had
become pale-coloured instead of black. In this case, with advancing age
there was a great change, but no reversion to the red colour of G. bankiva.

A cock with a regular rose comb derived either from the spangled or
pencilled silver Hamburgh was likewise at first quite black; but in less
than a year the neck-hackles, as in the last case, became whitish, whilst
those on the loins assumed a decided reddish-yellow tint; and here we see
the first symptom of reversion; this likewise occurred with some other
young cocks, which need not here be described. It has also been recorded
(7/29. 'Journal of Horticulture' January 14, 1862 page 325.) by a breeder,
that he crossed two silver-pencilled Hamburgh hens with a Spanish cock, and
reared a number of chickens, all of which were black, the cocks having
GOLDEN and the hens brownish hackles; so that in this instance likewise
there was a clear tendency to reversion.

Two young cocks from my white Game hen were at first snow white; of these,
one subsequently assumed male orange-coloured hackles, chiefly on the
loins, and the other an abundance of fine orange-red hackles on the neck,
loins, and upper wing-coverts. Here again we have a more decided, though
partial, reversion to the colours of G. bankiva. This second cock was in
fact coloured like an inferior "pile Came cock;"--now this sub-breed can be
produced, as I am informed by Mr. Tegetmeier, by crossing a black-breasted
red Game cock with a white Game hen, and the "pile" sub-breed thus produced
can afterwards be truly propagated. So that we have the curious fact of the
glossy-black Spanish cock and the black-breasted red Game cock when crossed
with white Game hens producing offspring of nearly the same colours.

I reared several birds from the white Silk hen by the Spanish cock: all
were coal-black, and all plainly showed their parentage in having blackish
combs and bones; none inherited the so-called silky feathers, and the non-
inheritance of this character has been observed by others. The hens never
varied in their plumage. As the young cocks grew old, one of them assumed
yellowish-white hackles, and thus resembled in a considerable degree the
cross from the Hamburgh hen; the other became a gorgeous bird, so much so
that an acquaintance had it preserved and stuffed simply from its beauty.
When stalking about it closely resembled the wild Gallus bankiva, but with
the red feathers rather darker. On close comparison one considerable
difference presented itself, namely, that the primary and secondary wing-
feathers were edged with greenish-black, instead of being edged, as in G.
bankiva, with fulvous and red tints. The space, also, across the back,
which bears dark-green feathers, was broader, and the comb was blackish. In
all other respects, even in trifling details of plumage, there was the
closest accordance. Altogether it was a marvellous sight to compare this
bird first with G. bankiva, and then with its father, the glossy green-
black Spanish cock, and with its diminutive mother, the white Silk hen.
This case of reversion is the more extraordinary as the Spanish breed has
long been known to breed true, and no instance is on record of its throwing
a single red feather. The Silk hen likewise breeds true, and is believed to
be ancient, for Aldrovandi, before 1600, alludes probably to this breed,
and described it as covered with wool. It is so peculiar in many characters
that some writers have considered it as specifically distinct; yet, as we
now see, when crossed with the Spanish fowl, it yields offspring closely
resembling the wild G. bankiva.

Mr. Tegetmeier has been so kind as to repeat, at my request, the cross
between a Spanish cock and Silk hen, and he obtained similar results; for
he thus raised, besides a black hen, seven cocks, all of which were dark-
bodied with more or less orange-red hackles. In the ensuing year he paired
the black hen with one of her brothers, and raised three young cocks, all
coloured like their father, and a black hen mottled with white.

The hens from the six above-described crosses showed hardly any tendency to
revert to the mottled-brown plumage of the female G. bankiva: one hen,
however, from the white Cochin, which was at first coal-black, became
slightly brown or sooty. Several hens, which were for a long time snow-
white, acquired as they grew old a few black feathers. A hen from the white
Game, which was for a long time entirely black glossed with green, when two
years old had some of the primary wing feathers greyish-white, and a
multitude of feathers over her body narrowly and symmetrically tipped or
laced with white. I had expected that some of the chickens whilst covered
with down would have assumed the longitudinal stripes so general with
gallinaceous birds; but this did not occur in a single instance. Two or
three alone were reddish-brown about their heads. I was unfortunate in
losing nearly all the white chickens from the first crosses; so that black
prevailed with the grandchildren; but they were much diversified in colour,
some being sooty, others mottled, and one blackish chicken had its feathers
oddly tipped and barred with brown.

