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OCT 2 4 1347 
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TN compiling the following pages the Editor has endeavoured to produce a 
■*- treatise that should not only furnish the amateur of Pigeons with a greater 
amount of practical information on the different varieties than is to be found in 
any previous volume, but also to treat the whole subject in a more scientific man- 
ner than had hitherto been attempted. Hence the introductory chapters on the 
structure of the Pigeon ; the natural history of the Blue Kock Dove, from whence 
all our varieties have descended; the account of the origin of the different 
varieties, &c, &c, But whilst these topics have been discussed, full space has been 
devoted to the practical part of the subject, and the characteristics and manage- 
ment of the different varieties have been more fully described than has been done 
in any other book. 

The original works in English on the subject of Pigeons are few in number. 
They include Moore's " Columbarium," which was published in 1735 ; the reprints 
of Moore, which appeared, with slight additions, as "The Treatise on Domestic 
Pigeons," 1765, and " The Complete Pigeon Fancier," ascribed to Girton, but 
which was originally advertised as having been written by William Thompson ; and 
" The Treatise on the Almond Tumbler," published anonymously. From these 
works the remaining treatises have been in the main compiled. Eaton's Treatise 
is confessedly a reprint of Moore and the Treatise on the Almond Tumbler, 
with additional notes. The Eev. E. S. Dixon's " Dovecote and Aviary," and 
Mr. Selby's " Treatise on Pigeons," in the " Naturalist's Library," do not call for 
special notice ; but the Editor must not omit to acknowledge his obligations to 
the valuable fugitive articles contributed by the late Mr. B. P. Brent to the Field 
and the Poultry Chronicle. It may be stated, that whatever information he has 
taken from other writers has been in all cases acknowledged. 



I. The Structure and General Character of Pigeons 

II. The Bock Dote ..... 

III. The Origin of the Varieties of Pigeons 

IV. Dote Cotes and Pigeon Lofts 
V. The English Pouter .... 

VI. Foreign Pouters ; Isabels, Brunnen or Pigmy Pouters 

VII. The English Carrier .... 

VIII. The Dragon ..... 

IS. Homing Birds, or Les Pigeons Voyageurs— Axtwerps— Smerles. 

X. The Common Tumbler 

XI. The Short-faced Tumbler 

XII. The Lowtan or Ground Tumblers of India. — House Tumblers 

XIII. The Barb 

XIV. The Owl . 
XV. The Turbit 

XVI. The Jacobine 

XVII. The Fantail 

XVIII. The Trumpeter and the Laugher 

XIX. Nuns, Helmets, and Spots 

XX. The Archangel 

XXI. German Toys — Magpies, Suaeians, Priests 

XXII. The Finnikin, Smiter, and Turner 

XXIII. The Lace, or Silky, and Frillback Pigeons 

XXIV. The Eunt. .... 
XXV. The Laws relating to Pigeons . 

XXVI. The Diseases of Pigeons . 






























The Pouter 


Isabels and Austrian Pouters 

to face page 71 

Black Carreer 


Dragons and Archangels 


Antwerps and Suabiaxs 


Beards and Balpheads 


Black Mottled Tumblers 


Almond Tumblers . 


Blue Owls and Barbs 


Tup.bits and Jacobins 


Frillbacks and Fantaxls. 


Letz and Trumpeters 


Nuns and Swallows. 


Blue Brunswicks and Black Peh 

-Sts ,, 172 

Magpies and Ice Pigeons 



., 170 



Bones and Feathers of the Wing of Pigeon 

Sternum and Muscles of the YTing 

Digestite Organs ..... 

Area for Loft, and Bolting Vires . 41 and 42 

Resting Boxes and Nest Pans . 43, 44, and 4S 

Mating Cage 46 

Pouter 59 

Head of Carrier . . . . . .74 

Pigeon Eace 98 

Heads of Beard and Bald-head Tumblers, 111, 112 
Head of Barb ...... 133 

Head of Owl 139 

Head of Jacobine 145 

Diagrams of Fantail . . 150, 154, and 155 

Head of Helmet 164 

Feather Louse (Lipeums Baculus) . .157 


THE Columbine birds, familiarly known as Pigeons and Doves, constitute a 
very peculiar and well marked group of animals, interesting not only to the 
scientific naturalist, on account of the great peculiarities of structure and habits 
that they present to his notice, but also to more general observers, as one of 
their number, the Rock Dove, Columba livia, has, from the remotest periods 
of recorded time, passed into a state of domestication, and been subject to a 
greater amount and number of variations than any other animal belonging to the 
class of birds — variations so great, that did they exist in a state of nature, 
they would not be regarded by ornithologists as characterizing varieties of one 
species, but would be considered as belonging to birds of distinct genera, or 

In the following treatise it is proposed to give, in the first instance, an account 
of the structure, habits, and food of the wild original of our domestic breeds, 
the knowledge of which will greatly aid the breeder in treating his birds in 
a more natural and therefore more successful manner. The evidence which 
proves all our varieties to have been derived from one and the same wild species 
will next be considered. 

Then will follow the consideration of the Pigeon as a domestic animal ; this 
portion of the work will include the characteristics of all the varieties, from the 
semi-reclaimed Blue Rock of our dovecots, through the different races to the 
most artificial high-class breeds, such as the Pouter, Short-faced Tumbler, and 
Carrier ; and the practical management of the several varieties will be fully treated, 
from the construction of a dovecot for Blue Rocks to the artificial arrangements 
requisite for rearing the more delicate breeds with success. 

The singular faculty exercised by the long distance homing birds will be 
fully investigated, and accounts of the methods of training these pigeons that 
are adopted, both in England and on the Continent, will be fully described. 




THE structure and habits of the family or group of pigeons are so peculiar 
and so strikingly distinct from those of any other birds, that they demand 
special attention. The pigeons were formerly classed by the majority of natu- 
ralists along with the gallinaceous birds, the true poultry, and by others with 
the passerine or sparrow-like birds ; but more accurate observation has rendered 
evident the fact that they form a perfectly distinct family, distinguished from 
all other birds by the singular manner in which their young are nourished. 
Unlike the true gallinaceae — which are hatched in a very perfect state and able 
to follow the parent hen within a few hours after birth — the young pigeons 
are born in a most immature and helpless condition, and are fed with a curdy 
secretion, produced in the crops of the parents, the " soft food " of the pigeon- 
fancier. This is expressly produced at the period of hatching, for the support of 
the callow young. 

The following account of the formation of these birds applies more particularly 
to the European species known as constituting the genus Columba, and has special 
reference to the wild Blue Rock dove, Columba llvia, the undoubted origin of 
all our numerous domestic varieties. 

Pigeons are usually birds of moderate size ; their legs and feet are small com- 
pared with those of the gallinaceous birds, that scratch the earth in seeking for 
their food — a habit that is never followed by the doves. 

Although slight in size, the legs and feet are very efficient organs of motion, 
the birds being able to walk with considerable rapidity when traversing the ground 
in search of food. The limbs are moved alternately, the pigeons never, when 
seeking food, leaping with both feet together, like the sparrow and other birds of 
the same group, although, when advancing to his mate, the cock pigeon often 
makes a kind of imperfect leap. 



The chief organs of motion in the pigeon are the wings, which are very powerful 
when compared with the size and strength of the birds. In form they are 
long and pointed, differing essentially from the short rounded concave wings of 
the ordinary gallinaceous birds. 

The wings are well adapted to urge the bird through the air in its long-sustained 
flight, which sometimes aj^proaches a speed of three miles a minute, and has been 
kept up for eight consecutive hours at an average speed of forty-five miles an hour. 
The bones of the wing are shown in Figure I., where a represents the scapula 


a. Scapula or blade-bone ; 6 c. Humerus or arm-bone ; c d. Radius andulna, bones and fore-arm ; g. Index finger ; 

g ef. Bones of band. 

or blade-bone, lying over the ribs on the back. To this is attached, by a movable 
joint, the arm-bone or humerus, extending from b to c ; then follows the fore-arm 
or portion of the wing from c to d, this is formed of two bones, the ulna and radius ; 

d * 


from d to / are the bones which correspond with those of the human hand — the 
email pointed bone g being the first finger. The second figure shows very clearly 



the position of the different feathers of the wings with regard to the joints of its 
framework. Into that part of the wing formed of the bones of the hand, d to /, 
are inserted the flight-feathers of the fancier, the primaries of the naturalist. 
These are ten in number, the second being usually the longest, and the length 
diminishing regularly from it to the tenth. In some of the more artificial varieties, 
as the Short-faced Tumblers, the number of primaries is diminished to nine. 

The secondaries are twelve in number, and take their rise from that part of the 
wing, c to d, which corresponds to our fore-arm. In some birds a third set of 
quill feathers, termed tertiaries, take their rise from the humerus b c, but these 
are not conspicuous in the pigeons. In describing the feathers of the wing, the 
bastard or spurious pinion e, attached to the rudimentary fore-finger g, must not 
be overlooked. 

It is impossible to conceive any mechanical contrivance working more smoothly 
and effectively than the wing of a pigeon. When open each quill feather is sup- 
ported by, and in its turn supports, those adjacent to it; and thus is formed a 
concave under surface to strike the air in flight. In closing, each feather glides 
smoothly over its fellows, and the whole wing shuts up in the smallest possible 
compass, the primaries passing under the secondaries, so that only their ends are 
exposed. In flight, the bird raises the extended wing, and then strikes it against 
the air below with great force. The support of the bird in the air is due to the 
circumstance that the downward stroke is made with much greater force than 
that with which the wing is raised, and also to the form of the wing and the 
curvature of the feathers. The mode in which the forward flight of the bird is secured 
has been more correctly described by the Duke of Argyll, in his " Reign of Law," 
than by any other writer. His Grace writes : — 

" The power of forward motion is given to birds, first by the direction in which 
the whole wing-feathers are set, and next by the structure given to each feather in 
itself. The wing-feathers are all set backwards, that is, in the direction opposite 
to that in which the bird moves, whilst each feather is at the same time so con- 
structed as to be strong and rigid towards its base, and extremely flexible and 
elastic towards its end. On the other hand the front of the wing, along the 
greater part of its length, is a stiff hard edge, wholly unelastic and unyielding 
to the air. The anterior and posterior webs of each feather are adjusted on the 
same principle. The consequence of this disposition of the parts as a whole, and 
of this construction of each of the parts, is, that the air which is struck and 
compressed in the hollow of the wing, being unable to escape through the wing, 
owing to the closing upwards of the feathers against each other, and being also 
unable to escape forwards, owing to the rigidity of the bones and of the quills in 
this direction, finds its easiest escape bachvards. In passing backwards it lifts 
by its force the elastic ends of the feathers ; and thus, whilst effecting this escape, 
in obedience to the law of action and reaction, it communicates, in its passage 
along the whole line of both wings, a corresponding push forwards to the body of 
the bird. By this elaborate mechanical contrivance the same volume of air is 


made to perform the double duty of yielding pressure enough to sustain the 
bird's weight against the force of gravity, and also of communicating to it a 
forward impulse. The bird, therefore, has nothing to do but to repeat with 
the requisite velocity and strength its perpendicular blows upon the air, and by 
virtue of the structure of its wings the same blow both sustains and propels it. 

" The truth of this explanation of the mechanical theory of flight may be 
tested in various ways. Perhaps the simplest is an experiment which may be 
very easily made. If we take in the band the stretched wing of a heron, which 
has been dried in that position, and strike it quickly downwards in the air, we 
shall find that it is very difficult indeed to maintain the perpendicular direction 
of the stroke, requiring, in fact, much force to do so ; and that if we do not apply 
this force, the hand is carried irresistibly forward, from the impetus in that 
direction which the air communicates to the wing in its escape backwards from 
the blow. 

"Another test is one of reasoning and observation. If the explanation now 
given be correct, it must follow that since no bird can flap its wings in any 
other direction than the vertical — i.e., perpendicular to its own axis (which is 
ordinarily horizontal) — and as this motion has been shown to produce necessarily 
a forward motion, no bird can ever fly backwards. Accordingly no bird ever does 
so — no man ever saw a bird, even for an instant, fly tail foremost. A bird can, 
of course, allow itself to fall backwards by merely slowing the action of its wings 
so as to allow its weight to overcome their sustaining power; and this motion 
may sometimes give the appearance of flying backwards — as when a swift drops 
backwards from the eaves of a house, or when a humming-bird allows itself to 
drop in like manner from out of the large tubular petals of a flower. But this 
backward motion is due to the action of gravity, and not to the action of the 
bird's wings. In short, it is falling, not flying backwards. Nay, more, if the 
theory of flight here given be correct, it must equally foUow that even standing 
still, which is the easiest of all things to other animals, must be very difficult, 
if not altogether impossible, to a bird when flying. This, also, is true in fact. 
To stand still in the air is not indeed impossible to a flying bird, for reasons to 
be presently explained, but it is one of the most difficult feats of wingmanshvp — 
a feat which many birds, not otherwise clumsy, can never perform at all, and 
which is performed only by special exertion, and generally for a very short 
time, by those birds whose structure enables them to be adepts in their glorious 

"Another fact observable in reference to birds of easy and powerful flight, is, 
that their wings are all sharply pointed at the end. 

" The motion of a bird's wing increases from its minimum at the shoulder- 
joint to its maximum at the tip. The primary quills, which form the termination 
of the wing, are those on which the chief burden of flight is cast. Each feather 
has less and less weight to bear, and less and less force to exert, in proportion as 
it lies nearer the body of the bird ; and there is nothing more beautiful in the 


structure of a wing than the perfect gradation in strength and stiffness, as well 
as in modification of form, which marks the series from the first of the primary 
quills to the last and feehlest of the tertiaries. Now, the sharpness or roundness 
of a wing at the tip depends on the position which is given to the longest primary 
quill. If the first, or even the second primary is the longest, and all that follow 
are considerably shorter, the wing is necessarily a pointed wing, because the tip 
of a single quill forms the end ; but if the third or fourth primary quills are the 
longest, and the next again are very little shorter, the wing becomes a round- 
ended wing. The common rook and all the crows are examples of this. The 
peregrine falcon, the common swallow, and all birds of very powerful flight, have 
been provided with the sharp-pointed structure." 


The mechanism by which the wing is moved has now to be described. It 
consists of the mass of muscles on the front of the chest. The sternum, or 
breast-bone of the pigeon, Figure III., has an exceedingly deep keel, a, serving for 


the attachment of the powerful muscles which form the great mass of flesh on 
the breast. These muscles, as shown in Figure IV., pass from the keel of the 


breast-bone to the humerus, and, when they contract, pull down the wing with 
extraordinary force. The muscles that raise the wing are not shown in this figure : 
they are much slighter, and, consequently, act with much less force. 

The annual change of the flight- feathers takes place in the autumn. The mode 
in which this is arranged, so as not to interfere with the efficiency of the wing as 
an organ of flight, is most admirable. The moulting of the wing commences with 
the tenth or last flight-feather, or primary, and a new feather is produced so as to 
supply its place. A few days before this attains its full length, the ninth primary 
is shed, and subsequently the eighth, and so on to the first. The secondaries 
are replaced in a similar manner, only that the process commences with the first 
secondary and proceeds gradually to the twelfth. The effect of this arrangement 
is, that the efficiency of the wing as a means of flight is never seriously interfered 
with, as the loss of one feather at a time has no great effect in impairing the 
action of the limb. 

The feathers of the tail are usually twelve ; but in some of the domestic 
varieties the number is very greatly increased, occasionally to even three times 
that amount. The use of the tail is to support the hinder part of the body during 
flight. The tail, being held inclined obliquely downwards, presses, during the 
forward flight, against an inclined plane of air, and thus tends to raise the hinder 
part of the body — a support which is required, inasmuch as the wings are placed 
at the fore part of the trunk, far in advance of the centre of gravity of the whole 
body. The utility of the tail during flight is strikingly shown in the difference 
with which a pigeon flies after it has lost its tail-feathers : the action of the wings is 
much more rapid, the flight laboured in the extreme, and the bird so mutilated is 
left behind by the other birds of the flock in their rapid flight. The statement 
that the tail can be made to act like a rudder, in directing the course of flight, 
is often made by compilers of works on natural history, and repeated even in a 
work of as high authority as Owen's " Anatomy of Vertebrates." It is, however, 
entirely destitute of any foundation in fact. Birds turn, during flight, by striking 
the air more forcibly with one wing than the other. 

The general character of the plumage of the pigeons differs greatly from that of 
the true poultry. The tube or quill of the body-feathers is generally short, and 
the shaft increases considerably in size towards the middle of its length, and then 
diminishes very rapidly towards the end. The whole of the feathers of the pigeon 
are destitute of the small second feather or accessory plumule, which is found 
growing at the top of the tube of the feathers of the true poultry birds. These 
peculiarities of plumage are sufficiently strongly marked to render the recognition 
of the feather of a pigeon certain to an observant naturalist. 

The digestive organs in pigeons, Figure V., are strongly characterized by struc- 
tural peculiarities distinct from those of other birds. The bill is small, slightly 
curved, and covered at its base by the membrane of the nostrils, which is scurfy 
and bare of feathers, the nostrils themselves being long and narrow. Contrary to 
the arrangement that is found in most birds, the bony frame-work of the upper 



mandible is much narrower than that of the lower. This is most readily 
observed in a dried skull or in a very young nestling. This peculiarity of 
structure is important, as it is intimately connected with the mode of nourish- 
ment of the young bird. 


a. Boak ; b c. Gullet ; d e. Crop ; fg. Proventriculus ; I. Gizzard ; h i j k. Muscles of gizzard ; mn op q. Intestines ; 

r. Vent. 

The gullet c is wide and opens into a crop d e : this is equal on both sides, unlike 
that of the fowl. From the back part of the crop, a tube proceeds through the 
opening at the fore part of the chest into the interior of the body ; this enlarges 
somewhat before reaching the gizzard, and is termed the proventriculus or fore 
stomach ; it is furnished with glands which secrete the true gastric or digestive fluid. 
The gizzard itself is strong and muscular, lined with a thick dense leathery cuticle, 
and capable of grinding down the food with great rapidity, when aided by the 
sharp-edged stones and grains of sand swallowed by the bird. The intestinal tube 
which receives the ground food is upwards cf three feet in length, and is remark- 


able as being destitute of the large intestines, the coeca, which form so large a 
part of the digestive canal of the common fowl and of all other true gallinaceous 

Nor is this the only respect in which the digestive organs of the pigeon differ 
from those of birds in general ; for there is no gall-bladder to receive the secretions 
of the liver, which are poured at once into the intestinal canal. 

Pigeons feed on vegetable substances, grain, pulse, the seeds of grasses, and also 
on green vegetables. In a wild condition they devour a great number of tbe 
smaller snails that frequent neighbourhoods of the sea-coast, their crops when shot 
being often found to be partially filled with these small molluscous animals. The 
bird when feeding fills the crop, which is a mere receptacle for food and water, with 
the seeds and other substances it is collecting; these are soaked and macerated in 
the moisture of the crop. Small portions at a time pass through the proventriculus, 
where they are acted on by the digestive or gastric fluid, and passed on to the 
gizzard, in which, by the action of its powerful muscles and the small stones it 
contains, they are ground to pulp. In this condition the food passes on into the 
intestines, where it is mixed with the bile and other secretions ; and the nutriment 
for the support of the bird is absorbed as it passes along the canal. 

The intestines of a pigeon are twice as long as those of a hawk of the same 
size, the nourishment not being so readily extracted from vegetable as from 
animal food. The canal is also much longer in comparison than that of a fowl, 
in which the size of the cceca compensates for its shortness. The mode of 
drinking followed by pigeons is very characteristic ; the beak is plunged deeply 
into water, and a long draught taken. The quantity of water consumed by 
these birds is very great — much more than would serve fowls of the same 

The pigeons usually lay two purely white eggs, in confinement sometimes only 
one e"g is laid, but never more than two, unless, from the absence of a sufficient 
number of male birds, two hens pair and make a nest, when four eggs are laid, 
which of course are sterile, and after being sat upon for the usual period are 

The young are usually covered with long yellow down, but in those do- 
mesticated varieties that have certain colours this down is absent, as in the 
silvery and dun birds. Thus it is easy to distinguish between a young dun 
and a black in the same nest, the one being naked, the other covered with 
profuse yellow down. 

The young, which are hatched in a very helpless and immature condition, are 
entirely fed at first with a soft curdy secretion, which is produced in the crops 
of the parent birds at the end of the period of sitting. 

This secretion of " soft food," as it is termed by pigeon-fanciers, cannot be 
delayed ; consequently, if the young do not emerge from the eggs on the 
eighteenth day, the old birds desert the nest, refusing to sit longer on the sterile 
eggs. The production of the soft food, however, may be hastened a day or two. 


If a pair of chipped or hatching eggs are put under a pair of birds that have been 
sitting for sixteen days, their presence will always stimulate the secretion of the 
soft food, and the young will be duly nourished. The formation of this curdy 
secretion — true pigeon's milk — is a very remarkable fact ; it seems determined 
'altogether by the process of sitting ; it is produced equally in both parents, 
though the hen sits for about twenty hours, and the cock usually for only four — 
namely, from about ten or eleven in the morning to two or three in the afternoon. 

To receive this nourishment the young thrusts its beak into the side of the 
mouth of the old bird, in such a position that the soft food which is disgorged 
from the crop of the parent, with a sort of convulsive shudder, is received into the 
lower mandible or jaw, which is widely expanded in order to receive it. It is 
singular that so simple an action as this should have been so greatly misrepre- 
sented as it has been by many writers. Even so good an observer as Yarrell 
described, in his " British Birds," the old pigeons as feeding the young by placing 
their beaks in the mouths of the little ones, and overlooked altogether the 
beautiful adaptation of the broad spoon-shaped lower jaw to the habits of the 

As the young advance, the soft food lessens in quantity, and the grain and seeds 
that constitute the nourishment of the parents become mingled with it; and 
when about eight or ten days old the young are fed with disgorged grain and 
seeds only, until such time as they are able to fly and seek their own nourishment. 

The secretion of this curdy nutriment was first described in the " Philosophical 
Transactions " by the celebrated physiologist John Hunter, whose account of 
the process is as follows : — 

" There is infinite variety in the means by which nature provides for the 
support of the young. In many insects it is effected by the female instinctively 
depositing the egg, or whatever contains the rudiments of the animal, in such a 
situation that, when hatched, it may be wdthin reach of proper food ; others, as the 
humble bee, collect a quantity of peculiar substances which serves both as a nidus 
for the egg and nourishment for the maggot, when the embryo arrives at that 
state. Most birds, and many of the bee tribe, collect food for their young. There 
is likewise a number of animals capable of supplying immediately from their own 
bodies the nourishment proper for their offspring during this stage, a mode of 
nourishment which has hitherto been supposed to be peculiar to that class of 
animals which Linnaeus calls Mammalia ; nor has it, I imagine, been ever suspected 
to belong to any other. 

" I have, however, in many inquiries concerning the various modes in which 
young animals are nourished, discovered that all the Dove kind are endowed with 
similar power. The young pigeon, like the young quadruped, till it is capable of 
digesting the common food of its kind, is fed with a substance suited for that 
purpose by the parent- animal; not, as the Mammalia, by the female alone, but 
also by the male, which, perhaps, furnishes this nutriment in a degree still more 
abundant. It is a common property of birds, that both male and female are 


equally employed in hatching and in feeding the young ; but this particular mode 
of nourishment, by means of a substance secreted in their own bodies, is peculiar 
to certain kinds, and is carried in the crop. 

"Besides the Dove kind, I have some reason to suppose parrots to be endowed 
with the same faculty, as they have the power of throwing up the contents of the 
crop, and feeding one another. I have seen the cock parroquet regularly feed the 
hen, by first filling his own crop, and then supplying her from his beak. Parrots, 
Macaws, Cockatoos, &c, when they are very fond of the person who feeds them, 
may likewise be observed to have the action of throwing up the food, and often 
do it. The cock pigeon, when he caresses the hen, performs the same kind of 
action as when he feeds his young ; but I do not know if at this time he throws 
up anything from the crop. 

" During incubation, the coats of the crop in the pigeon are gradually enlarged 
and thickened, like what happens to the udder of females of class Mammalia in 
the term of gestation. On comparing the state of the crop, when the bird is not 
sitting, with its appearance during incubation, the difference is very remarkable. 
In the first case, it is thin and membraneous ; but by the time the young are about 
to be hatched, the whole, except what lies on the trachea, becomes thicker, and 
takes on a glandular appearance, having its internal surface very irregular. It is 
likewise evidently more vascular than in its former state, that it may convey a 
quantity of blood sufficient for the secretion of the substance which is to nourish 
the young for some days after they are hatched. 

"Whatever maybe the consistence of this substance when just secreted, it must 
probably very soon coagulate into a granular white curd, for in such form have 
always found it in the crop ; and if an old pigeon is killed just as the young ones 
are hatching, the crop will be found as described, and in its cavity pieces of white 
curd mixed with some of the common food of the pigeon, such as barley, beans, &c. 

"If we allow certain of the parents to feed the brood, tbe crop of the young 
pigeons, when examined, will be discovered to contain the same kind of curdled 
substance as that of the old ones, which passes from them into the stomach, 
where it is digested. 

" The young pigeon is fed for a little time with this substance only, as about 
the third day some of the common food is found mingled with it ; as the pigeon 
grows older the proportion of common food is increased ; so that it is seven, eight, 
or nine days old, before the secretion of the curd ceases in the old ones, and of 
course no more will be found in the crop of the young ones. 

" I have called this substance curd, not being literally so, but resembling 
that more than anything I know ; it may, however, have a greater resemblance to 
curd than we are perhaps aware of, for neither this secretion, nor curd from which 
whey has been pressed, seems to contain any sugar, and does not run into the 
acetous fermentation. The property of coagulating is confined to the substance 
itself, as it produced no such effect when mixed with milk. 

" This secretion in the pigeon, like all other animal substances, becomes putrid 


by standing, though not so readily as either blood or meat, it resisting putrefaction 
for a considerable time ; neither will curd much pressed become putrid so soon as 
either blood or meat." 

The young are fed until they have attained nearly their full size and perfect 
plumage, so that they are capable of fluttering after their parents, and flapping 
them with their wings until they disgorge the contents of their full crops into the 
throats of their greedy young. 

Four species of the genus Columba inhabit Great Britain. They are : — 

1. The Cushat, which is also known as the Quest, Ring Dove, or common 
Wood Pigeon, the Columba palumbus of ornithologists. This is the largest of our 
native species, and is readily distinguished by the two white spots on the neck, 
the white patch on the wings, and the reddish purple colour of the breast and 
neck. The Cushat is an arboreal species, nesting and roosting in trees, and is not 
found on the coasts or in rocky treeless districts. This species does not possess 
the capability of being domesticated ; even when eggs of the Cushat have been 
obtained and hatched under domesticated pigeons, the birds so reared have always 
betaken themselves to the woods on acquiring their full powers of flight. 

2. The Rock Dove, or Blue Rock Dove, the Columba livia of scientific treatises. 
This is distinguished from the other English species of a blue colour by its having 
the lower half of the back white. This is the original of our domesticated breeds, 
and is described at length in the following chapter. 

3. The Blue-backed or Stock Dove, Columba JEnas. This species was, until the 
time of Brisson and Temminck,* confounded with the last named, and the title of 
stock dove was bestowed upon it, as it was supposed to be the origin or wild stock 
of our domestic breeds. This idea is now known to be erroneous, for the bird is 
not capable of domestication. The Stock Dove usually breeds in the hollows of 
decayed trees, sometimes in deserted rabbit burrows ; and recently Mr. Harting 
has ascertained that in some localities it makes its nest on the cliffs of the sea- 
coast, in situations somewhat resembling those selected by the last species. 

4. The Turtle Dove, Columba turtur, the smallest of our British species, is a 
very elegant little bird, of a greyish-brown colour, having on the neck two large 
black spots, the feathers of which are tipped with white. The Turtle is too deli- 
cate to withstand the rigours of our winter, and departs for warmer latitudes in 

In many of the treatises that have been published on pigeons, the existence of 
another distinct species, the Dovehouse Pigeon, Columba ajinis, has been men- 
tioned; but there is no doubt that this is a mere variety of the Columba livia, and 
that it has no title whatever to be regarded as a distinct species. 

Another species of dove is well known in England, though not a native of 
Britain — namely, the Collared Dove, Columba risoria — characterized by its pale 
cream colour, which is only varied by a black ring or collar on the neck. This 

* HLstoire Naturelle Generale des Pigeons et des Gallinaces, par C. J. Temminck, 1813. 


bird has been domesticated from very remote periods. By the ancients it was 
sacred to Yenus, and it was unquestionably the dove alluded to in the Old and 
New Testaments. It breeds freely in confinement, even when in cages of moderate 
size. Although a native of warm climates, it may be allowed its liberty in the 
southern parts of England, and may occasionally be seen flying with domesticated 
pigeons ; but it is apt to be killed by the cold of very severe winters. 

A purely white variety of this species, destitute of the black collar, is not 
uncommon in confinement. 

All these five species are perfectly distinct from each other; if a pair be matched, 
the male being of any one of these species and the female of another, they will 
not unfrequently breed, but the offspring are invariably sterile hybrids or mules. 



THE Blue Rock Dove, Columba livia, being the origin from whence all our 
numerous domestic varieties have sprung, demands at our hands a full descrip- 
tion of its structure, markings, and habits. It is not the good fortune of many 
naturalists to have had similar opportunities of observing this beautiful bird in its 
feral condition to those that fell to the lot of that ardent ornithologist Macgillivray. 
As his description of the Rock Dove is unquestionably the best that has ever 
appeared, we shall freely avail ourselves of it in this chapter, and this the more 
readily as the admirable work from which we extract, " The History of British 
Birds," has been long out of print. 

" The Rock Dove," writes Macgillivray, " is a very beautiful bird, although its 
style of colouring is less gaudy than that of many foreign species. It is of a 
compact form, the body being rather full, the neck rather short, the head small, 
the feet short and strong, the wings rather long, the tail of moderate length. 

" The bill is short, slender, and straight ; the nasal membrane scurfy, tbe 
outline of the upper mandible straight for half its length, then arched and turned 
down ; the edges soft at the base, the tip compressed, with the edges inflected ; the 
lower mandible weak at the base, its sides nearly erect, the edges towards the end 
sharp, and the tip obtuse. Both mandibles are deeply concave internally. The mouth 
is only four-twelfths of an inch across. The tongue is very slender, seven and 
a half-twelfths in length, emarginate at the base, horny towards the end, and 

"The eyes are rather small; the eyelids bare, and having in their vicinity a 
bare space of considerable extent. The nostrils are linear, wider anteriorly, two 
and a half-twelfths long. The aperture of the ear is roundish or obliquely oblong, 
a line and a half in diameter. 

"The tarsi, which are very short, and feathered anteriorly one-third down, have 
five entire and two lower divided scales, their hind part soft, without scales, but 
scurfy. The first toe has six, the second eight, the third fourteen, the fourth 
eleven scales. The claws are arched in the third of a circle, compressed, rather 

" The plumage is generally compact and short ; on the abdomen downy and 
blended. The feathers are mostly ovate and rounded ; those of the lower part of 
the neck all round have their filaments flattened and shining. The wings are 
rather long and pointed ; the primaries, or first ten flight feathers, are tapering ; 



the second is the longest, the first almost equal in length, the third considerably 
shorter ; the secondaries are twelve in number, short, and end obliquely. The 
tail is straight, slightly rounded, the feathers broad and abruptly rounded. 

" The horny part of the bill is brownish-black. The iris of the eye is bright 
yellowish-red ; the bare space around the eye flesh-coloured. The tarsi and toes 
are carmine-purple ; the claws dark greyish-brown or black. 

" The general colour of the plumage is light greyish-blue, the lower parts 
being as deeply coloured as the upper. The middle of the neck all round is 
splendent with green, its lower part with purplish-red. The lower part of the 
back and the upper part of the sides, from near the shoulders to near the tail, are 
pure white, as are the lower wing-coverts and axillaries. The primaries and their 
coverts are brownish-grey on the outer web, the former dusky towards the end, 
as are the outer secondaries. There are two broad bars of black on the wing, 
one extending over the six inner secondary quills, the other over the secondary 
coverts, the outer two excepted. The tail has a broad terminal band of black, 
and the outer web of each lateral feather is white. The downy part of the 
feathers is greyish-white, excepting on the white part of the back, where it is pure 

" Length to end of tail 14 inches ; to end of wings when closed 12f ; extent of 
wings 27 ; wing from flexure 9f ; tail 5 ; bill along the back if, along the edge 
of lower mandible 1 ; tarsus 1 T 2 3 ; first toe £, its claw -fe ; second toe -ff-, its 
claw x % ; third toe l^ s , its claw 5j twelfths ; fourth toe \^, its claw 4^ twelfths. 

" The only external differences which the female presents consist of her being 
a little smaller, and having the shining colours on the neck less extended. 

" Length to end of tail 13j inches ; extent of wings 26^ ; wing from flexure 9J; 
tail 4J ; bill along the back ^4, along the edge of lower mandible 1 ; tarsus 1^ ; 
first toe 5-, its claw -j 4 . ; second toe -^f , its claw -^j ; third toe 1-3%, its claw 5g- 
twelfths ; fourth toe {%, its claw 4J twelfths. 

" Among the vast numbers of undoubtedly wild birds of this species which I have 
seen, I have not observed any remarkable variations of form or colour. The dark- 
coloured, purple, and white individuals, which are occasionally seen consorting 
with the wild doves, or residing in maritime caves or rocks, are in all probability 
domestic birds that have betaken themselves to the original mode of life of the 
species. As the moulting season approaches, the blue tint becomes much paler, 
especially on the wings. The outer primary quills are often tinged with brown, 
in consequence of the bird's striking the ground with its wings when commencing 
its flight ; and the bill is frequently more or less crusted with earth or mud. 
Individuals vary in length from 13 to 14 inches, and in the extent of their wings 
from 24 to 27. 

"At the western extremity of Ben Capval, a promontory of one of the remote 
Hebrides, is a vast mass of rock, broken by gaps and fissures into projecting crags 
and sloping shelves, and looking as if originally produced by the separation of a 
portion of the mountain which had sunk into the depths of the ocean that heaves 


its billows against the rugged shores. At the summit is an aggregation of angular 
fragments, the termination of an elevated ridge, and midway down is a green 
slope, horizontally traversed by several paths formed by the sheep, which at all 
seasons, but especially in spring, are fond of rambling among the crags, in search 
of fresh pasturage. The declivity terminates on the sinuous and angular edge of 
precipices several hundred feet in height, near the upper part of which a pair of 
White-tailed Eagles have fixed their abode, while the crevices are here and there 
peopled by starlings. The shelves of those rocks are totally inaccessible by 
ordinary means, although an adventurous shepherd or farmer sometimes descends 
on a rope held by half-a-dozen people above, to destroy an eagle's nest, or rescue 
a sheep which has leaped upon some grassy spot, and is unable to reascend ; but 
on one side, by a steep and slippery descent in a fissure, one may penetrate to the 
base, where he discovers a hole in the rock barely large enough to admit him on 
his hands and knees. This hole is the entrance of a narrow passage in a crevice 
roofed with fallen blocks. On one hand is a recess, in which a person might 
recline at full length, and which was actually employed as a bed by Mr. Macleod, 
of Berneray, after the battle of Culloden; and a few yards farther, the crevice opens 
into an irregular cave communicating seaward with the open air, and formed by a 
rent in the rock, filled above with large blocks that seem ready to fall. The heavy 
surges of the Atlantic continually dash against a heap of stones, which partially 
block up the mouth of the cave. On this heap the Crested Cormorants nightly 
repose, and in summer rear their young. The little shelves and angular recesses 
of the roof and upper parts of the cavern are tenanted by pigeons, the light blue 
of whose plumage has a beautiful appearance, relieved as they are by the dark 
ground of the moist rocks, and the soft murmur of whose notes comes upon the 
ear with a pleasing though melancholy effect. There, and in other places of 
a similar nature, have I watched these beautiful birds, until I rendered myself 
in some measure familiar with their habits; and amid such wild and desolate 
scenes have I loved to wander and indulge in the not less wild imaginings of 
a spirit that desired to hold converse with the unseen but ever present Spirit of 
the universe. 

"At early dawn the pigeons maybe seen issuing from these retreats in straggling 
parties, which soon take a determinate direction, and meeting with others by the 
way, proceed in a loose body along the shores until they reach the cultivated parts 
of the country, where they settle in large flocks, diligently seeking for grains of 
barley and oats, pods of the charlock, seeds of the wild mustard, polygona, and 
other plants, together with several species of small shell- snails, especially Helix 
ericetorum and Bulimus acutus, which abound in the sandy pastures. When they 
have young, they necessarily make several trips in the course of the day ; but 
from the end of autumn to the beginning of summer they continue all day in the 
fields. In winter they collect into flocks, sometimes composed of several hundred 
individuals ; and, as at this season they are anxious to make the best use of the 
short period of daylight, they may easily be approached by a person acquainted 


with the useful art of creeping and skulking. In general, however, they are rather 
shy, and very seldom allow a person to advance openly within sixty or seventy 
yards. It is not uncommon to kill four or five at a shot ; and on this subject I 
have heard many marvellous tales in the Hebrides ; but as I intend to confine my 
relation to my own experience, I can only state that, during a snow-storm, when 
the pigeons had assembled in a corn-yard remote from houses, I once killed 
twenty-three at three successive shots ; that is, nine for the first, eight for the 
next, and six for the third. Two or three wounded made their escape to the rocks 
in the immediate neighbourhood. 

" The manners of the Rock Doves are similar to those of our domestic pigeons, 
which are evidently descended from individuals of this species. When searching 
for food, they walk about with great celerity, moving the head backwards and 
forwards at each step, the tail sloping towards the ground, and the tips of the 
wings tucked up over it. In windy weather they usually move in a direction more 
or less opposite to the blast, and keep their body nearer to the ground than when 
it is calm, the whole flock going together. "When startled, they rise suddenly, 
and by striking the ground with their wings, produce a crackling noise. When at 
full speed they fly with great celerity, the air whistling against their pinions. 
Their flight is very similar to that of the Ringed and Golden Plovers, birds which 
in form approach very nearly to the pigeons, as may be seen more especially on 
comparing their skeletons. They usually alight abruptly when the place is open 
and clear, and, if very hungry, immediately commence their search ; although on 
alighting they frequently stand and look around them for a few moments. On 
other occasions, however, they fly over the field in circles, descending gradually. 
When flying from the rocks to the places where they procure their food, and 
when returning in the evening, they do not mount high in the air ; and when 
passing over an eminence they fly so low as almost to touch it. When the 
wind is very high, and their course is against it, they fly in the same manner, 
taking advantage of the shelter. It used to afford me much pleasure, and 
probably would be interesting to most people, to observe, from one of the wild 
headlands of Harris, the pigeons flying swiftly and silently towards their homes, 
along the cliffs, while every now and then a string of cormorants, gannets, or 
guillemots would come up, and a straggling flock of gulls pursue their route in a 
desultory manner. 

" The notes of the Rock Dove resemble the syllables coo-roo-coo quickly 
repeated, the last prolonged. Its nuptials are celebrated with much cooing and 
circumambulation on the part of the male. A love-scene among the rocks is 
really an interesting sight. Concealed in a crevice or behind a projecting cliff, 
you see a pigeon alight beside you, and stand quietly for some time, when the 
whistling of pinions is heard, and the male bird shoots past like an arrow, and is 
already beside his mate. Scarcely has he made a rapid survey of the place, when, 
directing his attention to the only beautiful object which he sees, he approaches 
her. erecting his head, swelling out his breast by inflating his crop, and spreading 


his tail, at the same time uttering the well-known coo-roo-coo, the soft and some- 
what mournful sounds of which echo among the cliffs. The female, shy and 
timorous, sits close to the rock, shifting her position a little as the male advances, 
and sometimes stretching out her neck, as if to repel him by blows. The male 
continues his strutting and cooing, until the female, inadvertently coming upon 
the edge of the shelf, flies off to the dark recesses of the neighbouring cave, where 
she has scarcely alighted when her lover is again by her side. 

" Matters go on in this manner, and in the meantime a nest is gradually 
formed, which consists of withered stalks and blades of grass or other plants, not 
very neatly arranged, but disposed so as to answer the intended purpose. Two 
beautiful white eggs, of an elliptical form, one an inch and four-twelfths in length, 
an inch and one-twelfth in breadth, the other a little shorter, are then deposited, 
and in due time the young make their appearance. In about three weeks the 
young come abroad, and after being fed and instructed by their parents for some 
days, are left to shift for themselves. 

" The old birds soon repair their nest, and rear another brood. I cannot speak 
with certainty as to the precise number of broods raised in the course of a season, 
but I know that there are at least two. The first eggs are laid about the middle of 
April, and the latest young are seen about the end of September. It appears to 
me probable, from circumstances which have come under my observation, that the 
same nest is used for different broods ; and it is commonly believed, and not 
improbable, that these birds pair for life. The young are fed by their parents, 
who, applying their open mouth to that of the nestling, the mandibles of which 
enter the pharynx, force up the food from their crop, so as to be within reach of 
the bill of the young, which all the while flaps its wings, and utters a low cheep- 
ing note, indicative of its eagerness to have its wants supplied. 

" There can be no reasonable doubt that the Eock Dove is the original of our 
domestic pigeons, in fact the true Stock Dove, although that name has been given 
to another species. Individuals of the domesticated race which cannot be distin- 
guished from those of the wild, are of common occurrence ; and, however highly 
varieties may be prized, the blue, white-backed race is certainly the most beautiful. 
I have seen in the Hebrides a few house-pigeons which had deserted and lived 
among the wild doves. In various places along the east coast of Scotland, as 
at the Cove, near Aberdeen, at Dunottar Castle, near Stonehaven, and the Bass 
Eock, in the Firth of Forth, I have observed wild pigeons among the rocks. 
Some of them presented the pure unvarying tints of the Eock Dove, while others 
were of different shades of blue or purple. These were in all probability domestic 
pigeons that had run wild, and their descendants. The best places for studying 
the habits of the species, or for procuring specimens, are the islands of Lewis, 
Harris, Uist, Barray, Skye, the northern coasts of Scotland, the Shetland and 
Orkney Islands. 

" The hoys in the Outer Hebrides often attempt to rear young doves, but their 
cares are seldom continued long enough. They introduce the food, dry barley 


grain, by the side of the mouth, which occasions inflammation and swelling of 
the basal margins of the mandibles. When a boy, I had a young Rock Dove, 
which I fed for some time in this manner, until the bill became tumid and sore, 
when, in consequence of advice from a friend, I took a mouthful of barley and 
water, and introduced the pigeon's bill, when the bird soon satisfied itself, flapping 
its wings gently and uttering a low cry all the while. It grew up vigorously, shed 
the yellow down-tips of its feathers, and began to fly about. Towards the middle 
of autumn it renewed its plumage, and assumed the bright and beautiful tints 
of the adult male. Whenever I escaped from the detested pages of Virgil and 
Horace, the pigeon was sure to fly to me, and sometimes alighted on my head or 
shoulder, directing its bill towards my mouth, and flapping its wings. Nor did it 
ever fly off with the wild pigeons, which almost every day fed near the house, 
although it had no companions of its own species. At length some fatal whim 
induced it to make an excursion to a village about a mile distant, when it alighted 
on the roof of a hut, and the boys pelted it dead with stones. Long and true 
was my sorrow for my lost companion, the remembrance of which will probably 
continue as long as life. I have since mourned the loss of a far dearer dove. 
They were gentle and lovely beings ; but while the one has been blended with the 
elements, the other remains ' hid with Christ in God,' and for it I ' mourn not 
as those who have no hope.' 

" The young, which at first are covered with loose yellow down, are when 
fledged of the same colour as the old birds, the head and neck, however, being of a 
dull purplish-blue, without the bright green and purple tints of the old, and the 
wings tinged with brown. At the first moult, they acquire their full colouring, 
only that a little brown remains on the edge of the wings. 

