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id int(11) 475 Column Stats
subject varchar(80) 14 Column Stats
title varchar(250) 139 Column Stats
ordinal int(11) 30 Column Stats
description text 474 Column Stats

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01 - Variations Under Domestication 01-08 - Breeds of the Domestic Pigeons, their Differences and Origin 90 I have discussed the probable origin of domestic pigeons at some, yet quite insufficient, length; because when I first kept pigeons and watched the several kinds, well knowing how truly they breed, I felt fully as much difficulty in believing that since they had been domesticated they had all proceeded from a common parent, as any naturalist could in coming to a similar conclusion in regard to the many species of finches, or other groups of birds, in nature. One circumstance has struck me much; namely, that nearly all the breeders of the various domestic animals and the cultivators of plants, with whom I have conversed, or whose treatises I have read, are firmly convinced that the several breeds to which each has attended, are descended from so many aboriginally distinct
species.

Ask, as I have asked, a celebrated raiser of Hereford cattle, whether his cattle might not have descended from long-horns, or both from a common parent-stock, and he will laugh you to scorn. I have never met a pigeon, or poultry, or duck, or rabbit fancier, who was not fully convinced that each main breed was descended from a distinct species.

Hereford Cow
Hereford Cow

Long Horn Cow
Long Horn Cow


Van Mons, in his treatise on pears and apples, shows how utterly he disbelieves that the several sorts, for instance a Ribston-pippin or Codlin-apple, could ever have proceeded from the seeds of the same tree.

Pear
Pear

apple
apple


Innumerable other examples could be given.

The explanation, I think, is simple: from long-continued study they are strongly impressed with the differences between the several races; and though they well know that each race varies slightly, for they win their prizes by selecting such slight differences, yet they ignore all general arguments, and refuse to sum up in their minds slight differences accumulated during many successive generations.

May not those naturalists who, knowing far less of the laws of inheritance than does the breeder, and knowing no more than he does of the intermediate links in the long lines of descent, yet admit that many of our domestic races are descended from the same parents- may they not learn a lesson of caution, when they deride the idea of species in a state of nature being lineal descendants of other species?
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.

Dray Horse
Dray Horse

Race Horse
Race Horse

greyhound
greyhound

bloodhound
bloodhound

Tumbler Pigeon
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.

Fuller's Teasel
Fuller's Teasel


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.

Ancon Sheep
Ancon Sheep

Dray Horse
Dray Horse

Race Horse
Race Horse

camel
camel

sheep
sheep


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.
01 - Variations Under Domestication 01-09 - Principles of Selection anciently followed, and their Effects 20 The great power of this principle of selection is not hypothetical.

It is certain that several of our eminent breeders have, even within a single lifetime, modified to a large extent their breeds of cattle and sheep.

cattle
cattle

sheep
sheep



In order fully to realise what they have done, it is almost necessary to read several of the many treatises devoted to this subject, and to inspect the animals.

Breeders habitually speak of an animal's organisation as something plastic, which they can model as they please.

If I had space I could quote numerous passages to this effect from highly competent authorities.

Youatt, who was probably better acquainted with the works of agriculturists than almost any other individual, and who was himself a very good judge of animals, speaks of the principle of selection as "that which enables the agriculturist, not only to modify the character of his flock, but to change it altogether. It is the magician's wand, by means of which he may summon into life whatever form and mould he pleases."

Lord Somerville, speaking of what breeders have done for sheep, says:- "It would seem as if they had chalked out upon a wall a form perfect in itself, and then had given it existence."

In Saxony the importance of the principle of selection in regard to merino sheep is so fully recognised, that men follow it as a trade: the sheep are placed on a table and are studied, like a picture by a connoisseur; this is done three times at intervals of months, and the sheep are each time marked and classed, so that the very best may ultimately be selected for breeding.

sheep
sheep

clay
clay

Merino sheep
Merino sheep
01 - Variations Under Domestication 01-09 - Principles of Selection anciently followed, and their Effects 30 What English breeders have actually effected is proved by the enormous prices given for animals with a good pedigree; and these have been exported to almost every quarter of the world.

The improvement is by no generally due to crossing different breeds; all the best breeders are strongly opposed to this practice, except sometimes amongst closely allied sub-breeds.

And when a cross has been made, the closest selection is far more indispensable even than in ordinary cases.

If selection consisted merely in separating some very distinct variety, and breeding from it, the principle would be so obvious as hardly to be worth notice; but its importance consists in the great effect produced by the accumulation in one direction, during successive generations, of differences absolutely inappreciable by an uneducated eye- differences which I for one have vainly attempted to appreciate.

Not one man in a thousand has accuracy of eye and judgment sufficient to become an eminent breeder. If, gifted with these qualities, he studies his subject for years, and devotes his lifetime to it with indomitable perseverance, he will succeed, and may make great improvements; if he wants any of these qualities, he will assuredly fail.

Few would readily believe in the natural capacity and years of practice requisite to become even a skilful pigeon fancier.

pigeon
pigeon