I will here add a few miscellaneous facts connected with reversion, and
with the law of analogous variation. This law implies, as stated in a
previous chapter, that the varieties of one species frequently mock
distinct but allied species; and this fact is explained, according to the
views which I maintain, on the principle of allied species having descended
from one primitive form. The white Silk fowl with black skin and bones
degenerates, as has been observed by Mr. Hewitt and Mr. R. Orton, in our
climate; that is, it reverts to the ordinary colour of the common fowl in
its skin and bones, due care having been taken to prevent any cross. In
Germany (7/30. 'Die Huhner- und Pfauenzucht' Ulm 1827 s. 17. For Mr.
Hewitt's statement with respect to the white Silk fowl see the 'Poultry
Book' by W.B. Tegetmeier 1866 page 222. I am indebted to Mr. Orton for a
letter on the same subject.) a distinct breed with black bones, and with
black, not silky plumage, has likewise been observed to degenerate.

Mr. Tegetmeier informs me that, when distinct breeds are crossed, fowls are
frequently produced with their feathers marked or pencilled by narrow
transverse lines of a darker colour. This may be in part explained by
direct reversion to the parent-form, the Bankiva hen; for this bird has all
its upper plumage finely mottled with dark and rufous brown, with the
mottling partially and obscurely arranged in transverse lines. But the
tendency to pencilling is probably much strengthened by the law of
analogous variation, for the hens of some other species of Gallus are more
plainly pencilled, and the hens of many gallinaceous birds belonging to
other genera, as the partridge, have pencilled feathers. Mr. Tegetmeier has
also remarked to me that, although with domestic pigeons we have so great a
diversity of colouring, we never see either pencilled or spangled feathers;
and this fact is intelligible on the law of analogous variation, as neither
the wild rock pigeon nor any closely allied species has such feathers. The
frequent appearance of pencilling in crossed birds probably accounts for
the existence of "cuckoo" sub-breeds in the Game, Polish, Dorking, Cochin,
Andalusian, and Bantam breeds. The plumage of these birds is slaty-blue or
grey, with each feather transversely barred with darker lines, so as to
resemble in some degree the plumage of the cuckoo. It is a singular fact,
considering that the male of no species of Gallus is in the least barred,
that the cuckoo-like plumage has often been transferred to the male, more
especially in the cuckoo Dorking; and the fact is all the more singular, as
in gold- and silver-pencilled Hamburghs, in which pencilling is
characteristic of the breed, the male is hardly at all pencilled, this kind
of plumage being confined to the female.

Another case of analogous variation is the occurrence of spangled sub-
breeds of Hamburgh, Polish, Malay, and Bantam fowls. Spangled feathers have
a dark mark, properly crescent-shaped, on their tips; whilst pencilled
feathers have several transverse bars. The spangling cannot be due to
reversion to G. bankiva; nor does it often follow, as I hear from Mr.
Tegetmeier, from crossing distinct breeds; but it is a case of analogous
variation, for many gallinaceous birds have spangled feathers,--for
instance, the common pheasant. Hence spangled breeds are often called
"pheasant"-fowls. Another case of analogous variation in several domestic
breeds is inexplicable; it is, that the chickens, whilst covered with down,
of the black Spanish, black Game, black Polish, and black Bantam, all have
white throats and breasts, and often have some white on their wings. (7/31.
Dixon 'Ornamental and Domestic Poultry' pages 253, 324, 335. For game fowls
see Ferguson on 'Prize Poultry' page 260.) The editor of the 'Poultry
Chronicle' (7/32. 'Poultry Chronicle' volume 2 71.) remarks that all the
breeds which properly have red ear-lappets occasionally produce birds with
white ear-Tappets. This remark more especially applies to the Game breed,
which of all comes nearest to the G. bankiva; and we have seen that with
this species living in a state of nature, the ear-lappets vary in colour,
being red in the Malayan countries, and generally, but not invariably,
white in India.