" They are easily tamed when taken young; yet it is said that when not par- 
ticularly attended to, and supplied with abundance of food, they are more apt to 
fly away and join the flocks of their own species, than the common tame pigeon. 
They are seen in large flocks in the winter and spring months, when they frequent 
barn-yards much for food, especially when the ground is covered with snow. I 
have also seen them in large groups in the harvest-time, when that happened late 
in the year. 

" The crops of three obtained from Shetland were examined and found to be 
completely filled, up to the throat ; that of the first with a mixture of barley 
and oats of the same species as mentioned above, namely, bear and the small oat, 
with a considerable number of what appeared to be eggs of snails or Helices, being 
globular, dusky, a twelfth of an inch in diameter, their envelope membranous, and 
their contents a whitish fluid of the consistency of pus ; along with these sub- 
stances were fragments of pods of Eajthanus Raphanistrum. The crop of the 
second was crammed with oats, among which were a few seeds, apparently of 
polygona, and fragments of charlock pods. That of the third contained oat-seeds 
exclusively. In the gizzards were numerous fragments of quartz, generally white, 
but some tinged with chlorite, and a few of felspar and either gneiss or granite. 


They were for the most part highly polished, and did not exceed two-twelfths of an 
inch in diameter. 

" The number of oat-seeds in the crop of the second amounted to 1,000 and 
odds, and the barley-seeds in that of the other female were 510. Now, sup- 
posing there may be five thousand wild pigeons in Shetland, or in Fetlar, which 
feed on grain for sis months every year, and fill their crops once a day, half of 
them with barley, and half with oats, the number of seeds picked up by them 
would be 229,500,000 grains of barley, and 450,000,000 grains of oats ;— a 
quantity which would gladden many poor families in a season of scarcity. I am 
unable to estimate the number of bushels, and must leave the task to the curious. 
What is the number of pigeons, wild and tame, in Britain ; and how much grain 
do they pick from the fields and corn-yards ? It is probable that were the quantity 
of seeds of the cereal plants, which all the granivorous birds in the country devour 
annually, accurately known, it would prove much higher than could be imagined ; 
yet by far the greater part could be of no use to man, were all the birds destroyed, 
it being irrecoverably dispersed over the fields." 

Writing from Iona, Mr. Henry D. Graham states : — 

" The Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) is unknown upon our rocky woodless 
shores, but its absence is compensated for by great numbers of a smaller species — 
the Rock Dove. 

" The granite cliffs on the south of Mull, the basaltic crags of Staffa, and lofty 
precipices of trap rock upon the adjacent islands, are all perforated by innumerable 
caverns of every imaginable size and shape ; from the well-known majestic hall of 
Fingal, resounding with the sullen booming of ever-rolling waves, down to the 
little fairy grotto, whose cool white shell-sand is scarce dimpled by the sparkling 
ripples of the sheltered sea. Some of these caves are grand, and of lofty dimen- 
sions, with no floor but the deep blue water which heaves to and fro through their 
huge frowning portals ; others are romantic and picturesque, their rocks covered 
with many-coloured lichens, and their dark apertures fringed with shaggy heather 
and ivy, amongst which is browsing a wild mountain goat, with huge horns and 
beard. But many more of these caverns are horribly gloomy and forbidding — 
deep black dens, extending far beyond the reach of the light of day, stretching 
into the very bowels of the adamantine cliff : the air smells dank and foul, and 
the walls are dripping with unwholesome slime. It is dangerous to explore them 
further without striking a light, as you may meet deep holes and black pools 
of water ; and it is not unlikely but you may see the twinkling eyes of an 
otter peeping out through the gloom. These caves generally have legends 
attached to them, such as of fugitive clansmen hiding from the pursuit of 
the avenger of blood ; of wholesale deeds of murder, or of wild scenes of 
diablerie ; and the names of the Cave of Death, the Pit of Slaughter, and 
the Hobgoblin's Den, are often met with, and human bones actually are often 
discovered in them. 


" These haunts of bygone murderers, smugglers, and outlaws are now only 
tenanted by Eock Doves, the emblems of innocence. They may be seen perpetually 
flitting in and out, some parties going off to feed, others returning to rest ; a few 
birds sitting about the entrance, pluming themselves in the sunshine, or quietly 
dozing upon a sheltered ledge of rock. Upon a near approach, the cooing of the 
old birds may be heard, together with the querulous peep-peeping of the young 
demanding food, and the occasional stir of wings ; but upon any alarm being 
given, the voices are immediately silenced, the clang and whir of wings reverbe- 
rate from the profundity of the cave, and out pours a long stream of downy 
bosoms and silver wings, which swiftly skim along the surface of the sea, and 
disappear round the next headland. In Iona alone (though but a small island), 
we have as many as nine or ten caves frequented by pigeons ; and in nearly every 
island of the Hebrides, there is sure to be one cave called, par excellence, ' Ua' 
Caloman,' the Pigeon Cave. 

"I believe this dove is only found upon the coast, though I am not aware 
what attraction the sea-shore has for it ; certainly, with us, it exclusively inhabits 
the sea- caves, and never goes far inland. In the winter I have once or twice seen 
them sitting upon the rocks at low water, but I hardly think they were looking 
for food. They feed upon land snails — some small species which at certain times 
is found in considerable variety and vast abundance, spread over the low sandy 
pastures which skirt the sea. The stubbles, the newly-sown fields, and the stack- 
yards, are their principal resorts for food, and their crops are invariably to be 
found well distended with grain, though in winter it is difficult to account for 
their getting such good supplies, after the stubbles are picked clean, and the 
stack-yards cleared. They must sometimes go great distances for their daily 
food ; those which inhabit the small islands must, of course, always come to the 
mainland for the supply of grain — some a great distance. "When a large flock 
is suddenly raised while feeding in a corn-field, after wheeling up in the air, it 
breaks up into smaller parties, which dart off in various directions for their 
homes ; some across the seas, others to the nearer caves. 

" They seem to be migratory, to a certain extent in quest of food, at seed-time 
and harvest, if, as is often the case, the island crops are a little earlier than those 
on the mainland ; then our fields are covered with those petty plunderers, and 
at night the caves are filled with roosting birds, which remain about the island as 
long as food is very plentiful, and then decamp. I think, however, that individual 
birds are a good deal in the habit of frequenting the same localities, and roosting . 
in the same cave, until driven off by some cause. I have watched marked birds 
doing so ; especially last summer I was observing a large white male pigeon, 
which had evidently escaped from the cote : he took to himself a little wild mate, 
and reared a brood in one of the caves. I made a duty of destroying his family, 
which was easily done, as they were marked birds ; but he himself, though of 
such a conspicuous colour, always contrived to escape. He became very wary, 
from being pursued, and I remarked that he always frequented the same cave, till 


he received a random shot, after which I lost sight of him for a considerable 
time ; but I found him at last, located upon the other side of the island, where he 
remained till his death. 

" The Eock Dove's nest is made up of small sticks or heather, or dried sea- 
weed, and is lined with dried grass : the situation selected is any little ledge or 
cleft within the sheltering bosom of a rocky cavern. The eggs are two in number, 
generally producing male and female birds. The time for commencing their 
nestling seems rather variable : this year I found some young ones already hatched 
on the 2nd of April, while other pairs were only erecting their nests. They have 
several broods in the year, and their eggs may be found unhatched as late as 

" It is rather a timid bird if often shot at, but is by no means a shy or 
wary bird : in the fields the feeding flocks may often be openly approached, or the 
most barefaced attempts at stalking them will succeed. In the breeding season 
the hen will sit on the nest till approached, and never deserts it, though often 
disturbed, and her nest and eggs handled. She does not seek for inaccessible 
ledges to build her nest on, but takes any spot which offers, sometimes even the 
very floor of the cave. If her eggs are taken out, she will probably replace them ; 
and if her young are taken when half-fledged, she seems glad to get them so soon 
off her hands, and at once prepares for rearing her second brood. The young 
birds instantly become quite tame, and reconciled to hand feeding; indeed, as 
they grow up, their impertinent boldness becomes rather troublesome. They 
readily take to the dovecot, and pair with the tame pigeons ; even with fancy 
breeds, such as Fantails, etc. If a pair of real wild ones breed in confinement, 
their progeny at once show signs of diverging in colour from the natural uniform 
of their wild ancestry ; the young birds are of a dark slate-colour in their first 
plumage, though they have the same markings as the adult birds. The male 
is recognized from his mate by a slight superiority of size, and more lustrous 

" In a gastronomic point of view, these pigeons are one of the most valuable 
kind of birds which frequent our coasts. They are nearly always fat and in good 
condition, are numerous and always to be procured ; besides, being fed constantly 
upon our barley and oats, one can feel no compunction in levying a tribute upon 
them in return. 

" They are easiest shot while feeding abroad in the fields : at the caves, a 
shout will cause them to fly out, but with such suddenness and swiftness, that 
it requires something of a pigeon-shooter's knack to succeed in hitting them 
quick enough. An indifferent shot (after knocking over one or two which may be 
incautiously napping upon the outer ledges) had better conceal himself either in 
the cave or in a good position above it : in a short time the bird is sure to come 
darting swiftly for its accustomed haunts, but upon catching a glimpse of a 
lurking foe, he stops his rapid career, flutters his pinions for a moment, uncertain 
what to do; that momentary indecision is fatal — down he falls ! — while a roar 


of a volcano bellows along the vaulted roof, and tho cave is filled with wreaths of 
sulphureous smoke. 

" Writing from Iona, I must not conclude without reminding you of the name 
of our patron saint, St. Columba, the Dove that first brought to this land the 
olive branch of mercy." 



HATTXG- treated at length of the structure and habits of the Rock Dove, it is 
now desirable to enter upon the consideration of the production of the 
numerous varieties of Pigeons that are known to naturalists and fanciers, and 
which are regarded by all who have carefully studied the subject as being descended 
from the one wild species which has been so fully described in the last chapter. 

The Rock Dove is one of those animals that is capable of being domesticated by 
man. The opinion that the majority of animals could be domesticated is one that 
is very generally prevalent, but has no foundation whatever in fact. For example, 
if a pair of eggs from the nest of a wild Blue Rock are placed under a domestic 
pigeon that has been sitting the same length of time as the birds from which the 
eggs were taken, the latter will produce a pair of Blue Rocks, that will become 
domesticated, being attached to their domus, or home. 

On the other hand, if a pair of eggs from the Stock Dove (Columba anas), or the 
Ring Dove (Columba palumbus), be treated in a precisely similar manner, the birds 
so produced will not become domesticated. There is precisely the same difference 
between the fowl and the pheasant. The former is so attached to its home that 
the return of the brood at night has given rise to the proverb that " Curses, like 
chickens, always come home to roost." The pheasants, on the other hand, may 
have been tame-bred for twenty generations, and yet are no nearer true domestica- 
tion than their wild progenitors. 

The ease with which the Rock Dove is domesticated may be gathered from the 
anecdote so exquisitely told by Macgillivray in the last chapter (page 20) . This 
capability of perfect domestication is one of the conditions necessary to the produc- 
tion of distinct and numerous varieties. 

It is well known that all animals, even those living in perfectly natural condi- 
tions, are subject to certain variations, such as those of colour, form, size, &e. 
Thus we have not unfrequent examples of white moles, blackbirds, and other 
animals ; and changes of form and size are equally common. 

In birds as extensively distributed as the Rock Dove (Columba livia), slight local 
or geographical variations constantly occur. Thus, in India, all the wild Blue Rocks 
have ash-coloured feathers over the rump, whereas the European birds have, as is 
well known, white rumps ; and, as is well known to most fanciers, this white rump 
is one of the most difficult points to " breed out " in any of our Blue varieties ; 
whereas the Blue breeds derived from the Indian birds have, as might be expected, 



blue rumps. The exact character of this local variety is so well described by 
Jerdon, in his valuable and accurate work on the " Birds of India," that we have 
much pleasure in quoting the account. He writes : — 

" The common Blue Pigeon differs from the Columba livia of Europe only in 
having an ash-coloured instead of a pure white rump. This, however, appears to 
be constant, and as Blyth remarks, is also always observable in domesticated 
varieties in this country (India), when these assume the normal colouring. 

" The Blue Pigeon of India is one of the most common and abundant birds 
throughout the country, congregating in large flocks, and breeding wherever they 
can find suitable spots. They are most partial to large buildings, such as churches, 
pagodas, mosques, tombs, and the like ; frequently entering verandahs of inhabited 
houses, and building in the cornices. Holes in walls of cities or towns, too, are 
favourite places ; and in some parts of the country they prefer holes in wells, 
especially, I think, in the West of India, the Deccan, &c. In default of such spots, 
they will breed in crevices and cavities of rocks, caverns and sea-side cliffs ; and I 
have often noticed that they are particularly partial to rocky cliffs by waterfalls. 
The celebrated falls of Gaiss-oppa are tenanted by thousands of Blue Pigeons, 
which here associate with the large Alpine Swift. It is more rare in forest 
countries generally than in the open country. It extends from Ceylon throughout 
India to the Himalayas, and also to Assam, Sylhet, and Burmah. It is doubtful 
if it occurs in Affghanistan, or in other parts of Central Asia. These pigeons are 
held in favour by most natives, and almost venerated by some ; and if they build 
in the house of a native, he considers it a most fortunate omen. 

" They are, however, very destructive to grain, assembling in vast flocks in the 
cold weather, and, in general, the natives do not object to their being shot. They 
are undoubtedly the origin of most of the domestic pigeons of India." 

Another local variety exists in the South of England, a third in Italy, a fourth 
in Africa. These all vary slightly in their markings ; thus, the English variety 
has a chequered instead of a pure blue wing. These were formerly regarded by 
some naturalists as distinct species, but are now universally regarded as mere 
local variations. As the authority of the eminent naturalist, Mr. Blyth, has been 
quoted by Dixon and others in support of the view that these races constitute dis- 
tinct species, we have much pleasure in reproducing a short extract from the 
proceedings of the Dublin Natural History Society for 18G6, in which Mr. Blyth 
stated : — 

" With regard to the Spotted Pigeon, occurring in the South of England, which he 
had been the first to distinguish as a particular race, by the name Columba affinis, 
he had now been long aware that it was no other than the common dovecote race, 
which was bred in multitudes, to be turned out at pigeon matches. There are 
many local races, or sub-species, each of which occupies its own area upon the 
earth's surface : thus there is a Columba turretum (so called) in Italy, and a 
Columba intermedia in India, and the Indo-Chinese countries, the common Blue 
Pigeon of that region, which barely differs from the European Columba livia, 


except in constantly wanting the white above the tail. He had watched great 
flocks of these birds, as especially those crowding about the many suitable nooks 
of the great mosque of Aurungzebe, at Benares, looking down upon them from 
the top of one of the two famous lofty minarets of that edifice, and had observed 
in them no variation of colour; but this race particularly frequents large buildings 
equally with rocky precipices, whether inland or by the sea-side, as also old ruinous 
walls ; and in parts of the country where such do not occur, it breeds abundantly 
far down the shafts of deep wells ; and in towns and villages it merges insensibly 
into domesticity ; and among the more or less domesticated individuals are very 
many that exhibit the spotted wing of the (so called) Columba affinis. He would, 
moreover, remark that among the domestic pigeons of India, it is as rare to see the 
white rump as is the reverse in Europe. In Middle x\sia another cognate race 
exists in the Columba rupestris of Pallas, which occurs in Thibet and in the 
British province of Kemaon. High upon the Himalayas there is the Columba 
leuconota, which is another true rock pigeon, though differing more from the rest 
in plumage ; and in Abyssinia, again, there is a peculiar corresponding race of 
Blue Pigeon, which is denominated Columba schimperi ; as in Senegal there is 
even another, denominated Columba gymnoeyclos, by Mr. G. R. Gray. The 
decided use of applying names to such distinguishable geographical races was, 
that each of them could thus be severally and definitively referred to by its special 
designation. This was a practical advantage, wholly irrespective of the zoological 
value to be attached to such appellation, about which there would of course be 
difference of opinion. The whole of the races mentioned, Mr. Blyth fully 
believed, would intermingle in domesticity, and produce completely fertile hybrids, 
or, should he not rather call them sub-hybrids." 

There can be no doubt, as Mr. Blyth surmises, that all these races will inter- 
mingle with the greatest readiness, and produce perfectly fertile progeny, which 
can only be regarded as mongrels between different varieties or breeds, and not as 
hybrids between two distinct species. 

Variations, however, of a much more striking character, not unfrequently occur 
in single cases of wild birds ; but when they take place in a state of nature, they 
are not very likely to be propagated, inasmuch as a bird with any variation of 
plumage or form will almost of necessity mate with one of the ordinary character, 
the offspring again do the same, so that in a very few generations all trace of 
any singular variation is apt to be lost. 

In a state of domesticity, however, any singular variation would be noticed, and, 
by careful selection of breeding stock, would be perpetuated, and even increased. 
In this manner all the different breeds have been produced. Some Indian fanciers 
in distant ages (for pigeons have been kept as domestic pets many hundreds of years 
in India), observing that certain pigeons were produced with extra feathers in the 
tails, mated them together, and again selecting those of the offspring that showed 
the desired characters, succeeded eventually in producing the Fantail. Some short 
time since a pigeon was forwarded to the writer, with a second or supplementary 


tail, consisting of three quill feathers, growing out between the shoulders. Unfor- 
tunately, the bird had been shot, otherwise there would have been but little 
difficulty in establishing a race of two-tailed Pigeons from this singular variation. 
It is needless to go through all the varieties in succession, for the same principle 
applies to the production of each. The recurved feathers of the Jacobin and other 
breeds, the long beak of the Carrier, the length of plumage and limb in the 
Pouter, &c, &c, all owe their origin to natural variations which have been per- 
petuated and intensified by the careful selection exercised by the breeders through 
many successive generations. 

We know that this view is widely opposed to the general ideas of persons who 
have not very carefully studied the subject, and would therefore call attention to 
the following passage from " The Origin of Species," by Mr. Charles Darwin, in 
which the facts bearing on this question are very fully stated : — 

"Great as the differences are between the breeds of pigeons, lam fully con- 
vinced that the common opinion of naturalists is correct, namely, that all have 
descended from the Eock Pigeon (Columba livid), including, under this term, 
several geographical races or sub-species, which differ from each other in the 
most trifling respects. As several of the reasons which have led me to this 
belief are in some degree applicable in other cases, I will here briefly give them. 

" If the several breeds are not varieties, and have not proceeded from the Eock 
Pigeon, they must have descended from at least seven or eight aboriginal stocks ; 
for it is impossible to make the present domestic breeds by the crossing of any 
lesser number: how, for instance, could a Pouter be produced by crossing two 
breeds, unless one of the parent-stocks possessed the characteristic enormous 
crop ? The supposed aboriginal stocks must all have been Eock Pigeons, that is, 
not breeding or willingly perching on trees. But besides C. livia, with its geo- 
graphical sub-species, only two or three other species of Eock Pigeons are known ; 
and these have not any of the characters of the domestic breeds. Hence the 
supposed aboriginal stocks must either still exist in the countries where they were 
originally domesticated, and yet be unknown to ornithologists — and this, con- 
sidering their size, habits, and remarkable characters, seems very improbable — or 
they must have become extinct in the wild state. But birds building on precipices, 
and good flyers, are unlikely to be exterminated ; and the common Eock Pigeon, 
which has the same habits with the domestic breeds, has not been exterminated 
even on several of the smaller British islets, or on the shores of the Mediterranean. 
Hence the supposed extermination of so many species having similar habits 
with the Eock Pigeon seems to me a very rash assumption. Moreover, the several 
above-named domesticated breeds have been transported to all parts of the 
world, and, therefore, some of them must have been earned back again into 
their native country; but not one has ever become wild or feral, though the 
Dovecote Pigeon, which is the Eock Pigeon in a very slightly altered state, 
has become feral in several places. Again, all recent experience shows that it is 
most difficult to get any wild animal to breed freely under domestication ; yet, 


on the hypothesis of the multiple origin of our pigeons, it must be assumed 
that at least seven or eight species were so thoroughly domesticated in ancient 
times by half-civilized man, as to be quite prolific under confinement. 

" An argument, as it seems to me, of great weight, and applicable in several 
other cases, is, that the above-specified breeds, though agreeing generally in con- 
stitution, habits, voice, colouring, and in most parts of their structure, with the 
wild Eock Pigeon, yet are certainly highly abnormal in other parts of their struc- 
ture, we may look in vain throughout the whole great family of Columbidce for a 
beak like that of the English Carrier, or that of the Short-faced Tumbler, or 
Barb ; for reversed feathers like those of the Jacobin ; for a crop like that of the 
Pouter ; for tail-feathers like those of the Fantail. Hence it must be assumed, not 
only that half-civilized man succeeded in thoroughly domesticating several species, 
but that he intentionally or by chance picked out extraordinarily abnormal 
species ; and, further, that these very species have since all become extinct or 
unknown. So many strange contingencies seem to me improbable in the highest 

" Some facts in regard to the colouring of pigeons well deserve consideration. 
The Eock Pigeon is of a slaty-blue, and has a white rump (the Indian sub-species, 
C. intermedia of Strickland, having it bluish) ; the tail has a terminal dark 
bar, with the bases of the outer feathers externally edged with white ; the wings 
have two black bars ; some semi-domestic breeds and some apparently truly wild 
breeds have, besides the two black bars, the wings chequered with black. These 
several marks do not occur together in any other species of the whole family. 
Now, in every one of the domestic breeds, taking thoroughly well-bred birds, all 
the above marks, even to the white edging of the outer tail-feathers, sometimes 
concur perfectly developed. 

" Moreover, when two birds belonging to two distinct breeds are crossed, neither 
of which is blue or has any of the above-specified marks, the mongrel offspring 
are very apt suddenly to acquire these characters. To give one instance out 
of several which I have observed : I crossed some white Fantails, which breed 
very true, with some black Barbs, and it so happens that blue varieties of Barbs 
are so rare that I never heard of an instance in England, — and the mongrels 
were black, brown, and mottled. I also crossed a Barb with a Spot, which is a 
white bird with a red tail and red spot on the forehead, and which notoriously 
breeds very true. The mongrels were dusky and mottled. 

" I then crossed one of the mongrel Barb-Fantails with a mongrel Barb- Spot, 
and they produced a bird of as beautiful a blue colour, with the white croup 
(rump), double black wing-bars, and barred and white-edged tail-feathers, as 
any wild Eock Pigeon ! We can understand these facts, on the well-known 
principle of reversion to ancestral characters, if all the domestic breeds have 
descended from the Eock Pigeon. But if we deny this, we must make one of 
the two following highly improbable suppositions. Either, firstly, that all the several 
imagined aboriginal stocks were coloured and marked like the Eock Pigeon, 


although no other existing species is thus coloured and marked, so that in each 
separate breed there might be a tendency to revert to the very same colours and 
markings ; or, secondly, that each breed, even the purest, has within a dozen, or, 
at most, within a score of generations, been crossed by the Eock Pigeon. I say 
within a dozen or twenty generations, for we know of no fact countenancing the 
belief that the child ever reverts to some one ancestor removed by a greater 
number of generations. In a breed which has been crossed only once with some 
distinct breed, the tendency to reversion to any character derived from such cross 
will naturally become less and less, as in each succeeding generation there will be 
less of the foreign blood ; but when there has been no cross with a distinct breed, 
and there is a tendency in both parents to revert to a character which has been 
lost during some former generation, this tendency, for all that we can see to the 
contrary, may be transmitted undiminished for an indefinite number of genera- 
tions. These two distinct cases are often confounded in treatises on inheritance. 

"Lastly, the hybrids or mongrels from between all the domestic breeds of 
pigeons are perfectly fertile. I can state this from my own observations, purposely 
made on the most distinct breeds. Now, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to 
bring forward one case of the hybrid offspring of two animals clearly distinct, 
being themselves perfectly fertile. Some authors believe that long-continued 
domestication eliminates this strong tendency to sterility : from the history of the 
dog, I think there is some probability in this hypothesis, if applied to species 
closely related together, though it is unsupported by a single experiment. But to 
extend the hypothesis so far as to suppose that species aboriginally as distinct 
as Carriers, Tumblers, Pouters, and Fantails now are, should yield offspring 
perfectly fertile, inter se, seems to me rash in the extreme. 

" From these several reasons, namely, the improbability of man having 
formerly got seven or eight supposed species of pigeons to breed freely under 
domestication ; these supposed species being quite unknown in a wild state, and 
their becoming nowhere feral ; these species having very abnormal characters in 
certain respects, as compared with all other Columbidce, though so like in most 
other respects to the Rock Pigeon ; the blue colour and various marks occasionally 
appearing in all the breeds, both when kept pure and when crossed ; the mongrel 
offspring being perfectly fertile : from these several reasons, taken together, I can 
feel no doubt that all our domestic breeds have descended from the Columba livia, 
with its geographical sub-species. 

" In favour of this view, I mav add, firstly, that C. livia, or the Piock 
Pigeon, has been found capable of domestication in Europe and in India, and 
that it agrees in habits and in a great number of points of structure with all the 
domestic breeds. Secondly, although an English Carrier, or Short-faced Tumbler, 
differs immensely in certain characters from the Piock Pigeon, yet by comparing 
the several sub-breeds of these breeds, more especially those brought from distant 
countries, we can make an almost perfect series between the extremes of structure. 
Thirdly, those characters which are mainly distinctive of each breed ; -for instance, 


the wattle and length of beak of the Carrier, the shortness of that of the 
Tumbler, and the number of tail-feathers in the Fantail, are in each breed 
eminently variable : and the explanation of this fact will be obvious when wo 
come to treat of selection. Fourthly, pigeons have been watched and tended 
with the utmost care, and loved by many people. They have been domesticated 
for thousands of years in several quarters of the world. The earliest known 
record of pigeons is in the fifth Egyptian dynasty, about 3000 B.C., as was 
pointed out to me by Professor Lepsius ; but Mr. Birch informs me that pigeons 
are given in a bill of fare in the previous dynasty. In the time of the Komans, 
as we hear from Pliny, immense prices were given for pigeons : ' Nay, they are 
come to this pass, that they can reckon up their pedigree and race.' Pigeons were 
much valued by Akber Khan in India, about the year 1600 : never less than 
20,000 pigeons were taken with the court. ' The monarchs of Iran and Turan 
sent him some very rare birds.' ' And,' continues the same courtly historian, 'his 
Majesty, by crossing the breeds, which method was never practised before, has 
improved them astonishingly.' About this same period, the Dutch were as eager 
about pigeons as were the old Romans. 

" The paramount importance of these considerations, in explaining the 
immense amount of variation which pigeons have undergone, is obvious. We 
see how it is that the breeds so often have a somewhat monstrous character. 

" It is also a most favourable circumstance for the production of distinct breeds, 
that male and female pigeons can be easily mated for life ; and thus different 
breeds can be kept together in the same aviary." 

The success of the fancier in perpetuating the different varieties of pigeons 
depends on the tendency in the young to reproduce the natural peculiarities of the 
parents. It is always to be remembered that variations occurring naturally are 
alone capable of being thus reproduced. Any artificial alteration has no effect on 
the offspring, even when the same alteration is produced in many successive gene- 
rations. Thus, in some tribes of North American Indians, the custom of flattening 
the fore part of the skull has been constantly practised, but no child is ever born 
with this peculiarity. Many generations of horses have had their tails docked in 
obedience to the dictates of an absurd fashion, yet a breed of dock-tailed horses 
has not been produced. Game cocks have had their combs and wattles cut 
off for at least fifty generations, nevertheless, the young birds are always pro- 
duced with these appendages of the full size. 

The perpetuation of variations artificially or accidentally produced would be 
an evil of enormous magnitude. Were every accidental loss in the parent to 
be reproduced in the offspring, no race of animals would be free from defects 
that would go on increasing, generation after generation, and would ultimately 
result in the extinction of the species. If the loss of a limb was thus trans- 
mitted from father to son, the whole human race would, long ere this, have 
been a generation of maimed and helpless cripples. 

On the other hand, any variation occurring naturally always has a tendency 


to reproduce itself. Even those slight variations which constitute individual 
peculiarities are so constantly reproduced, that we look in children for what is 
termed "the family likeness" to their parents; and where there is any decided 
departure from the normal type, this has a still stronger tendency to reappear 
in the progeny of the individual. Among naturalists, this tendency to revert 
to the ancestral type is termed Atavism, from Atavus, an ancestor. Professor 
Huxley, in his Lectures on "The Phenomena of Organic Nature," has entered 
very fully into this subject, and he gives some striking illustrations of the 
mode in which varieties are established. He states : — 

" One very remarkable case came under Reaumur's notice of a variation in the 
form of a human member, in the person of a Maltese, of the name of Gratio 
Kelleia, who was born with six fingers upon each hand, and the like number of 
toes to each of his feet. That was a case of spontaneous variation. Nobody 
knows why he was born with that number of fingers and toes, and as we don't 
know, we call it a case of ' spontaneous ' variation. There is another remarkable 
case also. I select these, because they happen to have been observed and noted 
very carefully at the time. It frequently happens that a variation occurs, but the 
persons who notice it do not take any care in noting down the particulars, until at 
length, when inquiries come to be made, the exact circumstances are forgotten ; 
and hence, multitudinous as may be such ' spontaneous ' variations, it is 
exceedingly difficult to get at the origin of them. 

"The second case is one of which you may find the whole details in the 
' Philosophical Transactions ' for the year 1813, in a paper communicated by 
Colonel Humphrey to the President of the Royal Society, — ' On a New Variety in 
the Breed of Sheep,' giving an account of a very remarkable breed of sheep, 
which at one time was well known in the northern states of America, and which 
went by the name of the Ancon or the Otter breed of sheep. In the year 1791, 
there was a farmer of the name of Seth Wright in Massachusetts, who had a flock 
of sheep, consisting of a ram, and, I think, of some twelve or thirteen ewes. Of 
this flock of ewes, one at the breeding time bore a lamb which was very singularly 
formed ; it had a very long body, very short legs, and those legs were bowed ! 
I will tell you by-and-by how this singular variation in the breed of sheep came 
to be noted, and to have the prominence that it now has. For the present, I 
mention only these two cases ; but the extent of variation in the breed of anjmals 
is perfectly obvious to any one who has studied natural history with ordinary 
attention, or to any person who compares animals with others of the same kind. 

" Now let us go back to Atavism, — to the hereditary tendency I spoke of. What 
will come of a variation when you breed from it, when Atavism comes, if 1 may 
say so, to intersect variation '? The two cases of which I have mentioned the 
history, give a most excellent illustration of what occurs. Gratio Kelleia, the 
Maltese, married when he was twenty-two years of age, and, as I suppose there 
were no six-fingered ladies in Malta, he married an ordinary five-fingered person. 
The result of that marriage was four children ; the first, who was christened 


Salvator, had sis fingers and sis toes, like his father ; the second was George, 
who had five fingers and toes, hut one of them was deformed, showing a tendency 
to variation ; the third was Andre, he had five fingers and five toes, quite perfect ; 
the fourth was a girl, Marie ; she had five fingers and five toes, hut her thumbs 
were deformed, showing a tendency towards the sixth. 

" These children grew up, and when they came to adult years, they all married, 
and of course it happened that they all married five-fingered and five-toed persons. 
Now let us see what were the results. Salvator had four children ; they were two 
boys, a girl, and another boy : the first two boys and the girl were six-fingered 
and six-toed like their grandfather ; the fourth boy had only five fingers and five 
toes. George had only four children : there were two girls with six fingers and 
sis toes ; there was one girl with six fingers and five toes on the right side, and 
five fingers and five toes on the left side, so that she was half and half. The last, 
a boy, had five fingers and five toes. The third, Andre, you will recollect, was 
perfectly well-formed, and he had many children whose hands and feet were all 
regularly developed. Marie, the last, who, of course, married a man who had 
only five fingers, had four children : the first, a boy, was born with sis toes, but 
the other three were normal. 

"Now observe what very estraordinary phenomena are presented here. You have 
an accidental variation arising from what you may call a monstrosity ; you have 
that monstrosity tendency or variation diluted in the first instance by an admix- 
ture with a female of normal construction, and you would naturally expect that, in 
the results of such an union, the monstrosity, if repeated, would be in equal pro- 
portion with the normal type ; that is to say, that the children would be half and 
half, some taking the peculiarity of the father, and the others being of the purely 
normal type of the mother ; but you see we have a great preponderance of the 
abnormal type. Well, this comes to be mixed once more with the pure, the 
normal type, and the abnormal is again produced in large proportion, notwith- 
standing the second dilution. Now, what would have happened if these abnormal 
types had intermarried with each other ? that is to say, suppose the two boys of 
Salvator had taken it into their heads to marry their first cousins, the two first 
girls of George, their uncle ? You will remember that these are all of the abnormal 
type of their grandfather. The result would probably have been, that their off- 
spring would have been in every case a further development of that abnormal type. 
You see it is only in the fourth, in the person of Marie, that the tendency, when 
it appears but slightly in the second generation, is washed out in the third, while 
the progeny of Andre, who escaped in the first instance, escape altogether. 

" We have in this case a good example of nature's tendency to the perpetuation 
of a variation. Here it is certainly a variation which carried with it no use or 
benefit ; and yet you see the tendency to perpetuation may be so strong that, 
notwithstanding a great admixture of pure blood, the variety continues itself up to 
the third generation, which is largely marked with it. In this case, as I have 
said, there was no means of the second generation intermarrying with any but 



five-fingered persons, and the question naturally suggests itself — What would have 
been the result of such marriage ? Reaumur narrates this case only as far as the 
third generation. Certainly it would have been an exceedingly curious thing if we 
could have traced this matter any further ; had the cousins intermarried, a six- 
fingered variety of the human race might have been set up. 

" To show you that this supposition is by no means an unreasonable one, let me 
now point out what took p>lace in the case of Seth Wright's sheep, where it 
happened to be a matter of moment to him to obtain a breed or raise a flock of 
sheep like that accidental variety that I have described — and I will tell you why. 
In that part of Massachusetts where Seth Wright was living, the fields were 
separated by fences, and the sheep, which were very active and robust, would 
roam abroad, and without much difficulty jump over these fences into other 
people's farms. As a matter of course, this exuberant activity on the part of the 
sheep constantly gave rise to all sorts of quarrels, bickerings, and contentions 
among the farmers of the neighbourhood ; so it occurred to Seth Wright, who 
was, like his successors, more or less 'cute, that if he could get a stock of sheep 
like those with the bandy legs, they would not be able to jump over the fences so 
readily, and he acted upon that idea. He killed his old ram, and as soon as the 
young one arrived at maturity, he bred altogether from it. The result was even 
more striking than in the human experiment which I mentioned just now. 
Colonel Humphreys testifies that it always happened that the offspring were either 
pure Ancons or pure ordinary sheep ; that in no case was there any mixing of the 
Ancons with the others. In consequence of this, in the course of a very few 
years, the farmer was able to get a very considerable flock of this variety, and a 
large number of them were spread throughout Massachusetts. Most unfor- 
tunately, however — I suppose it was because they were so common — nobody took 
enough notice of them to preserve their skeletons ; and although Colonel Hum- 
phreys states that he sent a skeleton to the president of the Royal Society at 
the same time that he forwarded his paper, I am afraid that the variety has 
entirely disappeared ; for a short time after these sheep had become prevalent in 
that district, the Merino sheep were introduced ; and as their wool was much more 
valuable, and as they were a quiet race of sheep, and showed no tendency to 
trespass or jump over fences, the Otter breed of sheep, the wool of which was 
inferior to that of the Merino, was gradually allowed to die out. 

" You see that these facts illustrate perfectly well what may be done if you take 
care to breed from stocks that are similar to each other. After having got a varia- 
tion, if, by crossing a variation with the original stock, you multiply that variation, 
and then take care to keep that variation distinct from the original stock, and make 
them breed together, then you may almost certainly produce a race whose tendency 
to continue the variation is exceedingly strong. 

" This is what is called 'selection;' and it is by exactly the same process as 
that by which Seth Wright bred his Ancon sheep, that our breeds of cattle, dogs, 
vnd fowls are obtained. There are some possibilities of exception, but still, 


speaking broadly, I may say that this is the way in which all our varied races of 
domestic animals have arisen ; and you must understand that it is not one pecu- 
liarity or one characteristic alone in which animals may vary. There is not a 
single peculiarity or characteristic of any kind, bodily or mental, in which offspring 
may not vary to a certain extent from the parent and other animals. 

" A striking case of what may be done by selective breeding has been studied 
very carefully by Mr. Darwin, — the case of the domestic pigeons. I daresay 
there may be some, among you who may be pigeon fanciers, and I wish you to 
understand that in approaching the subject, I would speak with all humility and 
hesitation, as I regret to say that I am not a pigeon fancier. I know it is a great 
art and mystery, and a thing upon which a man must not speak lightly ; but I 
shall endeavour, as far as my understanding goes, to give you a summary of the 
published and unpublished information which I have gained from Mr. Darwin. 

"Among the enormous variety, — I believe there are somewhere about a hundred 
and fifty kinds of pigeons, — there are four kinds which may be selected as repre- 
senting the estremest divergences of one kind from another. Their names are the 
Carrier, the Pouter, the Fantail, and the Tumbler. In these large diagrams that 
I have here, they are each represented in their relative sizes to each other. This 
first one is the Carrier ; you will notice this large excrescence on its beak ; it 
has a comparatively small head ; there is a bare space round the eyes ; it has a 
long neck, a very long beak, very strong legs, large feet, long wings, and so on. 
The second one is the Pouter, a very large bird, with very long legs and beak. It 
is called the Pouter because it is in the habit of causing its gullet to swell up by 
inflating it with air. I should tell you that all pigeons have a tendency to do this 
at times, but in the Pouter it is carried to an enormous extent. The birds appear 
to be quite proud of their power of swelling and puffing themselves out in this 
way ; and I think it is about as droll a sight as you can well see to look at a cage 
full of these pigeons puffing and blowing themselves out in this ridiculous 

" This diagram is a representation of the third kind I mentioned — the Fan tail. 
It is, you see, a small bird, with exceedingly small legs and a very small beak. 
It is most curiously distinguished by the size and extent of its tail, which, 
instead of containing twelve feathers, may have many more, — say thirty, or even 
more — I believe there are some with as many as forty-two. This bird has a 
curious habit of spreading out the feathers of its tail in such a way that they 
reach forward and touch its head ; and if this can be accomplished, I believe it is 
looked upon as a point of great beauty. 

" But here is the last great variety — the Tumbler ; and of that great variety, 
one of the principal kinds, and one most prized, is the specimen represented here 
— the Short-faced Tumbler. Its beak, you see, is reduced to a mere nothing. 
Just compare the beak of this one and that of the first one, the Carrier. I believe 
the orthodox comparison of the head and beak of a thoroughly well-bred Tumbler 
is to stick an oat into a cherry, and that will give you the proper relative propor- 

36 • PIGEONS. 

tions of the head and beak. The feet and legs are exceedingly small, and tho 
bird appears to be quite a dwarf when placed side by side with this great Carrier. 

" These are differences enough in regard to their external appearance; but these 
differences are by no means the whole or even the most important of the differences 
which obtain between these birds. There is hardly a single point of their 
structure which has not become more or less altered ; and to give you an idea of 
how extensive these alterations are, I have here some very good skeletons, for 
which I am indebted to my friend, Mr. Tegetmeier, a great authority in these 
matters ; by means of which, if you examine them by-and-by, you will be able to 
see the enormous difference in their bony structures. 

" I had the privilege, some time ago, of access to some important manuscripts 
of Mr. Darwin,* who, I may tell you, has taken very great pains and spent much 
valuable time and attention on the investigation of these variations, and getting 
together all the facts that bear upon them. I obtained from these manuscripts 
the following summary of the differences between the domestic breeds of pigeons ; 
that is to say, a notification of the various points in which their organization 
differs. In the first place, the back of the skull may differ a good deal, and the 
development of the bones of the face may vary a great deal; the back varies a 
good deal ; the shape of the lower jaw varies ; the tongue varies very greatly, not 
only in correlation to the length and size of the beak, but it seems also to have a 
kind of independent variation of its own. Then the amount of naked skin round 
the eyes, and at the base of the beak, may vary enormously ; so may the length 
of the eyelids, the shape of the nostrils, and the length of the neck. I have 
already noticed the habit of blowing out the gullet, so remarkable in the Pouter, 
and comparatively so in the others. There are great differences, too, in the size 
of the female and the male, the shape of the body, the number and width of 
the processes of the ribs, the development of the ribs, and the size, shape, and 
development of the breastbone. We may notice, too, — and I mention the fact 
because it has been disputed by what is assumed to be high authority, — the varia- 
tion in number of the sacral vertebra?. The number of these varies from eleven to 
fourteen, and that without any diminution in the number of the vertebra? of tho 
back or of the tail. Then the number and position of the tail-feathers may vary 
enormously, and so may the number of the primary and secondary feathers of the 
wings. Again, the length of the feet and of the beak, — although they have no rela- 
tion to each other, yet appear to go together, — that is, you have a long beak wherever 
you have long feet. There are differences also in the periods of the acquire- 
ment of the perfect plumage, — the size and shape of the eggs, — the nature of flight, 
and the powers of flight, — so-called ' homing' birds having enormous flying powers ; 
while, on the other hand, the little Tumbler is so called because of its extraordi- 

* The manuscript to which Professor Huxley referred was that of " The Variation of Animals 
and Plants under Domestication ; or, the Principles of Inheritance, Reversion, Crossing, Inter- 
breeding, and Selection," by Charles Darwin, M.A., F.R.S., author of " The Origin of Species by 
Variation." London, John Murray. 2 vols. 8vo. 1867. 


nary faculty of turning head over heels in the air, instead of pursuing a distinct 
course. And, lastly, the dispositions and voices of the birds may vary. Thus the 
case of the pigeons shows you that there is hardly a single particular, — whether of 
instinct, or habit, or bony structure, or of plumage, — of either the internal economy 
or the external shape, in which some variation or change may not take place, which, 
by selective breeding, may become perpetuated, and form the foundation of, and 
give rise to, a new race." 



HAVING considered at some length the structure and hahits of the Rock Dove, 
and the theory of the origin and perpetuation of the different varieties or 
breeds, we have now to regard the pigeon as a domesticated animal, and in 
the first instance to describe the appliances and food that are found best suited 
to its condition as a domestic bird. Of the old-fashioned dovecote little need be 
said. Formerly, when the supply of fresh animal food during winter was a matter 
of great difficulty, the well-stocked dovecote was regarded as an almost indis- 
pensable addition to every country mansion, and severe penal laws, still unrepealed, 
were passed for the protection of the inmates. At the present time, when im- 
proved processes of husbandry give us an abundant supply of beef and mutton 
during the whole year, dovecotes have lost much of their economic value, and 
are retained as appendages to many aristocratic country residences, more from old 
associations than from any particular value. Dovecotes were generally constructed 
of stone, in the form either of circular towers or placed over a gateway or park lodge. 
The entrance was not unfrequently made at some distance from the ground, and 
only to be reached by a ladder, so as to prevent the access of rats, cats, weasels, 
polecats, foxes, and other enemies. The interior of the tower was furnished with 
numerous holes or restiug-places, built either of stone or constructed of wood. In 
these dovecotes large numbers of young birds were reared, and furnished a useful 
addition to the larder. 

At the present time, pigeons are usually kept either in pigeon-houses or in 
lofts or rooms specially devoted to the purpose. A pigeon-house on a pole may 
possibly be regarded as a picturesque addition to a farm or stable yard, but a 
worse residence for the birds it would be almost impossible to devise. The 
pigeons in these houses are exposed to all the variations of weather. During the 
great heat of summer the close nests become offensive from the accumulation of 
dung and swarm with vermin. Iu the cold weather the young birds frequently 
perish from the low temperature to which they are exposed, and at all seasons of 
the year the driving rain is apt to saturate the nests and destroy the vitality of the 
eggs or the life of the unfledged birds. It is obvious that a pigeon-house can only 
afford comfortable breeding quarters during a small proportion of the year ; and in 
inclement seasons is a dreary habitation even tcr full-grown birds. The result of 



these disadvantages is, that the same number of birds will not rear half the number 
of young in an exposed pigeon-house that they would if placed in a comfortable, 
well-sheltered loft or room. 

