M Database Inspector (cheetah)
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|01 - Variations Under Domestication||01-08 - Breeds of the Domestic Pigeons, their Differences and Origin||10||
Believing that it is always best to study some special group, I have, after deliberation, taken up domestic pigeons.
I have kept every breed which I could purchase or obtain, and have been most kindly favoured with skins from several quarters of the world, more especially by the Hon. W. Elliot from India, and by the Hon. C. Murray from Persia.
Many treatises in different languages have been published on pigeons, and some of them are very important, as being of considerable antiquity.
I have associated with several eminent fanciers, and have been permitted to join two of the London Pigeon Clubs.
The diversity of the breeds is something astonishing.
Compare the English carrier and the short-faced tumbler, and see the wonderful difference in their beaks, entailing corresponding differences in their skulls.
The carrier, more especially the male bird, is also remarkable from the wonderful development of the carunculated skin about the head; and this is accompanied by greatly elongated eyelids, very large external orifices to the nostrils, and a wide gape of mouth.
The short-faced tumbler has a beak in outline almost like that of a finch; and the common tumbler has the singular inherited habit of flying at a great height in a compact flock, and tumbling in the air head over heels.
The runt is a bird of great size, with long massive beak and large feet; some of the sub-breeds of runts have very long necks, others very long wings and tails, others singularly short tails.
The barb is allied to the carrier, but, instead of a long beak has a very short and broad one.
The pouter has a much elongated body, wings, and legs; and its enormously developed crop, which it glories in inflating, may well excite astonishment and even laughter.
The turbit has a short and conical beak, with a line of reversed feathers down the breast; and it has the habit of continually expanding slightly, the upper part of the oesophagus. The Jacobin has the feathers so much reversed along the back of the neck that they form a hood; and it has, proportionally to its size, elongated wing and tail feathers.
The trumpeter and laugher, as their names express, utter a very different coo from the other breeds.
The fantail has thirty or even forty tailfeathers, instead of twelve or fourteen- the normal number in all the members of the great pigeon family: these feathers are kept expanded, and are carried so erect, that in good birds the head and tail touch: the oil-gland is quite aborted.
Several other less distinct breeds might be specified.
|01 - Variations Under Domestication||01-12 - Circumstances favourable to Man's Power of Selection||10||
I will now say a few words on the circumstances, favourable, or the reverse, to man's power of selection.
A high degree of variability is obviously favourable, as freely giving the materials for selection to work on; not that mere individual differences are not amply sufficient, with extreme care, to allow of the accumulation of a large amount of modification in almost any desired direction.
But as variations manifestly useful or pleasing to man appear only occasionally, the chance of their appearance will be much increased by a large number of individuals being kept Hence, number is of the highest importance for success.
On this principle Marshall formerly remarked, with respect to the sheep of parts of Yorkshire, "as they generally belong to poor people, and are mostly in small lots, they never can be improved." On the other hand, nurserymen, from keeping large stocks of the same plant, are generally far more successful than amateurs in raising new and valuable varieties.
A large number of individuals of an animal or plant can be reared only where the conditions for its propagation are favourable. When the individuals are scanty, all will be allowed to breed, whatever their quality may be, and this will effectually prevent selection.
But probably the most important element is that the animal or plant should be so highly valued by man, that the closest attention is paid to even the slightest deviations in its qualities or structure.
Unless such attention be paid nothing can be effected.
I have seen it gravely remarked, that it was most fortunate that the strawberry began to vary just when gardeners began to attend to this plant.
No doubt the strawberry had always varied since it was cultivated, but the slightest varieties had been neglected.
As soon, however, as gardeners picked out individual plants with slightly larger, earlier, or better fruit, and raised seedlings from them, and again picked out the best seedlings and bred from them, then (with some aid by crossing distinct species) those many admirable varieties of the strawberry were raised which have appeared during the last half-century.
|01 - Variations Under Domestication||01-07 - Origin of Domestic Varieties from one or more Species||10||
In the case of most of our anciently domesticated animals and plants, it is not possible to come to any definite conclusion, whether they are descended from one or several wild species.
The argument mainly relied on by those who believe in the multiple origin of our domestic animals is, that we find in the most ancient times, on the monuments of Egypt, and in the lake-habitations of Switzerland, much diversity in the breeds;
and that some of these ancient breeds closely resemble, or are even identical with, those still existing.
But this only throws far backwards the history of civilisation, and shows that animals were domesticated at a much earlier period than has hitherto been supposed.
|01 - Variations Under Domestication||01-09 - Principles of Selection anciently followed, and their Effects||10||
Let us now briefly consider the steps by which domestic races have been produced, either from one or from several allied species.
Some effect may be attributed to the direct and definite action of the external conditions of life, and some to habit; but he would be a bold man who would account by such agencies for the differences between a dray- and race-horse, a greyhound and bloodhound, a carrier and tumbler pigeon.
One of the most remarkable features in our domesticated races is that we see in them adaptation, not indeed to the animal's or plant's own good, but to man's use or fancy.
Some variations useful to him have probably arisen suddenly, or by one step; many botanists, for instance, believe that the fuller's teasel, with its hooks, which cannot be rivalled by any mechanical contrivance, is only a variety of the wild Dipsacus; and this amount of change may have suddenly arisen in a seedling.
So it has probably been with the turnspit dog; and this is known to have been the case with the ancon sheep.
But when we compare the dray-horse and race-horse, the dromedary and camel, the various breeds of sheep fitted either for cultivated land or mountain pasture, with the wool of one breed good for one purpose, and that of another breed for another purpose; when we compare the many breeds of dogs, each good for man in different ways; when we compare the game-cock, so pertinacious in battle, with other breeds so little quarrelsome, with "everlasting layers" which never desire to sit, and with the bantam so small and elegant; when we compare the host of agricultural, culinary, orchard, and flower-garden races of plants, most useful to man at different seasons and for different purposes, or so beautiful in his eyes, we must, I think, look further than to mere variability.
We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed, in many cases, we know that this has not been their history. The key is man's power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to have made for himself useful breeds.