In concluding this part of my subject, I may repeat that there exists one
widely-ranging, varying, and common species of Gallus, namely, G. bankiva,
which can be tamed, produces fertile offspring when crossed with common
fowls, and closely resembles in its whole structure, plumage, and voice the
Game breed; hence it may be safely ranked as the parent of this, the most
typical domesticated breed. We have seen that there is much difficulty in
believing that other, now unknown, species have been the parents of the
other domestic breeds. We know that all the breeds are most closely allied,
as shown by their similarity in most points of structure and in habits, and
by the analogous manner in which they vary. We have also seen that several
of the most distinct breeds occasionally or habitually closely resemble in
plumage G. bankiva, and that the crossed offspring of other breeds, which
are not thus coloured, show a stronger or weaker tendency to revert to this
same plumage. Some of the breeds, which appear the most distinct and the
least likely to have proceeded from G. bankiva, such as Polish fowls, with
their protuberant and little ossified skulls, and Cochins, with their
imperfect tail and small wings, bear in these characters the plain marks of
their artificial origin. We know well that of late years methodical
selection has greatly improved and fixed many characters; and we have every
reason to believe that unconscious selection, carried on for many
generations, will have steadily augmented each new peculiarity, and thus
have given rise to new breeds. As soon as two or three breeds were once
formed, crossing would come into play in changing their character and in
increasing their number. Brahma Pootras, according to an account lately
published in America, offer a good instance of a breed, lately formed by a
cross, which can be truly propagated. The well-known Sebright Bantams offer
another and similar instance. Hence it may be concluded that not only the
Game-breed but that all our breeds are probably the descendants of the
Malayan or Indian variety of G. bankiva. If so, this species has varied
greatly since it was first domesticated; but there has been ample time, as
we shall now show.


Rutimeyer found no remains of the fowl in the ancient Swiss lake-dwellings;
but, according to Jeitteles (7/33. 'Die vorgeschichtlichen Alterthumer' II.
Theil 1872 page 5. Dr. Pickering in his 'Races of Man' 1850 page 374 says
that the head and neck of a fowl is carried in a Tribute-procession to
Thoutmousis III. (1445 B.C.); but Mr. Birch of the British Museum doubts
whether the figure can be identified as the head of a fowl. Some caution is
necessary with reference to the absence of figures of the fowl on the
ancient Egyptian monuments, on account of the strong and widely prevalent
prejudice against this bird. I am informed by the Rev. S. Erhardt that on
the east coast of Africa, from 4 to 6 deg south of the equator, most of the
pagan tribes at the present day hold the fowl in aversion. The natives of
the Pellew Islands would not eat the fowl nor will the Indians in some
parts of S. America. For the ancient history of the fowl see also Volz
'Beitrage zur Culturgeschichte' 1852 s. 77; and Isid. Geoffroy St.-Hilaire
'Hist. Nat. Gen.' tome 3 page 61. Mr. Crawfurd has given an admirable
history of the fowl in his paper 'On the Relation of Domesticated Animals
to Civilisation' read before the Brit. Assoc. at Oxford in 1860 and since
printed separately. I quote from him on the Greek poet Theognis, and on the
Harpy Tomb described by Sir C. Fellowes. I quote from a letter of Mr.
Blyth's with respect to the Institutes of Manu.), such have certainly since
been found associated with extinct animals and prehistoric remains. It is,
therefore a strange fact that the fowl is not mentioned in the Old
Testament, nor figured on the ancient Egyptian monuments. It is not
referred to by Homer or Hesiod (about 900 B.C.); but is mentioned by
Theognis and Aristophanes between 400 and 500 B.C. It is figured on some of
the Babylonian cylinders, between the sixth and seventh centuries B.C., of
which Mr. Layard sent me an impression; and on the Harpy Tomb in Lycia,
about 600 B.C.: so that the fowl apparently reached Europe in a
domesticated condition somewhere about the sixth century B.C. It had
travelled still farther westward by the time of the Christian era, for it
was found in Britain by Julius Caesar. In India it must have been
domesticated when the Institutes of Manu were written, that is, according
to Sir W. Jones, 1200 B.C., but, according to the later authority of Mr. H.
Wilson, only 800 B.C., for the domestic fowl is forbidden, whilst the wild
is permitted to be eaten. If, as before remarked, we may trust the old
Chinese Encyclopaedia, the fowl must have been domesticated several
centuries earlier, as it is said to have been introduced from the West into
China 1400 B.C.