If pigeon-houses are employed at all, they should always have a broad roof, 
projecting far over the sides, so as to screen off the rain as far as possible. 
Houses on poles are worse even than lockers placed against a wall, as being 
less sheltered, and offering the smallest amount of accommodation for the 

The following plan for their improvement has been proposed by E. S. Delamer, 
who writes : — 

" The best pole-house with which we are acquainted, is that of which a plan and 
elevation are given in the accompanying cuts (sec Figure VI.). A pair of birds 




H* 12 








< 2J07z -. 


take possession of the suite of apartments whose landing-place is marked A. They 
will probably pass through the vestibule B, when they first bring in straws for a nest, 
and deposit them in one of the chambers, as C. When the young are a fortnight 
or three weeks old, the hen will probably leave them mostly to the care of the 
cock, and make a fresh nest, and lay in the opposite apartment, D. As soon as 
the first pair of young are flown, C will be vacant for the hatching of a third 
brood, and so, by shifting alternately from parlour to study, and never being 
idle, a good pair of birds will produce quite a little flock by the end of the 

"It is easy to make use of this arrangement on a larger scale, or to apply it 
to the triangular frames of lockers which are fixed against barns and other 

There can be no doubt that this plan is really far superior to the ordinary 
pole-house, as offering much more accommodation to the sitting birds : the 
design, however, is capable of considerable improvement. If the sloping boards 
forming the roof were much larger, so as to extend farther over the ends 
and sides, the upper story would be more perfectly sheltered from sun and rain ; 
and if the alighting boards, or landing-places (A, A), extended along the entire 



length of the sides, they would be more convenient for the birds, and those 
belonging to the upper story would serve to shelter the lower nesting-places from 
the weather. 

Pigeon lockers, or houses placed against a wall, should have a southerly aspect, 
and be well protected by a broad projecting roof; but, under even the most 
favourable circumstances, they must be regarded as greatly inferior in productive- 
ness to lofts or rooms. 

It seldom occurs that a room is specially built for pigeons ; but where there is 
any choice of locality, it is best to select one that is open to the south, so as to 
get a warm aspect in winter and early spring, as that tends to encourage early 
breeding, and is more healthy for the birds than a room exposed to the cold 
blasts from the north. It is not uncommon to see many pigeon rooms or lofts 
that are very deficient in light : this is particularly objectionable. A dark room 
is not as healthy for the birds, especially if they are not suffered to fly out ; and 
it can hardly be as well cleaned as one which is well lighted. Moreover, the 
owner is not able to see his birds conveniently, or to examine the nests when 

Another point, of the highest importance to the health of the birds, is the 
establishment of a good system of ventilation. Nine-tenths of the diseases that 
afflict our high-bred pigeons arise from their being crowded together in dark, 
dirty, ill-ventilated lofts. There is no necessity for an absolute draught of wind to 
be allowed to rush through the loft, but full provision must be made for ventilation, 
if healthy birds are desired. 

Cleanliness in the pigeon-loft is no less essential than ventilation, particularly if 
many birds are kept, and they are not flown. The loft should be cleared out daily. 
Under no circumstances should the dung be suffered to accumulate until it 
becomes offensive to the smell. 

Fresh gravel, sand, or dry earth should be thickly strewn on the floor every day, 
and the dung that accumulates in the nest-boxes and around the nest-pans not 
suffered to collect so as to be offensive. The most convenient instrument for 
clearing the shelves will be found to be a small hoe fixed on a short handle about 
eight or ten inches in length. 

Pigeons are often kept in lofts, or in the spaces under the tiles or slates of a 
house. In this case the rafters should be properly boarded over, otherwise the 
dung which falls upon the laths is with difficulty removed ; and there is the still 
more serious evil, that the owner's foot may occasionally slip off the rafter and find 
its way through the ceiling into the room below. 

It is requisite that the loft or room devoted to pigeons should be proof against 
the ingress of cats, rats, and other vermin. Strange cats are most destructive to 
pigeons. When a cat has once tasted pigeon, she seems to prefer it to all other 
food. Sometimes the access of a cat can hardly be prevented, and it may be 
necessary to get rid of the intruder to prevent the entire loss of the stock. A box 
trap baited with a pigeon's head will be fouud to be invariably successful in the 



capture ; after which pussy may be shaken iuto a bag, ■which may then be placed 
in one pailful of water and pressed down with another. 

Laying poisoned meat for any animals is now illegal, and, moreover, if arsenic 
is employed to destroy cats, the proceeding is attended with much cruelty, as they 
immediately reject that poison by vomiting, and only retain sufficient to produce 
violent and painful inflammation of the stomach without killing them. If poison 
must be had recourse to, a little carbonate of baryta, mixed up with the soft roe 
of a piece of red-herring, is the most certain and speedy that can be used. Eats 
are no less injurious than cats, and must be got rid of at all hazards. Traps, 
phosphorus paste, a trained cat that has been accustomed to pigeons from the first, 


may all be had recourse to. In some country places, weasels are troublesome, and 
we have known an instance where a domesticated ferret from a neighbour's house 
paid nightly visits to the loft of an Almond- Tumbler fancier, whose birds were 
decimated by the mysterious visitor. 

The loft should, if practicable, admit of being divided, so as to enable the 
separation of the birds during winter to be readily accomplished. With the more 
common hardy breeds, this is not absolutely requisite, as in a well-sheltered room 
they will go on breeding successfully nine or ten months out of the twelve'; but with 
the more artificial and delicate high-class va rieties, it is useless to attempt to rear 
the young during the colder months of the year, and therefore it is desirable to 
separate the sexes after moulting time, or the autumn. This is most readily done 
by dividing the loft. If the birds are flown, the division should be so arranged 



that the cocks arid hens can be let out separately, and they may be given their 
liberty on alternate days. 

If the birds are flown, ingress and egress to and from the loft should take 
place through a cage, technically termed an area, Figure YII. This should be 
fixed outside a window on a platform, which is usually supported by oblique struts. 
This area may either be constructed of laths or wires, and should have a falling 
door, to which is attached a string capable of being pulled from the inside, so as to 
close the entrance. It not unfrequently happens that some birds may be shut out 
when the door is pulled up ; and in order to give these free access to the loft when the 
area is shut, two contrivances are used. One or more square holes, called dropping 
holes, are constructed in the top of the area, through which the pigeons can readily 
pass into the area, but out of which they cannot possibly emerge : the other is 
spoken of as the bolting wire, Figure VIII. An aperture is left in the side of the 
area : at its upper part is fixed a small roller, turning on a wire which passes through 
it, and into the stout laths that are on either side. From this roller hang two wires, 
placed nearly two inches apart, so as to give a pigeon space to put his head and 
neck through : these are quite unattached at the bottom, so that the bird pushing 
from the outside raises them and gains an easy entrance. 

But the exit of birds from the interior is prevented by the wires resting against 
a small beading or piece of wood below, which hinders their being pushed out- 

These two simple contrivances are of great service; they prevent birds being shut 
out at night when they would often fall an easy prey to cats, give them at any time 


free access to the loft, and save the owner from much anxiety and trouble. The 
birds learn to avail themselves of these means of ingress with the utmost 

The furniture of the loft must now claim our attention. Not the least important, 
especially if many birds are kept together, are the breeding-places or nesting- 
boxes. These are of two kinds ; in rooms that are rather crowded, shelves are 



generally placed around the walls, and the spaces between them are usually 
divided by upright divisions, placed not less than three feet apart, so as to form 
pens or breeding-places for the different pairs of birds. The distance between the 
shelves should not be less than eighteen inches, if Pouters are kept ; but for the 
smaller varieties, a foot or fifteen inches will suffice. The ends of each pen should 
be boarded, so that the centre only is open ; this arrangement offers several 
advantages ; the bird in the nest, which may be formed at either end, sits concealed 
and undisturbed, a state of things that greatly conduces to success in hatching ; 
and by hanging a piece of wire or lath-work before the open centre, the pen is 
capable of being closed, and the birds kept confined as long as may be desired. 

The arrangement of having darkened nesting-places at both ends of the pen is 
very advantageous, as during the summer a pair of birds will often wish to go to 
nest before the last' hatched young are able to fly or feed themselves. When this 
is the case, a second nest-pan may be put into the other end of the pen, when the 
birds will lay again, and thus rear a pair of young and sit at the same time. 
Some Pouter fanciers have their pens fitted up with wire fronts, so that they serve 
for penning up the birds separately during the winter. In this case each pen 
should have its own water-supply and bos for food. 

When there is more room, and the birds are not so numerous, nest-boxes placed 
on the floor of the loft will be found more advantageous than shelves. " I find by 
experience," writes the author of the anonymous " Treatise on Domestic Pigeons," 
"that nests made on the floor are much more convenient than otherwise, if the 


loft will admit of it (this is particularly true with regard to Runts, Trumpeters, and 
Fantails), for it prevents the young ones from falling out of their nests, which 
sometimes breaks a leg, and very often lames them, and also gives them a chance 


of being fed by otber pigeons as well as their parents, wbicb frequently happens. 
An old cock pigeon, who is a good father, will often take compassion upon a 
hungry squeaker which teazes him, and runs after him begging for food, although 
it does not belong to him, and will charitably bestow upon it the contents of his 
crop." When nests are placed upon the floor, breeding-boxes for the concealment 
of the nests are very desirable. They should be made without bottoms, so as to be 
merely covers to slip over the nests. One very convenient form is shown in Figure 
IX. It consists of three sides of a cubical box, and half of a fourth, the bottom 
and side next the wall' being absent. This is placed over the nesting-pan, and admits 
of being lifted off in an instant, either for the purpose of observation or for cleaning 
around the nest. One advantage of this form is that the cock bird usually takes 
his station over the nest of his mate, and thus does not interfere with the birds 
belonging to other nests, nor permit any intrusion on his own. ■ 

Another form of nest-box is even still more simple. It is formed, as shown in 
Figure X., of an oblique or slanting board resting against the wall ; this is sup- 


ported by a piece behind, not seen in the drawing, and a half piece in front : thus 
a convenient shelter for the nest is formed. It is always to be borne in mind that 
pigeons invariably prefer a concealed and snug retreat for incubation to any open 
place that may be afforded them, and, where they are allowed a chance, sometimes 
make strange selections. We recollect going into the room of an ardent fancier, 
who had at tbat time a very valuable stock of birds, and his showing us a nest in 
the sleeve of an old coat, which he had accidentally left on the floor of his pigeon- 
room a few days previously. 

Having spoken at some length of the nest-boxes, we now have to speak of the 
nests themselves. Having tried every plan that has been suggested for their 
construction, we are free to confess that we know of none so advantageous as the 
employment of the coarse earthenware saucers known as nest-pans. These are 
formed usually of rough red earthenware, and are best if made of the shape shown 
in Figure XI. ; although for large birds, as Pouters and Carriers, some fanciers 
prefer the nest-pans to be rather flatter at the bottom than the one represented. In 
size, these pans should vary with that of the different breeds ; for small birds, as 
Tumblers, seven or eight inches in diameter is quite sufficient; but for Pouters, ten 
inches is not too great. These pans should be made heavy, so that they are not 


likely to be overset by the old birds resting on the edge. Some fanciers object ta 
the use of nest-pans, on account of the young occasionally falling out and perishing 
from cold. Others endeavour to obviate this evil by sinking the pan in a hole cut 


in the shelf or board on which it rests ; but we have never found it necessary to 
have recourse to this plan. The advantages of nest-pans over all other contriv- 
ances of the kind are very great. They are superior to boxes or baskets, on 
account of the slight harbour they afford to vermin, and the ease with which they 
can be cleaned. Then the facility they afford for examining and shifting the young 
birds should not be lost sight of. They are much cleaner and more healthy in use 
than any other contrivance that can be employed. When the nestlings are very 
young, if the pan becomes wet, a handful of dry sawdust or bran speedily absorbs 
all moisture, and the nest becomes dry and wholesome ; and as the young become 
stronger, the dung is ejected over the sides of the pan, and the nest remains 
unsoiled. Some persons object to their employment, thinking that they are apt to 
chill the eggs ; but we never experienced that evil, and the pans are readily made 
warmer by a little soft hay, cut straw, bran, or sawdust being placed within them. 

We are convinced that with high-class delicate birds a very much larger 
number of young can be reared when nest-pans are employed than when they 
are not used. 

When nests are made on the ground, some persons place a few bricks around 
them, to prevent the eggs being rolled away ; but the plan is far inferior to the 
employment of the nest-pan. In some parts of the country there may be some 
difficulty in getting these simple appliances, but as they can be made by any brick, 
tile, or coarse earthenware maker, they should be accessible anywhere. 

Another appliance, very necessary to the health and comfort of the birds, must 
not be overlooked, — that is the washing-pan. Pigeons are not dusting-birds, like 
fowls, but, on the contrary, cleanse themselves by washing ; they are fond of lying 
down in shallow pools of water, expanding their wings, loosening the arrangement 
of the feathers, and then, when the plumage is well-nigh saturated, they give a 
vigorous shake, and the water at once becomes quite white and milky with the 
scurf thrown off from the skin of the bird. 

When kept in aviaries or in lofts, it is cruel to deprive them of this pleasure, so 
conducive to their well-doing ; and therefore shallow pans of water should be 
provided. In our own lofts we use milk-pans for the £>urpose ; but any broad, open 
vessels, capable of holding two or three inches' depth of water, will answer 
equally well. 



As it is necessary to capture the birds at times, a common cheap landing-net will 
be found a very useful article in the pigeon-loft, as by its use a single bird can be 
readily caught without driving the others about and frightening the sitting birds 
off their eggs and young. 

A supply of drinking-water is at all times an essential requisite. Pigeons are 
very thirsty birds, drinking a much greater amount of water than most persons 
would suppose possible ; therefore a good supply is required. This is especially the 
case when the young are being fed, as, after picking up a cropful of corn or pulse, 
the old bird has to take a copious draught of water before it can disgorge it into the 
throat of the young. 

The old fanciers used to employ a large bottle filled with water, and then 
inverted into a saucer ; but the contrivance is somewhat clumsy, and the common 
earthenware or metal poultry fountains will be found far more convenient in use. 
Many fanciers, who are particular about the food of their birds, care but little 
respecting the water given them. Too much stress cannot be laid on the fact that 
a supply of pure, clear drinking-water is absolutely essential to the health of the 
birds. Often have we seen the owner of valuable pigeons bewailing his misfortune 
in losing so many by sickness, and when we looked at his drinking fountains 
we found that they contained water contaminated with filth, the presence of 
which quickly explained the diseased condition of his stock. 


Another very necessary appendage to the loft is a mating or matching-up cage. 
For the purpose of breeding birds of any desired properties, it is requisite that 
the parents should be matched together according to the judgment of the owner. 
For this purpose all that is necessary is to place them in a mating cage for 

a few days. 

A very useful mating cage is represented in Figure XII. ; it is merely an 
ordinary pen or cage with an open wire partition separating the two birds ; the 
cock is placed on one side, the hen he is desired to pair with on the other. It is 
desirable to remove this pen from the loft, and out of the sight of other birds, 
when the cock will be seen in a day or two making advances towards the hen ; they 


may be then placed together, and as soon as the cock is seen calling the hen to 
nest, they may be regarded as paired, and returned to the loft. Sometimes, though 
rarely, it is necessary to keep them apart from the general flock a few days longer ; 
but, generally speaking, there is but little trouble in matching birds together in 
any pairs that may be regarded as desirable, 

One evil should be strongly guarded against in the loft, namely, a superfluity of 
male birds, as odd cocks are constantly persecuting the hens that are mated, 
driving them off their eggs, and causing much fighting and turmoil. If there 
are too great a number of hens, the evil is much less, as a pair will often 
mate together, go to nest, lay and sit on four eggs, in the vain hope of rearing a 
brood ; and, what is still more extraordinary, sometimes two cocks will match 
together in the same manner, and build a nest. If a pair of good eggs are 
given to them, they will even sit on the eggs, and hatch and rear the young, 
in the same manner as if they were a pair consisting of cock and hen. 

"We had a pair of Smerles, or Short-faced Antwerp cocks, that were mated for 
two seasons, and reared several pairs of young from eggs laid by other birds. The 
third season one was shot, and the survivor then mated with a hen and bred 
some exceedingly good homing birds. 

With regard to the food of the birds, we are inclined to recommend a greater 
variety than that usually employed. The London fanciers are strongly in favour 
of very small beans, regarding them as superior to all other articles, where the 
birds are large enough to take them ; but the Short-faced Tumblers cannot possibly 
feed their young even on the smallest beans, and therefore they are supplied with 
wheat and tares. Peas, both white and grey, are also extensively used. Whatever 
variety is employed, care should be taken to select old samples, as new peas, beans, 
or tares, are almost certain to purge the more delicate varieties. In America, 
Indian corn or maize is constantly used, being crushed for the use of the smaller 
breeds. In England, most fanciers have a great prejudice against its employment, 
but from long experience we can speak very favourably of it as a valuable addition 
to the dietary of the birds. 

When pigeons are flown they become much more hardy than if confined to a 
loft, and only permitted to take exercise in a large area, or enclosed aviary. 
Under these circumstances so much care need not be exercised in the choice of 
their food : barley, tail-wheat, and even coarse rice, may form part of their food 
without danger. Pigeons flying in the country find a considerable portion of their 
own food, and even when an unlimited supply of pulse and grain is afforded them : 
they pluck off the small seeds of grasses, and eat a quantity of green vegetables, 
that greatly conduce to their well-being. In the crops of the wild Rock Dove, there 
is almost always found, as will be seen by referring to Chapter II., numerous small 
snails ; and we have always noticed that such of our own pigeons that have their 
liberty, fly to the grass fields after a shower of rain, and pick up the smaller snails 
that are brought forth by the wet* 

Believing that we cannot do better than follow the natural instincts of the birds 


in the matter of their food, we always strive to vary their dietary as much as 
possible, and give to those in confinement a green turf, or sometimes a cabbage 
or a lettuce to peck at. 

It should be borne in mind that pigeons are derived from the Eock Dove, a bird 
frequenting the sea-shore, and drinking the salt water of the pools left by the 
retiring tide. This may account for their fondness for salt, a natural instinct that 
it is most desirable to indulge. They also require calcareous matter to furnish 
the materials of the egg-shell. We endeavour to supply both of these desires at 
one and the same time, by mixing a little salt with a quantity of old mortar 
rubbish, and placing it where the birds can gain easy access to it. 

If mortar rubbish is not accessible, we burn a few oyster shells, so as to render 
them brittle, then powder them up, with the addition of a little salt. Care must 
be taken not to supply salt or salt mixtures of this kind in too large quantity to 
birds that have long been deprived of this substance, as under those circumstances 
they are apt to eat so much that they injure themselves. The old fanciers used 
to make a nauseous and filthy compound they called " salt cat," for the delectation 
of their birds, but it offers no advantage over salt and mortar, or burnt shells, 
such as we have described. So fond are pigeons of salt, that they will peck at any 
substance containing it. On one occasion the brine out of a barrel of Scotch 
herrings was emptied in our garden, and for many months the pigeons were to be 
noticed pecking at the mould around the spot, evidently attracted by the saline 
constituents of the brine. Many fanciers refuse to give their pigeons any salt, 
but it is difficult to believe that the gratification of so strong a natural instinct 
should not tend to the advantage of the birds. 



F treating of the different varieties of breeds of domestic pigeons, either one 
of two methods might be pursued. A naturalist would regard it as most 
desirable to commence with the wild species, and trace the different breeds from 
it ; taking in the first instance those that showed the least departure from their 
wild progenitors. Such a method of procedure would, however, not be acceptable 
to the fancier, who regards the natural bird with slight esteem, and values his 
specimens precisely in proportion as they depart from the original standard. 

As this work is on the domesticated pigeon, and is written for the use of the 
fancier rather than for that of the naturalist, it is more desirable to commence 
with the most highly valued varieties ; and therefore the so-called high-class birds, 
the Pouters, Carriers, and Short-faced Tumblers, will first engage our attention, 
as these breeds, with some few others, such as the Barbs and small African Owls, 
offer the strongest instances of departure, at least in structural peculiarities, from 
the formation of the original stock. 

The history of the origin of the English Pouter has not been very accurately 
recorded. In all probability it was due to cross-breeding with, and careful selec- 
tion from, the old Dutch Cropper, the Uploper, or the Parisian Pouter. These 
breeds are alluded to by Willughby in his " Ornithology," published in 1678, and 
edited by the celebrated naturalist John Ray, and are described in the first 
distinct work on the natural history of tame pigeons, namely, the " Colum- 
barium " of John Moore, which was published in 1735, and which was reprinted, 
almost verbatim, without acknowledgment, in the anonymous " Treatise on 
Domestic Pigeons," published in 1765, in " The Complete Pigeon Fancier," 
ascribed to Daniel Girton, and which is reproduced with many notes in Mr. 
Eaton's well-known " Treatise." Of these breeds Moore writes as follows : — 

"The Dutch Cropper. — This pigeon seems to be originally Dutch, being 
naturally thick, and its name is derived from a large bag, or crop of wind, which 
they carry under their beak, and can at pleasure either raise or depress ; they are 
thick-bodied and short ; their legs are likewise thick, short, and feathered down 
to their feet ; their crop is large, but always hangs low; the feathers on their thighs 
hang loose, whereby they are said to be flag-thighed ; their legs stand wide, and 
they seldom play upright ; they are gravel-eyed, and are generally very bad feeders, 




therefore as soon as they have fed off their soft meat it is proper to put their 
young ones under a pair of small Runts, Dragoons, or Poutiug Horsemen, which 
may be kept as nurses for the purpose. 

" There are all sorts of feathers in this pigeon, and the Dutch in breeding it take 
a very great care ; for as soon as they have fed off their soft meat, they put their 
young ones under others to nurse, and then separate their old ones, placing them 
in different coops, and feeding them high with hemp or rape-seed for a month, 
then turning them together ; and by being very hearty and salicious, they breed 
pigeons with very good properties ; from whence we may observe, that would 
mankind be alike abstemious, their progeny might be more complete both in body 
and mind. 

"These are the pigeons that are most apt to gorge, if not kept constantly 
supplied with meat and water." 

" The Uplopee. — The Uploper rs a pigeon bred originally in Holland; its make 
and shape agrees in every respect with the English Pouter, only it is smaller in 
every property. Its crop is very round, in which it generally buries its bill ; its 
legs are very small and slender, and its toes are short and close together, on which 
it treads so nicely, that when moving, you may put anything under the- ball of its 
loot ; it is close-thighed, plays very upright, and when it approaches the hen, 
generally leaps to her with its tail spread, which is the reason the name is given to 
it, from the Dutch word Uplopen, which signifies to leap up. These pigeons are 
generally all blue, white, or black, though I will not assert that there are no 
pieds of the species: There a-re but few of them in England, and I have been 
informed that in Holland they have asked five-and-twenty guineas for a single pair 
of them." 

" The Pabisian Potjtee.— This pigeon was originally bred at Paris, and from 
thence brought to Brussels, whence it was transmitted to us ; it has all the nature 
of a Pouter, but is generally long-cropped and not very large ; it is- short-bodied, 
short-legged, and thick in the girt. What is chiefly admired in this bird is its 
feather, which is indeed very beautiful r and peculiar only to- itself, resembling a fine 
piece of Irish stitch, being chequered with various colours in every feather, except 
the flight, which is white ; the more red it has mixed with the other colours, the 
more valuable it is : some are gravel-eyed, and soma bull-eyed,- but it. is equally 
indifferent which eye it has." 

Of the origin of these three varieties of Croppers, no historical details are 
known. All ordinary breeds of pigeons have- the power of distending the upper 
part of the gullet with air to some slight extent, and so enlarging the neck. 
Even the wild Rock Dove possesses this faculty ; and a reference to the figure at 
page &, illustrating the structure of its digestive organs, will show that the gullet, 
b c, is unusually large, as compared with the size of that organ in fowls and other 
allied birds. 

By careful selection, and breeding from birds that developed this peculiar pro- 
perty to the greatest extent, the breed of Croppers must have been obtained. And 


it appears not improbable that the modern Pouter, characterized by its extremely 
long limbs and great length of feather, in addition to size of crop, might have 
been bred from these Croppers, crossed with a long-limbed, long-bodied, and long- 
feathered Carrier, and thus the variety produced by artificial selection, in precisely 
a similar manner to that in which Moore states the Pouting Horseman to 
have been obtained. " This pigeon," he says, " is a bastard strain between the 
Cropper and the Horseman, and according to the number of times that their young 
ones are bred over from the Cropper, they are called first, second, or third breed ; 
and the oftener they are bred over, the larger their crop proves. The reason of 
breeding these pigeons is to improve the strain of the Pouters, by making them 
close-thighed, though it is apt to make them rump, from the Horseman's blood. 
They are very merry pigeons upon a house, and by often dashing off, are good to 
pitch stray pigeons, that are at a loss to find their own home ; they breed often and 
are good nurses, generally feeding their young ones well. I have known these 
pigeons to be six inches and six and a half in legs ', they are a hearty pigeon, and, 
give them but meat and water, need very little other attendance. Some of them 
will home ten or twenty miles." Whatever it may be, we find the earliest 
history of the Pouter in Moore's " Columbarium ;" and as his book is exceedingly 
scarce, it is desirable to preserve his description, more especially as it has been 
taken as the basis of almost all the English works that have been since published 
on the subject, — the " Treatise," and Girton more especially. The modern 
fancier cannot fail to be struck with the fact that the standard of properties, as 
laid down by Moore, is in the main identical with that of the present day. 
Many other breeds have felt the influence of fashion, but the Pouter of Moore's 
time and that of last Glasgow show, are almost, if not quite, identical. 

Writing of this breed, which Moore terms ■" The English Pouter," he states : — 

" This pigeon, which was first bred in England, and is therefore called the 
English Pouter, is originally a mixed breed between a Horseman and a Cropper, 
experience teaches us, it will add a wonderful beauty to this bird, and raise in it 
the five following properties: — 1. Length of Body ; 2. Length of Legs ; 3. Neat- 
ness of Crop ; 4. Slenderness of Girt ; 5. Beauty in Feather. 

** 1. As to the length of body, the longer they are from the apex of the beak 
to the end of the tail, the more the pigeon is esteemed : I have seen one that 
measured this way near twenty inches, although seventeen or eighteen is reckoned 
a very good length. 

" 2. The length of the leg is the next thing to be examined in a Pouter, Le., 
from the npper joint of the thigh in sight, to the end of the toe-nail ; and in 
this property some pigeons have been very considerable, wanting a mere trifle of 
seven inches, yet the bird that produces six and a half or three quarters must be 
allowed to be a very good one. 

" 3. The next property to be considered is the crop, which ought to be large 
and round, especially towards the beak, filling behind the neck, so as to cover the 
shoulders and tie neatly off at the shoulders, and form a perfect globe. 


"4. The smaller the girt the better, because by this means a contrast of 
beautiful shape is given to the whole bird. 

" 5. The last thing that is generally allowed as a property in a Pouter is the 
feather, and indeed its plumage affords a very great variety. The Pieds are most 
universally esteemed, and under these may be ranked the Blue-pied, the Black- 
pied, the Bed-pied, and the Yellow-pied, each of which advance in their worth 
according as they answer best the foregoing properties ; for instance, if the Blue- 
pied and Black-pied are equal in the measure of the other properties, the Black- 
pied will be reckoned the best pigeon, on the account of the feather, and the 
Yellow-pied, if equal, better than any. 

"Before we leave this head of feathers, we must take notice how a Pouter 
ought to be pied : and, in the first place, the chop ought to be white, girt round 
with a shining green, intermixed with the colour with which he is pied. By the 
chop is meant the front part of the crop, and this white ought by no means to go 
behind the neck, for then it is said to be ring-headed. He ought to have a bib or 
round patch, of the same colour with which he is pied, coming down from under 
his chop, and falling upon the chap, which makes it the shape of a half-moon ; 
but if this bib be wanting he is said to be swallow-throated. 

" His head, neck, and back ought to be of one uniform colour, and the tail the 
same ; and if the pigeon be Blue-pied, he ought to have two bars or streaks 
of black across the lower part of both wings ; but if these happen to be of a brown 
colour, he is said to be kite-barred, which is not so valuable. 

" The shoulder or pinion of the wing ought to be mottled with white, lying 
round in the shape of a rose ; this is called a rose-pinion, and is reckoned 
the best, though but very few arise to be complete in this property ; but if the 
pinion runs with a large patch of white to the outer edge of the wing, he is said to 
be lawn-sleeved. 

" His thighs ought to be clean white, though sometimes the joints of the knees 
will be edged round with another colour, but let it fall here, or any other part of 
the thigh, he is foul-thighed. 

" The nine flight-feathers of the wing ought to be white, otherwise he is said to 
be foul-flighted, and if only the external feather of the wing be of the colour of 
the body, it is called sword-flighted, or sworded. 

"Besides the five properties before mentioned, there is another, which, though 
not generally allowed, will be found to be one of the best — I mean the carriage ; 
under which I comprise the following heads : — 

" The crop ought to be so far filled with wind as to show its full extent, 
without bufling* or being slack- winded, which are both esteemed very great faults. 
The Pigeon that bufles fills his crop so full of wind, that it is thereby strained in 
such a manner that he is ready to fall backwards, because he can't readily 
discharge the confined air, which renders him uneasy and unwieldy, and many a 

* Probably this obsolete verb, to bufle, is derived from the French verb bouffer, to blow out or 
puff out. 


good bird has, by this means, either fallen into the street, or become a prey 
to those fatal enemies of the Fancy, the cats. The other extreme is being slack- 
winded, so that he shows little or no crop, and appears not much better than an 
ill-shaped Eunt. 

" The second beauty in carriage is their playing upright, with a fine tail, well 
spread like a fan, without scraping the ground therewith, or tucking it between 
their legs ; neither should they set up the feathers on their rump when they play, 
which is called rumping. 

"The last beauty of carriage in a Pouter is to stand close with his legs, without 
straddling, and keep the shoulders of his wing tight down to his body, and when 
he moves, to trip beautifully with his feet, almost upon his toes, witbout jumping, 
which is the quality of an Uploper. 

"A Pouter that would answer all these properties might be said to be perfect ; 
but as absolute perfection is incompatible with anything in this world, that Pigeon 
that makes the nearest advances towards them is certainly the best. Some have 
answered them so well, that I have known eight guineas refused for a single 
pigeon of this breed." 

This quotation from Moore disposes of the history of the bird, as far as regards 
English treatises, for more than a hundred years ; for, as before stated, the works 
subsequently published in this country were but slightly varied copies from this 

On the Continent, however, several notices of the Cropper appeared. Thus 
Temminck, in his "Histoire Naturelle Generale des Pigeons et des Gallinaces," 
published in 1813, describes this variety, under the title of Pigeon Gosse-gorge, as 
follows : — 

"The Pouter is generally a bird of large size. It possesses the peculiar 
faculty of inflating its crop to a prodigious size. It is by means of drawing in 
the air and retaining it, that the bird succeeds in inflating himself in such a 
manner that the crop appears larger than all the rest of the body. It even some- 
times occurs that he loses his equilibrium in performing this feat. When he 
springs up he always inflates the crop. 

" Pouter pigeons are found of all colours, the most beautiful and those most 
sought after are such as are peculiarly marked. The caprice of the amateur 
regulates the estimation in which the different coloured birds are held. There are, 
however, some varieties which appear most difficult to obtain. In order to breed 
these, a very particular attention and great care are required. I have been assured 
that some persons possess in so high a degree this talent of producing and of 
creating, so to speak, extraordinary markings in the plumage of pigeons, that there 
is scarcely a variety of plumage which they cannot obtain at will. But they are 
often obliged, in order to attain their end, to cross an infinite number of varieties 
in order to arrive at that particular one that they desire." 

The system thus accurately described by Temminck is one worthy of the notice of 
English breeders, who, for the most part, are afraid to cross birds of different colours , 


Temminck was apparently acquainted with the experimental researches of the 
German fanciers, who, as he truly says, are possessed of such a degree of skill in 
creating extraordinary markings, that there is scarcely a variety of plumage they 
cannot produce. 

Leaving the older authors on the subject of the Pouter, we now have to consider 
the more modern writers on the breed. 

In 1850, the Eev. Edward Saul Dixon published " The Dovecote and the 
Aviary; being Sketches of the Natural History of Pigeons and other Domestic 
Birds in a Captive State," London, John Murray. This work is distinguished by 
considerable scholarly research, and a pleasant readable style ; but unfortunately 
the author was neither a scientific naturalist nor an experienced fancier, and his 
book was necessarily destitute of much practical value. 

A very large portion of the Eev. E. S. Dixon's work was afterwards reprinted in 
a smaller treatise, published under another name, being issued as "Pigeons and 
Rabbits, by E. S. Delamer." As the Rev. E. S. Dixon's original work was the 
first, after that of Moore, that contained any novel remarks on the Pouter, we 
reproduce his account, which is especially interesting as containing references to 
Pliny, Willughby, and other ancient writers. Writing of this variety, he states : — 

" Pouters appear to us to be the most isolated of the domestic pigeons ; they bear 
little resemblance to any of the other kinds, and it is difficult to say to which 
breed they are most nearly related. If, as some writers have held, the inflation of the 
crop is the peculiar distinction of the pigeon, Pouters ought to stand at the head 
of the whole family of Columbidce. Provincially they are called Croppers, which 
is not a vulgarism, but an old form of speech. 

" ' Croppers,' says Willughby, " ' so caUed because they can, and usually do, by 
attracting the air, blow up their crops to that strange bigness, that they exceed 
the bulk of the whole body beside ; and which, as they fly, and while they make 
that murmuring noise, swell their throats to -a great bigness, and the bigger, 
the better And more generous they are esteemed. Those I saw at Mr. Cope's, a 
citizen of London, living in Jewin Street, seemed to me nothing bigger, but 
something less than Runts, and somewhat more slender and long-bodied.'* 

" The hen Cropper also has an inflated crop like the male; the same in kind, 
though less in degree. When zealous fanciers want to form an opinion of the 
merits of a Cropper pigeon, they inflate the crop by applying the bird's mouth to 
their own, .and Mowing into it, exactly as if they were filling a bladder with air, 
till it is extended to the very utmost. Nor does the patient seem in the least to 
dislike the operation, but the contrary ; and when set upon its legs, choke- 
full of wind, it will endeavour to retain the charge as tightly as it can, and 
appears actually to be pleased with, and proud of, the enormity of the natural 
balloon which it carries about with it. The only analogous case I am acquainted 

* The figure of tlie Cropper given in Willughby 's "Ornithology" represents a short- legged 
ordinary pigeon, that differs only from the other specimens delineated in having a large inflated 
■crop — W.B.T, 


with is the fish which blows itself out with ah, and then floats on the surface of 
the sea, belly upwards. 

" I cannot agree with those who think the gait and appearance of Cropper pigeons 
at all displeasing or unnatural, although they certainly are a very marked and 
peculiar style of bird. We can admire the classic figure of Atlas with the globe 
upon his shoulders ; the Cropper is an Atlas wearing the globe under his shirt- 
front. He has indeed something of a military air, and requires but a few 
finishing touches from a drilling-master to make his demeanour perfect in 
formality and politeness. We have seen gentlemen belonging to Her Majesty's 
army, whose back-thrown head, super-erect carriage, taper waist, and well-padded 
breast, brought them very much to the model of a gigantic Cropper, and whose 
countenances betrayed no dissatisfaction with their own personal appearance ; and 
a style of beauty which contents a man, may surely be allowed to please a bird. 
The feathered legs and the sweeping tail may be supposed to complete the 
likeness, by representing spurs and dangling and trailing what-nots. 

" The flight also of the- Cropper is stately and dignified in its way. The inflated 
crop is not generally collapsed by the exertion, but is seen to move slowly forward 
through the air, like a large permanent soap-bubble, with a body and wings 
attached to it. The bird is fond of clapping his wings loudly at first starting to 
take his few lazy rounds in the air ; for he is too much of a fine gentleman 
to condescend to violent exertion. Other pigeons will indulge in the same action 
in a less degree, but Croppers are the claqueurs par excellence ; and hence we 
believe the Smiters of Willughby to be only a synonym of the present kind. He 
says, ' I take these to be those, which the fore-mentioned Hollander told 
Aldrovandus, that his countrymen called Draiiers. These do not only shake their 
wings as they fly, but also flying round about in a ring, especially over their 
females, clap them so strongly, that they make a greater sound than two 
battledores or other boards struck one against another. Whence it comes to pass, 
that their quill-feathers are almost always broken and shattered ; and sometimes 
so bad, that they cannot fly.' 

" Smiters and Croppers, or something very like them, must have been known 
and kept so long back even as Pliny's time. ''Nosse credas suos colores, varieta- 
temque dispositam : quin etiam ex volatu quseritur plaudere in ecelo, varieque 
sulcare. Qua in ostentatione, ut vinctae, praebentur accipitri, implicatis strepitu 
pennis, qui non nisi ipsis alarum humeris eliditur.' ' You would think they were 
conscious of their own colours, and the variety with which they are disposed : 
nay, they even attempt- to make their flight a means, of clapping in the air, and 
tracing various courses in it. By which ostentation they are betrayed to the 
power of the Hawk, as if bound, their feathers being entangled in the action of 
making the noise, which is produced only by the actual shoulders of their wings. 
(Lib. x. 52.) 

"Pouters are of various colours; the most usual are blue, buff (vulgd cloth), 
splashed in various mixtures, and white. Pure white Pouters are really 


handsome, and look very like white Owls in their sober circlings around the 
pigeon-house. Apropos of the blue and the cloth-coloured birds, a friend asks, 
' Have you ever observed that if you pair a chestnut with a blue pigeon, the cock 
being, say the chestnut, the chances are that the young cock is blue, and the hen 
chestnut, and their offspring will come vice versa round again? — H. H. This is 
a curious alternation. 

" Pouters have deservedly a bad character as nurses, and it is usual to put the 
eggs of valuable birds under other pigeons to hatch and rear ; but otherwise they 
are not deficient in natural powers, either of hardiness, flight, or memory. I 
am well acquainted with the party to whom the following case happened : — 

" 'I once had a pair of pigeons of the Cropper kind given to me by a Mend, 
I confined them about a month, with the view of breaking off the thoughts of 
their former home ; but as soon as they had their liberty, they flew towards their 
old habitation. The hen arrived immediately ; but, strange to say, her mate did 
not till two years afterwards. No doubt he was trapped, and remained in con- 
finement during the whole of that time. The distance to their old home was only 
four miles and a half, but what seems curious is, that a pigeon should recollect 
his home after two years' absence. My friend told me, that as soon as the Cropper 
cock got back again, he began to play the same tricks as he used to do before he 
was sent away to me.'- — J. W. 

"An objection to Pouters is, that the largest-cropped birds seldom have their 
crops perfectly covered with feathers, but show a great deal of naked skin (from 
their rubbing off) which leaves the beholder to imagine the beautiful plumage 
which ought to be beheld. They are also apt to be gorged by over-feeding them- 
selves ; in which case we have proved the benefit of the directions in the Treatise, 
adding to them, however, a calomel and colocynth pill. ' When they have been 
too long from grain, they will eat so much that they cannot digest it ; but it will 
lie and corrupt in the crop, and kill the pigeon : if this, therefore, at any time 
happens, take the following method : — - 

" ' Put them in a strait stocking, with their feet downward, stroking up the 
crop, that the bag which contains the meat may not hang down ; then hang the 
stocking upon a nail, keeping them in this manner till they have digested their 
food, only not forgetting to give them now and then a little water, and it will 
often cure them ; but when you take them out of the stocking, put them in an 
open basket or coop, giving them but a little meat at a time, or else they will be 
apt to gorge again.' 

" No space remains to give the technical points of the Pouters of the fancy, 
which would best be done by liberal quotation from the Treatise. The author 
quite sympathizes with the ' insanity ' of the ancient Piomans. He elaborately 
describes five properties of the standard Pouter, and six rules for the manner in 
which a Pouter should be pied, as 'published and in use among the columbarians ; ' 
and sums up all philosophically thus : — 

" ' A Pouter that would answer to all these properties, might very justly be 


deemed perfect ; but as absolute perfection is incompatible with anything in tbis 
world, that pigeon which makes the nearest advances towards them is most 
undoubtedly the best.' 

" Some of the crosses between Pouters and other pigeons are held in 
esteem ; that most prized is the cross with the Carrier, as being a bird of powerful 
flight. ' Light Horsemen. This is a bastard kind, of one parent a Cropper, the 
other a Carrier, and so they partake of both, as appears by the wattles of their 
bill, and their swollen throats. They are the best breeders of all, and will not 
lightly forsake any house to which they have been accustomed.' (Willughby.) 
The same mixture of breeds often goes by the name of Dragoon. " 

• It is hardly necessary to say that, to many of the statements in this pleasantly 
written account, the acquiescence of the experienced amateur cannot be expected ; 
that the Smiters of Willughby were identical with his Croppers is not correct. 
The statement respecting the alternation of colours in the generations bred from 
a pair consisting of a blue and a buff or chestnut bird, is only true accidentally, 
and must not be taken as a general fact. 

Shortly after the publication of " The Dovecote and Aviary," Mr. John 
Matthews Eaton published his very eccentric work, in which he reproduces the 
text of Moore's " Columbarium," and adds the slight amount of additional matter 
derived from " The Treatise " of 17G5, and the work ascribed to Girton ; to these 
he appends some remarks of the late Mr. B. P. Brent, and a number of very 
remarkable but perfectly characteristic and original notes of his own writing. 

These works comprise, it is believed, everything that has been written on the 
Pouter, with the exception of a few paragraphs hardly worth transcribing in such 
works as Mowbray's " Domestic Poultry," and other books of a similar class. 

Having discussed at considerable length the history of the origin of the English 
Pouter, we have now to estimate its properties as an exhibition bird, and to take 
into consideration those points of excellence that are valued by amateurs at the 
present time, and that command success in a show-pen. The properties of the 
Pouter that are now held in the highest estimation are the same as those recorded 
by Moore nearly 140 years since. They are five in number, namely : — 

1. Length of leg or limb. 

2. Length of feather. 

3. Slenderness of body. 

4. Size and carriage of crop. 

5. Colour. 

In an article on the properties of the Pouter as an exhibition bird, published in 
The Field some time since, Mr. Tegetmeier, after enumerating the properties as 
above stated, says : — 

" I have arranged these properties in what I believe to be generally regarded as 
the order of their importance, although I am aware that some fanciers of the 
highest standing and greatest experience take a different view of their relative 



"Almost all Pouter-breeders, however, are agreed that length of Hrnb is the 
most important property, without which the best bird in all other respects would 
be but of little value. I need scarcely say that the limb is measured from the 
joint nearest the body to the end of the nail of the centre toe. It requires 
some little practice to measure a bird accurately, and hence loose and random 
assertions are constantly made as to the length of limb of certain birds. We 
often hear of Pouters seven and a half inches in limb ; but I must confess that, 
though some scores or hundreds of the best birds in the kingdom have passed 
through my hands when awarding the prizes at various exhibitions, it has never 
yet been my good fortune to measure one of that length. The best bird I ever 
bred was seven and a quarter inches, and I should ever be perfectly satisfied with 
my success if I could breed a few more like him. In fact, seven inches for a 
cock, and six and three quarter inches for a hen, may be regarded as a first-rate 

" In addition to a good length, the leg also requires to be well and closely 
feathered to the tips of the toes. 

" The illustration represents a very superb blue-pied cock that belonged to the 
late Mr. Samuel Bult. The engraving is an exact copy of the original sketch, 
now in my possession, by the celebrated animal draughtsman, Harrison Weir. The 
legs of this bird were over seven inches in length ; but in the matter of feathering 
they were very faulty, the loose long feathers about the hocks detracting very much 
from the beauty of the bird. The absence of feathers on the shank is as great 
a fault as their excess, many otherwise very first-class birds being partially bare, 
or, as it is termed, spindle-shanked. 

" The length of feather is measured from the tip of the beak to the extremity 
of the centre feathers of the tail, the bird being stretched out at full length. The 
bird represented measured a little over eighteen inches, which is a very good 
length, although sometimes exceeded by half or even a whole inch. It is true that 
I have often met with birds over twenty and even twenty-one inches in length ; 
but it has always been in print or in conversation about absent birds, as I have 
never had the pleasure of seeing them in the flesh. 

" Slimness of girth is a very essential property in a Pouter ; nothing detracts 
more from elegance in a bird of this breed than a thick, clumsy body. The old 
fanciers used to say that the body of a Pouter ought to be able to slip through a 
wedding-ring, which, making due allowance for the slight exaggeration always 
found in the conversation of enthusiasts, gives a correct idea of the form desired 
to be obtained by the Pouter-breeders. Within the last few years, I think, the 
generality of Pouters shown have improved in this quality. A few years ago, 
many of the London birds were thick and clumsy, arising from the fact that one 
of the largest breeders crossed his strain with a very large Mottled Eunt, in order 
to get size into his breed. This he did at a sacrifice of shape, and it took several 
years before the bulky body was bred out. 

" The fourth property, the size and carriage of the crop, is one on which the 



elegance of the bird greatly depends. The crop, when distended, should be of as 
globular a shape as possible. It certainly should not be so enormous as to extend 
over the shoulders of the bird, and involve part of the body, nor should it force 
back the head of the bird till it is bent backwards down towards the tail. The 
crop should be of good size, neither overblown nor contracted. When not inflated, 
as happens when the bird is not in show, the crop should not hang down as a loose 
bag, with a few beans and a little water at the bottom, as in that case the bird is 
said to be slack-winded, and loses all elegance of form. 

" The colour of a Pouter is an important property. The most common are the 
blue-pieds. These should be a good bright blue, with the wings and the tail well 
barred with black, and pied with white on the crop in the shape of a new moon or 
crescent : this white moon should not be too large, nor should the points of the 
crescent meet around the back of the neck. On the shoulder there should be a 
mere patch of white, which is termed the rose-pinion ; the flight-feathers should 
be white, and those covering the legs and feet. There should be no white over the 
back or any part of the head. The black-pied birds should have the same 
distribution of colour as the blues. 

" With regard to the reds and yellow-pied, white tails are regarded as ad- 
missible, not perhaps because they are admired, but because these colours cannot 
be bred with dark tails. Pure white is also a favourite colour of many breeders, 
and few birds can look more beautiful than a clean, long-limbed graceful bird of 
this colour. No person who had the pleasure of ever seeing the stock of the late 
Mr. Bult, can fail to remember the beautiful sight that his birds presented when 
walking about the lawn in his garden ; the contrast of the pure white specimens 
with the green of the closely mown lawn, added in no little degree to the striking 
character of the group. 

" In addition to these, there are several off-colours, that are not valued in 
themselves, although the birds may be of the greatest worth as breeding birds. 
The most common of these is that known as mealy, a kind of dull powdered red, of 
different depths of colour in different birds. These mealy birds are often the best in 
limb and feather that the fancier breeds, and although as show birds their colour is 
regarded as nothing, they are invaluable as breeders. The same is true of 
splashes and mottles of various kinds, which are also not uncommon." 

The publication of this communication elicited the following letter from James 
Euthven, Esq., the Honorary Secretary of the Glasgow Ornithological Society. 
The annual exhibition at Glasgow is known to present the grandest collection of 
Pouters that is got together in the United Kingdom. The success of this society 
is in great measure due to the energy and knowledge of the Secretary, whose 
experiences and intimate knowledge of this breed render his communication of 
the highest value. Mr. Puithven writes as follows : — 

"In reading over your article on the Pouter, I certainly would differ from you 
as to the relative importance of the various properties. I should feel disposed to 
give the most important position to the point that gives the character of the bird ; 


the next to the points that give grace and elegance. However, after all, the principal 
points must be combined in harmony with each other. I should not always con- 
sider the longest limb the best, as so much depends on the shape and covering of 
the limb. The length of limb and length of feather should be in proportion, say a 
6|-inch limb to an eighteen-inch bird, or 7-inches to a nineteen inch, is better than 
a 7-inch limb to a 17^ bird, which gives what we have seen too often — long bodies 
and short tails. I may also mention that in proportion to length of feather, the 
hens have just as long limbs as cocks ; and I would almost say, from a sudden 
recollection of all the hens I have had, or known, of any merit, that they would 
average the same length of limb, nay, I could almost assert they were longer 
in limb, in proportion to their length of feather. 

" I have known a hen measure 7^ inches, I never saw a cock measure that. 
When you take 7 inches for a cock and 6J inches for a hen, I suppose you mean 
that the hen should be about 1 inch shorter -in feather; if so, you may be right, 
but I think the length of the limb goes with the bird in proportion to the size ; 
take all the 18-inch cocks in any fancier's loft, and all the 18-inch hens, and I 
think you will find the limbs measure the same on the average. I like the draw- 
ing of Mr. Bult's Blue-pied Pouter very much, although the length of the wings 
has been curtailed. 

" Is there not a want felt by beginners, in the way of a little more information, 
as how to breed birds for particular points, as colour, length of limb, &c. ? we are 
told in every publication what is considered perfection, and that all beginners 
should aim at this, but how to do so is the question. I see you give us a little of 
this in the ' Poultry Book,' but it might be extended ; practical knowledge is what 
the breeder wants now-a-days ; he will not have the patience of bygone fanciers, and 
toil through years of experience : such information that could be relied on would be 
greedily devoured. I have been all my life a breeder of pigeons, and latterly I 
have added poultry, since I have been able to keep them . I have all the books 
published of any note, and I can scarcely put my hand upon a page that would 
guide me to match up for certain points to be obtained." 

The suggestions of Mr. Paithven for the publication of practical directions for 
the benefit of t'ie inexperienced amateur, appear to be of great importance, and we 
will therefore state the results of our experience, and also of that of others, as 
far as we have been able to ascertain them. 

The rock on which most Pouter-breeders have been wrecked has been a slavish 
fear of breeding away from some one particular colour. 

Blue-pied birds have generally been matched with blue-pieds, black-pieds with 
black-pieds, whites with whites, and so on through the whole of the varieties. The 
late Mr. Bult was one of those who rejected this practice, and it was to his freedom of 
action that his great success was mainly to be attributed. When he first embarked 
in the Pouter fancy, he threw large size into his strain by crossing his breed with 
a very large, long-feathered Eunt, of a white ground colour, mottled with light 
red, and which he termed an " almond-mottled " bird. 


The great size thus obtained was accompanied with an increase in the girth of 
the body that took some years' careful selection of brood- stock entirely to get rid 
of, and birds of " almond-mottled " feather were always making their appearance 
in Mr. Bult's stud, even up to the time of his decease, one being sold at the sale 
that took place after his death. As far as regards the colours of the pairs he 
matched together, Mr. Bult was not particular ; his object was to secure length of 
lirnb and feather, and he left colour in great part to take care of itself. 

Nevertheless, it must not be imagined that the colours of birds that are penned 
together are of no importance. Pigeon fanciers know that there are certain 
colours which are very apt to be reproduced in the offspring, and others which are 
readily lost by breeding with birds of other colours. 

Thus, amongst Pouters, birds of the colour known as mealy will, when matched 
with either blue-pied, black-pied, red-pied, yellow-pied, or pure white, often pro- 
duce young most perfectly marked or coloured, without a trace of mealiness ; and 
hence a good mealy bird is always, by experienced fanciers, regarded as valuable for 
brood-stock, as any other colour can be bred from it, if not in one, most certainly 
in two generations. 

This is an important fact, as mealy birds are not unfrequently the longest in limb 
and feather, the slenderest in girth, and the best in carriage of any in the stud. 

"With regard to the matching of the particular colours, first of blue-pied ; a Pouter 
of this colour should not be matched with a black-pied, as although, in many cases, 
well-marked birds of either colour are produced, the general result is to obtain 
dark birds, with chequered wings and black bars, which are neither elegant nor 
valuable. Blues may be matched with reds, if no better match offers ; and we 
have seen some very good-coloured birds the produce of this cross. Nothing can be 
better than to cross a blue cock with a large, long-limbed mealy hen ; the 
produce will, in almost all cases, be either blue or mealy. Blue-pied and white are 
not desirable to match, as very white pied birds, or white splashed or speckled 
with other colours, would most probably result. 

Black-pied may be matched with red-pied or mealy with advantage ; but white 
should be avoided, as splashed offspring would almost certainly be produced. 

Pied-pied may also be matched with yellow-pied, when good yellow or red birds 
will be produced ; red-pied and mealy may also be matched, but with some risk to 
the bright red so much prized in the best-coloured birds. 

Yellow-pied may also be matched with mealy with advantage. 

White Pouters should have a white beak, a dark eye, and a plumage of 
immaculate purity, in addition to all the other properties of the breed. The fear 
of the hereditary transmission of a few dark feathers has made many fanciers 
dread any intermixture of other blood with their white strain ; but we can speak 
from long experience in breeding this variety, and can state that some of the best 
whites we ever reared were obtained from a cock with a dark-splashed tail and a 
mealy hen, and that the progeny of these birds, when crossed with other whites, 
bred birds free from stain. 


White, in the language of the fanciers, is a " strong " colour, that is to say, it is 
one that reproduces itself with great force, and readily overpowers other colours 
existing in the bird to which it is matched. 

Having treated of breeding for colour, it is now desirable to speak of the 
most certain modes of obtaining the other characteristics. In breeding for length 
of limb and feather, it should not be forgotten that the influence of the hen over 
form and size is generally superior to that of the cock : thus a poor cock mated 
with a superior hen, will produce much better birds than a good cock if matched 
with a short-limbed hen ; size and limb take after the female parent, colour more 
usually follows the male. Thus a white cock with a long-limbed mealy hen, 
would be more likely to throw good white birds than a mealy cock with a white 

It is always desirable to mate birds so that any deficiency in one shall be 
counteracted by the other ; thus a bird with very heavily feathered legs would be 
judiciously mated with one deficient in this quality. Another with too much 
white with one that has too little, and so on. 

As extreme vigour of constitution is required in the Pouter, it is always de- 
sirable to avoid too close interbreeding ; brother and sister should never be matched, 
nor, if possible, should any birds be paired that are closely related, as weakness 
of the limbs, and deterioration alike of size and length of limb, will be the result ; 
whereas, on the other hand, the extraordinary influence of a total change of blood in 
giving vigour, size, and constitutional hardihood can hardly be overrated. 

We now have to consider the arrangements most desirable for the accommoda- 
tion of a stud of Pouters. The size and peculiar habits of these birds render 
necessary a very considerable modification of the arrangements that are usually 
made for the other varieties of domestic pigeons. Their height necessitates pens 
of much greater altitude, their length of feather requires a large increase of size 
in their nesting-places and cages, and the desirability of getting them into show 
renders it almost imperative for the Pouter fancier to have such an arrangement 
of his loft as will admit of his penning the whole of his birds separately during the 
winter months, that is, from immediately after the moulting season until they 
are matched up anew in the spring. First-class Pouters cannot be advanta- 
geously kept, either in dovecotes, pigeon-houses, or lofts, such as may be devoted 
without inconvenience to many of the other varieties ; and except in country 
districts where they are secure from molestation, they cannot be safely flown at 
large, as they are so tame that they may frequently be taken uj> in the hand, and 
when they are strutting about with inflated crops, they offer themselves as easy 
victims to predatory cats. Hence, in towns, Pouters are always kept in rooms or 
enclosed aviaries, and these are fitted up with pens for the nesting and con- 
finement of the birds. 

Mr. Eaton, in his "New and Improved Diagram or Plan of Building or Fitting 
ap a Pigeonary," gives a design for pens that are to be placed against the side of 
a room or enclosed aviary. 


The stack of pens being fifteen feet four inches in length, by seven feet six 
inches in height ; the entire length is divided into five tiers of pens, each pen 
being three feet in width from side to side, and sixteen inches from back to front. 
This stack is divided horizontally into six rows of pens, placed one over the other ; 
of these the lower row only is intended for Pouters, being sixteen inches in height, 
the second for Carriers, fourteen inches in height, and the upper four rows for 
Tumblers, each row being twelve inches high. These dimensions will show that 
all experienced fanciers consider that Pouters require larger and taller pens even 
than Carriers. 

A low pen would prevent the birds raising themselves to their full stature, and 
their carriage would be entirely destroyed. The arrangement proposed by Mr. Eaton 
is one calculated to enable the possessor of a single loft or room to keep the three 
high-class varieties, Pouters, Carriers, and Almond Tumblers, together. In prac- 
tice, we should doubt whether it would be found advantageous to do so. The 
pens for the Pouters would be too low, and too near the ground for the birds to be- 
come familiar with their feeder, and consequently they would not " show " so freely ; 
and the Carriers, which are not unfrequently birds of a very combative disposition, 
would be apt to interfere with the delicate and fragile Short-faced Tumblers in a 
manner that would not at all conduce to the well-being of the latter. A single 
peck from the sharp-pointed beak of a Carrier would destroy the beauty of the 
eye of an Almond Tumbler for life. 

The compiler of the anonymous " Treatise " of 1765, who was evidently a 
practised breeder, states that " The Pouter requires an infinite deal of 
attendance, it being necessary to keep them separately all the winter season ; 
that is to say, every single bird, cocks as well as hens, in a separate pen 
or coop, each of which must be furnished with meat and water, and 
should be lofty and spacious, as otherwise they would contract a habit of 
stooping, which is an imperfection, and should by all means be prevented. 
Then having (in the spring) matched or paired them, you must be provided 
with at least two pairs of Dragoons to every pair of Pouters, for nurses or 
feeders, which must be kept in a separate loft from the Pouters, otherwise they 
would bastardize, and spoil the breed. Pouters are never suffered, by those who 
are curious, to hatch their own eggs, they being bad feeders, and would often 
starve their young ones. When the Pouter has laid her egg, it must be shifted 
under a Dragoon, that has likewise laid, nearly about the same time, and that of 
the Dragoon be placed under the Pouter, exchanging the one with the other, it 
being necessary the Pouter should have an egg, or eggs, to sit on, to prevent her 
laying again too soon, which would weaken, and in a short time lull her. Like- 
wise the inconveniency attending them when gorged (by putting them in a stocking 
if gorged with food, and if gorged with water by squeezing it out of their crops), 
which frequently happens, especially among the large-cropped ones, and sometimes 
occasions the loss of a valuable bird, if proper care (and that in due time) be noi 
taken. Again, should a fancier begin with half a dozen pairs of Pouters, he would, 



iu a short time, be under the necessity of purchasing more, or exchange (perhaps 
his best birds) for worse, in order to cross the strain ; for should he (as the term is) 
breed them in and in, which is matching father and daughter, or any other way 
incestuously together, the breed would degenerate, and not be worth sixpence; 
whereas, the same number of Almond Tumblers would inevitably stock him for 
life, for the breeding of Tumblers in and in would consequently breed them 
smaller, which is a perfection in them, and they require no attendance while 
breeding, provided you supply them with meat and water, and throw them a little 
straw, and do not (like the Pouter) require time to be lavished upon them to make 
them familiar. Experience teaches us that were Tumblers to be kept in separate 
pens, as the Pouters are, they would show in the same manner, and be equally as 
familiar as the Pouter, for the Pouter should be almost constantly attended and 
talked to, during the winter season, in a phrase peculiar to that fancy, viz., hua ! 
hua ! stroking them down the back, and clacking to them as to chickens, other- 
wise they would lose their familiarity, which is one of their greatest beauties, and is 
termed showing, and would make the finest of them appear despicable, which made 
a facetious gentleman of my acquaintance say ' that Pouters were a fancy more 
particularly adapted to weavers, cobblers, and the like kind of trades only, that 
worked in the same room where they were kept, that the owners might have an 
opportunity of conversing with them, at the same time they were earning their 
subsistence.' " 

In breeding Pouters we have tried both the plans of having feeders and of rear- 
ing the young birds without, and most unhesitatingly give our verdict in opposition 
to the author of the " Treatise." Feeders are a great trouble ; you must have two 
pairs for each pair of Pouters, or you cannot ensure their being ready to take the 
young when required, and sometimes they resent the change and will forsake their 
charge. By feeling the young birds' crops twice a day, and if they are empty, 
feeding them with soaked beans, they are readily reared. It may be said, this is 
troublesome, but good birds are creditable, and will amply repay the owner for 
the trouble of rearing them. 

The most admirable arrangement for keeping Pouters that has ever fallen under 
our notice was that adopted by the late Mr. Samuel Bult, of Highgate, who was 
one of the most ardent admirers of this breed. 

Those fanciers who, like ourselves, had the privilege of seeing this celebrated 
stud at home, cannot fail to have been struck with the admirable manner in which 
the birds were cared for. A visitor was never allowed to see them before the 
houses had been thoroughly cleaned out for the day, the floors freshly swept and 
gravelled, and the pens strewed with fresh sawdust. If the visit was early in the 
day, a glass of wine and biscuit served to beguile the time until " William " an- 
nounced the fact that the birds were ready for inspection : on stepping out on to the 
lawn at the back of the house, the visitor saw a walled garden of moderate size; at the 
opposite sides of the lawn were two summerhouses ; which were devoted to the 
Pouters. In the centre of the lawn was the stump of a low tree, the branches of 


winch had been sawn off, leaving the truncated ends, each of which supported a 
small platform on which the birds could fly. On the lawn itself were the large 
shallow vessels in which they bathed. The houses contained the pens, each one of 
which was about three feet long by eighteen inches in height. The fronts of the 
pens were made of perpendicular wires. The door formed the middle third, the 
wires at the two ends being fixtures. At the two extremities of the pens were placed 
large flat flower-pot saucers, serving as nest-pans, and often a pair of young birds 
was to be seen at one end, whilst one of the parents was sitting on a pair of eggs 
at the other. Each pen was furnished with two small pans, one for food, the other 
for water : these were never empty. 

Mr. Bult did not employ any common birds as feeders for his stock; he had 
tried the plan and not found it so successful as to induce him to continue it, conse- 
quently the lowest tier of pens, which had been originally constructed for their 
accommodation, was devoted to a few Jacobines. Birds of this breed were selected 
by him because of the contrast their small delicate forms, short legs, and recurved 
hoods, offered to the large size, elongated limbs, and inflated crops of the Pouters. 

Those of the young birds that required feeding by hand were fed with beans 
night and morning, and as the interval between the time of their being neglected, 
wholly or partially, by the parents, and that at which they could feed themselves, 
was not a long one, this feeding did not involve any great degree of trouble. 

Pouters will always feed their young for a few days, until they have entirely got 
rid of that secretion from the crop known as the soft food ; hence there is rarely 
any difficulty with the newly hatched young for eight or nine days ; but shortly 
after that time the birds, from being highly fed, are desirous of going to nest again. 
The cock will begin driving the hen, and this leads to a desertion, more or less 
complete, of the young birds in the nest. To prevent their death, under these 
circumstances they must either be shifted under other birds that are better feeders, 
or they must be brought up by feeding them artificially. Some fanciers effect this 
in a peculiar manner, filling their mouths with peas or tares, followed by a mouth- 
ful of water. The owner then takes the young bird in his hands, inserts its beak 
between his lips, and by an action imitative of the method of feeding adopted by 
the old pigeons, ejects the contents of his mouth into the crop of the young bird. 
There are pigeon fanciers who are very expert at this operation, and who boast of 
their power of rearing young birds from a very early age ; but we confess to not 
having mastered the accomplishment. 

The method of feeding by hand usually adopted is to cram the bird with soaked 
beans or peas. We prefer the former, as being larger, and not requiring so many 
to fill the crop. The bird to be fed should be lifted from the nest, or the nest-pan 
may be taken on the knees as the feeder sits in a low chair; when, placing the left 
hand over the bird, he holds the head between the finger and thumb, and taking 
np the beans (which should be conveniently placed) with the right hand, he opens 
the beak and slips them rapidly, one after another, down the throat of the young ; 



taking care that they pass on into the crop and do not collect in the gullet, where, 
by pressing the windpipe, they might stop the breathing. 

The object of soaking the beans is twofold. By it they are rendered larger, and 
so are more easily handled, and sufficient water is given at the same time as the 
food ; this is a great advantage, for at the early stage at which some Pouters 
require feeding, it is difficult to induce them to drink. 

Those who, like ourselves, have had the pleasure of witnessing the scene from the 
windows of Mr. Bult's house, will acknowledge that his arrangements were the very 
perfection of pigeon-keeping. The extreme cleanliness of the houses and pens, the 
beauty of the birds, now prancing proudly on the lawn, and then, as it were, in the 
very exuberance of their animal spirits, starting off on a short flight with loud-slap- 
ping wings and inflated crops, and the pleasing variety occasioned by the different 
colours of the birds, combined to render the picture most attractive. 

The pure white contrasted well with the black-pied, and the reds and yellows 
with the blue-pied, although these latter, in the elegance of their marking, are 
perhaps in advance of all the others. 

After the death of Mr. Bult, which took place in 1862, this valuable stud 
of birds was disposed of on November 18th, 1862, by the hammer of Mr. J. C. 
Stevens, of King Street, Co vent Garden. The following account of the sale 
appeared in The Field of November 22nd, in the form of a letter from a corres- 
pondent : — 

" Sir, — As a witness to the most remarkable sale of pigeons that has occurred in 
my recollection (and I am now rather an old fancier), I beg to send you the follow- 
ing account of the auction at which Mr. Bult's Pouters were sold, on Tuesday last. 
The number of birds sold must have been very nearly, if not quite, seventy, and 
the money they produced could not have been much under £200. Among the 
more remarkable birds were the following : — A white cock of extraordinary length 
of feather, a very good bird, for £5 5s. ; a blue-pied cock, for the same price, which 
was also realized by a red cock and a black hen. Many birds went at sums vary- 
ing from £4 to £5, and the entire stud averaged nearly £3 each. 

" As usual in every sale, there were a great many inexperienced buyers who were 
paying heavily for the worst birds, the best certainly not fetching their full value. 
The sale attracted buyers from very distant places ; many of the birds went to 
Manchester, others to Halifax, some to Scotland and Ireland — so that this cele- 
brated strain will be widely distributed. 

" From the number of Mr. Bult's birds, and the extreme care and attention that 
was paid to them, they always appeared in public the very pink of cleanliness, and 
in capital show, hence they never failed to attract a greater amount of attention 
than most other strains. Of the great merit of his best birds, there can be no 
doubt, but the surprising fact is that the mere wasters amongst those bred during 
the last season should find buyers at the price at which they were purchased. 
After this sale, who can say the pigeon fancy is declining ? 

" COLI'MBA Livia." 



This letter elicited the following account in a succeeding number of the same 
paper : — 

" Sir, — The extraordinary prices realized by Mr. Bult's Pouters are by no means 
unprecedented. On looking at a rare anonymous work, entitled " A Treatise on 
Domestic Pigeons," London, 1765, I find the following notice regarding a sale of 
Pouters that took place more than 100 years since : — ' Eighteen pairs and a half,' 
says the author, ' were sold by public auction for £92 9s. 6d., as appears by 
a paragraph in the Daily Advertiser of Thursday, Jan. 1, and the day following 
in the Gazetteer and London Daily Advertiser of Friday, Jan. 2, 1761, which, 
for the greater satisfaction of the reader, I shall here transcribe : 

" ' On Monday evening last, at the sale of pouting pigeons, at Mr. Hay's, the 
French Horn, in Beach Lane, consisting of eighteen pairs and a half of pigeons, 
they were sold as follows : — 



One pair . 


































A hen only 


One pair . 

£ s. 


2 12 


2 7 


1 17 

2 12 


8 5 

3 13 


4 7 

4 6 

3 10 

3 16 

5 2 

4 1 


13 6 

16 16 

4 10 

5 5 

1 3 


£92 9 6 

" As I was present,' says the author, ' at the above sale, so I had an 
opportunity of examining the birds, some of which were very indifferent ones, and 
some of them very capital ones indeed, viz. : Lots 14, 15, 16, and 18 ; and to my 
knowledge, two pairs of which were afterwards sold for 36 guineas by private 

" Senex." 


It is singular that at the distance of a century two sales of first-class Pouters 
should occur, at both of which the birds should average almost exactly the same 
price : at the sale in 1761, thirty-seven birds produced £92 9s. 6(7., almost exactly 
£2 10s. each, and in 1862 seventy birds realized the sum of £180 5s. 6d., 
being an average of £2 lis. 6d. each. At neither sale did the best specimens 
produce their full value, and at both the inferior birds were sold far beyond their 
real worth. 

The author of the " Treatise" states that many of the birds sold in 1765 were 
very indifferent, and that the best afterwards sold for a much higher price than 
they realized at the auction ; so with Mr. Bult's birds, many of the inferior 
specimens were resold at Mr. Stevens's in subsequent seasons, and produced 
only a portion of their first cost, whilst many of the best specimens, afterwards 
privately resold, produced much larger sums than they did when disposed of by 
the hammer of Mr. Stevens. 

High as these prices obtained at these sales may appear, they have been far 
surpassed at the present time: £10 is by no means an uncommon price for a good- 
limbed and well-marked bird, and as large a sum as £20 each has not un- 
frequently been given for very superior Pouters. In fact, such a sum is always to 
be obtained for a bird whose properties are sufficiently good to place it as a 
winner at any of the great shows, such as those of Glasgow, Manchester, or 



SEVERAL varieties of Pouters are to be found on the continent of Europe 
which are not much known in our own country. The common Pouters of 
Germany, Holland, and France are very similar to the old Dutch Croppers, as 
described by Moore, whose account of the breed is quoted in the last chapter. They 
are large pigeons, with well-distended globular crops. They often possess great 
length of feather ; but their legs are short, and, consequently, their carriage is not 
erect, and they cannot compare in elegance with the English birds. In colour 
they vary greatly, the continental amateurs devoting great care to the production 
of variations in the colour and markings of the plumage. Some idea of the 
numerous varieties thus produced may be gained from the fact that M.M. Boitard 
and Corbie, in their volume entitled " Les Pigeons de Voliere et de Colombier," 
Paris, 1824, describe nearly twenty varieties in the colour and markings of the 
Continental Pouters, or " Pigeons Grosse Gorge.'' 

Many of these birds are very prettily marked ; a pair, a short time since, came 
into our possession, of a very bright yellow, with pure white wings and flight- 
feathers, and well-defined white rings round the necks. Some of these breeds 
are well feathered on the legs and feet ; others are not so ornamented. 

In addition to these large breeds, there are some smaller Pouters to be found in 
various parts of the continent. Among the best known of these at the present 
time, at least in England, are the birds known at the pigeon-shows as Isabels, and 
so named, we may presume, in consequence of their colour. They may be described 
as small Pouters, with very good-sized crops, and having the feet generally rather 
heavily feathered. In colour they vary from a light and delicate fawn tint to a pale 
yellow, and as in many other of the German breeds, the black bars so characteristic 
of the wild Blue Rock, and the majority of the blue birds descended from it, have been 
supplanted by two white bars. These Isabels have been common at our pigeon 
exhibitions for some years, and really good specimens are very successful competitors 
in the classes in which the new or distinct varieties are shown. Isabels are very 
delicate and elegant birds ; on a closely mown lawn they always appear to great 
advantage, their colour contrasting well with the green background formed by the 


short grass. They breed, freely, are perfectly hardy, and require no special 
attention to ensure their rearing their young with success. 

Within the last few years a second variety of small Pouters has been introduced 
into England. The first that came under our notice were those exhibited by 
Dr. Harvey of Cork, who showed black and red birds at the Cork exhibition, 
under the title of Brunnen Pouters. 

The best of these birds are perfect Pouters in miniature ; and if we except the 
pied markings on the full-sized birds, they possess every property that distin- 
guishes the English Pouter, but reduced to the smallest possible size. In fulness 
of crop, in erect carriage, in slenderness of girth, and in length of limb, they are 

The original birds that were first imported were very bare on the shanks, a 
failing that detracted much from their appearance; but which has been remedied by 
careful breeding, and well-feathered specimens are now to be obtained. 

In colour they vary considerably. We have at the present time some of these 
little pigmy Pouters, as they have been most appropriately termed, that are 
purely white; these are excessively elegant. Others are entirely red; a third set 
black; whilst some, which are not the least attractive, are blue, with the usual 
black bars; and others are silver, with white bars. A few are fawn-coloured, whilst 
some are very elegantly marked or chequered on the wings, like the Parisian 
Pouter, as described by Moore in the account quoted at page 50. 

"We have not yet succeeded in breeding any that are pied like the English 
Pouters ; but there is no doubt that with a little care this could be accomplished. 
In fact, it was done by the late Sir John Sebright. Mr. J. M. Eaton, in his 
" Treatise on Pigeons," states he was present at the sale of the birds that was 
held after Sir John's death, and that he was surprised, " on looking at his Pouters, 
to find that he had reduced the English Pouter down to such little Lilliputians, 
or ' multum in parvo' Pouters, possessing in an elegant degree the properties of 
the English Pouter. Sir John no doubt reduced tbem all he possibly could; 
preserving all their elegant properties." 

There can be but little doubt that Sir John Sebright obtained a stock of the 
small pigmy or Brunnen Pouters as a basis of operations, and introduced 
the pied markings of the English breed, retaining the diminutive size of the 
German birds. 

We have not been able to trace the destination of the birds that were sold after 
Sir John Sebright's decease, but presume that, from want of care, the breed 
became extinct. His laced bantams have become firmly established in the public 
estimation, but the pigeons appear to have been entirely lost. This is to be 
regretted, as a prettier variety could not be introduced. We have, however, 
no doubt but that they will become in request ; and as the exquisitely elegant little 
Game bantam is appreciated as a miniature of the gallant Game cock, so will the 
pigmy Pouter be admired by those who estimate the noble English breed. 

It may interest our readers to know the exact size of good birds of this variety, 


and therefore we give the following weights and dimensions of some of those in 
our possession. 

White Cock.' — Weight, eight ounces ; length from tip of beak to end of tail, 
thirteen inches and a quarter ; length of leg, five inches and a quarter. This 
little bird has most admirable carriage, and all the properties of a good white 
Pouter, even to the dark eye and white beak. 

Blue Hen.— "Weight, seven ounces and a quarter ; length of body, thirteen 
inches ; length of limb, five inches. 

Silver Hen. — Weight, eight ounces and a quarter ; length, thirteen inches ; 
length of limb, four inches and three quarters. 

These dimensions are those of mature adult specimens. We have only to remark 
in conclusion that these birds rear their own young with success, and that they 
may be made so tame and familiar that they will allow themselves to be taken 
up by the hand without an attempt to escape. 




UNDER the name of Carrier pigeons several very distinct varieties are com- 
monly confounded together. The term Carrier, as applied to pigeons, 
evidently was first employed to signify those breeds that were used to convey or 
carry messages to their own homes from distant places. In the process of time it 
has been used by English fanciers to signify a very artificial or high-class breed, 
the birds of which are never employed for carrying messages, but are valued solely 
in proportion to the perfection of certain " properties " that they possess. This is 
an unfortunate circumstance, for by the public at large the term Carrier is always 
taken to express the fact that the birds to which it is applied are really those 
employed to " carry " messages ; whereas the long-distance flying birds, those 
known more correctly as "Homing" birds, or " Les Pigeons Voyageurs," are 
totally distinct. Hence it will be desirable to describe these breeds in separate 
chapters, and we shall first consider the high-class fancy, or English Carrier. 

Of the origin of this valued breed there is no special record. All domesticated 
pigeons have a tendency to variation in the amount of naked membrane around 
the eye and over the nostrils, and this, when growing to an unusual extent, having 
pleased the taste of the early fanciers, has been propagated by careful breeding, 
increased by the process of artificial selection, and conjoined to an extremely 
elongated beak and well-developed limbs, until at last the English Carrier has 
been produced. 

The term English Carrier may be applied to this breed with strict accuracy, for 
in no other country do birds exist possessing their characters. There are to be 
found in other countries birds with the membrane around the eye highly developed, 
as, for example, those known as Barbs. Others have the beak extremely elongated, 
as the Scanderoons, the Bagndctten of the Germans, and the Bagadais of the 




French amateurs ; but no bird containing the properties of the Carrier is to be 
met with abroad, excepting in the case of birds exported from England. 

Such being the case, we turn to the earliest English authority on fancy pigeons 
for a description of their properties, and find that Moore, in his " Columbarium," 
writes as follows : — 

" The Carrier is larger in size than most of the common sorts of pigeons : T 
measured one whose length from the point of the beak to the extremity of the tail 
was fifteen inches ; this, though not one of the largest, weighed near twenty 
ounces. Their flesh is naturally firm, and their feathers close, when they stand 
erect upon their legs ; their necks being usually long, there appears in them a 
wonderful symmetry of shape'beyond other pigeons. 

" The upper chap of the bill is half covered from the head, with a naked 
white tuberous furfuraceous flesh, which projects or hangs over both its sides on 
the upper part nearest the head, and ends in a point about the middle of the 
bill : this is called the wattle, and is sometimes joined by two small excrescences 
of the same kind on each side of the under chap. This flesh is in some 
Carriers more inclinable to a blackish colour, which is generally the more valued. 

" The eyes, whose iris, or circle round the black pupil, is generally of the colour 
of a reddish gravel, are equally surrounded with the same sort of furfuraceous 
matter, for about the breadth of a shilling ; this is generally thin when it spreads 
wide, and is most valued, yet when the flesh round the eye is thick and broad it 
shows the Carriers to be of a good blood that will breed very stout ones. 

" A Carrier is generally reckoned to have twelve properties, viz., three in 
the beak, three in the wattle, three in the head, and three in the eye. 

" To begin, therefore, with the first, the properties of the beak are to be long, 
straight, and thick. As to its length, 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. The straightness of the beak adds a wonderful beauty to its length, and 
if otherwise it is said to be hooked-beaked, and is not so much esteemed. The 
thickness of the beak is likewise a very great commendation, and if it fails in 
this point it is said to be spindle-beaked, which diminishes something of its 

" The next three properties are those of the wattle, which ought to be broad 
across the beak ; short from the head towards the apex, or point of the bill, and 
tilting forward from the head ; for if otherwise it is said to be pegg-wattled, 
which is very much disesteemed ; and, therefore, some people, to impose upon 
mankind, and enhance the price of an indifferent bird, have artificially raised the 
hinder part of the wattle, filled it up with cork, and wired it in with fine wire, in 
such a manner as not to he easily perceptible, especially to gentlemen who are not 
adepts in the Fancy. 

" We now ccme to consider the properties of the head, which are its length, 
its narrowness, and its flatness. When a Carrier has a long narrow head, and a 
very flat skull, it is much admired; and if otherwise, it is said to be barrel headed. 

n 2 


" The last three properties are those of the eye, which ought to be broad, 
round, and of an equal thickness ; for if one part of the eye be thinner than 
the rest, it is said to be pinch-eyed, which is deemed a very great imperfection ; 
whereas if it has the contrary properties, it is said to have a rose-eye, which is very 

" To these, some add the distance which is between the hinder part of the 
wattle and the edge of the eye ; but I cannot allow this to be a property, because 
when a Carrier comes to be three or four years old, if the eye is broad and the 
wattle large, they must of necessity meet : the distance, therefore, seems to be 
rather a property of the Horseman. 

" Another distinguishing mark of the Carrier is the length and thinness of its 
neck, which some call a property ; and it must be allowed to add a very great 
beauty to this bird, especially considering the breadth of its chest. 

" Its feather is chiefly black or dun, though there are likewise blues, whites, 
and pieds of each feather, but the black and dun answer best the foregoing 
properties ; yet the blues and blue pieds are generally esteemed for their 
scarcity, though they will not usually come up to the properties of the fore- 
going feathers." 

Since the time of Moore, the Carrier, as a fancy pigeon, has been even increasing 
in the estimation in which it is held by fanciers. To so high a pitch has it now 
risen that £20 is no uncommon price to be given for a very perfect bird, one that 
is capable of taking a high position in a close competition at a competitive show, 
and there is no doubt that the standard of the breed or the perfection of the 
properties has been varied since the publication of the " Columbarium " in 1735. 

Some time since the members of the National Columbarian Society drew up a 
most elaborate and valuable paper on the properties of the Carrier. 

The members stated, " We shall endeavour to describe the properties which in 
the aggregate constitute the perfect Carrier of the present day. In this labour of 
love we have spared no pains to give value and truthfulness to our report, inas- 
much as nothing has been taken for granted, or upon any previous authority, but 
the standard measurements have been carefully verified on first-class living birds. 
"We have endeavoured to fix the relative value of the properties by the employment 
of numerals. We attach much importance to this, the most practical part of our 
efforts, not merely because we believe it may serve to guide young fanciers 
respecting the quality of the birds they may select, but in the hope that it may 
tend to produce uniformity in, and prevent dissatisfaction with, the awards of 
judges; for if it be conceded that our appreciation of the different points is correct, 
it follows that the awarding of a first, second, or third prize becomes, in the great 
majority of cases, a matter of simple addition. Trusting that our opinions now 
recorded may coincide with those of our brother fanciers, we entertain the hope that 
one result at least will be gained by the publication of this paper, namely, the 
opinion of the fancy at large upon the standard we have drawn, and the relative 
value of the different points : — 



1. The Skull. — It should be long, straight, narrow between the eyes, and flat at 

the top, where it is sometimes dented. 

2. The Beak. — The upper and lower mandibles should be long, straight, thick, 

and boxed, that is to say, the upper should close on the lower like the lid of 
a box. The colour of the beak is not regarded as material. 

3. The Beak Wattle. — The wattle of the beak should be distinct from that of 

the eye, soft in texture, short from back to front, broad, tilting forwards 
from the forehead, and pointed at its termination towards the tip of the 
beak on the top. It should not present a flattened appearance, but stand 
out like the surface of a cauliflower, and its fissures should curve somewhat 
regularly towards the point ; this upper wattle should be met by a cor- 
responding one (sometimes called the jewing) on the lower jaw. 

4. The Eye. — The eye-wattle should be large, fleshy, soft, round, regular, and 

should vise above the skull ; the ball of the eye should be prominent, like 
a well-set jewel, its iris fiery red, or it may be pearl-coloured in dun-coloured 
birds. In white Carriers the eye should be dark. 

5. The Carriage. — The beak and head should form nearly a right angle with the 

neck ; the shoulders should be broad, the chest full, the limbs long, so as 
to keep the body well raised from the ground ; the bird should show his 
carriage without requiring much rousing, holding the neck slightly curved 
over the back, so that the eye is directly over the toes. The body should 
present a graceful line from the shoulder to the end of the flight, the back 
being flat, and the tail and flight-feathers touching, so as to render the line 
continuous. The neck should be long and thin from its commencement at 
the shoulders upwards, the head being well undercut at the junction of 
the lower jaw with the neck. 

6. The Plumage. — The feathers should be dense and closely set, a Carrier in 

perfect condition appearing as if cut out of stone ; the colours should be a 
deep black, a dark dun, a good bright blue, with well-defined black bars 
across the wings and tail, or a pure white. 

" We now proceed to give the standard of measurements which ought to be pos- 
sessed by birds with pretensions to rank high in the fancy : — 
Length of Skull and Beak. — In the cock, not less than two inches and three 

quarters, or in the hen than two inches and five eighths. 
Width of Skull. — This should not exceed half-an-inch, measured at the back of 

the head behind the eye-wattle. 
Length of Beak. — To be measured from the front of the eye-ball to its point. 

In the cock, not less than one inch and three quarters ; or in the hen, one 

inch and five eighths. 
Size of Wattles. — Measured around the upper and lower wattles, at their widest 


circumference. In the cock it should not be less than four inches, nor in 

the hen less than three inches. 
Eye Wattle. — This, without being flattened out, should be the size of a shilling. 
Length of Neck. — The length of neck, measured from its junction with the 

shoulder to the head, should be four inches and a half. 
Length of Limb. — The limb, measured as in a Pouter, should be six inches and 

a quarter. 
Length of Feathek. — This should be measured, as in a Pouter, from the tip of 

the beak to the end of the central tail-feathers. The cock Carrier should 

measure sixteen inches ; the hen fifteen and a half inches. 
" The above measurements may be taken as constituting the standard for black 
and dun Carriers ; they are at present in advance of the blues and whites ; and 
in awarding prizes, these latter should have due allowance made them. 


Skull. — Length measured from front of eye-ball to back of head, 4 ; flatness, 7 ; 
dent, 2; width, 4; straightness, 4. — Total 21. 

Beak. — Length, 4 ; thickness, 4 ; straightness, 4. — Total 12. 

Beak Wattle. — Circumference, 6 ; tilting, 6 ; distance between eye and wattle, 4 ; 
shape, 4.— Total 20. 

Eye Wattle. — Soundness, 4 ; softness and fineness of texture, 6 ; size, 6 ; 
regularity, 4 ; prominence of eye-ball, 4. — Total 24. 

Carriage, 12. — We attach much importance to this property, as without it a 
Carrier, especially when old, looks anything but attractive. An aged bird 
that has had this property will show it on being roused. Carriage is also 
generally accompanied by a good neck, a long limb, and always by a well- 
shaped body. If a bird exhibited loses by want of style, it may be fairly 
said that it is not desirable to show a bird that cannot show itself. 

Neck. — Length, 4 ; thinness, 4. — Total, 8. 

Thinness of Jowl, 4 — Width of Shoulder, 4 — Length of Limb, 4 — Length 
of Feather, 6 — Colour, 4. 
" The total value of all the properties, as thus estimated, amounts to 119." 

The National Columbarian Society includes within its members many of the 
most eminent Carrier amateurs of the present day, and we cannot, therefore, have 
a higher authority on the standard points of the breed as at present estimated 
amongst fanciers. 

To breed Carriers to a high degree of perfection, the same general principles 
must be followed that were laid down for the rearing of Pouters. Absolutely 
perfect birds are so few in number, that they can rarely be obtained to match 
together ; consequently, in pairing the birds, care should be taken so that the 
deficiency of one parent may be counteracted by the good properties of the other ; 
and two birds showing a tendency to the same defect should never be mated 


In colour it is more usual to match up a black and a dun than to pair two 
blacks or two duns together. It is generally supposed that a more brilliant black 
results from this mode of breeding than when two blacks are matched up. As 
pied Carriers are not so much valued as those that are self coloured, the white 
birds are generally kept distinct. 

It is a singular fact that red or yellow Carriers rarely, if ever, make their appear- 
ance at our shows. It is said that numerous attempts have been made to breed 
yellow Carriers, by crossing heavy yellow Dragons with dun Carriers, but always 
without success ; the yellow birds produced, even after careful selection for some 
years, being always very deficient in the various properties. Never having tried 
the experiment, we cannot speak from personal experience, but should imagine the 
difficulties in the way of the attainment of this object not to be insuperable. 

Carriers do not require any very special management in respect to nesting- 
places. Their nest-pans should be large, and the birds should have food supplied 
in boxes ; for if the beans or peas are scattered on the ground, the best birds will 
be nearly starved to death, as from the size of the wattles they cannot see before 
them to pick up a single bean or pea, and can only feed freely by having a food- 
box, into which they can plunge their beaks. 

The extremely straight beaks that we see in many Carriers are somewhat 
indebted to artificial proceedings for their perfection. If a promising bird has a 
hooked beak, the custom amongst the cleverest of the fanciers is to straighten it 
whilst the bird is still young, and the bone and horn soft and flexible. This is 
done by putting a smooth-worn shilling into the mouth and gently pressing the 
upper mandible, so as to straighten it ; this operation, which must be performed 
with great care and gentleness, is repeated day after day until the beak is 
duly improved. 