Sufficient materials do not exist for tracing the history of the separate
breeds. About the commencement of the Christian era, Columella mentions a
five-toed fighting breed, and some provincial breeds; but we know nothing
about them. He also alludes to dwarf fowls; but these cannot have been the
same with our Bantams, which, as Mr. Crawfurd has shown, were imported from
Japan into Bantam in Java. A dwarf fowl, probably the true Bantam, is
referred to in an old Japanese Encyclopaedia, as I am informed by Mr.
Birch. In the Chinese Encyclopaedia published in 1596, but compiled from
various sources, some of high antiquity, seven breeds are mentioned,
including what we should now call Jumpers or Creepers, and likewise fowls
with black feathers, bones, and flesh. In 1600 Aldrovandi describes seven
or eight breeds of fowls, and this is the most ancient record from which
the age of our European breeds can be inferred. The Gallus turcicus
certainly seems to be a pencilled Hamburgh; but Mr. Brent, a most capable
judge, thinks that Aldrovandi "evidently figured what he happened to see,
and not the best of the breed." Mr. Brent, indeed, considers all
Aldrovandi's fowls as of impure breed; but it is a far more probable view
that all our breeds have been much improved and modified since his time;
for, as he went to the expense of so many figures, he probably would have
secured characteristic specimens. The Silk fowl, however, probably then
existed in its present state, as did almost certainly the fowl with
frizzled or reversed feathers. Mr. Dixon (7/34. 'Ornamental and Domestic
Poultry' 1847 page 185; for passages translated from Columella see page
312. For Golden Hamburghs see Albin 'Natural History of Birds' 3 volumes
with plates 1731-38.) considers Aldrovandi's Paduan fowl as "a variety of
the Polish," whereas Mr. Brent believes it to have been more nearly allied
to the Malay. The anatomical peculiarities of the skull of the Polish breed
were noticed by P. Borelli in 1656. I may add that in 1737 one Polish sub-
breed, viz., the Golden-spangled, was known; but judging from Albin's
description, the comb was then larger, the crest of feathers much smaller,
the breast more coarsely spotted, and the stomach and thighs much blacker:
a Golden-spangled Polish fowl in this condition would now be of no value.


Fowls have been exposed to diversified conditions of life, and as we have
just seen there has been ample time for much variability and for the slow
action of unconscious selection. As there are good grounds for believing
that all the breeds are descended from Gallus bankiva, it will be worth
while to describe in some detail the chief points of difference. Beginning
with the eggs and chickens, I will pass on to their secondary sexual
characters, and then to their differences in external structure and in the
skeleton. I enter on the following details chiefly to show how variable
almost every character has become under domestication.


Mr. Dixon remarks (7/35. 'Ornamental and Domestic Poultry' page 152.) that
"to every hen belongs an individual peculiarity in the form, colour, and
size of her egg, which never changes during her life-time, so long as she
remains in health, and which is as well known to those who are in the habit
of taking her produce, as the hand-writing of their nearest acquaintance."
I believe that this is generally true, and that, if no great number of hens
be kept, the eggs of each can almost always be recognised. The eggs of
differently sized breeds naturally differ much in size; but apparently, not
always in strict relation to the size of the hen: thus the Malay is a
larger bird than the Spanish, but GENERALLY she produces not such large
eggs; white Bantams are said to lay smaller eggs than other Bantams (7/36.
Ferguson on 'Rare Prize Poultry' page 297. This writer, I am informed,
cannot generally be trusted. He gives, however, figures and much
information on eggs. See pages 34 and 235 on the eggs of the Game fowl.);
white Cochins, on the other hand, as I hear from Mr. Tegetmeier, certainly
lay larger eggs than buff Cochins. The eggs, however, of the different
breeds vary considerably in character; for instance, Mr. Ballance states
(7/37. See 'Poultry Book' by Mr. Tegetmeier 1866 pages 81 and 78.) that his
Malay "pullets of last year laid eggs equal in size to those of any duck,

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