In many of the older treatises an inferior variety of the Carrier was described 
under the name of the Horseman, but it had no qualities that distinguished it 
from the Carrier, except that of inferiority of every property, and consequently it 
does not call for any special description. The term " Pouting Horseman " was 
originally applied to a cross-bred mongrel between the Horseman and the Pouter, 
but is now frequently given to a small variety of the Pouter. 

The term " stout birds " is frequently applied to Carriers, and amateurs of 
this breed are not unfrequently known as " stout-bird fanciers." 



HPHERE is perhaps no variety or hreed of pigeons respecting which there has 
-*-been more dispute than the race known as Dragons. The variety that the 
Dragon most closely resembles is unquestionably the Carrier, and it is stated in 
the older works on pigeons, that it was produced by mating a Tumbler with a 
Horseman or a Carrier. Thus Moore writes, " This pigeon is absolutely and 
without dispute a bastard strain, being bred originally from a Horseman to a 
Tumbler, and by matching their breed often to the Horseman they will obtain a 
tolerable degree of stoutness." But whatever may have been the case previously, 
at the present time the breed is firmly established, and has its own distinctive 
peculiarities — peculiarities that it would take many generations of careful breeding 
to produce. It would therefore be a very unprofitable task to try to produce anew 
such a race of birds as those now known as Dragons. 

The Dragon, as at present showu, is a bird of above the average size, with a 
bold spirited upright carriage ; the neck is held erect, and the wings closely 
pressed to the sides. Its attitude and movements indicate great muscular strength 
and the capability of vigorous and rapid flight. 

The characteristics of the head are strongly marked. The eye is large, full, 
a\id in the blue breed of a brilliant orange red ; the eye wattle small, neat, and 
circular. The beak wattle is small, neat, and should be tilted forward from the 
forehead. The beak is black, tapering, and slightly curved, differing very much in 
its character from the elongated "box beak" that distinguishes a Carrier. The 
plumage is more firm and dense than in any other variety of fancy pigeon. The 
wings are fully developed, not only as regards the bony framework and muscle, 
but also in the quill or flight feathers. 

From the close character of the plumage of the neck and body the wing stands 
out from the breast, and gives an appearance of great firmness and strength to 
the bird. 

Mr. Jones Percival, one of the most ardent admirers and successful breeders of 
this variety, states : — 

"My idea of what a Dragon should be is as follows : — In a blue Dragon the 
colour should not resemble that of a light blue Owl or Turbit, but should be a dark 
sound blue ; the bars on the wings should be perfectly black and broad ; the 
metallic lustre of the neck should reach as low down in front as the point of the 




breastbone ; the head should be long, straight, and narrow, and the wattle of the 
eye perfectly round and free from that irregular pinched-up appearance too 
frequently seen in birds of this breed. The beak should be quite black. In 
speaking of the feathers I must not omit noticing the white rump, which I regard 
as a great defect ; for I contend that a Dragon may just as well have a patch of 
white on the shoulder or elsewhere as on the rump ; and if the white rump be 
correct in the blue, why should it not be equally so in the red or yellow birds ? 
My idea is that a Dragon, even if perfection in all other points, should be 
disqualified from taking prizes if it be white-rumped, it being a foul-feathered 

Any opinion coming from so good a fancier as Mr. Percival must command 
attention; but in some respects other amateurs differ from him. In a blue Dragon 
the plumage should be identical in colour with that of the wild Blue Rock, the 
origin of all our breeds. The European race of Blue Rocks have white rumps; the 
Indian have the slaty blue that Mr. Percival so much admires. No doubt all 
breeders would prefer a blue to a white rurnped bird, but few judges would consent 
to disqualify the latter ; nay, more, it is almost certain that if required to judge 
between two pens, one containing white-rumped birds of high excellence, the other 
blue-rumped birds of inferior quality, as regarded carriage, symmetry, properties of 
the head,-&c, they would not hesitate a moment to choose the former, whether 
for breeding purposes or for exhibition. 

Many fanciers have a great admiration for this breed of birds on account of 
their symmetry, the grace of their carriage, and the rapidity and vigour of their 

The blue birds, if well marked, have, generally, a preference over those of 
other colours, either red, yellow, black, or white. The wonderful gamecock-like 
symmetry and hardness of feather that distinguish the best blues is rarely, if 
ever, seen in Dragons of other colours. The yellows and reds are, generally, very 
broad-headed; and whites and blacks are too often merely coarse- wattled, half-bred 
Carriers, that offend the eye of a true London Dragon breeder. 

"With regard to management, Dragons require no special care ; they are such 
admirable parents that the commoner specimens are constantly employed in 
rearing the young of other varieties. Formerly, pure-bred Dragons were largely 
used for conveying messages, but other breeds are now more extensively employed, 
as described in the following chapter. 

The name of Skinnum is given by the London fanciers to the mongrels bred 
between a Dragon and any common pigeon. Many of these birds are strong 
rapid flyers. 



TTAYING described the breed known as the Carrier, and the varieties allied to 
-L-L it, we have now to consider the differemT"kinds of Homing pigeons, or those 
that are remarkable for their powers of flight and their attachment to the home in 
which they have been reared and first flown. There are numerous varieties that 
exhibit this peculiarity, such as the Dragon, the ordinary flying Tumbler, and the 
Skinnum, or mongrel race, between these two breeds. Among the pure breeds 
that can be flown good distances may be mentioned that called the Owl pigeon. 
But the varieties in which this homing faculty is developed to the highest degree 
are unquestionably the different races of Belgian birds, which are termed in 
England by the general name of Antwerps, and in Belgium are known as Smerles, 
Cumulets, Demi Bees, &c. Of these varieties the Smerles are the .most im- 
portant, as being the best known, and we therefore reproduce the following 
description from the pen of the editor, Mr. Tegetmeier, who writes : — ■ 

"From the fact that many of the breed come from Antwerp, they are not 
unfrequently known as Antwerps or Antwerp Carriers, and under the first of 
these names often have a class given to them at the poultry and pigeon shows ; 
a very absurd arrangement, as they have no qualities that can afford any criteria 
for a judge to decide upon in a show-pen. 

" The Smerles are rather small birds, and look very much as if they had been 
originally bred from a rather coarse blue Owl pigeon, crossed with a Blue Bock. 
The head is arched, and the skull capacious, indicating a full development of 
brain, and offering a striking contrast to the flat narrow skull of the English 
fancy Carrier. The most striking characteristic of these birds is the firmness and 
great breadth of the flight feathers of the wings. These overlap each other to a 
great extent, and afford a strong firm wing with which the flight is urged. The 
keel of the breast-bone is deep and well covered with strong muscles; and 
there is altogether an absence of any offal or large development of any part not 
used in flight. 

" In rapidity and power of flying these birds far exceed any other variety of 
pigeon with which I am acquainted. When I kept a large number I have often 
enjoyed watching the flight dart off in a gale of wind; and, after seeing them 
apparently swept away by the blast, witness them come back in the very teeth of 
the gale with almost the same ease and rapidity as they would have done in a 


" This power of flight is conjoined with an attachment to home that is not 
surpassed by that of any other pigeon. As au example of this, I may state that I 
kept a strange pair for two years — the first year in confinement, the second with 
one wing of each bird partially cut. At the expiration of that time the wings 
moulted, so that the birds gradually recovered the power of flight, and circled 
round with the others ; but when the complete restoration was effected, my place 
knew them no more. 

"In describing the Smerles, I have said nothing whatever respecting their colour. 
The Belgian amateurs do not place the slightest value upon this property ; they 
match up birds without any regard to colour, and the result is that the Smerles 
can rarely be depended on for breeding true to the colour of the parents. Speed 
• and endurance are the objects to be attained, and colour is altogether disregarded 
— another proof, if any were wanting, of the absurdity of offering a prize for a pair 
of well-matched Antwerps in a show-pen — a prize which is generally given to a pen 
of birds that would never be seen again if let out fifty miles from home. There is 
one colour, however, that finds but little favour with the Belgian amateurs, and 
that is white. This dislike is not an unreasoning prejudice, but depends on the 
fact that white birds are more conspicuous as they fly than those of darker colour ; 
and, consequently, are more apt to be destroyed by hawks and sportsmen. Setting 
whites, therefore, on one side, there is but little preference shown to any colour ; 
and mealys, blues, chequers, blacks, and blue or black pied are all looked upon 
with equal favour, if they possess the requisite power of wing to fly with equal 
rapidity. Some of the flying birds seen in this country are frilled very much 
like an Owl or Turbit; but I prefer birds without any such irregularity of 
plumage, as it cannot but interfere with their easy and rapid passage through 
the air. 

"As it may be interesting to read another description of these birds, I will trans- 
late that of the editor of Le Pigeon. ' Smerles,' he writes, ' are the short-beaked 
pigeons of the province of Liege. They are remarkable for their intelligence, and 
also for the size of the skull and the well-developed structure of the wings. When 
two years old they are capable of returning from Bordeaux to Liege or Verviers (a 
distance of over 500 miles) in twelve hours, provided the sky be clear and the wind 
favourable. In bad weather they return the following or the third day. The 
journeys from Tours (330 miles), Chatelleraut (365 miles), and Poitiers (380 miles) 
are performed by the same birds in eight hours.' 

"With regard to the value of these birds in Belgium, it is stated that a couple of 
young Smerles, warranted bred from birds that have been flown long distances, sell 
for lOOf. ; and a pigeon which has carried off several prizes in the long distance 
matches will realize even as much as 500f., equivalent to about ,£20 English. 
Some idea may be gained of the enthusiasm with which the flying fancy is pursued 
in Belgium, when the fact is stated that there are 150 societies or clubs offering 
prizes to be flown for, and that these include nearly 10,000 amateurs. 

"I recollect a fact that shows the importance attached to these birds in Belgium. 


The railways of Belgium are partially under the control of the State, and, on one 
occasion, representation was made to the Government officials requesting them to 
arrange a low tariff of charges for the baskets containing the pigeons that were 
being practised or trained for the long matches. 

" The training that these birds undergo is very severe. The young birds are 
taken to gradually increasing distances as their pow r ers of flight increase, so that 
eventually they are acquainted with all the conspicuous landmarks of the long 
journeys. If it is attempted to train them too rapidly, or by too long stages, many 
of the birds are lost ; whereas, by careful training, as practised at Liege, only ten 
per cent, are lost in short courses, and only fifty per cent, even in very long dis- 
tances. In this province they do not fly the young birds of the year more than 
seventy miles, nor ever attempt more than 200 miles the second year, leaving the 
longer and more severe distances for the older and more mature birds, that have 
acquired full development and experience. 

" With regard to the faculty that these birds possess of returning home from long 
distances, I believe more erroneous statements hare been written respecting it than 
on any other subject connected with pigeons. It is usually attributed to some 
mysterious power or instinct that these birds possess, and that is not possessed 
by Turbits, Fantails, Jacobins, or other varieties. I believe that instinct has , 
nothing whatever to do with the homing power, but that the birds find their 
way solely by observation ; and I ground my belief on the following facts : — 

" Any peculiar instinct — such as that of nest-building, power of migration, &c. — 
bestowed on any species, is equally bestowed on all the individuals of that species, 
and not on a few only ; thus, all swallows migrate, but all pigeons do not return 
home from a hundred miles' distance. 

"Instinct is the same in all cases. All swallows fly south in autumn ; but the 
homing pigeon can return home north, south, east, or west — a variation in action 
that is incompatible with the notion of an unreasoning instinct. 

" Pigeons must be regularly trained by stages, or the best birds will be inevitably 
lost if thrown one hundred or two hundred miles. 

" The best birds will refuse to fly in a fog ; nor will I ever believe, except from 
personal experience, that a bird will fly home in the dark. I have tried many 
experiments, and lost many of my best birds in so doing. On one occasion I took 
a bird, that had often flown fifty miles, to a distance of five miles, and threw 
him on a foggy day ; he at once settled at the top of a house, and remained there 
until the fog cleared off. On another occasion I let two of my very best birds 
loose after a show at the Freemasons' Hall, at four o'clock p.m., early in January. 
One perched over the door, and when driven up, flew on to the opposite house. 
Of the two only one ever returned home, the other, probably, falling a prey to 
the cats. 

" To any one who has ever been in the habit of flying these birds the idea of 
instinct is absurd. A bird thrown in a new locality flies round and round in 
gradually-increasing circles, until at length it descries some familiar object, and 


then, and then only, darts off on its homeward flight. Throw the same bird 
again, in the same locality, and if a good intelligent bird there is no wheeling 
round, but, the road being known, he is off instantly. 

" I know I shall be met by the fact that no bird can see two hundred miles, to say 
nothing of five hundred. In that I perfectly agree ; but no bird will return home 
two hundred miles, or even one hundred, without he has been trained by stages on 
the road. Few persons have any idea of the extent of vision from an elevated 
point of view. Mr. Glaisher stated some time since that at half a mile elevation 
in his balloon he saw the whole course of the Thames, from the Nore to Richmond, 
in one view. And I may remark that as the earth's surface on a dead level curves 
eight inches in a mile, and as the curve increases as the square of the distance, 
it is very easy to calculate the range of vision from any altitude. Thus, at a 
height of a little above four hundred feet, the extent of vision, even if the surface 
were a perfect level, as that of the sea, would be twenty-five miles on every side. 
But in every land view there are prominent objects that can be seen at much 
greater distances ; and no one who has ever flown his pigeons but must have 
observed them looking on all sides, turning the head as they wheel round and 
round, until they discern some familiar object. In all questions that do not offer 
a ready solution there is a disposition to refer the effect to some mysterious agency 
beyond human ken. It is much easier to cut short the question of the homing 
faculty of pigeons, and call it instinct, than to investigate the facts of the 

In addition to the Smerles or Liege birds other varieties are extensively 
employed in Belgium, so that the flying pigeons of that country may be 
regarded as a very mixed breed. M. Andre Coopers, Secretary of one of the 
Belgian societies, gives the date of origin of the Pigeon Voyageur of Belgium as 
about fifty years since, and attributes it to the crossing of the Cumulet of Antwerp 
with the Smerle of Liege. The Cumulet he describes as being of Flemish origin, 
with white eyes, and as having the habit of flying so high as to be lost to sight 
for several hours. 

The Smerle he states to be of Walloon origin, and having the same dimensions 
as the Cumulet, only a little shorter, but with a short beak, and having several 
recurved feathers on the throat. In flight he states that it neither rises so high 
nor flies so long as the Cumulet, but that it is more rapid. Several years after 
the date above mentioned, pigeons were brought to Belgium from England ; these 
were distinguished by their beauty, extreme strength, and large eyes with a white 
flesh around the eyes and beak. In Belgium, these were called Bee- Anglais, a 
name they still retain in that country. They are evidently the birds known in 
England as Dragons. By judicious crossing of these three varieties, writes 
M. A. Coopers, products were obtained which were stronger and better organized 
than the typical races, and the present Homing bird was thus formed. 

This cross was first earned out at Antwerp and Brussels. At Liege and Namur, 
far several years preference was given to the pure races. But it was not until 



after this crossed breed had been originated that the long distances now so 
commonly passed over were flown. 

To produce good birds, and to continue the race, judicious crossing, continued to 
the right point, is requisite. M. Coopers recommends crossing first a Bee- Anglais 
or Dragon with a Smerle or a Cumulet ; and the products of the cross with the 
Sruerle, when a year old, to be crossed with a Cumulet ; or the cross-bred 
Cumulet and Bee- Anglais to be crossed with a Smerle. 

The half-bred Bee- Anglais with Smerle or Cumulet, is called a Demi-bee. The 
following generation, bred again from a Smerle or Cumulet, is called a Quart-bee. 
The Demi-bee is strong enough to make voyages, but not of any very great 
distance. The Quart-bee, though smaller, is a more excellent long-distance flyer, 
and may with success be crossed again with Smerles or Cumulets. Although 
many amateurs breed birds having a little more of the character of one or other 
of these original varieties named, or of a particular colour, these variations do not 
affect the good qualities of the race. 

M. Coopers says that it is not desirable to hatch flying birds after the end 
of August, as the young pigeons do not make their full and regular moult, 
consequently cannot be trained the same year ; and have not, during the following 
year, the value of young that are more timely bred. 

On the other hand, young birds hatched before April suffer from cold before 
being perfectly fledged, and want of food during the long nights when the parents 
cannot feed them. 

During many years, writes M. Coopers, people have believed that pigeons 
always direct their flight towards the north, but experience has demonstrated the 
contrary, for they come back with as much ease from north to south as in the 
opposite direction. The circumstances that have given rise to this supposition 
are, that pigeons trained at first for journeys from the south, have been suddenly 
sent to great distances towards the north, and the greater part of them have 
been lost; but, prepared in the same manner in the north as in the south, they 
come back equally well from a similar distance. Journeys made from London, 
Birmingham, and Hull, to Brussels and Antwerp, have demonstrated this. 

It is well known that pigeons direct themselves by sight to the houses where they 
were reared. The Homing pigeons of Belgium, when liberated from the baskets in 
which they are forwarded great distances from home, fly round together ; of those 
which take a wrong direction, a certain part return to the spot the next day, and 
are captured there, proving that they recognize even a new locality in an instant. 

The Cumulets of M. A. Coopers are also known as Volants or Highflyers : 
of these birds Mr. Kenrick, of Bruges, informs me : — " The true-bred Volants are 
either black, white, or white with a little red on their necks and bodies. They 
have even whiter pearl eyes than Tumblers, and the black pupil of the eye is 
extremely small. They are most extraordinary birds to fly high, and have been 
known to keep on wing nine, ten, and eleven hours at a stretch. Their heads are 
not what is termed ' mousey,' but are more elegantly shaped than Tumblers. 


The best are clean-legged birds, but occasionally they are to be seen with 
feathered legs ; but these are probably cross-bred. Two birds will fly together as 
well as a flock, which I do not think is generally the case with Tumblers." 

Dr. Chappuis, a Belgian physician, has published a long treatise on the 
management, rearing, and training of the Homing pigeons that are flown so 
extensively in Belgium. The treatise contains much information that is valuable 
alike to the naturalist and to the pigeon fancier. 

The following is an abstract of the chapter on the training of these birds. 
It will be seen that the methods adopted by the Belgian fanciers differ from those 
followed in England, the training being more sudden and severe. All experienced 
amateurs agree with Dr. Chappuis in the desirability of not overworking the birds 
when young, and of using the old birds only for long flights : — 

" In training young pigeons to fill up the vacancies left by the loss or death of the 
old ones, it is desirable to allow them to make several trial flights. Though a 
pigeon at first sight may appear good, it may, nevertheless, have some defect 
which renders it unfitted for the purpose for which it is designed. By observation 
we can tell whether the wings of a young pigeon are well formed, but we cannot 
thus learn whether it has good sight, or whether its faculties are well developed ; 
whereas the first trial to which the bird is subjected will satisfy us on these 

"A pigeon two or three months old, counting from the time when it leaves the 
nest, may be able to perform the journeys ; but it is preferable to wait till it is five 
or six months old ; and, in practice, it is the pigeons hatched in March, April, and 
May which are subjected to these trials, which take place towards the end of 
August, or in September. A first flight of five to eight miles is flown ; the 
second, three or four days after, will be double the length. In this manner, in 
five or six trials, a distance varying from 150 to 180 miles will be arrived at as the 
length of the flight. 

" These trials are amply sufficient, for the incapable pigeons will be lost on the 
road. The best will have shown their rapidity and excellence. A bird in training, 
which even in good condition has allowed itself to be constantly distanced, ought 
not to be kept, although it is possible that it may improve ; as it happens some- 
times that a pigeon for several years does not distinguish itself, and all at once 
gains several successes. A good deal is often said about these exceptions, but 
in general the best birds may be chosen after the early trials. A very good 
pigeon shows its superiority as well in its youth as at a more advanced age. 
In preserving very ordinary pigeons, the race ia not being perfected. 

" In certain localities young pigeons are more severely exercised in trials which 
commence from the month of July ; these increase progressively in difficulty, till 
at last the pigeons are made to fly from 300 to 400 miles. That this manner of 
acting, by multiplying the number of contests, augments the pleasure, is incontes- 
table ; but that the breed becomes the better for it is very doubtful. A pigeon 
does not come to full strength till it is three years old. If in its youth it has been 



subjected to too severe exertions, it becomes easily exhausted ; and at the age of 
four or five years, when it ought to possess its greatest vigour, it begins to decline, 
a journey of moderate length tires it, and if it does not remain on the road, it can 
scarcely follow even the last of those in the flight. 

" I much prefer the system of those amateurs who the first year submit their 
young pigeons to only short trials, allow them to form and develop during the 
second, and not until the third year permit them to make a journey of 300 to 400 
miles. Thus they always possess good birds, which can with advantage take part 
in the contests where long distances are flown. 

" Though various plans are followed with regard to the training of the young 
pigeons of the year in the different societies, it is not so with regard to the old 
ones ; that is to say, the pigeons of four or five years old, which it is proposed to 
employ in the contests. It is an almost universal rule that these last, after three or 
four daily trials, should make the journey from Paris to Belgium before being sent 
to any more distant place. This rule is not, however, without exception, and some 
experienced amateurs omit the flight from Paris from their training. When the 
weather is favourable this journey is mere play for the pigeons, but if the wind is 
contrary, or circumstances are unfavourable, it fatigues them much, and may be 
prejudicial to them when the day of the contest comes — a day on which each bird 
ought to possess all its physical strength. 

" This consideration leads us to inquire into the conditions under which a pigeon 
is best fitted to take part in the contests. 

"As the great races take place in the second half of the month of July, it is 
desirable that the moulting of the birds should be retarded as much as possible. 
Indeed, at this time one frequently sees many pigeons which have only three or 
four of the largest winged feathers to lose. This condition is to be lamented on 
two grounds : first, the absence of a large feather is more unfavourable than that 
of a small one, the long feathers increase in length from the inner to the outer 
ones, so that the second is more important than the third, and so on ; in the 
second place, when the pigeon has arrived at the stage of its moult that there are 
only three or four feathers left, it is on the point of losing its scalpulary feathers 
and its wing coverts ; the fall of these last constantly takes place in a rapid 
manner, and it may be so much accelerated by the short imprisonment of the 
birds in the baskets in which they are carried, that when they are set at liberty 
they may be found entirely deprived of an important instrument of flight. By 
chance a bird far in advance in its moult may succeed in gaining a victory, but 
such cases are exceptional, and wih\occur more rarely the more laborious the flight. 
A pigeon which has only commenced its moult, and has lost but three or 
four of its feathers, possesses a wing without gaps, and is in more favourable 

" The majority of fanciers have more confidence in male than in female birds ; 
ordinarily, three-fourths of the birds employed in a flight are males — not that 
females are less faithful or less rapid than males, but because they are less often 





in good condition. For example, it is known that at the approach of the time of 
laving, and also during the two or three days which follow it, it is dangerous to 
employ a female. If she lays her two eggs in the basket in which she is carried, 
the state of weakness in which she arrives will cause her to fail, or, at least, will 
not allow of her taking a brilliant part in the contest. In the same way the 
female, being more employed in hatching than the male, perceives sooner the 
movements of the young pigeon in the egg ; she feels that the time of coming out 
of the egg draws near, and prepares in consequence ; the glands of the crop 
swell and secrete the milk which she gives to her little ones in the first days after 
their birth. If at this moment she is taken away from her maternal cares, to be 
shut up for several days in a basket, she will become ill, will cease to eat, and in 
all probability will be unable to regain her home. This last circumstance is also 
unfavourable in the case of the male bird, because he disgorges the same kind of 
milk for his little ones. 

" It is also necessary to watch that the pigeons should not exhaust themselves in 
rearing too many young ; as a rule, only one young pigeon should be allowed to 
those parents that are about to take long flights. 

" Thus, during the two or three days which precede or follow laying, and also the 
hatching out of the young, the female must not be employed ; nor must the male 
during the three or four days which follow the hatching. It is often in the power 
of the amateur to defer the occurrence of these unfavourable circumstances. As 
the day of departure is known a long time beforehand, he may, by taking away 
the young, accelerate the period of a new laying, and also, a day or two before the 
hatching out, he may place a young pigeon of three or four days old in the nest, 
so that the parents may disgorge the soft food which fills their crops. 

" Besides the times indicated above, the question has been much agitated whether 
pigeons ought to be flown while they are sitting, or when they have young ones 
less than eight days old. 

" At last the great day arrives ; the pigeons intended for the struggle must be 
caught in order to be sent to the society, where they are to receive the marks 
indicating then- engagement. This operation of taking the pigeons in a closed 
pigeon-house appears very simple, and ordinary people would not imagine that it 
could be made an object of discussion. There is a plan employed which 
consists in catching the pigeons in then 1 flight by means of a small net ; the 
Belgian pigeon-houses are too small to allow of the use of this instrument, and 
even if they were larger it might not be generally adopted. 

"As a general rule more can be got from animals by affection than by cruelty, 
and pigeons are no exception to this. "When an amateur takes care of his birds 
himself, when he never frightens them by abrupt and hurried movements, the 
pigeons know him, and will allow themselves to be taken with the greatest facility. 
We have even seen the master's dog go into the pigeon-house without a single 
pigeon manifesting the least uneasiness. 

"But all amateurs have not the talent or the leisure to tame their flying birds to 



as great an extent. To catch the birds easily some have divided their pigeon-house 
by a movable partition ; they bring their pigeons into the narrow space shut in by 
this partition, and in a few minutes their choice is made. Others shut out the 
light from the pigeon-house in such a manner as to produce darkness so great 
that the pigeons remain motionless. It is possible then to catch them without 
risk of pulling out any feathers, or even of ruffling them. 

" Too many precautions cannot be employed during this operation, for a pigeon 
is rendered unfit for the contest simply by breaking one or two of the important 

" When the competitors are shut up in a basket, it is well to pass them in review, 
and to make sure of the state of their wings. Attention should also be directed 
to the feet, in order to free them from any hardened dirt which may adhere to 
them. The feet, particularly those of large pigeons, often collect dung, which 
becomes hard in the pigeon-house. "We can understand that this weight may 
overload a pigeon in its flight, and therefore attentive amateurs pass the finger, 
soaked in oil, over the lower surface of the bird's foot, so that excrements may 
not adhere to it." 

The chapter descriptive of the present state of the pigeon societies in Belgium 
is very interesting. Dr. Chappuis remarks that the increase of railways has greatly 
extended the number of pigeon matches. Numerous societies have been estab- 
lished, and in some districts of Belgium there is scarcely a village that does not 
possess one. 

Since the formation of the first societies, when pigeons were carried on the back 
in a basket divided into compartments, considerable improvements have been made 
in their conveyance ; and great care has been taken in the construction of the 
boxes and baskets in which the pigeons are carried. 

The baskets are generally between four and five feet long, three feet wide, and 
about twelve inches high, and an opening about a foot long, shut by a movable 
door, is placed in the middle of one of the long sides. The bottom of the 
basket is covered with a thick coarse cloth ; the baskets are made of stout willows 
stripped of the bark ; these are placed at a distance of about one inch and a half 
from each other, so that they are wide enough apart for the pigeons to put their heads 
through to chink, but so close that no one can put in his hand to steal the birds. 
Before the birds are placed in the baskets the bottom is covered with a thin layer 
of perfectly dry tan ; sometimes chopped straw or long straw is used instead, but 
the latter does not answer well, as the dung does not dry quickly, and the pigeons 
soon get very dirty. The chopped straw is too light, and it readily accumulates in 
one corner, leaving the remainder of the basket without litter; consequently the 
tan is much to be preferred, as it adheres to the cloth at the bottom, and dries the 
damp dung. 

In other provinces of Belgium baskets of another kind are used ; they are not 
made of openwork, but of closely-woven willows, with square openings on one 
side, through which the pigeons can chink out of a vessel fastened to the outside. 


Tliese latter baskets have the great advantage of being perfectly closed, and of 
lessening the liability to the loss of the birds from feline and other depredators. 
But they are heavy, and their carriage is more cumbrous and expensive. 

At Liege, the birds which are flown from a distance are always accompanied on 
the railway by a skilful person, who looks after them on the road, and supplies 
them with food and water. In other places the boxes are addressed to the 
station-master or to the mayor of the town which has been selected as the com- 
mencement of the return flight ; a label is fixed to the baskets requesting the 
railway authorities to supply water to the birds and to give them some of the grain 
sent in a bag for that purpose. 

The cost of sending a man with the pigeons is considerable, his expenses 
averaging six shillings per day, in addition to his railway fare and the percentage 
he receives on the value of the prizes flown for. All these items on an average 
amount to nearly ;£'30 for each society every season. 

These expenses are avoided by the second system — that followed in the pro- 
vinces of Flanders and Brabant. The transport of pigeons is also made in a more 
rapid manner, for they are sent by express trains ; while, in Liege, the ordinary 
trains are employed, in order to save expenses in the journey of the man who is 
sent with the pigeons. Another advantage is, that two or three amateurs can, if 
they wish it, join to have a supplementary flight of their birds ; whereas, if they 
employ a man, the matter would be more difficult to organize, and the expense 
would be too much increased. 

Thus, by the one system we can have cheapness and rapidity, and by the 
other we secure care being taken of the pigeons both during their journey and at 
the time of letting them fly. 

After making trial of both plans, and weighing the advantages and drawbacks of 
each, the balance, at least in Belgium, seems to be in favour of the plan of 
employing a man to take charge of the birds. "When the pigeons are addressed 
to the care of the station-master it is a rare thing for them to be flown at the 
time desired ; a delay of several hours makes the amateur who expects them 
impatient — the pleasure which he promised himself becomes a source of annoy- 
ance to him. The baskets with the birds may remain neglected in the station ; if 
rain comes on the pigeons become wet ; the dung which covers the bottom of the 
baskets dirties their plumage, and may clog their wings to so great an extent that 
half of the birds may find it impossible to perform their flight. 

On certain Sundays, in a favourable season, three or four hundred baskets may 
arrive at the same station ; this overwhelming amount of responsibility puts the 
railway people in a bad temper ; the baskets are tossed about ; if they fall they are 
allowed to remain on one end, and the poor pigeons are heaped up in a corner one 
upon the other. This is not the only inconvenience of this overcrowding ; some 
baskets may be intended for a more distant place, yet they pass unperceived and 
are discharged with the others. Occasionally baskets of pigeons have been 
entirely sent wrong and lost. The proprietor desires to recover their value ; but 


in bis efforts to do so lie is sent from pillar to post, till the intentional slowness 
of administrative forms makes him lose heart, and he prefers to suffer his loss 
rather than pursue a restitution surrounded with so many difficulties. 

The expense occasioned by employing a man to look after the birds will not 
be useless, so long as the means of transport hy the railways remain so 

As a remedy for these evils Dr. Chappuis suggests that an agency be estab- 
lished, with correspondents in the distant towns in the south of France, to 
whom the pigeons might be consigned, and, when received, fed and liberated at 
the desired hour. 

It may be of interest to learn the exact details of the training of the birds for 
a long homing match, and, therefore, we have much pleasure in quoting the 
following from a letter from Mr. Kenrick, who, writing from Bruges, states : — 
"There is a society here that fly pigeons every year for prizes. The longest fly 
last year was from Bayonne, on the borders of Spain : twenty-one pigeons were 
despatched off; three only returned after some days. This year they are to be let 
off at Bordeaux, 567 miles from Bruges. The following are the stages, and the 
dates on which the birds are to be let off: Thourout, 11 miles from Bruges, is the 
first stage; the birds are to be thrown on May 7. The next stage is Rumbeke, 
21 miles, date May 10. Then follow in order, Korbryke, 32 miles, May 14; 
Douai, 69 miles, May 20 ; Amiens, 123 miles, May 27 : Paris, 204 miles, June 3 ; 
Blois, 317 miles, June 16; Angouleme, 484 miles, June 29; Bordeaux, 567 
miles, date not fixed. These are the stages for mature birds. The young birds 
bred this year will not be put in training until July, and be only flown as far as 
from Paris." 

It appears that this programme is strong evidence in favour of the theory that 
birds return by observation. If instinct guides the birds, why is it requisite to 
train them by short stages of ten miles at first, the distances being rapidly 
increased, as their observation and intelligence are developed ? Surely no bird, 
guided by the so-called unerring power of instinct, would require to be practised 
three stages before it could be trusted to return home sixty-nine miles. 

Again, of the twenty-one birds that were despatched last season from Bayonne, 
how is it that only three returned to Bruges ? Were the others deficient in instinct ? 
— a power that, as we know, does not vary in individuals of the same species. 

In 1S65 a pigeon match was flown from Liverpool to Ghent, or Gand, in 
Belgium ; the distance in a straight line, as measured roughly on the map, is over 
300 miles. Thirty birds competed in the race. They were all let off together at 
half-past five in the morning. The first arrived at Ghent at ten minutes to six 
the same evening, having flown the distance in twelve hours and twenty minutes, 
being at the average rate of twenty-five miles an hour, supposing the bird to have 
lost no time in starting, and to have flown in a straight line. The second arrived 
an hour after the first, and six more returned the same evening. Eventually 
twenty-two of the birds returned to Ghent ; eight of the thirty were lost. The 


certainty with which these birds passed over England is a convincing proof of the 
fallacy of the assertion made by the English fanciers that the inferior powers of 
the English horning birds are due to the climate or weather of this country. The 
true explanation is evidently that they are inferior either in intelligence or power 
of flight, or in both, or that their training is not properly conducted. 

That shrewd practical naturalist, the late Mr. Wheelwright, better known by 
his nom de plume of " The Old Bushman," writing on the subject, states : — 

" I may first remark that my opinion is that this homing faculty in the pigeon 

is totally distinct from, and clearly conducted upon different principles from those 

which guide the swallow, the stork, and our other migratory birds over trackless 

plains and across wide seas, even on the darkest nights, to their breeding homes of 

the preceding year. This is clearly instinctive, and their flight is guided by an 

invisible hand and an intuitive knowledge for which it will ever baffle man's 

ingenuity to account. The swallow requires no previous training for its journey 

from the south of Europe to Lapland ■ the homeward flight of the pigeon from 

any distance is learned by education, and I fancy that no education or training 

would ever enable the best Antwerp that was ever bred to accomplish the journey 

which the stork or even the little swallow makes every spring and autumn without 

any human assistance. I am fully of opinion that no pair of pigeons bred in an 

aviary, and never let out of that aviary till they were strong on the wing, and then 

carried a hundred miles away and tossed, would ever find their way home. Still, 

I do not think that this homing faculty is altogether perceptive, although I fully 

agree with all Sir. Tegetmeier says about the acute vision of birds. He 

very properly observes that long instinctive flights are quite unknown to the 

fanciers who fly matches. I well recollect, in my day — and I suppose the custom 

is not much altered — that when we began to train our young birds we never tossed 

one until it had been out some little time with the flight, and had become well 

accustomed to the sight of adjacent objects. I rarely tossed the young bird for the 

first half-dozen times at a greater distance than one or two miles from home ; and 

although I did not always use the same place, I always chose an elevated situation 

for the ' chuck.' I then used to go as far as four or six miles, quickly increasing 

the distance ; and when the bird could come, under favourable circumstances, forty 

to fifty miles within the two hours, I considered its education complete for any 

length that I ever used to fly my birds. But of course, if I changed the bird's 

route, I gave it three or four flights in the direction from which it was to come, 

before I sent it down for its last flight. This used to be my method ; but I may 

add that I never had a bird come home more than seventy miles to my loft. 

"All this, I think, is conclusive evidence that the flying pigeon trusts mainly on 
its power of vision to carry it home ; and as I can well believe that for sixty or 
perhaps even one hundred miles a pigeon high in air can discern some familiar 
distant object for which it at once makes, there is little wonder that at that 
distance the well-trained bird comes home. But birds are frequently flown at a 
greater distance. Take, for instance, the flight from London to Antwerp — I believe 


about one hundred and eighty miles, and across the sea, where there are no 
landmarks ; and, unless we can allow the power of vision in the pigeon to extend 
so far, we can hardly, I think, depend entirely upon that to bring it home. If we 
put instinct entirely on one side and trust altogether to vision, the only way I can 
account for the bird finding its way home is this, that it keeps soaring round and 
round in wide circles and beating about, till at length it distinguishes in the 
distance some familiar object or other, which it makes for at once, and when on 
the right track has little difficulty in finding its way home ; and this may very 
probably be the case, for the flight of the pigeon home is often as nothing 
compared with that of some other birds, and hardly so quick as might be supposed 
from a bird possessing the properties of the true Antwerp. But this is only my 
supposition, and I have nothing upon which to ground my arguments. 

" I recollect many years ago — I believe it was about the first time that these 
Antwerp birds (or, as the fanciers of the day styled them, the ' 'Twerps') ever 
were seen in England — that one hundred and ten of them were brought over to 
London to fly back to Antwerp, for a prize given by the Columbarian Society there, 
and a bye-bet, the conditions of the match being that the first bird was to reach 
Antwerp in five hours. At that time my old friend Frank Redmond (who then 
stood high in the pigeon fancy) kept a public-house in the Borough. It was to his 
house that the birds were brought, and from there they were tossed. It is now 
more than thirty years since ; and as I write from memory I may make a mistake 
in some of the minor details of this extraordinary match, but in the main particu- 
lars I am right. In the first place, I believe that not one of these hundred and 
ten birds had ever been up the Thames — I do not think ever before on British land, 
although doubtless they had been tossed at sea. They came over shut up in large 
close baskets. They arrived in London on the Saturday afternoon, and were all directly 
turned out loose into a long room at Redmond's. Of course on the Sunday these 
little strangers had numerous levees of the London fanciers to visit them, and were 
scrutinized by the humble partisans of pigeon-flying with as much curiosity as the 
first favourite for the Derby is by his most aristocratic friends as he strips for that 
great event. I remember the impression against them was unfavourable, for they 
had very little in common with the heavy English Horseman. But two properties 
struck all — the extraordinary length of the flight-feathers, and the snake-like look 
of the head and neck. The principal colours were blue and chequered, although 
there were a few mealies among them. They were tossed ou the Monday morning, 
and as the Borough clock boomed out the hour of eight the whole lot went up. 
The morning was bright and clear, and the wind, which was but moderate, blowing 
down stream. The birds rose in the air in a compact body, went right over the 
river, gradually rising higher and higher as they swept above the city, and when 
they were lost to view appeared to be heading down the northern bank of the river. 
Several flights were out that morning floating in the ah, but these little hardy 
Dutch adventurers took not the slightest notice of the English birds ; and the 
shrillest whistle and ' whoop strays ' — which no one but a true London fancier can 


give — would not have called one of them down, or delayed them one minute, when 
starting on that perilous journey. The match was lost by five minutes, the first 
bird reaching Antwerp at, I believe, five minutes after one, thus having done the 
180 miles in five hours and five minutes. Stragglers kept dropping in at intervals 
during the whole afternoon, and ten or twelve were lost at sea. 

" I can hardly believe that the above-mentioned birds found their way from 
London to Antwerp with no other assistance than the power of vision alone, 
although I certainly do agree with Mr. Tegetmeier, that the very fact of the 
pigeon requiring instruction at the hands of man before it can accomplish even a 
short distance, proves that it is not gifted with the natural instinct of the wild 
migratory bird. 

" I do not think there is a cleaner-made bird than the pigeon, whether we watch 
the common dove-house bird, toying with his mate on the ridge of the dovecote in 
all the purity of his white or mottled blue plumage, or as we gaze in astonishment 
on the majestic proportions of the Pouter, or the exquisitely beautiful plumage 
of the almond Tumbler — a beauty which the finest bed of tulips can never rival. 
The keeping of pigeons entails but little expense, and the lover of these birds 
has this satisfaction, which no other bird fancier can feel — for he knows that 
his little favourites do enjoy a certain state of freedom, which the poor caged 
song-bird too often pines for in vain. 

'"And pray, sir, are you in the fancy now ? ' perhaps the reader may ask. ' No, 
sir; I have given up pigeons, and taken to eagle owls.' " 

Among the false statements which find their way into print respecting the 
homing birds, none ever exceeded in absurdity the paragraph which announced 
the return of two pigeons from the Arctic regions. This statement, as quoted by 
the Eev. E. S. Dixon in his " Dovecote and Aviary," is as follows : — ■ 

"It appears that Miss Dunlop, of Annan Hill, presented Sir John Ross, on his 
leaving Ayr on his chivalrous expedition, with two pairs of Carrier pigeons, an old 
pair and a young one. It was arranged that he should despatch the young birds 
when he had fixed himself in winter quarters, and the old ones when he fell in 
with his missing friend Sir John Franklin, in search of whom he was about to 
expose himself to Arctic dangers. The gift was kindly meant, but very foolish ; 
the lady had much better have presented the voyager and his crew with an 
enormous and well-seasoned pigeon-pie to eat, and a barrel of good Scotch ale to 
drink, on first coming in sight of the ice ; for hope deferred maketh the heart sick, 
both with friends at home and with sailors abroad. On Sunday, the 13th of 
November, 1850, two strange pigeons were observed flying about the dovecote at 
Annan Hill, which, being under repair at the time, was unfortunately shut. 
Suspicion was excited, and on next Thursday they were traced to the seat of a 
neighbouring gentleman, and one was secured. 

" The fact of their being captured elsewhere, proves that they were only a pair of 
stray pigeons, in search of a home they knew not where, and not Miss Dunlop's 
pigeons come back again. 


"The account stated that 'the bird's feathers were ruffled and somewhat torn, 
showing, very probably, that the despatch attached to it had worn off in the long 
and weary flight of somewhere about 2,000 miles. Unfortunately, therefore, there 
is no written intelligence from the explorers. The other bird has not been caught. 
We remember no similar feat being performed by a pigeon,' &c, &c. 

" In the ' Manchester Guardian,' Mr. J. Galloway throws discredit on the whole 
affair, in the following very sensible remarks : — * Those who know anything of the 
habits of pigeons, or the careful training requisite to enable them to accomplish 
long flights, will not easily be led astray by the clumsy invention of some ignorant 
wag, desirous of practising on the credulity of the public. Two pigeons were 
said to have been seen at a considerable distance from their cot, because it 
was shut up. This would be contrary to their habits ; they icould remain 
at their old habitation until nearly famished with hunger. Again : one of 
them had the feathers ruffled or disordered under the wing, as if a letter 
had been fastened there. Now an express flier of pigeons would just as 
soon think of tying a letter to a bird's tail, as under its wing. The practice 
is to roll some fine tissue paper neatly round the leg, secured with a 
thread of silk; and thus the bird can travel, without the paper causing resist- 
ance or impediment to its flight. Then, more marvellous still, the creature must 
have flown 2,000 miles ! — a considerable distance of which must have been over 
snowy or frozen regions. In modern times, no such distance as 2,000 miles 
has been accomplished by any trained pigeon. The merchants and manufac- 
turers of Belgium have done more to test the capabilities of pigeons than any 
other people. Their annual pigeon-races produce an excitement almost equal to 
our horse-races. In 1844 one of the greatest races took place, from St. Sebastian, 
in Spain, to Vervier. The distance would be about 600 miles. Two hundred 
trained pigeons, of the best breed in the world, were sent to St. Sebastian, and 
only 70 returned. In another race to Bordeaux, 86 pigeons were sent, and 20 
returned. A strange and mistaken notion prevails that it is only necessary to 
send a flying pigeon away from home and that its instinct will invariably lead it 
back. Let any one try the experiment, and send the best bred birds at once 
from Manchester to Birmingham, and I venture to assert that not one will return 
to Manchester without previous training, viz., taking them short distances at a 
time and then increasing by degrees. It has been asserted that pigeons are 
guided on their return home from long distances by instinct. Instinct is said to 
be unerring ; not so the pigeon's flight. If instinct be the guide, why not fly 
through foggy weather with equal speed and facility as in clear sunshine ? This, it 
is notorious, they cannot accomplish. When the ground is covered with snow, 
pigeons seem to miss their points of guidance, and are lost. This would seem to 
favour the opinion that they travel by sight, and are less indebted to instinct than 
is generally imagined. Homing pigeons do not fly at night ; they settle down if 
they cannot reach then- home by the dusk of evening, and renew their flight at 
daylight next morning." 


In a letter subsequently published, Mr. Galloway writes the following sensible 
remarks on the subject, which are valuable as coming from a person who is 
practically acquainted with the subject on which he is writing : — 

" Instinct being a primary condition, an unalterable law, uncertainty, hesita- 
tion, or mistakes can form no part of a perfect and unimprovable endowment. 
Instinct is intended as a ready substitute for reason, practice, or experience. The 
building of a bird's nest is an instinctive operation ; the first built is no less 
perfect than the last. The young of the Carnivora are directed by instinct 
at once to their natural food ; and had they to wait the slow teaching of 
experience, they must inevitably perish. These are the natural operations 
of instinct, and are, consequently, independent of all teaching, training, or 

" How then, can it be supposed that pigeons will fly hundreds of miles and 
return home solely under the guidance of instinct ? How can fogs, snow, or 
mountains effect an unerring faculty ? and unless it be unerring it is not 

" It is by no means necessary that pigeons flying by sight should form ' private 
charts ' of a country to find their way home ; it is evident they must require points 
of observation, or why train them by degrees ? Did they possess either ' a natural 
affinity, or attraction,' why should not the whole number flown be operated on in 
a similar manner *? So this process of affinity or attraction will not work, or all 
should arrive at the same destination. Those persons having most practical expe- 
rience are tolerably well in agreement on the subject, and the visions of theorists 
will not alter their practice ; knowing they can depend on nothing but sight and a 
good breed of birds with strong home attachment, they steadily pursue the plan 
pointed out by Belgian amateurs, and never expect success without offering their 
birds frequent views of the country, with the necessary accompaniment, a clear 
atmosphere. By pursuing this method, they do not expect them either to feel 
their way or be drawn by attraction, but simply hope they may be enabled to 
see it. 

" Is there one advocate of the theory of flight by instinct who will venture to 
send his birds eighty miles from home without previous training ? This would 
test his theory, though those who believe solely in sight know well beforehand 
the certain result of the proposed experiment." 

The editor's experience of the habits and management of these Homing birds 
dates from a distant day, and as a description of the modes of racing prevalent 
some thirty years since, among a certain class of the London fanciers, may not be 
without interest, he inserts the following account of his first pigeon race, which 
was originally published in " The Savage Club Papers," returning his thanks to 
Messrs. Tinsley for their permission to reproduce the article and the illustration 
by which it was accompanied. 






The desire for the practical study of natural history, which has been a ruling 
passion with me from my early youth, was sadly interfered with during many of 
the years of my boyhood by a long-continued residence in the metropolis. Never- 
theless, even under the disadvantages of a London life, I followed my favourite 
science with a zeal and devotion that might have furnished Professor Craik, had 
he but known me, with the subject of an additional chapter in his work on The 
Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties. 

As I could not study the objects of my delightful pursuit in their native 
haunts, I sought them in the bird-shops of Seven Dials and the purlieus of 
Westminster. The front area of my father's house was covered with a cord 
netting of my own making, for wire netting was then unknown ; and a choice 
collection of thrushes and other hardy British birds gladdened the neighbourhood 
with their song. The possession of pigeons, however, — the objects of my most 
absorbing passion, — was forbidden. The decoration of the paternal roof with a 
" dormer," an " area," " traps," and all the appurtenances of pigeon-flying, so 
familiar to those persons who travel by the Great Eastern Railway, and from their 
high pre-eminence look down on the Spitalfields weavers and their birds, was not 
to be thought of on the residence of a respectable surgeon in the Royal Navy 
within a hundred yards of St. James's Street. But "where there's a will 
there's away." Our "doctor's boy" lived in Westminster, over against Tothill 
Fields Prison. I knew the place well; for with childish curiosity I had on 
several occasions followed the long string of prisoners, men, women, and even 
children, that, handcuffed to a chain, and under the charge of two red-waist- 
coated officers, passed our house every afternoon on their way from Marlborough 
Street Police Court to the prison. There were ho police-vans with drivers in 
mock military uniforms in those days. 

Our boy was a pigeon-fancier, and had a good flight of homing birds, many 


of -which had " done Gravesend," and some had flown back from the Nore. Here 
■was an opportunity that could not be allowed to escape. I at once entered into a 
solemn league and covenant with him, paid one shilling weekly as my share of 
the rent of the loft, and became the possessor of birds of my own. 

At times, when John was supposed to be delivering the drugs that were to 
assuage the sufferings of my father's patients, we were ransacking the regions of 
Kent Street, Borough, or Brick Lane, Spitalfields, in search of a " blue-beard 
hen," "grizzled dragon cock," or "mealy skinnum," that was required to 
complete my stud. 

The birds kept by the class of pigeon-fanciers with whom I had become 
connected were those employed in flying-matches ; and I need hardly state that 
ere long my great ambition was to become the winner of a pigeon race. To attain 
this end, my young birds, as soon as they were old enough, were entered in a 
match at a neighbouring public-house. The birds taking part in these contests 
are entered soon after they are able to fly — the quill or flight-feathers of the 
wing being stamped with the distinguishing mark of the particular race, and 
a fixed sum contributed weekly by the owners towards the prize which is to be 
competed for. 

As soon as the young birds can fly strongly their training commences. They 
are taken day after day to gradually increasing distances from home, and then 
liberated. In this, manner both their observation and power of flight are 
exercised, until at last they know their way accurately, and can fly back long 
journeys without loss of time. 

In the days I am now writing about, railways were unknown, and many and 
many are the long walks I have taken with a couple of birds in a brown-paper 
bag, with a few holes to give them air, and a little straw in the bottom to keep 
out the sides. On arriving at my destination the birds were set free, when they 
would rise in the air, and circling in gradually increasing spirals, gaze around 
until they descried those familiar objects that constituted the landmarks by which 
they directed then* homeward flight. 

There are few subjects connected with the habits of animals about which more 
misconception prevails than respecting this homing faculty of pigeons. Authors 
and artists seem to have conspired to misrepresent the truth. The first tell us 
that pigeons return home by a peculiar instinct, and not by sight ; whereas every 
pigeon-fancier knows that if, on their first essays, he takes his young birds long 
distances, so that they cannot discern any familiar objects, they will only return 
by chance. The writers on this subject do not bear in mind the fact that the sight 
of birds is infinitely more acute than that of man ; and that they possess a forma- 
tion of the eyes by which they are able to adjust their sight to near or far-distant 
objects at will. Nor do they seem aware that a bird raised 130 yards in the air 
commands a panoramic view, the horizon of which is distant twenty-five miles, 
even when the surface is a perfect plain. 

But the artists are as much to be blamed as the writers. We are all familiar 

k 2 


with the pretty pictures of doves flying into the bosoms of their mistresses with 
large packets tied under their wings. These pictures have no foundation in 
nature. Like the German philosopher's idea of a camel, they are evolved out of 
the inner consciousness of the artists. A pigeon could not fly encumbered with a 
letter ; and when a bird is employed for conveying a message, a narrow slip of 
paper is written on, rolled round its leg, and secured by a thread. As the leg and 
foot during flight are drawn up into the soft feathers, the paper so attached offers 
no impediment to the speed of the bird. 

But to return to the pigeon match. The birds entered and trained for the 
match are, on the day appointed, taken to some distant place, either previously fixed 
on, or the direction of which may be decided by lot on the morning of the race. 
The birds competing are then set free ; and if well trained and conversant with 
the road, they return home with wondrous rapidity. Thus, in a match which 
annually takes place from Southampton to London, the winning birds always per- 
form the journey in less than an hour's time. The competing bird, on alighting at 
the house of its owner, is instantly captured in one of the traps or in the " area," 
to which I have before alluded. A fixed time is permitted each owner to convey 
his bird to the rendezvous, usually the public-house where the " fly" has been 
organized. This time of course varies with the distance. After securing the 
" voyageur," the owner loses not an instant in convejung it to the goal. Not 
unfrequently relays of one or two quick runners are arranged, and the bird is 
passed from hand to hand with the greatest celerity. 

Well do I recollect my first race. The fly was from Gravesend — a favourite 
spot in that pre-railway time, as being easy of access by steamers. There were ten 
competitors. The birds had been sent down the river by the first boat in the 
morning, in charge of three or four persons to see fair play. John was up in the 
loft on the look-out to catch my bird (the best " grizzle skinnum " I had bred that 
year) as soon as he pitched. The rendezvous was about a quarter of a mile off; 
and he was to run with the bird half the distance, whilst I was waiting to convey 
it the remainder. From the corner where I stood I could see the loft of another 
competitor. As I was waiting, I anxiously scanned his flight of birds that were 
being driven up by him with a long light pole as they tried to settle to feed ; for, 
to get them to come into the area directly the racing bird had joined them on his 
return, they had been kept without food all day. At last I saw his head disappear 
in the "dormer;" his flight settled. I saw his blue dragon that had returned 
from Gravesend. The birds all ran into the area for the handful of tares he had 
thrown in ; the trap-door of the area closed. I knew he had caught his bird, and 
that in ten seconds he would burst from the door of the house, and be first at the 
Blue Lion. And where was my bird ? At that instant John turned the corner, 
running as though dear life itself depended on his speed. My skinnum was in 
his hand. Hurrah ! the prize was mine ; for, living farther from the rendezvous, 
I was allowed a minute and a half more time than my dreaded competitor, whom 
I had just seen catch his bird. Before John reached me, my rival rushed from his 


door, and with a shout of triumph as he saw me waiting, darted like an arrow on 

his way. In a few seconds, that seemed to me an eternity, John rushed to me 

with my bird. I snatched it from his hands, and ran as I never ran before or 

since, for there was not a moment to be lost. Still, with great speed I was sure 

of the prize ; and I need not say I did my very best. I reached the corner of the 

street in which the Blue Lion stood, and leaned inwards, like a horse in a circus, 

as I turned the angle at my utmost speed. But, alas for the vanity of human 

hopes ! An old woman, with a basket of apples suspended from her waist by a 

strap, was just round the corner ; and I came full tilt against her. I am not very 

heavy; but impetus is the result of weight and velocity conjoined, and what I 

wanted in one was made up by the other; the consequence of the collision was 

that the old woman went over backwards, and I went over the old woman. Where 

the apples went I do not know ; but I believe some of the boys round about 

could tell better than any other persons. My best mealy skinnum, that had 

virtually won the race, escaped in the collision, and went home again. I picked 

myself up without loss of time, and looked towards the Blue Lion — only to see 

my detested competitor and the landlord laughing at the unlucky chance which 

had robbed me of the prize. 



THE title of Tumbler, as the word implies, was originally applied to those 
pigeons that showed an hereditary disposition to turn or tumble over 
backwards during their flight. These breeds were noticed by Willughby, who 
wrote in the seventeenth century. He described them as being " small and of 
divers colours," and stated : " They have strange motions, turning themselves 
backward over their heads, and show like footballs in the air." All varieties of 
pigeons, when in good health and high condition, appear to possess an excess 
of animal spirits that they permit to find vent in some energetic muscular 
exertion. The quick-flying birds, that formed the subject of the last chapter, dart 
off in rapid flight, and dash about in the air in eccentric courses, evidently only 
that they may experience the delight of energetic muscular movement. The 
birds known as Rollers ascend to a great height in the air, and roll over during 
their flight from side to side with great rapidity. Pouters and other breeds smite 
their wings forcibly whilst flying, and so on. 

Although the Tumblers, strictly so called, namely, the tumbling birds, those 
that throw themselves over backwards during flight, have been known for a very 
long period, the fancy races are of comparatively recent introduction. Even 
Moore, in his " Columbarium," published in 1735, omits all notice of many 
of the varieties that have been since highly esteemed by fanciers, and describes 
Tumblers not so much with reference to their structural peculiarities as to their 
singular actions during flight. His, the first detailed English account of this 
breed, is as follows : — ■ 

" The Tumbler. — This bird is so called from an innate faculty peculiar to this 
species, which is their tumbling in the air, and which they effect by throwing 
themselves over backward, after the same manner that the most expert artists in 
tumbling perform what they call the back spring. 

"A Tumbler is a very small pigeon, short-bodied, full-breasted, thin-necked, 
spindle-beaked, and a short button head, and the irides of the eye of a bright 
pearl colour. 

" The Dutch Tumbler is much of the same make, but larger; often feather- 
legged, and more jowlter-headed, with a thin flesh or skin round the eye, not 
unlike a very sheer Dragoon. Some people don't esteem them on this account, 
though I have known very good ones of the Dutch breed, not any ways inferior to 


what they call the English. Others have remarked that they are apt to tumble 
too much, and to lose ground, that is, sink beneath the rest of the flight, which is 
a very great fault; but I have observed the same by the English, and am apt to 
believe that most of the extraordinary feathers have been produced by mixing with 
the Dutch breed ; for it is generally observed that the English Tumblers are 
chiefly black, blue, or white. 

" This pigeon affords a very great variety of colours in its plumage, as blacks, 
blues, whites, reds, yellows, duns, silvers, and, in short, a pleasant mixture of all 
these colours with the white. But, amongst all, there is a mixture of three 
colours, vulgarly called an Almond, perhaps from the quantity of almond-coloured 
feathers that are found in the hackle : others call it an ermine, I suppose from the 
black spots that are generally in it ; however, I am sensible the name is not com- 
patible to the term so called in heraldry, which is only white spotted with black ; 
yet as the gentlemen of the fancy have assigned this name to this motley colour, I 
shan't quarrel with them about a term ; if the three colours run through the 
feathers of the flight and tail, it is reckoned a very good almond, or ermine, and 
is much valued. 

"An Ermine Tumbler never comes to the full beauty of its feather till it has 
twice molted off, and when it grows very old will decline till it runs away to a 
down-right mottle or other colour. 

" These pigeons by their flight afford an admirable satisfaction to those gentle- 
men of the fancy that have time to attend them and make their observations; for, 
besides the pleasure they afford by their tumbling, which is very considerable, 
they will rise to an immense height in the air, so that sometimes the eye can 
scarcely follow them. I have frequently lost sight of them, though they have 
been almost perpendicular over my head, and the clay has been very clear and 
serene ; yet by a fixed regard of the place where I lost them (for they never 
ramble far like the Horseman, and, if good, when they are used to each other, a 
flight of a dozen will keep so close together that you may cover them all with a 
large handkerchief), I have at length perceived them, but so small that they 
appeared no bigger than a sparrow. 

" At this height they will keep two, three, four, and sometimes five hours 
together ; nay, I have heard it frequently asserted that there have been pigeons of 
this breed which have flown nine hours when they are up at their pitch. The 
better sort seldom or never tumble, choosing rather to afford you that diversion 
when they are more in sight, tumbling very often at the first beginning to rise, 
and again when they are coming down to pitch. 

"I now come to the method of raising a flight of Tumblers ; and, in the first 
place, they ought, if you have the convenience, to be kept in a loft by themselves, 
not having any acquaintance, if possible, with your other pigeons ; for if they are 
used to fly with others, it will make them sink their flight when they observe 
others skimming in the air below them. 

" Secondly, they ought to be turned out and put upon flight only once a day at 


most, and that by themselves, after being well acquainted with your house. The 
morning is the best time for this diversion ; and, after they are come down, throw 
them a little hempseed, or rape and canary, to entice them in, and so keep them 
confined until the next day. 

" Thirdly, if possible, get one or two that have been used to flying high, for 
they will train your young ones up the sooner. 

" Besides these things, the fanciers have observed particular seasons when a 
Tumbler will make a more extravagant flight than ordinary, as, for instance, when 
she sits upon eggs, and a few days after having fed off the soft meat. I can't find 
any philosophical reason to be given for this, yet, as it is confirmed by observation-, 
I thought it worth taking notice of. 

" Another time, when they will make a very extraordinary flight, is when you 
observe ravens, crows, or any other birds wantonly playing at a great height in the 
air. This may be very easily accounted for, there being at such a time something 
in the temperament of the air suitable to the genius of those birds, that delight in 
the upper regions of the atmosphere. 

" Here I must advise the fancier not to turn out his Tumblers when there 
appear any signs of a rising fog, for by this means the sight of their habitation is 
intercepted, and many a good flight lost for ever. 

" A high wind will likewise drive them too far from home, so that if they are 
not entirely lost, they may lie out all night, and so be exposed to the cats or 
various other accidents. 

"Lastly, never turn out your hen Tumbler when she is with egg, for besides 
that she is at that time sick and unfit to fly, so likewise by her long flight she may 
drop her egg, an instance of which I have known, and so prevent the increase of 
your breed," 

The author of the anonymous "Treatise" of 1765 repeats this account, copying 
from Moore, as usual, without any acknowledgment, and he adds : " The bald- 
pated Tumblers, which are of various colours in their body, as blacks, blues, &c, 
with a clean white head, a pearl eye, white flight and white tail, are esteemed 
good flyers, and are very pretty, even when flying in the air, for the contrast of the 
feather appears at that distance, when the weather is cleai- and fine ; but the blue 
ones are reputed to rise higher than any other colour. There are also some called 
blue or black-bearded, that is, either of those colours having a long white spot 
from the under jaw and cheek, a little way down the throat, and regularly shaped, 
which has a pretty effect as an ornament ; and if they run clean in the flight and 
tail, as before mentioned in the bald-pated ones, they are accounted handsome." 

The " Treatise" also contains an original article on the Almond Tumbler, which, 
at the date of its publication, had evidently arrived at the dignity of being regarded 
as a valuable high-class variety. 

The Rev. E. S. Dixon, in " The Dovecote and the Aviary," in his usually 
pleasant and lively style, thus describes the habits of the ordinary flying 
Tumbler :— 


" Of all the Doves that cleave the air, give rne, in its unsophisticated and 
vulgarly bred state, the pretty little Tumbler. Birds at two or three shillings the 
pair are better than those at two or three guineas, in spite of the ' Treatise ; ' the 
learned author of which we may magnanimously gainsay, without fear of contra- 
diction, as he is long since quiet in his grave. The Tumbler, whether you 
Frenchify it as the Pigeon Culbutant, or Latinize it as the Columba gyratrix, is 
sure to attract notice for its intrinsic excellencies. Do you want a bird to eat '? 
It is as good as any ; a merit, though a humble one. It breeds as freely, and 
with as little trouble ; and there is nothing so neat and trim as it is among 
domestic birds, not even the most perfect of the Sebright Bantams. With its 
little round head and patting red feet, it is exactly a feathered Goody Two-shoes. 
And then, its performances in the air ! beating all the Cordes Volantes, or Tight- 
rope Diavoli, into disgraceful inferiority. It is decidedly the most accomplished 
member of the aerial ballet. Pirouettes, capers, tours de force, and pas d'agilite, 
all come alike in turn. Other pigeons certainly can take any course in the air, 
from a straight line, that would satisfy Euclid as being the shortest distance 
between two points, to circles and ellipses that remind us of the choreal orbits of 
the planets round the sun ; but the Tumbler, while it is rapidly wheeling past 
some sharp corner in a tightly compressed parabola, seems occasionally to tie a 
knot in the air through mere fun ; and in its descents from aloft, to weave some 
intricate braid, or whip-lash. This latter performance, I suspect, is quite a leger- 
de-vol, or sleight of wing ; the bird does now and then tumble heels over head, 
and perform somersets, which the best clown at Astley's would be unwilling to 
risk at the same altitude above terra firma — for example, on the tip of a cathedral 
spire, or in the car of a balloon — but many of these intricate weavings are the 
result of some trick, best known to the performer, the real solution of which may 
be suspected to be the non-coincidence of the apparent centre of gravity of the 
bird with its real one. The Indian jugglers have a similar feat, in throwing a 
ball in a spiral course instead of in an acute parabola, more or less approaching 
to a vertical straight line ; and the laws of motion would assure us that, with a 
homogeneous ball, such a feat is impossible, under the existing circumstances ot 
the universe. But take a large hollow spherical shell, heavily loaded internally 
at one point of its circumference with lead, so that the centre of gravity of the 
mass is by no means in the centre of the hollow sphere, and a clever juggler, by 
a dexterous twist, will make it play strange freaks. Just so the wings and tail 
of the Tumbler are made to follow the impulse which themselves have given, and 
to revolve round the solid body of the bird, in seemingly the most unaccountable 

" Our birds have all been shut up over night, so to-day let us have a morning 
performance, by special desire. Terpsichore, the saltatory Muse, belongs as much 
to air as to earth. House-tops, or better, tree-tops, shall be the boards of our 
rustic opera-stage ; clouds shall be the wings ; the blue sky, the flies ; the rising 
sun shall do his best to fill the place of the gas in the footlights ; the orchestra 



are selected from the elite of Cocks and Hens, Ducks and Geese, with China 
Geese for the wind instruments and ophicleides, Thrushes and Larks for first 
fiddles, and the Cow and the Pig for a pedal bass, — though the threshing-machine 
in the distance best represents that. The audience is composed of yourself, your 
wife, three or four boys and girls, the nursemaid with the little one, the woman 
who is hanging out the week's washing in the orchard, and the gardener who is 
come with a wheelbarrow to fetch some columbine guano for his melon-bed. This 
fresh breeze is better than the smell of orange-peel ; that hedge of sweet-briar 
is more fragrant, though less powerful, than a leaky gas-pipe. The word is given; 
open sesame falls the trap ; the performers appear on their little platform, for all 
the world like the strolling actors in front of a show at a fair, cooing, bowing, 
advancing, retiring, in this their divertissement. They plunge into their air-bath 
like truant schoolboys into a brook during the dog-days. The respectable 
aldermanic Pouter swells his portly paunch to the utmost, claps his wings 
smartly, and sails about in circles : it seems marvellous that he should be able to 
fly at all ! But that darling little Cinnamon Tumbler, what a height it is ! And 
now, seven times, I thought I counted, it went over ; but whether it was over, or 
under, or roundabout, it would be difficult to say. Does your neck ache '? Pray 
do not complain of it ; greater folks than us, when the Hawk and the Heron 
were trying to over-reach each other, had to strain their eyes and necks a great 
deal more to enjoy the sport, and had a chance too of scratching out the one, or 
breaking the other, by riding into a bramble-bush or a pit — a danger we are not 
likely to incur on this pleasant grass-plot. 

" Tumbling in the air, on the part of good unsophisticated Tumblers, is to 
themselves an act of pleasure. They never do it unless they are in good health 
and spirits : their best performances are after being let out from a short confine- 
ment. The young Tumbler, as soon as it has gained sufficient strength of wing, 
finds out by some chance that it can tumble; it is delighted at the discovery, and 
goes on practising, till at last it executes the revolution with satisfaction to itself 
— a feat the French have not performed of late years. Often and often the young 
Tumbler may be seen trying to get over, but cannot nicely ; the same firmness of 
muscle and decision of mind are required to execute that coup, which empower 
the leading men at Astley's to throw their fortieth or fiftieth somerset backwards, 
and enable the premiere danseuse at the opera to drop from the air, and stand for 
a second or two in an impossible attitude on tiptoe. Beginners are incapable of 
such excellence." 

At the present time there are in this country two very different classes of birds 
known as Tumblers, although there is no strict line of demarcation between them, 
as they verge into one another by insensible gradations. These are the ordinary 
flying Tumbler, such as described by Moore and alluded to in the extract from 
Dixon, and the short-faced or high-class Tumbler, which is perhaps the most 
artificial of any of the numerous varieties of domesticated pigeons. 

These two races bear the same relation one to another that the ordinary field 


spaniel (the intelligent sporting clog) does to the short-faced Blenheim spaniel, 
one being valued for its useful properties, and the other for its shortness of face, 
small size, enormous ears, and extreme departure from the normal character of its 

As we observe every gradation of size and structure between the sporting dog 
and the Blenheim, so may the same series of steps be traced between the common 
flying Tumbler and the short-faced breed. 

The characters of the commoner birds are so varied and so loosely defined, that 
it is difficult to describe them. The late Mr. B. P. Brent, who was well acquainted 
with the old English and Continental varieties, thus described them in some 
articles published originally in the Poultry Chronicle : — 

" The varieties of this breed that now come under our notice are very numerous; 
their soaring flight and their aerial gymnastics will call forth much admiration, 
and are, I conceive, well calculated to enlist the sympathies of the student of 
nature. The Tumbler pigeons are well known in most of the countries of Europe; 
in France they are called ' Voltigeurs,' or ' Culbutants ; ' in Germany, ' Burzel,' 
' Umschlager,' or ' Tummler-Tauben.' Their name is derived from their 
throwing a summersault while flying, which they sometimes perform three or four 
times at a single spring, clapping their wings together over their back, then sud- 
denly bringing them down with force, they throw themselves back on their tails, 
but fearing to go over, and some are a long time before they overcome their fears. 
This is called ' backing.' When young birds fly well and back much without 
going over (a great defect), I have found it useful to pull out the middle of their 
tail, so that the next time they back they often fall over, and from that learn to 
tumble well. Some tumble too much at a time, and thereby lose the flight, or 
cause the others to come down after them, which is very objectionable. The 
Tumblers should be kept in a house by themselves, and only ]et out once a day ; 
the best time is in the morning before the sun is very hot ; and when they have 
had their fly they should be shut up for the rest of the day, and not allowed to 
associate with other pigeons, or they will contract a habit of low flying, which 
would spoil them. They should be kept in a commodious house, and in constant 
daily exercise, or they beeome lazy. Their house should be provided with plenty 
of food, clean water, and grit ; a ' salt cat ' will be found very useful, made of old 
mortar, coarse sand, clay, and a little salt ; nor should green meat be omitted, 
such as lettuce, cabbage, &c, and an occasional bath is very beneficial. 

" They are excellent breeders, and do not require so much attention as most 
fancy pigeons. Keep them clean and in exercise, give them good food and water, 
and materials to build with, and they will do well. Although their young are 
small, they are excellent in pies, and are produced in abundance, provided they are 
not cramped for room. 

" The Tumbler should have a nice round head, a pearl eye, a short beak, a full 
chest, and a consequential deportment ; they assimilate to the Almond Short-faced 
in properties, but if intended for the Flying Fancy, must be stouter and of 


stronger constitution — in fact, not so high bred. They may be met with of 
various grades of goodness, like most other fancy articles. Their plumage is the 
most varied of all pigeons : there are whole colours, of black, blue, white, red, 
yellow or buff, silver, dun, ash-coloured, and kite, also mottles of all these. There 
are two kinds of mottles, dark and light ; the dark have only a few feathers of 
white about head and shoulders ; the white mottles must have the whole of the 
flight and tail dark, the rest of the body white, interspersed with a few coloured 
feathers. Then there are the pieds ; first, the Magpie Tumbler, black, blue, red, 
or yellow, with white wings, breast, thighs, and vent, evenly marked without one 
coloured feather, the rest of the body being dark without any white. I have also 
seen reds and yellows with quite white shoulders like shields. The Germans have 
a large variety of Tumblers, which fly well and tumble very nicely ; they are of 
various colours, either whole coloured, or dark with white flight and tails, often 
with a small beard, and their feet are covered with very long white feathers, many 
of the feathers on the toes measuring four or five inches in length. I kept a flight 
of them when in Germany, and was agreeably surprised to find them excellent 
high flyers and very prolific; but, to my great discomfiture, when I had got them 
almost to perfection in flying, a large hawk made a daily descent upon them, and 
so reduced their numbers that I was obliged to leave off flying them. These 
rough-footed" Tumblers I found very plentiful in and about Coblentz, on the Rhine. 
In other parts of Germany they have -many clean-footed Tumblers of various 
colours, as Magpies, Helmets, and Beards ; but their Beards have only a white 
beard and flight-feathers, the rest of the body being dark, of various colours. 
Respecting Rolling Tumblers, I am not able satisfactorily to answer ; but from all 
that I can learn, they are only those birds that tumble very much, and known as 
Dutch Tumblers, but are not much esteemed by the flying fanciers on account of 
their falling so much that they bring down the flights." 

In a subsequent letter Mr. Brent continued, — " The old-fashioned high-flying 
Tumbler pigeons, that tumbled regularly, though not much, that were pleasant- 
faced, and flew high and long in a compact flight, are now, I fear, to be reckoned as 
birds of the past, the nearest approach to them being the Belgian Volants ; but 
these do not tumble. The high-flying Tumblers of the present day seem to me to 
be generally coarse birds, often patchy-coloured : some of these, however, roll or 
tumble well, and others fly for four or five hours at a time when in proper training 
and condition. There is also a large variety of feather-footed Tumblers, known as 
Rollers. Mine of this breed are kites, blacks, kite-mottles, black-mottles, and red- 
mottles ; they are large for Tumblers, and heavily feather-footed, and all tumble 
a great deal. Now and then one will roll till it touches the ground. I had one 
that could not fly down, but always descended by a roll, and as he frequently hurt 
himself by such proceedings, I found it necessary to keep him confined. There are 
also clean-legged Rollers which roll very much. I have several cocks that I am 
afraid to let out because they roll till they touch the ground, and I fear they may 
injure themselves, yet they are first-rate to breed from ; while others roll or spin, 


bo as to revolve two, three, or four times at one throw ; and I have bred some that 
I have counted roll sixteen times in a minute." 

The homing instinct is well developed in the ordinary flying Tumblers; we have 
had in our possession birds of this variety that have repeatedly returned home 
forty or fifty miles. At the present time some of the lower class of pigeon 
fanciers, especially those residing at the East End of London, have devoted much 
attention to the raising of what are termed by them the "Long-faced Beards;" 
these are birds possessing the markings of the Bearded Tumbler, conjoined with a 
long slender beak. They are admirable homing pigeons, though not able to 
perform the long journeys that are effected by the Belgian " Voyageurs." 



TT'OR many years, certainly for more than a century, pigeon fanciers have endea- 
-L voured to modify the structure and form of the Tumbler pigeon. Their 
object has been to obtain, by the most careful selection of brood-stock, a variety 
in which the characters of the breed should be developed to the highest degree. 
They have aimed at obtaining birds of very small size with a~peculiar carriage or 
form, globular heads, and diminutive beaks. 

In this pursuit they have been most successful : perhaps there is not a more 
artificial breed of animal existing than a Short-faced Tumbler, nor one which 
departs more widely from the original type. In consequence of this extreme 
variation from the natural standard, these birds are estimated very differently, as 
they are regarded from different points of view. " Fanciers," as is truly said by 
the enthusiastic Eaton, " do not esteem a medium standard, but admire extremes," 
and, therefore, we are not surprised to find the author writing, " To my fancy, I 
am not aware there is anything under the sun, or that you could imagine or con- 
ceive, that is so truly beautiful and elegant in its proportions or symmetry of style 
as the shape or carriage of the Almond Tumbler." Lovers of nature in her 
unadorned beauty, on the other hand, view them with dislike. The author of 
" The Dovecote " says, " The great wonderment about Tumblers is their form. 
The whole thing, however, is very simple. The common Tumbler, au natural, 
has a compact little body, with a round head, a short beak, and neat little feet. 
But this did not content the fanciers. By pairing together birds in which these 
qualities were the most exaggerated, they got bodies still more compact, heads yet 
rounder, beaks shorter, and feet neater. It was the breeder's art carried to the 
uttermost. As to the beaks, do what the fancier would, they still were not small 
enough, and then the penknife was brought into use, to pare them down helow the 
standard. The young of the birds so operated on had not, perhaps, smaller beaks 
than those originally possessed by their parents, any more than a wooden-legged 
man is necessarily the father of a wooden-legged family ; but still they sold, and 
that was enough. And by coupling the most monstrous individuals of a race, a 
family of monsters are kept in existence for a time. Tumblers have been bred 
with their beaks so small that they cannot feed their own young, and with their 
frames so compact that they cannot fly to the top of their breeder's bedstead. 
They are called Tumblers only because if they could fly they would tumble. The 




variation of the species Tumbler has been pushed to its utmost possible limits. 
Were the hmit exceeded, the bird could not be propagated, if it could exist at 

The Beverend writer is, as usual, graphic, but not strictly accurate. The common 
Tumbler is not, as he suggests, a bird au nature!. It, like all other varieties, has 
been obtained by selection and careful breeding from variations occurring in a 
domestic state ; and it is only by carrying out to its extreme the same principle 
of action that produced the common Tumbler, that the short-faced breed was 
produced. Again, the Tumbler is not a species, but merely a variety derived, like 
all other pigeons, from the single species, the Columba Vvvia or wild Eock Dove. 

Leaving the disputes between the fanciers and the naturalists respecting the 
comparative merits of the artificial and natural form to be settled by the dispu- 
tants themselves, we pass on to the consideration of the short-faced birds. These 
are of various colours. Formerly, some very accurately marked short-faced blue 
and silver Tumblers were not uncommon, but at present they are very rarely seen. 
The short-faced baldheads appear equally scarce ; they were formerly to be obtained 
of all colours — blues, blacks, reds, yellows, &c, with all the characters of the 
breed, viz. : the white feathers confined to the head and sharply separated from 
the coloured feathers of the neck, or clean cut, in the language of the amateur) 
a white or pearl eye, ten white flight-feathers in each wing, and white tail and 


thighs. Attempts were made to breed Almond Tumblers with the bald or white 
head, but the line of demarcation between the white and coloured plumage was 
never well marked, and consequently the birds have gone out of repute. 

The Beards, or Bearded Tumblers, are very pretty birds; they also are of various 
colours — blues, blacks, reds, yellows, &c. Beards should have white flights 
(though the whole of the ten primaries are seldom or never white, usually six 
or seven only), white tail, thighs, and pearl eyes, and under the beak should be a 


streak of white, from whence they derive their- name. In hlue-heards, as in blue 
bald-heads, the black bars on the wing and end of the tail should be present, 
and as well defined and dark as possible. As Mr. Brent has justly observed, " The 


Blue-bearded Tumblers are not now often seen of accurate markings, more 
attention being paid to breed them delicate and short-faced than to maintain a clear 
breast, clean thighs, flight and r imp, a fact which I much regret. A small delicate 
bird looks well in a show-pen, but very few of them are strong enough to take a 
lofty flight. I am aware that the head and beak fanciers consider that everything 
must give way, but those gentlemen that admire the Short-faced Tumblers will, 
while they enjoy their fancy, allow others to enjoy theirs, and not exclude, as 
some seem to wish, the flying birds from all exhibitions, for birds with such short 
beaks that they cannot rear their own young, or so delicate that they cannot be 
trusted out, and certainly not fitted for lofty flights." 

Among the most valued of the Short-faced Tumblers are those termed Mottles, 
or Mottled Tumblers. These have a dark ground, black, red, or yellow, and occa- 
sionally dun, slightly mottled with white on the wings, and sometimes also on the 
back. TYhen Short-faced Mottles approach the standard of merit laid down by 
the breeders, they are of very considerable value. The birds should have the 
head, beak, eye, and carriage of the best-bred Almonds. The ground-colour of the- 
body should be uniform and sound, either a deep lustrous black, a bright red or 
brilliant yellow, as the case may be. The tail and flight-feathers, like those of 
the head and body, should be free from white, and the wing only mottled with 
white ; though some amateurs desire to see a few white marks on the back 
between the wings. It is hardly necessary to say that birds possessing all 
these properties conjoined are very difficult to breed, and their value is propor- 
tionally high. 

Leaving the Short-faced Tumblers of other colours, we now come to the con- 
sideration of the most valued pets of the fanciers — the celebrated Almond 




Tumblers. Many discussions have arisen as to the origin of this name. Moore, 
the earliest writer who notices the breed, speaks of it as " the Ermine Tumbler, 
vulgarly called the Almond." We cannot but think this a mistake, as the markings 
on the bird show no resemblance whatever to what is known as ermine, either in 
the animal so called, which is white and black, or in heraldry. Possibly the term 
may have arisen from the comparison of the general ground-colour of the bird with 
that of the shell of an almond; but even the author of the " Treatise," who gave 
the first good description of the breed, says he is at a loss to explain the meaning 
of the name. 

In treating of this breed, we do so with some considerable anxiety, hardly 
daring to hope that our statements will meet with general assent amongst 
fanciers, who are divided amongst themselves as to what constitutes the greatest 
merit in the breed ; some estimating the closest approach in the form of the head 
and beak to the ideal standard of perfection, as the highest merit, whilst others 
think that the perfection of the singular feather is the more important desideratum. 
Under these conflicting circumstances, we think it will be desirable to present 
our readers with the opposite views, as stated by some of the most celebrated of 
their respective champions. Mr. F. Esquilant, for a long period the Honorary 
Secretary of the Philoperisteron Society, and well known as one of the most suc- 
cessful breeders of Almonds, writes as follows : — 

" The Almond Tumbler is, I believe, acknowledged to be the most artificial 
and least understood of all the varieties of fancy pigeons. By the general 
consent of fanciers, five properties are accorded to it, namely — 1. Feather ; 
2. Carnage; 8. Eye; 4. Beak; 5. Head. These I have arranged in what I 
conceive to be their relative importance. 

"1. Feather. — The first property, the colour and markings of the feather, 
from which the bird derives its name, will, I think, be at once conceded as the 
most difficult, not only to attain, but also to maintain. 

" In this property alone there are no fewer than five points indispensable, 
firstly, a yellow ground on the whole body of the bird. The term ' yellow ' I 
use for want of any other name to apply to it ; perhaps the term ' almond- 
yellow ' would be its more correct denomination. There is much difference of 
opinion on this most important feature. My view is, that the colour we have to 
attain resembles that on the outside of the shell of the almond nut — the brighter 
the better. 

" This ground should be well broken or spangled throughout with black. The 
whole of the feathers of the flight and tail should be, at their base, of the same 
colour as the body feather, with a black or yellow quill, and broken at their ex- 
tremities with a clear black and white. The feathers of the Almond should be 
covered with a metallic lustre or gloss, similar to that seen on the hackle of the 
bird ; but this cannot be expected in so great a degree. 

" This feather, so difficult to attain, should, I consider, when approximating to 
the desired standard, rank as equal to three of the other properties in estimating 



the value of the bird. Such a feather, iu conjunction with the other four properties, 
is to be obtained by judicious matching. 

" 2. Carriage. — This important feature is considered by many as distinct from 
the shape of the bird. I shall treat them as one, considering that a bird of good 
carriage cannot be a bad shape ; and if of a bad shape, it is impossible for it to be 
of a good carriage. 

" The neck of the Almond should be short, and widening to its base, so as to 
become, imperceptibly as it were, part of its body. The chest should be broad 
and prominent ; the legs short, and placed in the centre of the body ; the bird in 
its whole character presenting a series of curves flowing easily and gracefully one 
into the other,, so that it is not readily perceived where the one ends and the 
other begins. 

" The wings should droop on the ground, a position which adds much to their 
beauty, as it displays the markings of the flight-feathers. 

" 3. Eye. — The eye should be large, circular, and prominent, placed in the 
centre of the profile of the head, and not close to the top of it, as it appears in the 
Carrier. Its pupils should be black, and the hides pearl-white — hence the denomi- 
nation of pearl-eyed. I may remark that this property is one of the very earliest 
that is lost, when breeding very high in feather, or where the birds are very closely 
' bred in,' and require ' crossing.' 

" 4. Beak. — The beak should be short, fine, and straight, similar to a grain of 
the oat, cut across the centre and placed horizontally in front of the head. In 
colour it should be white, or nearly so. This beak, which I designate the corn- 
beak, I consider preferable to the goldfinch beak, it not being so likely to shoot out 
in length as the other, or become twisted and misshapen. In conjunction with 
the beak (of which it is generally considered a part) is the wattle at its base ; this, 
while serving as a nostril, should be merely large enough to conceal the appearance 
of the roots of the feathers immediately in front of the head ; it should appear to 
spring from the head, and be partly buried under the feathers, not standing out in 
strong relief, as if challenging attention instead of having to be looked for to 
be seen. 

" 5. Head. — I now come to that much- vaunted property — the head ; upon this I 
have but little to observe. 

" Setting aside the remarks so frequently saluting you at the meetings of brother 
fanciers, as — What a stop ! What a breadth ! Splendid front ! &c. &c, I shall 
describe it as perfectly circular in form, planted firmly and shortly on the neck, 
varying in size in the cock and hen, but attaining a circumference of three inches 
and three-quarters in a well-proportioned cock bird. 

" I have thus endeavoured to give my idea of what the Almond Tumbler should 
be, and what I hope to see it — not in isolated cases, but as a whole. 

" When possessing the foregoing properties in a fair degree of perfection, it is 
by the varied splendour of its plumage, the beauty of its carriage, the brightness of 
its eye, the delicate fineness of its beak, and the uniqueness of its head, added to 


its activity and docility, one of the most, if not the most, fascinating of onr fancy 

The late Mr. B. T. Brent, writing in the Poultry Chronicle, states : — 

" The Almond Tumblers were obtained by careful breeding, selecting, and 
crossing colours from the commoner kind of Tumblers, and after a long series of 
years, by drafting and breeding in and in, as much as it was prudent, have they 
been brought to the state of perfection in which they are now to be seen. I am 
inclined to think the name of ' Almond ' originated in their ground-colour being 
formerly that of the well-known ' Almond nut,' though they are now bred of a 
much brighter colour. The colour of the Almond Tumbler is a mixture of 
yellow, red, black, and white, well broken and intermixed. Their points of 
excellence may be enumerated under the five following properties of head, beak, 
eye, shape, and feather : — The head must be round, broad, and high, rising 
abruptly from the beak, and the fuller and more projecting the forehead the more 
it is valued. The beak should be' short, small, straight, and tapering, measuring, 
from the eye to the end of the quick of the beak, from five-eighths to three-quarters 
of an inch in length, the shorter the better ; nor must the nostrils be large, but 
only slightly developed. The eye should be prominent, round, blight, and of a 
clear pearl colour, without streak or mud-marks, and also free from sere. In 
shape, the neck should be short and thin, the head carried rather backwards, the 
neck slightly bending, the chest full and well thrown out, the back short, the body 
round and as small as possible, the flight and tail short, their feet small, and the 
bird standing on its toes, the ball of the foot often slightly raised from the 
ground. Feather is considered the last property; not but that good plumage adds 
great beauty to the bird, and much enhances the value of an otherwise good 
specimen. The more an Almond has of bright yellow, and the clearer and more 
decided the black, so much the more is it admired. Yellow, black, and white are 
the primary colours, and the more these are intermixed the more they are prized. 
Blue is considered very objectionable. In and in breeding (that is coupling 
relations) is of considerable use in reducing their size and making them fine and 
delicate ; but caution is required not to carry this process too far, or they will 
become so weakly and degenerate that scarcely any offspring will be raised — and 
these few worthless. The finer and more delicate they are, the more they are 
admired; consequently they exist in an artificial state. From their weakness, they 
are rarely allowed to enjoy their liberty, though on account of their high breeding 
and good living they breed freely, but are very apt to leave their young and go to 
nest again before the squabs are capable of keeping themselves warm. To pre- 
vent these dying, they are shifted to a pair of feeders that have hatched later, so 
as to secure them more attention and a fresh supply of soft meat. These feeders 
must, however, be small pigeons with small beaks, or the nurslings may be 
injured, or have their tender beaks twisted or broken in feeding. I don't know if 
it has ever been tried, but fancy the Collared Turtle-doves would make good nurses 


for these tiny pets. If the young Tumblers are very fine, or the 'weather cold, it 
may he necessary to shift them several times ; thus, several pairs may he shifted 
in rotation, the Almonds themselves taking an elder pair of some of their com- 
panions. Their loft should he kept scrupulously clean. They are fond of bathing; 
their water must be kept clean and sweet, and their food be of the best quality. 
Each pair should be provided with a separate breeding-pen, so constructed that it 
can be closed at pleasure, "either to keep in a troublesome gent, or to prevent others 
annoying a weakly one. Earthen pans should be provided for nests, placed on a 
shelf in the pen, and short straw or fine heath twigs for building materials. A 
great deal of care and attention is necessary to insure success. No one will, there- 
fore, wonder at the high prices paid for good birds." 

In quoting the several authorities on this highly valued breed, we must not omit 
reference to the two distinct works which have been published on this favourite 

The first was entitled " A New and Compleat Treatise on the Art of Breeding 
and Managing the Almond Tumbler, etc. By an old Fancier and a Member of 
the Columbarian Society, held at the Queen's Head Tavern, Holborn. London, 
Alex. Hogg & Co., 16, Paternoster Bow." 104 pages, 8vo. There is no date on 
the title-page, but the dedication to the gentlemen of the Columbarian Society is 
dated " London, March, 1802." This book is very scarce and difficult to 

The second work was " A Treatise on the Art of Breeding and Managing the 
Almond Tumbler. By John Mathews Eaton, 1851." This includes a very large 
proportion of the work published in 1802, with many valuable and peculiarly 
original remarks by Mr. Eaton, and was afterwards published as part of that 
writer's larger Treatise on Pigeons, 1858. 

It is exceedingly interesting to trace the gradual establishment of a variety 
which has been so recently produced as the Almond Tumbler. We have already 
noted that Moore, writing in 1735, barely alluded to the breed. The author of 
the " Treatise " of 1765 devoted a few pages to its consideration. Alluding to the 
breed as being recently established, and not even then well understood, he also 
describes the mode in which the variety was obtained by matching birds of dif- 
ferent colours together, intermixing the feather, viz., blacks, black grizzles, 
yellows, whites, duns, &c, and says Almonds are always attainable if you are 
endowed with patience sufficient for the tedious process, which requires a length 
of time. 

The " Old Fancier," writing in 1S02, gives the following as the characters of 
the breed as then established : — 

" Feathee. — The first thing that strikes the eye on looking at the Almond 
Tumbler in the area is the feather ; or perhaps the shape may strike some, if that 
should happen to be very good ; but as I think feather ought to have the pre- 
ference, I will take that first. 

" The ground of the feather should be, strictly speaking, yellow, but that, with 


submission. I think is not attainable ; we must therefore be content with having: 
the ground of a bright almond colour (approaching as much as possible to yellow), 
well spangled, and broken with black and white, particularly in the flight and tail ; 
and the more these feathers resemble the broken colours of the tulip, the nearer 
they approach perfection. 

" The hackle, or neck-feathers, should be bright, and well broken with the 
same colours, and should resemble the delicate touches of the pencil of a fine 

" Shape.— The bird should stand low, with a fine prominent and full, or, as the 
fanciers term it, a square chest, which is thrown up considerably by the bird's 
elevating himself on tiptoe, and thereby depressing his tail, so that the point of 
it touches the flooring of the area, pen, or whatever place he stands upon ; the 
neck should be short and thin, and curved under the throat, and thrown back. If 
the bird is naturally of a good shape, it is more particularly conspicuous when he 
is driving his hen to nest, and then he shows himself in his greatest beauty and 
to the best advantage. 

" Eye. — The next property which seems to demand our attention, without 
taking the bird in hand, is the eye. The iris should be of a silvery white, or 
pearl colour-, all round the pupil, and the brighter and more silvery this is the 
better, and should be fixed in the centre of the head ; the outside or eyelid should 
not be fleshy, but feathered close to the edge of the eye, which should be 

" Head. — The next property is the head, which, although it should be very 
good, does not strike a young fancier forcibly till he handles the bird. (Here I 
must digress a little, which I trust the reader will pardon, as it is absolutely 
necessary for him to know how to hold the bird, before he can examine its head,, 
beak, and eye. This is done by placing the bird in his left hand, putting its legs 
between his first and second fingers ; the flight and tail will by that means lie over 
his forefinger; then put the thumb down on the lower part of the bird's back, till 
the point of the thumb comes in contact with the forefinger, which secures the 
bird and prevents its struggling, and it may then be examined at pleasure, which 
is to be done by laying hold of the throat gently with the thumb and forefinger of 
the right hand, and turning the head which way the holder pleases, by which 
means he will obtain a complete and distinct view of the head, beak, and eye of 
the bird, in every direction.) To return to the head — this should be lofty and 
round, and as near as may be semicircular, the eye directly in the centre ; and to 
add to the greater beauty and finish of the head, the feathers under the eye and 
about the lower jaw should be full, and a little curved upwards, which is called 
mufly. The feathers forming the front of the head should stop well, and not run 
out in a point into the wattle on the beak. 

" Beak. — I now come to the last, but by no means the least, beautiful property 
— the beak. This should be very fine and pointed, and run in a straight line from 
the head; it should not exceed seven-eighths of an inch from the point to the iris,. 


or inner circle of the eye. Before these birds were brought to the perfection 
they now are, it was necessary to limit the length of the beak, which frequently 
exceeded seven-eighths of an inch, but they are now so much within that length 
that the rule is scarcely necessary. And in addition to this, the eye of a good 
fancier is now so correct, and so much accustomed to see birds whose beaks are 
scarce six-eighths, that he could tell with half an eye if it was more than the 
rule allowed, without having recourse to a gauge or measure. The wart or wattle 
on the beak should be fine, and as little of it as possible. 

" N.B. — The hen is by no means inferior to the cock in any of the above pro- 
perties, except feather ; and it is with these birds, as with most others, that the 
male is generally more beautiful in this respect. Great allowances should there- 
fore be made for the Almond hen in that particular property." 

Mr. J. M. Eaton, in his valuable work, adds the characters as insisted on at the 
present day. Feather he regards as inferior in value to shape or carriage, and he 
notices the fact that in many high-bred birds the primary or flight-feathers of the 
wing are only nine instead of the normal number of ten. He is also enthusiastic 
in praise of a good head, which he defines as being as broad, lofty, and round as 
possible, with the front part overhanging, as it were, the beak, and constituting a 
good stop, and not slanting into the beak. The beak itself, he states, should not 
exceed five-eighths of an inch in length, measured from the iris to the end. It 
will be gathered from these remarks that Mr. Eaton is what he himself would term 
a "head and beak fancier," as distinguished from those whom, like Mr. Esquilant 
and the author of the " New and Compleat Treatise on the Almond Tumbler," he 
would term " feather fanciers." 

Having given the opinions of all the most celebrated authorities who have 
written on this breed, we have now to speak of the variations which occur in the 
plumage of Almond-bred birds. One of the most common varieties of plumage 
is that termed " kite-feathered." In the language of the Almond breeders, a 
"Kite " is a black bird, having the inner webs of the quill-feathers passing into 
red or yellow. Many of these birds have a very brilliant metallic lustre on their 
plumage, and in the form of the head and beak are equal, or even superior, to the 
best Almonds; a fact which was noticed even so long ago as 1765, the author 
of the " Treatise " stating, " I have observed that a black one bred from Almonds 
generally runs better in the head and beak than the Almonds themselves, and 
the flight and tail are oftentimes strongly tinged with yellow. Such a one matched 
to an Almond is most likely to breed a good bird." 

Kites, though seldom regarded as exhibition birds, are exceedingly valuable as 
breeding stock. If two Kites are matched together, they rarely produce any other 
young except those of their own colour ; but an Almond and a Kite will often 
produce an Almond and a Kite in each nest. 

Almond birds often throw young of other colours, as duns, reds, yellows, some- 
times whole or self-colour, and at other times mottled or splashed irregularly, as in 
What are termed Agates and Splashed birds. These, though not show birds, are 


most valuable as brood stock, if they possess the requisite properties of bead, beak, 
eye, and carriage. 

Matching the birds properly is one of the most important points in breeding 
Almonds, and the knowledge how to effect this is only to be acquired by long- 
experience. It is impossible to state in many cases what colours will be produced 
by any particular pair, even when their origin can be traced through several 
generations. The " Old. Fancier" gives the following very practical directions on 
matching or pairing : — 

" Of Matching oe Pateixg. — The middle or latter end of February, if the 
weather is open, is the proper time for matching the birds, rather than a later 
period, as they will at first lay thin-shelled eggs, match them as late as you please, 
and the first or second round seldom produces anything, so that it is a saving of 
time, and a means of getting the birds steady and in good breeding condition by 
the time the weather has become a little warmer, after which all difficulty of that 
sort is over, and they then go on kindly. 

" Having got the loft and -pens clean, and in good condition, and being- 
provided with nest-pans, hoppers, fountains, and all other requisites, the fancier 
must proceed to match or pair his birds, which is unquestionably the greatest art 
in the system of pigeon fancying, consequently considerable attention is now 
necessary to be paid by him ; and for his assistance and instruction I shall 
endeavour to lay down a few rules, which ought invariably to be adhered to, if he 
has choice enough in his loft to admit of them ; if not, it is much better to buy a 
bird to match one that he cannot properly match from his own stud, rather than 
put two birds together that are not a match, thereby strengthening the bad pro- 
perties which it is his business to lessen, and if possible entirely to subdue. 

" The grand art of matching birds, in my opinion, is to endeavour to counteract 
every bad property or imperfection in the birds that are to be put together, by 
taking care that the bird intended for the mate of the one possesses the good 
properties or perfections, in an eminent degree, which the other is deficient in ; as, 
for example, the cock bird shall have a brilliant feather and good head and beak, 
but shall be deficient in the eye and shape, consequently, the hen must be par- 
ticularly good in those properties in which he fails, viz., eye and shape ; but if she 
is good all the way through, the more desirable ; and as no one ever yet appre- 
hended breeding too good a bird, I recommend putting birds of equal good 
properties together, as much as possible, rather than birds whose properties must 
be assisted by counteraction, but the strength of the loft will seldom admit of this, 
in which case he has no alternative. 

'•' Great care should be taken not to match birds too fine, as it is called, that is, 
so that they do not throw a sufficient height of feather. If this is not guarded 
against, he will produce none but light-grounded birds, which will take him a 
great length of time to strengthen and get the better of, therefore good Kites are 
necessary to maintain strength of feather ; also good thorough-bred reds or yellow- 
mottled birds are very proper for this purpose ; but I prefer a well-bred red or red- 


mottled to a yellow, being of opinion that a red generally throws a brighter feather 
than a yellow ; however, this may be matter of opinion more than actual convic- 
tion, and the young fancier will in due time be able to determine this point for 
himself. In choosing Kites, I recommend particular attention to be paid to the 
quality of the black ; it should be of a glossy jet, richly stained with yellow 
through the flight and tail, without the least shade of bloom or slate-colour 
pervading any part of the bird, particularly the rump. The same rule should 
he observed in the choice of reds and yellows, as to the ashy rump, &c. 

" Some fanciers are very partial to duns, but I confess I am no great advocate 
for them in general. If the young fancier makes use of one, I advise him to be 
satisfied that it is clear bred, that is, bred from two Almonds, and that they have 
no ash or dun about their rumps, and no shade of bloom running over them ; but 
a well-bred dun is sometimes necessary to soften down a hard-feathered Almond, 
and is frequently of great service in this particular. 

" Splashes, if well bred, are very useful, particularly if they are hens, as they 
are easily matched and very likely to break or spangle the feather, which is a 
great perfection. It is no easy matter to lay down certain rules for matching 
Splashes, or, indeed, any other coloured birds, for much must depend upon the 
way in which they are bred ; or else, generally speaking, a splashed cock may 
he matched to a Kite, a red, a yellow, or a full-grounded Almond hen, and a 
splashed hen to the like sort of cock birds, having an eye at the same time to 
the points necessary to produce a good bird in other respects." 

" The birds being paired, the next care must be to make them well acquainted 
with their respective pens, and for this purpose they should be penned up for a 
few days, or longer if necessary, in the pens designed for them, during which 
time they will match strong, and become well acquainted with their habitations. 
The fancier should then begin by opening two of the pens, that are most remote 
from each other, and the birds, finding no entrance to any other, will readily learn 
to know the places they came out of. When these two pair are well acquainted 
with their pens, they should be fastened up again, and two other pair let out, 
remembering to let out such as are most distant from each other, by which means 
they will be less liable to mistake each other's home ; and so he must proceed, till 
the whole are well acquainted with their respective abodes. Great care should be 
taken to prevent a cock getting master of two pens, for if once he gets a habit 
of going into another bird's pen, be assured he will never rest till he has driven 
that cock and hen from their house, and spoilt their eggs or killed their young 
ones. When this is become very troublesome, the only remedy is to put him and 
his hen into another room, for it is almost impossible to break him of this trick, 
if once he gets master. Thus the advantage of dividing the loft is clearly shown, 
for without this convenience he must be under the necessity of keeping that pair 
of birds constantly penned up, which would be very prejudicial to their health, 
and fill them with vermin. During this period, the young fancier must bestow a 
little time in watching them, and putting them a few times into their own pens, 

- ■ *. 


if they are at a loss to find them. By attending to these rules, the birds will 
soon become steady and settled. Particular care should also be taken always to 
give the cock the same habitation he had last year ; if not, he will get master of 
two pens, and occasion the difficulty just mentioned. The same care is not 
necessary with regard to the hens : they will always follow their cocks, when 
thoroughly matched. 

"In a week from pairing or matching, some of the hens will be near laying, 
which will be plainly discovered by the anxiety of the cock in continually driving 
his hen from place to place, till she goes on the nest ; and the nearer she is to 
laying, the greater is his anxiety. It is also discernible by the hen's sitting on a 
heap, with her feathers set up, as if she was cold and unwell, and by a great 
protuberance on the rump, and a depression or hanging of the tail. When these 
symptoms are perceived, care should be taken to make them a good nest of soft 
straw, well rubbed with the hands (for they seldom make a proper one themselves). 
If the cock should be very impetuous in driving his hen, the best way will be to 
pen them till she has laid her first egg, or she may probably drop it on the floor, 
from the constant worrying she sustains by the cock's driving her. They may be 
let out again when she has laid it, to stretch then- wings, and penned up again on 
the third day, when she will lay her second egg. They sometimes drop them the 
day before the proper day for laying, and then they are without shell, and what are 
called lush eggs. So that if the cock is too violent, it may be as well to keep 
them penned up till the hen has safely deposited both her eggs. This should 
also be done with all weakly hens, who are much more likely to drop their eggs 
about the loft than lay them in the places provided for them. 

" The hen mostly lays two eggs, missing one day between the first and second. 
Sometimes, though rarely, she will lay three ; at others only one. When she lays 
but one, I think it is a sign of weakness or great delicacy ; but this seldom 
happens except in the spring, in the first or second round. After having laid her 
first egg, which is invariably between five and six o'clock in the afternoon, she and 
the cock alternately stand over it till the second is laid, which is usually at one 
o'clock or soon after, on the third day, when they commence incubation in the 
following manner : as soon as the second egg is laid, the cock, who is generally 
at hand waiting the event, sends the hen off, both for the purpose of recruiting 
herself after the pain and fatigue of laying, and to take the proper refreshment 
necessary to enable her to resume her sitting for the night, which she does 
between four and five the same afternoon, and sits till about ten o'clock the 
next day, when the cock relieves guard, and sits again till four in the after- 
noon, and so alternately till the seventeenth day from the laying the last 
egg, when the incubation is complete, and the eggs will be chipped, and in 
general hatched in the course of that day, if they hatch at all ; and this 
regularity, and alternate relief, is maintained during the feeding as well as the 

" It is also very common for them in the spring to lay thin-shelled eggs, which 



are very liable to be broken by the pressure of sitting on, and frequently stick to 
their breasts and prevent them sitting any longer; when this happens, their 
breasts must be thoroughly cleansed from the adhesive quality of the broken egg, 
and another egg given them immediately ; and if the cock is put on to it, he 
will in general sit very kindly, and the hen, coming to seek for him, and finding 
him sitting, will take her turn, as if nothing had happened. At the expiration 
of their time for sitting, they must be provided with a young one to feed off their 
soft meat. 

" The Almond Tumblers will, if in good health, breed from the time of pairing 
them till the months of October or November, but I think they should be parted 
in October, as soon as they can feed off the young ones they then have to bring 
up ; for the fancier will find great difficulty in raising any of them after this time, 
as the weather gets very cold, and the nights long, so that they are frequently 
deserted and left to the severity of the weather, not sufficiently fed, by which a 
cold will come on, with a running at the nose, or roop, and baffle all the fancier's 
art to get the better of, and the bird will die. If he should happen to raise any 
of this description, the chances are greatly against their surviving the winter, and 
if they do, they will most likely be such weakly birds that the fancier will repent 
having bestowed so much time and trouble upon them. 

" On the seventeenth day from the hen's having laid her last egg, and the 
young ones begin to hatch, much attention is now necessary to be paid by him, 
and a little judicious assistance is sometimes requisite to assist the young bird in 
extricating itself from its prison-house, and particularly in the spring, when the 
young ones, even in the shell, are more delicate and weakly than they are at a 
later period of the season, and consequently less able to disengage themselves. 
If an egg does not spring or chip by the time it ought — viz., in the course of the 
seventeenth day — the fancier should hold it to his ear, and if the young one makes 
a crackling kind of noise, and that pretty briskly, he may conclude it will soon 
chip ; when it has so chipped, if the young one should not proceed in its 
endeavours to break the shell as much as the fancier thinks it ought to have done 
in the time, and does not continue to make so brisk a noise, it is a sure sign that 
the young one is weakly, and almost exhausted, and requires immediate assistance. 
In that case, he should gently dent his thumb or finger-nail, or the head of a 
pin, in a circle round the egg, in the same manner as if it had been done from 
within by the beak of the young one itself, remembering to let in a little air, 
which may be safely done at the part where the bird first springs the shell, that 
being the part where its beak lies, and no blood will issue from it, by which means 
it will be greatly assisted in extricating itself, and many a valuable bird may be 
thus saved. Particular care should be taken not to pick a hole in any other part 
of the shell than above mentioned, or make it bleed, as the least effusion of blood 
will be fatal to the foetus ; but if it has been moving about in the shell so long as 
to have absorbed all the moisture or blood, and has, by its circuitous motion, 
rolled up the little caul or membrane in which it is enveloped whilst in the egg, 


it may safely be set at liberty, taking care to expose it to the air as short a time 
as possible. "When it is disengaged from the shell, a portion of the yolk will be 
seen attached to its navel, which will nourish it for a day or two, if the old ones 
should not happen to feed it immediately; and this is by degrees absorbed or taken 
up into the intestines of the young bird, by which time it will want feeding, 
which must be attended to by the fancier. It is by the yolk's being thus taken 
into the abdomen of the foetus, that it is nourished during the latter stage of its 
confinement in the egg. If the young one should be a long time disengaging 
itself, after having chipped the shell, there will be less of the yolk to be seen, 
from its having absorbed a part of it for its support; and it will be hatched 
perfectly dry, and the navel will be well closed. 

" The fancier should always mark the day of the month when the hen lays her 
last egg, in chalk or pencil, somewhere about the pen, that he may ascertain the 
day on which she ought to hatch. 

" Shifting is a matter that is essentially necessary to be attended to, in order 
to raise a promising young bird. I have before hinted how early the old birds 
begin to decline sitting on their young ; this is more particularly the case with the 
Almond Tumblers, who will rarely bring up their own young, except in the height 
of summer, by reason of their quitting them sooner, to go to nest again. They 
begin to get restless as early as the eighth day, and the ninth, or tenth, they will 
be off the nest for an hour or more at a time, and get calling to nest again ; by 
which the young ones are left exposed to the air before they have a feather upon 
them, and die of cold, with their crops full. To obviate this, he should shift 
them under another pair that have not hatched so long, and kill the young ones 
he takes away from such other pair : in doing which, he gets these shifted young 
ones an additional supply of warmth from being sat on, and of soft meat, from 
the fresh pair got having hatched or fed so long, and consequently their soft meat 
not being exhausted. 

"It is better to get a pair or two of common Tumblers for feeders or nurses, 
such as Baldheads or Beards ; and by killing their young, which he will do with- 
out reluctance, he may be certain of bringing up his young Almonds ; and if he is 
judicious, he may always, or for the most part, have a succession of feeders, by 
taking away the hens of his feeders, and confining them awhile : and when any of 
his best Almonds are within a day or two of laying, turn the feeder-hen to her 
mate, and they will go to nest immediately, and lay in a week or less after the 
others, by which means he will get a certain shift for his young Almonds, at the 
distance of six, seven, or eight days, which is just the time the old ones begin to 
desert them, and thus bring up a pair of good birds, which, without such feeders, 
he probably would have lost. He should let the common birds feed their own 
young a day or two after hatching, to bring on their soft meat. 

"Drafting the young ones into another loft is very desirable, provided the 
fancier is not straitened for room. As soon as the young ones can feed them- 
selves, they should be taken into the loft provided for them, and have plenty of 

m 2 


gravel and mortar ; and their area should be kept thoroughly clean, where they 
will pick themselves and bask in the sun, and thrive prodigiously. 

" Their food should be the best tares ; or if sound beans could be procured 
that are small enough, I should prefer them ; but it will be better to let them 
have both, as I do not think tares alone a wholesome diet, being apt to make 
them scour. 

" I am a great advocate for parting the birds after the breeding season, having 
found my account in it, and thence been thoroughly convinced of its beneficial 
effects, great utility, and convenience ; and I shall endeavour to convince the young 
fancier also of the propriety and advantage of this plan, by a few observations to 
that point. 

"In the first place, a great deal of plague and trouble is saved to the fancier, 
by the impossibility of the birds continuing to go to nest, which they will do, if 
not parted, in spite of all his efforts to prevent them; he is then under the 
necessity of continuing them another round, as the fanciers term it (though he is 
convinced of the impropriety of it, at that late season of the year), to the great 
detriment of his hens, and without a chance of bringing up what they may happen 
to hatch. 

" And further, as few fanciers match their birds in the manner they were 
matched the preceding season, from the number of young ones they may have 
bred, which by the following season are become matchable, and occasion the 
necessity of altering the old matches, and from other causes, the advantage of 
parting the birds in the winter is here, I think, particularly conspicuous ; it will 
enable him to cross-match all his birds without the least difficulty, as they will 
cross-match ten times more readily when they have been asunder two or three 
months, than when they have been kept together. 

" When I have had occasion to cross-match two or three pair of birds in the 
height of the breeding season, on account of their produce not pleasing me, I 
have frequently had great difficulty in obtaining my point, from the strong recollec- 
tion the birds have had of each other ; and though I have at last succeeded, the 
moment the hens have been turned into the loft they have flown to their former 
pens and mates, and it was a considerable time before they were reconciled to 
their new mates and abodes. To prevent this, the new-matched pair should be 
fastened into their own pen, taking care that the cock has the same pen he had 
before. This evil will be completely remedied by parting the loft, as the fanciers 
may then put a pair or two of the cross-matched birds into the contrary side to 
which they have been accustomed, and by this means avoid the intercourse that 
must necessarily take place between the new-matched birds and their former 

"Another thing is necessary to be attended to by the fancier, in cross-matching, 
viz. — he should have two or three matching pens in some other part of his 
house, if not too inconvenient, in order that the birds he is about to cross-match 
may be out of the hearing of their former mates, and of the other birds in the loft, 


which mil greatly facilitate their speedy matching to their new mates. They will 
frequently be a very long time in matching in the loft, where they can both see and 
hear each other, and sometimes will not match at all. 

"If they continue obstinate, a handful of rape or hemp seed should be given 
them occasionally ; and if the cock is very violent, and fights his hen, an open 
lath partition should be put across the pen, to separate them, so that they may 
only see each other, and they will soon match by this method, which will be 
ascertained by the hen's sweeping her tail, nodding her head, &c, which is called 

These very practical directions from " The Old Fancier " on the management 
of this most artificial and delicate breed, include all that need be said upon 
the subject, with the exception of the treatment of their diseases ; but as their 
disorders are similar to those affecting the other varieties, it will be more 
desirable to consider them in the chapter specially relating to the diseases of 

It may be of interest to state that Columbarian societies, for the encourage- 
ment of this particular breed, have existed in London for above a hundred years, 
and that the rules and standards, as laid down by them, still exist. Mr. Eaton 
reprints the rules published, with an engraving, in 1764. They are as follow : — 





I. Feather. 
Consists of three colours, viz., Black, White, 
and Yellow, intermixed, or variously and 
richly displayed. Ground, the best Yellow. 
The Rump, Yellow and Spangled. Tail, the 
most Yellow and striped. 

H. Head. 
To be Round and Small. The Forehead, 
High. The Beak, Short and Small. The 
Eye, a bright pearl colour round the Pupil. 
in. Shape. 
A Small Body, Prominent Chest, and Good 

I. Feather. 

Ash Colour, or Blue, Barr'd on the 

II. Bead. 
Thin, Long Snouted. Beak, Long and 
Thick. Eye, all Black or Red, or broken 

III. Shape. 

Long Body. Large, with Small Chest. 

Ijipehfections inadmissible at a Shew foe the Pbize. 
Blue Ermins, Ermins with entire blue tails, and Ash coloured Ennins. 

In commenting on this table, Mr. Eaton remarks that, on looking at the por- 
trait which accompanies the ordinances as a frontispiece, he thought it was the 
same plate that accompanies the Treatise of 1685 ; but that careful examination 
showed him there were slight differences. 

Respecting the birds represented, he justly remarks that, as compared with 


the Almonds of the present time, they have " only neat heads, down beaks, not 
straight, with long legs ; " and he adds, " if the two engravings were faithful 
likenesses of what the Ermines, or Almonds, were in 1764 or 1765, all I can 
say, they were nothing to boast of." 

We have thus traced the gradual development of this most artificial breed, 
from the first attempts of the fanciers of Moore's time, 1735, through the 
successive stages, as recorded in the Treatise of 1765, and that of 1802, to 
Mr. Eaton's work of 1851, and from thence down to the present time. 



'"FHE propensity to the performance of eccentric movements which distinguishes 
-*- the breeds known as Tumblers and Rollers, is carried to an extreme degree 
in some varieties. There are breeds of pigeons that are, from this cause, quite 
incapable of flight, rolling or tumbling over and over on the least attempt to 
employ their wings. Such a condition obviously depends on some abnormal 
development or undue irritability of the brain ; but, as far as we are aware, no 
anatomical investigation of the structure or condition of this organ has been made 
in these birds, nor has the writer had any opportunities of making any such 

To these extreme varieties belong the breeds known as House Tumblers — so 
named because they tumble in the house. From their excessive tumbling they 
are not good flyers — not because they are unable to use their wings, for as young 
birds they fly well ; but as they attain maturity they tumble too much, and if 
forced to fly are apt to be blown away. If they are suddenly caused to fly when 
at rest, they will spring up, turn over once or twice, and settle again. Some of 
these birds are quite incapable of flight from their constancy in tumbling ; and 
when this is done regularly, close to the ground, and with ease and command of 
themselves, they are very highly valued. 

House Tumblers should not be tumbled too much at a time, nor too often, 
or they will acquire a dislike to it, and will endeavour to conceal themselves by 
running into a corner on the owner going into the room where they are kept. 

The late Mr. Brent, describing this breed and other extreme varieties, writes : — 

" My House Tumblers, when they tumble to perfection, lose the power of flight, 
for at every attempt to rise they turn over. They may be tossed in a handkerchief 
held by the corners, and each time they feel the cloth descend they will turn over. 
There are a few that really cannot fly for tumbling ; but many can fly about from 
house to house. Then I have among my Rollers some that, if suddenly startled, 
will roll along the ground like a hoop or wheel ; but this display is not frequent, 
and they always seem to get up very much astonished at their own performance. 
I like to see a bird rise up a foot or fifteen inches, and, turning a clean somer- 
sault, settle again on its feet without striking its head. I have a cock that does 
this to perfection, and I consider him a very valuable pigeon. 

" Air Tumblers, too, I have that, in flying along, will turn over many times in 


succession. This is clone in a line right ahead, turning over clean once in every 
five or six yards. I bred one white cock that turned forty-five times in a minute, 
and would keep it up for several minutes in succession, but could not fly long at 
a time ; while other Rollers will spin in the ah like a ball or a wheel, falling all 
the time they roll ; but such are very apt to injure, if not kill themselves, by 
rolling to the ground or striking against some hard substance. 

" To witness the performance of Air Tumblers in perfection, one must see 
them on the wing, though, from their excessive tumbling, they do not fly much. 
There is a difference in the performance of young ones, even from the best breeds ; 
now and then one will roll, but, as a rule, each tumble or turn over is done clear 
and distinct, without dropping or falling from their onward course. Some that 
do not tumble much will fly for an hour, and tumble very nicely by fits and 
starts, from seven to twenty times in a minute ; others continue to progress in 
one continued string of somersaults, or as if they were tying knots in their line 
of flight, and are speedily obliged to settle, good birds often turning over from 
twenty-five to forty times in a minute. In colour mine are mostly reds, with 
some white, red-mottled, and black-grizzles. I have also some whites with dark 
eyes. The greatest number of somersaults I have ever known done was performed 
by a cock of this last breed, which turned forty-five in a minute. 

" It will be unnecessary for me to state that these birds require more attention 
than common sorts, as it is always unadvisable to let them out in stormy or 
windy weather, as, from their continuous tumbling, they cannot fly long or battle 
with the storm, consequently get blown away from their home." 

In commenting on this interesting communication from Mr. Brent, Mr. James 
Paton, of Stewarton, N.B., from whom Mr. Brent originally obtained his birds, 
writes respecting the number of times an Ah- Tumbler will turn, that forty-five 
turns in a minute " is good, but not extra tumbling, as some of this sort can 
turn sixty times in a minute, but cannot fly much longer than that time. I 
had a hen," continues Mr. Paton, " that has turned over forty-seven times in 
forty-five seconds. In order to make them tumble, it is best to take them the 
distance they can fly from their loft and let them fly back to it." 

With regard to the colour of these birds, Mr. Paton states that it varies greatly, 
as there are "Beds, Blacks, Yellows, Blues, Kites, Agates, and Mottles." 

In respect to the hereditary transmission of this remarkable peculiarity, the 
same breeder remarks : — " There is one thing that I must mention with regard 
to the House Tumbler, namely, that it does not breed true. My experience of 
them is that not more than one of six of their young will turn out to be house 
tumbling birds, but those that do not do so sometimes produce the best birds." 

This reversion to the habits of the grand parents is a point of very great 
interest when regarded from a physiological point of view. 

The most extreme instance of these irregular movements occurs in the birds 
termed Lowtans in India. Of these there have never been, as far as we are aware, 
any examples in England, where they are scarcely known even by name ; and 


we have to express our obligations to two correspondents for the following graphic 
accounts of these breeds. The first gentleman, writing from Madras, under the 
nom de plume of " Smooth-Bore," states : — 

" It may interest some of your readers to hear of a very peculiar pigeon, much 
valued by the Mussulmans of this country. It is called Lotan in Hindustanee, 
and its peculiarity consists in its tumbling on the ground instead of in the air. 
When required to tumble, they are taken in the hand, the head slightly rubbed or 
' filliped ' with the finger, and then they are put on the ground, where they 
continue to tumble until taken up. I have not seen them left on the ground until 
their tumblings are completed, being invariably taken up after they have tumbled 
about a dozen times. I should imagine they might injure or exhaust themselves if 
left longer. The pigeons are always white, and although the wings are long and 
pointed, they seem to have but small powers of flight. It is only lately I have 
heard of these pigeons, although seven years in India ; but, on inquiry, they seem 
to be not uncommon." 

In a subsequent letter our correspondent adds : — 

" Two days ago I got a pair of Lowtans from Madras. They are pure white in 
colour ; the cock is smaller than a common pigeon ; the bill in front seven-eighths 
of an inch long (the bill of a common white pigeon being only three-quarters of 
an inch). The upper mandible appears to be more hooked at the extremity 
than the same part in the common pigeon. The bill is of a very delicate, trans- 
lucent-looking flesh colour. The eyes far back, round, and full. The head is 
very long and flat in profile — in this, as well as I can remember, differing very 
much from the ' model tumbler.' On the neck the feathers turn upwards, 
forming a crest, which comes barely above the level of the top of the head : on 
the lower part of the neck, from the point where the crest rises, the feathers turn 
downwards and sideways for a short distance, so that there is a point on the neck 
where the feathers turn in three directions. The legs are deep red; tarsus 
naked on the back from the joint ; middle toe one and seven-eighths inches 
long, the same length as that of the common pigeon. The wings are of the same 
length, comparatively, as those of a common pigeon ; the cock carries his above the 
tail. The tail is about as broad, and carried as I would expect in a common pigeon, 
with a slight touch of a bad fantail. The neck and breast appear narrower and 
less rounded than in the common pigeon. This may be more conspicuous from 
the long head. What would be the hackle in a cock is a little rough all round the 
front and sides of throat. The hen is much smaller than the cock ; she 
carries her wings below the tail, and her toes are slightly feathered. If I have 
left anything of importance out in the above description, I shall be happy to 
supply the information requested. 

"None of my people, although I have several Mussulmans in my service, know 
anything about these pigeons except the name. I therefore ordered somebody to 
be brought to me who did. A Mussulman policeman was soon produced, and at 
once recognized them as Lowtans. I told him to make them tumble. So, having 


caught one, by placing his hand on the back, he put his first and second fingers 
on either side of the neck, and shook the bird four or five times horizontally, 
holding it in one hand only ; he then put it on the ground, and it tumbled back- 
wards so quickly that the eye could not follow it. After what I judged to be a 
dozen tumbles, he took it up and breathed on its head (why, I do not know), and 
put it on the ground, when it appeared as well as possible, and picked about. 
The same process, with the same result, was gone through with the hen. The 
birds, whilst tumbling, appeared as if in a fit and unable to control their motions. 
I then asked the man why he did not tap them on the head, as I had before seen 
done to Lowtans, and he said, ' these pigeons were not high caste enough for 
that.' I made him try, however, but without any result. 

"I have made a great many inquiries about the origin of the Lowtan. It 
appears that Abool Furjool, Prime Minister of Achbar Khan, and author of 
' Aneen Achbar,' or ' Annals of Achbar,' about the year 1596, wrote a treatise on 
pigeons, of which birds his master, Achbar, was very fond. Darwin alludes to 
this in his ' Origin of Species,' but, singularly enough, does not say a word about 
the Lowtan. However, Abool Furjool is said to give a full description of them in 
his book, and says there are two sorts — first, ' Kulmee Lowtan,' or pigeons which, 
when ' touched,' tumble ; and secondly, ' Sadhee Lowtan,' or common Lowtan. . 

" I have been informed that all Lowtans would go on tumbling until they died, 
and that they not unfrequently die whilst tumbling, although apparently taken 
up in good time. The matter seems to me well worthy of being pursued, and 
any new facts noted which would show how this very curious faculty has been 
acquired, or whether it is only a disease which has become hereditary. 

" The pah I have have had several pairs of young ones ; the peculiarities of the 
old birds, such as the slight ruff on the head, have been faithfully reproduced in 
the young ones. The tumbling propensity is hereditary, as I tried the young 
ones when fifty days old, and they tumbled just as the old ones do. 

" I have not seen the Kulmee Lowtan, as all that were at Cuddapah were 
purchased for some petty rajah, at 25 rupees (£2 10s.) per pair. The Kulmee 
Lowtan tumbles on being slightly struck on the head with the finger. The Sadhee 
Lowtans are pure white, with a small ruff of feathers turned forwards at the 
crown and down the neck. 

"I am afraid the word 'Tumbler' has led to a misapprehension; 'Boiler' 
would be more correct. Indeed, Lowtan is from the Hindustani ' lotna,' to roll 
on the ground. 

" On taking the bird in the hand, with the head between the first two fingers, 
shaking the bird horizontally five or six times, and then putting it down, it rolls 
backwards with outstretched wings, apparently in a fit, and goes on rolling in a 
zigzag course as long as you leave it, all volition apparently suspended. The 
natives say if you leave them they will roll until they die. I have never left them 
long enough to prove if this is correct. " Smooth-bore." 

Another correspondent, who employs the nom cle plume of " G-unga Gee," 


writing from Kohilcund, in the North West Provinces, gives a description of the 
Lowtan from that part of India, which is also of much interest. 

" Lowtans are not uncommon about here, and I have kept them for more 
than two years. 

" I never heard of them in England ; but I had concluded that they must be 
known, at any rate by name. 

" The Lowtan is a strong hardy pigeon, and rears its young well. I have 
now some seven or eight pairs. All are pure white, and I believe white to be the 
proper colour, though I hear that Lowtans of other colours are to be met with. 
The Lowtan has a turncrown, and except that it is all white, I think it pretty 
closely resembles the Nun in appearance : it has a dark eye. I write from recol- 
lection, as I have not seen a Nun for years, and having now been away from my 
station for a month, I have not looked at the Lowtans before writing. 

" The Lowtan is not a tumbler, and does not resemble the Tumbler in a 
single point. It ought rather to be called a roller than a tumbler, as otherwise 
it may be supposed to be a variety of the Tumbler. Boiler is, too, a better 
translation of the vernacular name, and gives a better idea of the Lowtan's 
motion. Lowtan is from ' lotna,' to roll, a word never used in describing the 
motion of a Tumbler pigeon. 

" The curious point about these pigeons is that they never roll of themselves, 
and yet I do not think any Lowtan ever fails to roll on being shaken in the 
proper way. 

" The bird is taken in one hand, the head coming up between the first and 
second fingers, and is then moved from side to side rather quickly, by a motion 
from the wrist. The bird is then placed on the ground, when it immediately 
commences rolling over and over, apparently without any control over its move- 
ments. On being taken up the bird quickly recovers. 

" I am sorry I cannot say how long a Lowtan will continue to roll, as I have 
always taken them up before they stopped of themselves. I hardly ever make my 
Lowtans roll, as it is not a pleasant sight, and when one has seen it once there is 
no variety about it. 

" Natives say that if allowed to roll too long the birds are likely to injure them- 
selves. Except when taken in the hand and shaken, Lowtans never roll, or show 
any inclination for rolling, but fly about like other pigeons. 

" I am describing the common Lowtan, as I have never seen the other breed, 
spoken of as the ' high caste ' Lowtan. I have, however, often heard of them, 
and I expect to receive a pair in a few weeks. I hear that in colour and form 
they exactly resemble the common breed, the only difference being that the 
common Lowtan has to be shaken from side to side, while the other is said to 
roll on the head being lightly touched. About here they are known as the 
Choteen Lowtan, because they are said to roll on the turncrown (chotee) being 
touched ; the Choteen Lowtans are said sometimes to commence rolling on 
accidentally knocking their heads against anything, but I hardly believe this." 

" January 26th, 1867. " Gunga Jee." 


" Since writing rny last letter I have tried to procure some Kulmee Lowtans. 
I was so often disappointed that I began to have doubts as to the existence of the 
Kulmee Lowtan in this part of the world. I have, however, in the last week or 
two procured four pigeons, all of which roll on the head being touched with the 
forefinger. They are not all well bred, as I think three out of the four are 
mongrels, though they all roll well. 

" One is exactly like my other Lowtans in appearance, and I think this is 
probably a Kulmee Lowtan. Another is exactly like my common Lowtans, except 
that in colour it resembles a Turbit, being white with dark shoulders. This is the 
only coloured Lowtan I have seen, and for this reason I think it probably cross- 
bred. The other two are a pair of squeakers ; they are white, but their turncrown 
is not nearly as well developed as in the other Lowtans, and they have great long 
legs feathered to the toes. I think these must be a cross between a Kulmee 
Lowtan and a pigeon here called ' Paeemoya ' (stocking-footed) . I have tried all 
these pigeons, and each rolls on the back of the head being struck with the fore- 
finger. They were brought to me by a poultry-dealer, and I could not ascertain 
anything as to their parentage. 

" I had been told by natives that a Lowtan would continue to roll until it 
died. I tried two a few mornings ago, and found that they soon stopped, quite 
exhausted. They lay on their backs with the wings stretched out, not having 
strength to turn over again. They were all right again in a minute or two. 

" Gunga Jee." 

We should imagine that this habit of rolling when shaken from side to side 
would be easily acquired. It would be very interesting to ascertain whether or 
not any of the common Kolling pigeons or the House or Air Tumblers would 
execute this performance if treated in the same manner as that by which the 
Indian Lowtans are made to roll along the ground. 

These eccentric movements, which obviously depend on an extra irritability of 
the nervous system, are not strictly confined to the breeds now under notice. The 
tremulous motion in the neck of the Fantail is apparently of the same character, 
and appears partially involuntary, being often carried to an extreme degree, and 
continued for a considerable length of time, when the animal has been excited. 




' I ^ H K Barb, or Barbary pigeon, is one of those varieties whose history can be 
-*- traced back for a considerable period: it was certainly well known in England 
during the sixteenth century, for Shakspeare, in As You Like It, which was 
entered at Stationers' Hall in 1600, makes Rosalind, when disguised as a youth, 
say, "I will be more jealous of thee than a Barbary cock-pigeon oyer his hen," — 
Act iv. Scene 1. Our intercourse with the north of Africa was at that period not 
unfrequent, and many of the domestic animals of the district had been imported 
into this country. Shakspeare frequently alludes to Barbary horses ; and in the 
second part of King Henry TV., Act. ii. Scene 4, makes Falstaff say, " He's no 

swaggerer, hostess ; he'll not swagger with a Barbary hen, if her 

feathers turn back with any show of resistance." This allusion was most 
probably to a Frizzled fowl. 

Willughby, in his " Ornithology," published in 1678 by the celebrated naturalist 
John Ray, describes the Barbary pigeons. He says of them, " A broad circle of 
naked tuberous white flesh compasses the eyes, as in the Carrier ; the irides of the 
eyes are white. My worthy friend Mr. Phillip Skippon, in a letter to me 
concerning tame pigeons, writes that the eyes of this kind are red. Perchance 
the colour may vary in several birds." 

The engraving in Willughby's "Ornithology," which is given as that of a Barb, 
represents an ordinary-looking pigeon, with a small eye-wattle and slight turn- 
crown at the back of the head. 

Moore, in his " Columbarium," calls this variety Columba Numidica, the Barb, 
or Barbary pigeon, and describes it as follows : — 

" This pigeon is in size somewhat larger than a Jacobine ; it is called a Barb 
for shortness, instead of the Barbary pigeon, being originally brought from that 


country. It has a very short beak, like a bullfinch, with a very small wattle, and a 
naked circle of tuberous red flesh round the eyes, whose hides are of a pearle 
colour ; the broader and redder the flesh is, the more the bird is valued, though 
it is very narrow when the bird is young, and does not come to its full growth till 
they are four years old. Some of them have a tuft of feathers on the hinder part 
of the head, somewhat like a Finnikin, and others not. 

" Mr. Willughby, in his description of this bird, is guilty of a very great 
mistake, in imagining the tuberous flesh to be white in some birds of this kind, 
which it never is, though it will grow pale when the bird is sick ; but when it 
recovers, always reassumes its wonted redness. 

" Their original colour is either black or dun, though there are Pieds of both 
these feathers ; but they are bred from the Barb and Mahomet, and are not so 
much valued." 

The compiler of the Treatise of 1765 copies Moore in his account of the Barb 
almost verbatim, and, as usual, without any acknowledgment, adding nothing of his 
own except that some Barbs are splashed, and that he has seen one that was an 

Mr. Brent's account of the origin of the breed is very loose : he says that he 
has read that they are to be found wild in Barbary, and also that they are much 
prized in India. The first statement is certainly destitute of the slightest 
foundation, as the Barb is an artificial variation, existing only in a state of 

The Bev. E. S. Dixon merely repeats the account of previous authors. 

For the following admirable account of the properties of the birds of this breed, 
we are indebted to the kindness of Mr. P. Jones, one of the most enthusiastic 
admirers and successful breeders of the variety. He writes as follows : — 

"Without pretending to much knowledge of the ancient history of the Barb, 
it may pretty confidently be affirmed that it has always held a high place 
among fancy or toy pigeons ; indeed, among the numerous varieties comprised in 
the catalogue of toys, it is not assuming too much for the Barb to say that it 
holds the very first rank in that very interesting group, and may fairly be classed 
as next in importance to the high-caste Almonds, Carriers, and Pouters : and it 
requires as much patience, as great an amount of skill and experience, or (what 
after all may have more to do with the result than many breeders like to 
acknowledge) as great a share of good luck, to produce a perfect pair of Barbs as it 
does any of the highly-prized varieties just named ; and for intrinsic value among 
fanciers they are not far behind any others, as £10 and upwards is not an 
unusual price to be obtained for a first-class bird. 

"A few years ago, some very first-rate Barbs were imported, by one of the 
principal metropolitan dealers, from the south of France, from some of the ports 
on the coast of the Mediterranean, the progenitors of which had probably at some 
time or other come from the opposite African shore — at least the belief prevails 
that from thence came our first Barbs. From these imported kinds just spoken 

THE BARB. 135 

of may be traced the descent of most of the best birds at present in existence, 
though it must be confessed that as a rule they do not appear to have been 
much improved by the English breeders, and a good leaven of newly imported 
birds, with good first-class properties, would doubtless be welcomed by most of 
our Barb breeders of the present time. 

" In describing the properties of the Barb, as recognized at the present day, one 
of the first things to be determined is their size. In tbis respect I am aware that 
considerable difference of opinion exists among breeders ; but for my own part, I 
must strongly maintain that Barbs should be small by comparison with the larger 
breeds — by which I mean that Barbs of a small size, possessing equal properties 
in other respects, are to be valued above larger birds. I am fully aware that 
it is much easier to breed large coarse birds with many good properties, than 
it is to produce small ones ; and I believe that many breeders are fain to 
accept the inevitable, and take ' the good the gods provide, ' in lieu of that 
which they would get if they could. Having said so much about size, it is desirable 
to lay down a rule or standard, and I do not hesitate to say that a first-class cock 
Barb should not weigh over 1 lb., while one of 12 oz. is to be much preferred. 
Hens average from 5- oz. to 1 oz. less than cocks. 

" The principal properties or characteristics of the Barb are in the head, though 
shape and carriage are also very important items, and must on no account be lost 
sight of; the flight-feathers are rather longer than in most other varieties, and 
serve to carry off the somewhat bulky appearance of the body of the bird. With 
regard to colour, Barbs are usually self coloured, and the prevailing hues are 
black, white, yellow, red, and dun. Splashed and mottled birds are sometimes 
produced, and may be useful for crossing, but as yet they have done nothing in the 
show-pen. In value, I should estimate the colours in the following order : — 
1st black; 2nd yellow ; 3rd white ; 4th red ; and 5th dun. 

" The beak in the Barb is short and thick, not shaped like that of the parrot, 
but with the upper and lower mandibles meeting, as in the bullfinch — the thicker 
the lower mandible the better. The beak should be furnished above and below 
with a neatly shaped fine wattle, of a white or very pale colour. The iris of 
the eye in the Barb should be white or pearl-coloured in all the dark-feathered 
varieties, though many otherwise good birds have yellow or gravel eyes. The 
eye-wattle is of a brilliant red or coral colour, and should be large and well 
defined, standing out boldly from the cheeks and evenly distributed round the 
eye ; a deficiency of wattle at the back is the prevailing fault. Tbe texture should 
be fine and velvety. There should be no vacant space or distance between the 
eye and beak-wattles : they should meet, but not be crowded together. The 
skull is broad, square, and flat on the top ; the profile, from top of skull, between 
the eyes, to tip of beak, should be an unbroken line or curve, without break or 
indentation at the insertion of the beak or its junction with the skull. The 
chest is full, round, and prominent; the neck small at the intersection of the head, 
gradually and gracefully swelling to the fully developed shoulders ; and the bird 


altogether plump and fleshy. Barbs are hardy birds, and good breeders when at 
liberty, though apt to neglect their young at an early age when in confinement. 
They do not care to fly much when at large; rarely leaving the roofs of houses or 
making more than very short flights. 

" The following weights and measurements of good birds of this breed are 
taken from specimens in the writer's possession : — 

Cock. — Weight, 11^ oz. ; length, 12J inches ; length of beak, ^ inch ; width of 

skull, 1 inch ; eye wattle, f ths. 
Hen. — Weight, 11 oz. ; length, 12 inches ; length of beak, ^g-ths ; width of 

skull, fths ; eye-wattle, full f inch. 

" The properties of the Barbs may be thus summarized : — 

Head — The skull should be very broad and square, the face as short as possible. 

Beak— The beak should be very short and thick, and pale in colour. 

Eye — The iris of the eye should be of a pearl white. 

Eye wattle — The wattle around the eye should be as large and round as possible 
— of an even and regular shape and fine texture, free from projections 
and spouts, and of a bright red or coral colour. 

Beak-wattle and Jewing — The wattle should be large and white, and very fine 
in texture. 

Size — The weight of a Barb should not exceed one pound. 

Shape and Carriage — Barbs should be broad and full-chested, round and plump 
in hand, with the neck moderate in length, and tapering rather suddenly 
to the head. The carriage should be graceful and easy, with the head 
well back, but not borne like that of an Almond Tumbler. 

" White Barbs at present have only been seen with the dark or bull eye. But 
there is a probability of the pearl eye being worked into them, which I think will 
be a great improvement. 

" With regard to breeding Barbs for colour, I have seldom found that, when 

birds of one colour have been matched together, foul-feathered birds have resulted, 

excepting occasionally in the case of reds, which, when matched together, have 

sometimes produced young birds with one or two white feathers in the tail or on 

top of the rump, and now and then a pure yellow. A black and a dun mated 

together will most frequently produce blacks, though sometimes a young dun 

will appear. Black and red do well together; I have bred some capital reds 

from this cross. Two yellows mated together will, unless one or other of the 

birds is very strong in colour, often throw birds which are pale or washy in the 

flight-feathers. A red cock and yellow hen is a good cross for breeding yellows, 

and a soft-coloured dun hen to a yellow cock is also likely to prove successful 

in producing good yellows. I have a very excellent pair of good sound-coloured 

young yellows, bred this season from an old white cock and yellow hen. I do 

not, however, recommend this union of colours ; indeed, on several occasions 


LillbllTuN, LWi 


THE BARB. 137 

the only kinds I hare got from white and yellow, or white and dun, have been 
bad-coloured black birds, with dark india-rubber-looking beaks. 

'•' TVhen recommending the above modes of breeding for colour, it must not be 
expected that the results will always be the same. Indeed, as a notable instance 
of the uncertainty of producing any given colour by matching together differently 
coloured parents, I may state that last season, from a red cock and dun hen, 
I produced and reared every known colour in Barbs, viz., two whites, two blacks, 
one red, two yellows, and one dun. The cock was from a very pure strain of 
reds, which I have had for several years, and the hen from a yellow and dun. 
From a splashed cock and yellow hen I have now a young bird as nearly blue 
as possible. To sum up these remarks on breeding for colour, I may say 
that, for breeding purposes at any rate, a good Barb, like a good horse, ' is never 
of a bad colour,' and, with the exception of whites, I should have no hesitation 
in putting together a pair of birds of any two colours provided they were a suitable 
match in other properties." 

These valuable remarks of Mr. P. Jones so fully exhaust the subject, that there 
remains but little to be added. 

The engraving of the Barb in "Willughby's "Ornithology" represents a bird with 
a turn-crown at the back of the head ; many Barbs at the present time still 
retain this peculiarity of plumage, but as a general rule they are much inferior to 
the plain-headed birds. Nevertheless, we have seen some very good turned-crown 
Barbs ; but the present fashion is decidedly opposed to chignons — at least in this 
variety of dove. 

The old authors describe a breed known as the Mahomet, or Mawmet, but of 
which little is known beyond the fact that it closely resembled the Barb, except 
in colour. 

The writers themselves did not agree as to its character. Willughby is the first 
to allude to it, and he merely states, " Mawmets, called as I take it from Mahomet, 
perchanGe because brought out of Turkey, are notable for their great black eyes, 
else like the Barbaries." 

Moore writes : — " This pigeon is no more in reality than a white Barb, which 
makes the red tuberous flesh around the eyes look very beautiful." He then 
proceeds to give the legend that it was called the Mahomet because the author of 
the Alkoran had taught a tame bird of this breed to feed out of his ear. 

The writer of "The Treatise" of 1765, gives us on this occasion, a paragraph 
of original matter, and states :— 

"I think Mr. Moore has extremely well accounted for its being so called; 
but it is the opinion of many fanciers that the bird called a Mahomet is nearly a 
cream-coloured, with bars across the wings as black as ebony, the feathers very 
particular, being of two colours ; the upper part or surface of them appearing of a 
cream, and underneath a kind of sooty colour, nearly approaching to black ; as are 
likewise the flue-feathers, and even the skin, which I never observed in any other 
pigeon but these ; its size much like that of a Turbit, with a fine gullet, and in 



lieu of a frill, the feathers rather appear like a seam : the head is short and 
inclined to he thick ; hath an orange eye, and a small naked circle of black flesh 
round the same, and a beak resembling that of a bullfinch, with a small black 
wattle upon it." 

From this very circumstantial account, it would appear that there really existed, 
a hundred years since, a barb-like breed with black skin and wattles and dark 
under-down to the white plumage. In these respects the birds would resemble 
somewhat the black-skinned silky fowl. The proof of their continued existence 
would be of great interest to those naturalists who have studied the varieties of 
species, and the Editor would be most willing to reimburse any reasonable expense 
his readers might incur in forwarding to him birds of this breed, should they 
be sufficiently fortunate to meet with them in any part of the world. 

Mr. Brent, writing in the " Poultry Chronicle," Vol. II. page 202, says : — 

" This is one of the varieties of Fancy Pigeons with which I have but a very 
slight acquaintance, having only once seen a pair at a London dealer's, and 
their appearance gave me the idea of a cross between an Owl and a Barb 
pigeon ; nevertheless, their seam and black wattle, sere and skin, I consider 
sufficient distinctive peculiarities to give them a place among Fancy Pigeons as 
a separate variety." 

We should be very doubtful whether the birds thus cursorily seen by Mr. 
Brent possessed the black skin and wattle described by the older authors. 
Certainly a cross between an Owl and a Barb would not give rise to such a 

Before concluding the history of the Barb, the Editor may state one fact for the 
benefit of such of his readers as are Barb fanciers : — Some years since, he possessed 
some very superior birds of this variety ; wishing to try some experiment in 
increasing the size of the eye-wattle, he obtained one of the largest-eyed Carrier 
hens ever seen, — her eye was so large, that when flattened out, a half-crown laid 
upon it did not quite cover it. This hen was well known as being formerly the 
property of the late Mr. Southwood, and as the parent of many of Mr. Hayne's 
best birds. She was mated to a very short-faced Barb cock, and reared three 
birds one season — not one of which, strange to say, possessed an eye-wattle of 
even moderate goodness : as far as the experiment was conducted, it was an 
entire failure. 




UNDEE the title of the Owl — or, as old Moore Latinized the name, Columba 
Bubo Nominate — a breed of fancy pigeons has been long known to English 
fanciers. Moore's description is very brief. He only states : " This is in make 
and shape like the former (the Turbit), except that the upper chap of its beak is 
hooked oyer, like an owl's, from whence it has its name ; its plumage is always 
entirely white, blue, or black." The author of the Treatise of 1765 adds very 
little to this. He states that, " The Owl is, according to Mr. Moore, a small 
pigeon, very little larger than a Jacobine, which might be their size in his time, 
but at present they are brought to such perfection, that they are hardly, if any- 
thing, larger than a very small Tumbler." 

This statement of the writer is erroneous, for Mr. Moore says nothing whatever 
of the size of the Owl, but makes the assertion quoted concerning the Turbit. 

"Its beak," continues the writer in the Treatise, "is very short, and hooked 
over at the end, like an owl's, from whence it takes its name ; the shorter it is the 
better ; it has a very round button head and a gravel eye. The feathers on the 
breast open, and reflect both ways, expanding itself something like a rose, which 
is called the purle by some, and by others the frill, and the more the bird has of 
that the better, with a gullet reaching down from the beak to the frill. Its 
plumage is always of one entire colour, as white, a fine sky-blue, black, and yellow, 
&c, except some that are chequered. The blue ones should have black bars 
across the wings ; and the lighter they are in colour, particularly in the hackle, 
the more they are valued. 

" These birds should have their breeding places made so that they may sit in 
private, for they are very wild, like the Carrier, and apt to fly off their eggs if in 
the least disturbed." 

14.0 PIGEONS. 

The work ascribed to Girton merely gives the same facts as those of the Treatise, 
condensed into a short paragraph. And the Rev. E. S. Dixon, being unable to 
see any distinction, except colour, between the Owls and the Turbits, described 
the latter only, and hesitated to give the Owls any paragraph to themselves. 

The only birds known as Owls until a very recent period, were birds of moderate 
size, characterized by their short hooked beaks, round heads, with prominent eyes 
and well-developed frill, or purle, on the breast. In colour they were generally 
either blue or silver, though black, white, and yellow birds were not uncommon. 
The blue birds were of a very peculiar hue, and had the neck feathers sprinkled 
with a lighter colour, which gave them a very handsome appearance, and led to 
the name of "Powdered-blue Owls," which was frequently applied to them. These 
birds were active and rapid flyers, and amougst the most beautiful of the more 
natural varieties. 

Recently, a new variety has come upon the scene. At one of the shows held at 
the Crystal Palace, some eight or ten years since, a pair of exquisitely beautiful 
birds of a white colour, and very small in size, were shown in the variety class as 
Booz pigeons, from Tunis. They were exhibited by Mr. Vernon Harcourt, the 
gentleman who imported them into this country. The slightest inspection showed 
them to be white Owls of the most diminutive size, and possessing the properties 
or characters of the breed to a degree far surpassing the larger English specimens. 

Strictly speaking, perhaps these birds should not have been noticed in the class 
in which they were exhibited, as they" ought to have been shown in the class for 
white Owls ; but no fancier could be found to object to the award of the first prize 
which was bestowed on them by Messrs. Cottle and Bellamy. This was the first 
introduction of African Owls into England ; since that time numerous importations 
of white, blue, and black specimens have taken place. 

One great character of African Owls is extreme diminutiveness. A pair, though 
in perfect health and good condition, will weigh less than one pound, first-class 
birds being as small as to weigh only seven ounces each. The length of a very 
good specimen -may be stated at eleven inches, measured from the tip of the beak 
to the end of the tail, when the neck is extended ; and the length of the beak, 
measured in the usual manner from the front of the eye, is less than three- 
quarters of an inch. The plumage is soft and delicate, the inner flight-feathers 
being carried rather high on the back when the wing is closed. The rose or purle 
on the breast should be regular and open, but the chief peculiarities are in the 
head. This should be small and round, and should gradually merge, as it were, 
into the short hooked beak. The eye should be very large, full, and expressive ; 
the iris dark. In many of the imported specimens the head is flat at the top ; 
this gives a longer appearance to the beak, and detracts very much from the 
beauty of the bird. 

It is almost impossible to imagine any more beautiful birds than these exquisite 
little toys ; their small size, the beauty of their form, their exceeding gracefulness, 
the purity of the colour in the white, and regularity of markings in the blue, 

THE OWL. 141 

render them most attractive ; so that when they como into competition with the 
old-fashioned larger English Owls, they never fail to secure the prizes. This, 
perhaps, is a circumstance to be regretted, as the old powdered-blue and silver 
Owls are birds of extreme beauty, and should not be suffered to pass away. But 
whether distinct classes for English and foreign Owls are desirable or not is 
a moot point with committees and exhibitors. But it appears that if separate 
prizes for each were offered, the breeder of the English birds would improve them 
by crossing with the African, and it would then be impossible to draw the Hue 
between them. 

These small African Owls breed freely, but, as might be expected from their 
recent introduction from so warm a climate as the north of Africa, they are delicate 
birds, and in winter suffer from the cold of our ungenial climate. It would be 
interesting to know more respecting their history, but beyond the facts above stated 
we can give no further information. 

Following the plan laid down in the " Standard of Excellence," authorized by 
the Poultry Club, * it has been suggested that the points of excellence in these 
birds should be as follows, so as to keep the total to the same number — fifteen — 
for all varieties of poultry and pigeons. The old number of five points for 
each variety is too small, and too incapable of subdivision to be of service for all 

Head, 2; eye, 2; beak, 3; gullet, 2; colour, 2; size, 2; frill, 2— Total, 15. 

Since the first introduction of these small foreign Owls, a variety with a singular 
modification of plumage has been imported. In these birds the tail is dark, the 
remainder of the plumage being perfectly white. It is doubtful whether this breed 
has been established for any great length of time, as the birds do not always breed 
true to markings, or even colour. 

* The "Standard of Excellence in Exhibition Birds" is reprinted as an Appendix to the 
Pouukt Book. By W. B. Tegetmeier. London : G. Routledge & Sons, 1807. 



THE Turbit is a variety closely resembling the Owl in many respects ; it has, 
however, been distinguished as a separate breed for many years. Willughby, 
in his " Ornithology," 1678, writes as follows respecting this race : — 

" Turbits, of the meaning and original of which name I must confess myself 
to be ignorant, have a very short thick bill, like a bullfinch ; the crown of 
their head is flat and depressed ; the feathers in the breast reflected both ways. 
They are about the bigness of Jacobines, or a little bigger. I take these to be the 
Candy or Indian Doves of Aldrovandus, the Low Dutch Cortbeke." 

Moore, in the " Columbarium," gives the following short account of the breed : — 

" The reason why this pigeon is named by the English I cannot by any means 
account for ; the Low Dutch call it cort-beke, or short-bill, upon account of the 
shortness of its beak. It is a small pigeon, very little bigger than a Jacobine ; its 
beak is very short, like a partridge, and the shorter the better ; it has a round 
button head, and the feathers on the breast open and reflect both ways, standing- 
out almost like fringe or the frill of a modern shirt ; this is called the purle, and 
the more of it the bird has, the more it is admired. As for the feather, their tail 
and the back of the wings ought to be of one entire colour, as blue, black, red, 
yellow, dun, and chequered ; the flight-feathers and all the rest of the body should 
be white. They are a very pretty light pigeon, and if used to fly when young, 
some of them make very good flyers. I have seen a flight of them kept by one 
Girton, that would mount almost as high as Tumblers. There are of this sort all 
white, black, and blue, which by a mistake are often called and taken for Owls." 

This description by the compiler of the Treatise is almost literally the same as 
that of Moore, but he adds that the Turbit should have a head "with a gullet," 
and that in the red and yellow birds, the tails should not match the shoulders in 
colour, but be white. 

In the work nominally written by Girton, the account is again a close copy of 
Moore ; and it is interesting to note, that the flight of Turbits, which Moore, 
writing in 1735, says "were kept by one Girton," in Girton's book, which was 
certainly published between sixty and seventy years after the date of Moore, is 


thus alluded to : " A veteran fancier of some note has informed us that he trained 
a flight of these birds, which for their lofty soaring seemed to dispute the palm 
with his Tumblers." 

Eaton adds nothing of his own on the birds of this breed. The late Mr. Brent, 
in his communication to the defunct "Poultry Chronicle," gives a good account of 
this variety, which he had ample opportunities of seeing during his residence in 
Germany, where they are favourites. His account is as follows : — 

" The Germans call them ' Moven-Tauben,' under which name both the Turbit 
and Owl pigeons are included. The Turbit is separately known as ' Schildchen,' 
or ' Lutticher-Schildchen,' or ' Brief- trager,' which means the little shield of Liege, 
or Liege Letter-carrier, which latter designation is equally applicable to the Owl 
pigeon. As I did not meet with any of this variety in France, I do not know 
their French name. 

" The Turbits are a very pretty variety of fancy pigeons ; they are small plump 
compact-made birds, of rounded form and engaging appearance ; their beaks are 
short and thick, their eyes large and prominent, of a very dark brown or black 
colour ; then - heads broad and rather angular : they are usually smooth-crowned, 
though some are point-headed, and others have tolerable hoods ; beneath the beak 
the skin is slightly extended, and a little resembling the dewlap of the bull, 
taking off the abrupt or angular junction between the beak and the neck, this is 
called the gullet ; on the lower part of the neck and crop a seam of feathers stands 
up and turns various ways — -this is called the purle, and the more the bird has of 
it the better; then- feet are clean, and the tail is carried rather elevated. Their 
plumage is a beautiful white, relieved by dark wing shoulders, of various colours, 
from which they are called blue- shouldered or black-shouldered Turbits, as the 
colour indicates. To be perfect in colour, the whole of that part of the wing 
should be coloured, without any white feathers, including the epaulet or scapular 
feathers ; the flight-feathers of the wings and the whole of the other parts being 
an unspotted white. 

" The old fanciers admired the black, blue, and dun-shouldered Turbits most, 
when they had tails of the same colour as their shoulders ; but such birds are now 
rarely seen, though some fanciers prize them highly, on account of their great 
scarcity, the other colours being invariably found to have white tails, which are 
now more general with all. Canterbury was, a few years back, noted for its 
Turbit pigeons ; they were bred there in the highest perfection ; the colours of 
their shoulders are various, as yellow, red, copper, black, chequered, blue, silver, 
mealy, and dun. They are good flyers, light and active, as may be supposed from 
their German name of Liege postmen. I have flown a few with my Tumblers, 
with which they would soar : they are very good breeders and nurses, if not bred 
too high, which, however, is often the case, as smallness is considered a great 
beauty. Some eminent writers on natural history consider this variety as one of 
our purest races of pigeons." 

The occurrence of dark-tailed birds amongst the Owls has already been 


described. This variation occasionally takes place amongst the Turbits also, 
though at the present time they are generally bred with white tails. 

The Turbit, as represented in the engraving in the Treatise, is plain headed ; 
at the present date these birds are seldom if ever seen, preference being given to 
a point of feathers at the back, or to such an amount of turn-crown as forms a 
shell. It is almost needless to say, that to be successful at an exhibition, the 
pair of birds must match in the head as well as in colour of shoulder. 

The general character and properties of the breed have been so fully described 
by the authors quoted, that it is unnecessary to go into further detail. One 
very pretty variety of the breed has, however, escaped the notice of former writers : 
it is that in which the black bars of the blue-shouldered bird are superseded by 
white bars. We have had some exceedingly delicate and beautiful birds of this 
variety, which, like most white-barred breeds, are, we believe, of German origin. 

One other point requires notice in reference to this breed. Temminck, in bis 
"Histoire Naturelle Generate des Pigeons," published at Amsterdam in 1813, gives 
a description of the Turbit or " Pigeon a Cravate," Vol. I., page 198, in which be 
expresses his belief that the Turbit is not derived from the Rock dove ; this 
opinion being founded on the excessively short, thick, and bard beak, and on the 
supposed sterility of the Turbit when mated with the Rock dove, or breeds closely 
resembling that wild race. We mention this opinion merely to state that it is 
based on imperfect evidence. The shortness of the beak is no mark of specific 
difference, and the Turbit is perfectly fertile when mated with any and every other 
variety of pigeon. The opinion is so destitute of any foundation, that it would 
hardly be worth contradicting, were it not that it has found its way into books and 
been accepted as a fact. 

In our experiments on flying pigeons, we have tested the homing powers of 
both Turbits and Owls. The former we have lost within half a mile of their 
home, whereas the stout blue English Owls, if well trained, make excellent 
homing birds. 







'I^HE Jacobine pigeon is one of the oldest breeds of which we have any special 
-*- record. The striking character of its plumage attracted the notice of the 
old artists and naturalists, and consequently it is frequently to be seen figured in 
the engravings of some two hundred years since. Willughby, in his " Orni- 
thology," published in 1678, gives a drawing of a short-beaked Jacobine with a 
fair-sized hood and long narrow chain, the feet being rather heavily feathered, and 
he furnishes us with the following account of the breed : — 

" Jacobines are called by the Low Dutch, Cappers, because in the hinder part of 
the head, or nape of the neck, certain feathers reflected upward encompass the 
head behind, almost after the fashion of a monk's hood, when he puts it back to 
uncover his head. These are called Cyprus pigeons by Aldrovand, and some of 
them are rough-footed. Aldrovandus hath set forth three or four either species 
or accidental varieties of this kind. Their bill is short ; the irides of their eyes 
of a pearl colour, and the head (as Mr. Cope told us) in all white." 

The next author who describes them is Moore, who, in. his " Columbarium," 
gives separate paragraphs descriptive of the "accidental varieties" alluded to 
by Aldrovandus and Willughby. Eespecting the Jacobine, Moore writes as 
follows : — 



" The Jacobine, or as it is vulgarly called for shortness, the Jack, is, if true, 
the smallest of all pigeons, and the smaller still the better. It has a range of 
feathers inverted quite over the hinder part of the head, and reaching down on 
each side of the neck to the shoulders of the wings, which forms a kind of a 
fryer's hood ; from hence this pigeon has its name Jacobine, because the fathers 
of that order all wear hoods to cover their bald crowns ; hence the upper part of 
this range of feathers is called the hood, and the more compact these feathers are, 
and the closer to the head, so much the more this bird is esteemed. The lower 
part of this range of feathers is called by us the chain, but the Dutch call it the 
cravat ; the feathers of this chain ought to be long and close, so that if you strain 
the neck a little, by taking hold of the bill, the two sides will lap over each other 
in some of the best ; but there are but very few now to be found in England 

" The Jacobine ought to have a very short bill, the shorter the better, and a 
clean pearle eye. As for the feather, there are reds, yellows, blues, blacks, and 
mottles; but be the feather what it will, they ought to have a clean white head, 
white flight, and white tail. Of these pigeons some are feather-legged and footed, 
others are not, and both sorts are equally esteemed, according to the various incli- 
nation of different fanciers." 

Under the title of the Capuchine, Moore alludes to a breed which is evidently 
nothing more than an inferior or cross-bred Jacobine. He says : — 

" This pigeon is in shape and make very like the Jacobine, and has its 
name, like the former, from another set of hooded ecclesiastics. It is some- 
thing larger in body than the Jack, its beak longer ; it has a tolerable hood, but 
no chain ; it is in feather and other properties the same. Some will assert it to 
be a distinct species, but I am more inclinable to imagine it to be only a bastard 
breed from a Jacobine and another pigeon ; however, thus far I am sure, that a 
Jack and another will breed a bird so like it, as will puzzle the authors of this 
assertion to distinguish it from what they call their separate species." 

Moore also describes, under the name of the Huff, a larger and coarser breed, 
of which he states : — 

" This pigeon is larger than the true original Jacobine, though in shape and 
make much the same. It has a longer beak, the irides of the eyes in some are 
of a pearl colour, in others of a gravel colour; the feathers of its hood and 
chain are much longer, though the chain does not come down so low to the 
shoulders of the wings, neither are they near so compact and close as the others, 
but are apt to blow about with every blast of wind, fall more backward off the 
head, and lie in a rough confused manner, whence the pigeon has its name. The 
strain of Jacobhi6s has been much vitiated by matching them to this pigeon, in 
order to improve their chain by the length of the Ruff's feathers, but instead of 
this, the Jack is bred larger, longer beaked, looser in its hood and chain, and in 
short, worsted in all its original properties," 


The compiler of the Treatise of 1765, writing of the Jaeobine, borrows, as usual, 
from Moore, without acknowledging the obligation, and adds the following :— 

' The Jaeobine, or as it is more commonly called for shortness, the Jack, is a 
remarkably pleasing bird; but it is difficult to obtain any that are really good, 
the breed of them having suffered much, in my opinion, in general, by a 
wrong method of propagating them, viz., that of intermixing the breed of the 
Buff with them, in order to improve their chain by lengthening the feathers 
thereof, whereby the chain is considerably detrimented, by being looser and not 
so closely connected as it otherwise would have been, had the Jack and the Ruff 
been entirely kept separate. It has likewise caused the Jack to be bred larger, a 
longer beak, and looser in its hood than it was originally ; for the true Jack is a 
small bird, very little larger than a Tumbler, and the smaller it is the better. 
'•' The pigeon dealers have a method of coaxing the hood and chain of this bird 
(as the term is), which they perform by clipping the feathers at the back part of the 
head and neck, and continually stroking the hood and chain forwards, which makes 
them advance further than they otherwise would ; and sometimes they cut a piece 
of skin out between the throat and the chest, and sew it up again, by which means 
the chain is drawn closer. It should have a very small head, with a quick rise, 
&c, and spindle beak, the shorter the better, like that of a Tumbler, and a pearl 

The late Mr. B. T. Brent, who, from his long residence in Germany, was well 
acquainted with the varieties reared in that country, gave a, very good description 
of the Jaeobine and its allied varieties in the Poultry Chronicle. He states : — 

•' The common Jaeobine pigeons are well known on the Continent ; the Germans 
call them < Zopf,' < Perucken,' or ' Schleier-Tauben,' as also ' Kapuziner.' 
The French know them by the name of ' Pigeon Capucin.' They should have a 
rather short stout beak and a pearl eye ; the feathers at the back of the head and 
sides of the neck are reversed in their position, and form a compact hood and 
chain, reaching down to the bend of the wings ; the more even and closer setting 
they are, the more is the breed esteemed. The hood and chain constitute the chief 
characteristics of the breed, and give the bird an interesting appearance, forming a 
frill round the head, in resemblance of Queen Bess. At the lower part of the 
chain the feathers turn out all round and expose a centre spot of white clown. 
Their colour is usually red or black, bald-headed, that is, with a red or black 
body, the head, tail, flight, rump, thighs, and vent white ; and to be perfect there 
should be no intermixture of colours, as dark feathers where they should be light, 
or vice versa, which would be considered a blemish, as also a bull (i.e. black) eye ; 
there are also yellow and blue baldheaded Jacks, and some that are mottled on 
the wings, and I once saw a dun baldheaded Jack. Quite white are not un» 
common, and the Germans have some quite black ; they are mostly clean-legged, 
but some are feather-footed. 

"The various names of this kind of pigeon, as 'Jacobin,' ( Noanain,' 
' Kapuziner,' &c, are traceable to the resemblance of the white head of tli3 



bird enveloped in the dark hood, to the shaven crown of those ecclesiastics 
partially covered by the cowl. The high-bred Jacks are tender, and not the 
best of nurses, consequently the young should be raised under other sorts, 
like many other of the different kinds of Fancy Pigeons ; their greater value being 
ample remuneration for the extra trouble. The commoner sorts are very fair 
breeders, but not being good flyers, are not adapted to procure their living abroad, 
nor are they suited to contend for food among the other inhabitants of the poultry 
yard, as, from the hood and chain obstructing the backward vision, they are 
frequently pounced upon unawares by any malicious enemy. The Fancy demand 
pearl eyes in white, as well as Jacks of any other colour. The so-called Jacobines 
of the present time are comparatively but degenerate examples of the beautiful 
short-faced Jacks of former writers ; and if any one wishes to excel in the reproduc- 
tion of exquisite Jacobines, they must, by careful matching and in-and-in breeding, 
reduce the best of the present Jacks to the former standard of excellence ; a small 
pigeon, short beak, and close compact hood, with a chain reaching to the shoulders 
(perhaps a slight admixture with a clean-marked short-faced Baldheaded Tumbler, 
if judiciously used, would be advantageous in this matter) ; but as the in-and-in 
breeding, if carried to any extent, will weaken the birds and reduce their prolific- 
ness, the advantage derived must be in the enhanced value of the produce." 

Mr. Esquilant, the Secretary of the Philoperisteron Society, has long been a very 
great admirer and successful breeder of this very beautiful variety. He has most 
kindly favoured us with the following notes on the characters of the breed, as 
existing at present : — 

" The Jacobine pigeon — really good specimens of which are now so scarce — has 
always, from its exceeding elegance, been a favourite of mine ; it is therefore 
with much regret I have observed, during the last ten years, that it has been so 
much neglected. 

" The most important points and properties of the Jacobine I consider to be 
the hood, the mane, and the chain. 

" The hood consists of a number of closely-arranged inverted feathers, of the 
same colour as the body and shoulders of the bird, and perfectly free from white ; 
these spring from the upper part of the back of the neck of the bird, and should 
appear almost as if glued down to the top of the head. These feathers are con- 
tinued down the front of the sides of the neck, forming the chain, and the lower 
they reach and the closer they come together on the front of the neck and breast, 
the more valuable the bird ; a good test of this important property is to slightly 
stretch the neck of the bird, when in good specimens the feathers, being slightly 
curled, will lap over each other in front. 

" The mane, which is in reality a most important feature in this bird, seems to 
be almost lost sight of, and has degenerated, in most specimens, into a succession 
of frills. I cannot better describe a perfect mane as it should be in the Jacobine, 
than by designating it a ' hog-mane.' 

"By the radiation of the feathers from a central point on the side of the neck. 


so as to form the hood, the chain, and the mane, a fourth property — the rose — is 
produced. This, if well developed, is a point of great beauty ; its degree of per- 
fection always corresponds to that of the three preceding properties. 

" The Jacobine should have a clean white head, the white being sharply defined 
or closely cut, and there should not be any white whatever under the beak. The 
rump, tail, and flight should be perfectly white, but I do not agree with those 
fanciers who consider the bird should be clean or white-thighed, as when it is so it 
carries too much of the Baldhead Tumbler in its appearance. The Jacobine should 
have a bright pearl eye set in a neat finely-shaped head ; a fine white beak, with 
small wattle. It should be a small pigeon, free from coarseness ; the weight of a 
good pair not exceeding twenty-four ounces. The wing should droop slightly, not 
sufficiently so to drag on the ground, but only to give it the low carriage peculiar 
to this elegant variety." 

Formerly, many of the best birds were feather- footed, but at the present time the 
standard of the English fanciers imperatively demands that they should be "clean- 
legged," or free from feathers on both feet and legs. On the Continent feather- 
footed Jacobines are still esteemed, and they are sometimes shown with tufts over 
the beaks like the Trumpeter ; and entirely black and other self-coloured varieties 
are also reared. 




T^ANTAILS are a very ancient variety ; they were alluded to by Aldrovandus, and 
-"- described by Willughby under the name of Broad-tailed Shakers, because, as 
he states, " they do almost constantly shake, or wag their heads and necks up and 
down ; Broad-tailed, from the great number of feathers they have in their tails ; 
they say, not fewer than twenty-sis. "When they walk up and down, they do for 
the most part hold their tails erect, like a hen or turkey-cock. These also vary 
much in colour." 

Moore also terms this variety the Broad-tailed Shaker, and states : — " This 
pigeon has a beautiful long thin neck, which bends like the neck of a swan, 
leaning towards the back ; it has a frequent tremulous motion, or shaking in 
the neck, especially when salacious, which is the reason why they are called 
Shakers. It has a full breast, a very short back, and a tail consisting of a 
great number of feathers, seldom less than four-and-twenty, which it spreads in a 
very elegant manner, like the tail of a turkey-cock, and throws it up so much that 
the head and tail frequently meet. 

" They are called by some Fantails, and I once saw one that had six-and-thirty 
feathers in its tail ; but when they have so many feathers it is apt to make them 
lop their tails, and not let them meet with their head, which is a very great 

" They are most commonly all white, though I have seen both black, blue, red, 
and yellow-pieds, but the white ones have generally the best carriage in their tail 





and head ; there are two sorts of these Broad-tailed Shakers, the one having a 
neck much longer and more slender than the other, but the longest neck is the 
most beautiful and the most esteemed." 

The same author also describes an inferior variety under the name of the 
Narrow-tailed Shaker. He states : — 

" This pigeon is reckoned by some a distinct species, though I am apt to believe 
it is only a bastard breed between the foregoing and some other bird. Its neck is 
shorter and thicker, its back longer, the feathers of its tail are not so much spread 
out, but fall, as it were, double, lying over one another, and the tail generally lops 
very much." 

The author of the Treatise copies Moore respecting these varieties, without 
adding anything of importance, unless it be the statement that he had seen an 
Almond Narrow-tailed Shaker — a colour which, we may remark, would very readily 
be obtained by crossing a full-tailed bird with an Almond Tumbler. 

Temminck gives a longer description than usual of this breed — which he terms 
the Peacock pigeon. He writes : — 

" The Pigeon Paon, or Peacock pigeon, is so named because it has the faculty 
of erecting and displaying its tail nearly in the same way in which the peacock 
raises and expands his dorsal feathers. This race might also be called Pigeons 
Dindons, or Turkey pigeons, their caudal feathers being also placed on an erector 
muscle, capable of contraction and extension at pleasure. When they raise their 
tail they bring it forward, as they at the same time draw back the head, it touches 
the tail ; and when the bird wishes to look behind itself, it passes its head between 
the interval of the two planes which compose the tail. They usually tremble 
during the whole time of this operation, and their body then seems to be agitated 
by the violent contraction of the muscles. It is generally while making love that 
they thus display their tail ; but they also set themselves off in this way at other 

" These pigeons are not much sought by amateurs ; they seldom quit the pre- 
cincts of their aviary; apparently the fear of being carried away by the wind 
(which, acting forcibly upon their broad tail, would infallibly upset them) is the 
reason why they do not venture far from their domicile, nor undertake long journeys. 
Lastly, these pigeons, which cannot by their own powers travel far, have been trans- 
ported to a great distance by man ; perhaps, even, they are not natives of our 
climate, for many doubts arise against their specific identity with the wild Rock 
dove. Striking characters, such as the number of tail-feathers, do not permit us 
to consider the wild Eock dove as the type of the Fantail pigeons. 

" The Fantails are furnished with a considerable number of caudal plumes ; the 
greater part of indigenous and exotic species of pigeons have generally only twelve 
tail-feathers, more or less. The majority of the Fantails have thirty-two, and 
even thirty- four, but such are rare. 

" The Shakers, and those which have the tail only partially elevated, are origin- 
ally of this race." 


The conclusions at which Tenmrinck arrived respecting the specific differences 
between the Fantail and the wild Eock dove were founded on an imperfect know- 
ledge of the subject, and are not accepted by modern naturalists. 

The author of " The Dovecote and the Aviary," in his facile and pleasant 
manner, plays, as usual, round about his subject, without giving us any new or 
even accurate information respecting it. He states : — 

" Fantails are by no means the miserable degraded monsters that many writers 
would induce us to believe them to be. They may be, and often are, closely kept 
in cages, or dealers' pens, till they are cramped and out of health. The most 
robust wild pigeon would become so under the same circumstances. But if fairly 
used, they are respectably vigorous. It is a mistake to suppose that they are 
deficient in power of flight, unless their muscles have been enfeebled by long incar- 
ceration. Their tail is not so much in their way, and therefore not so unnatural 
(if hard names be allowed to have any force) as the train of the peacock. It is 
true, the tail of the Fantail consists, or ought to consist, of thirty-sis feathers — 
three times the number which most other pigeons can boast of; but it is an excel- 
lent aerial rudder, notwithstanding. 

" When Fantails breed with other pigeons, in the offspring sometimes the fan tail 
entirely disappears, sometimes a half fan tail remains ; and I am cognizant of a 
case where, by coupling a true Fantail with such a bird as the last mentioned, the 
pure race was re-established. It is probable (but I am not able to state it) that in 
this case the true Fantail was a male, and the half-bred of male Fantail parentage. 
In cross-bred pigeons, as far as my own observations have gone, the male influence 
is nearly paramount. Similar facts have also occurred in the much larger experi- 
ence of the London Zoological Society, as I am assured by Mr. James Hunt, their 
intelligent head keeper. Piesults with the same tendency have proceeded from 
crosses in other genera, as is instanced in Lord Derby's wonderful experiment with 
the common Colchicus and versicolor pheasants, as detailed in the December num- 
ber of the Quarterly Review for 1850, by which it appears that a solitary male bird 
may prove competent to introduce his species to Great Britain, by a temporary 
alliance with a female quite an alien to his own blood. In a letter from Mr. 
Edward Blythe, dated Calcutta, October 8, 1850, he kindly informs me, ' A native 
friend of mine has this season bred two fine Hybrids between the male Pavo 
muticus and the common peahen, apparently a male and a female. They take 
much after the papa, and the male should be a splendid bird when he gets his full 
plumage.' The same is the rule with many quadrupeds. Mules are not greatly 
in favour with ladies and gentlemen in England, and therefore the less is known 
about them by educated people; but the humbler class of horse and donkey 
dealers will tell at once, by the ears and hoofs, as well as by the temper and dispo- 
sition, whether any mule, offered for sale, had a mare or a donkey for its mamma. 
The mule children of the latter animal are much more valuable, as they exhibit 
not only the form, but the docility of the horse rather than of the ass. 

" Fantails are mostly of a pure snowy white, which, with their peculiar carriage, 


gives them some resemblance to miniature swans. Barely, they are quite black ; 
occasionally, they are seen white, with slate-coloured patches on the shoulders, lika 
Turbits. A singular habit is the trembling motion of the throat, which seems to 
be caused by excitement in the bird. The same action is observed in the Bunts, in 
a less degree. The iris of the Fantail is of a dark hazel, the pupil black, which 
gives to the eye a fulness of expression quite different to what is seen in most 
other birds. I mention this, because Colonel Sykes, in the " Transactions of the 
Zoological Society," makes the colour of the iris an important guide in determin- 
ing the affinities or dissimilarities of species, believing it occasionally to manifest 
even generic distinctions. Now amongst Fancy pigeons the iris varies greatly, and 
is thought of much consequence, as is known to every amateur. The cere, at the 
base of the Fantail's bill, looks as if covered with a white powder." 

In this short extract there are at least three important errors. Bespecting the 
use of the tail as a medium for directing the bird during its flight, it will be found, 
by referring to the article on the mechanism of flight in Chapter I., that the tail 
is never employed for that purpose. The statements respecting the relative value 
of Mules and Hinnys are entirely opposed to the facts of the case ; and the value 
of the colour of the iris as a distinguishing mark between different species is not 
acknowledged by either fanciers or naturalists. 

Leaving the previous authors who have written on this breed, we may consider 
the bird as it exists at the present time. 

It appears tolerably certain that Fantails originated in the peninsula of 
Hindostan. Pigeons have always been great favourites with the inhabitants of 
many parts of India — not only the princes and the ladies of the court, but with 
the common people also. Even within the last few years many very superior 
specimens of the Fantail have been brought to England from India. These 
recently imported specimens usually differ from the English-bred birds by the 
possession of a slight tuft at the back of the head, resembling that of a Turbit 
with a pointed crown ; and although in the number of the tail feathers they are 
often superior to birds of the English breed, they are destitute of that elegant, 
swan-like carriage of the neck, that adds so much grace to our native birds. At 
their first importation some of our judges refused to award prizes to these tufted, 
birds ; but at present they hold their own in competition, and take their fair share 
of the prizes. 

Mi 1 . Harrison Weir states : — " I believe it is only the coarser birds of India that 
have the tufts. Mine were very elegant. Not all the Indian birds have tufts, as 
I imported several without, with heads and necks of fine quality. Some were 
a blue of peculiarly rich colour. Nor do I consider the Indians always superior in 
tail to the English breed, having had pure English quite as fine as any foreign. 
The birds with turn-crowns generally lose two points in competition — the head 
and neck being usually coarse and thick, and the English birds being of better 

The principal property in the Fantail is the extraordinary development of the 



quill feathers of the tail, and the mole in which the tail itself is carried. The 
normal number of feathers in the tail of all the varieties of pigeons is twelve ; 
in the Fantail the number not unfrequently approaches forty, and even as many 
as forty-two have been known. 

In order to constitute a good Fantail, however, the tail must be carried over the 
back, being brought well forward. If the tail is carried horizontally backwards, 
the beauty of the bird is entirely lost ; on the other hand, it should not be thrown 
forward so far as to rest upon the body ; nor should the head be passed backwards 
between the feathers of the tail. If the tail is well carried, the fuller the better ; 
but in a show-pen a well-carried tail of twenty-eight to thirty feathers is always 


more effective than a badly- carried one of thirty-eight or forty. The best show- 
birds will be found to have about twenty-eight feathers iu the tail. 

The tail of the Fantail is often compared with that of the peacock ; but in fact 
it differs from it most essentially. In the latter bird it is the tail-coverts or lower 
back feathers that are raised and constitute the gaudy appendage of the bird ; the 
true tail-quills, which are few in number, are short and stout, and merely serve 
as strong props to support the train, when raised. In the Fantail pigeon, how- 
ever, it is the quills of the tail which are erected. 

One curious result follows from the multiplication of the quills — namely, the 
total obliteration of the uropygium, or oil-gland of the tail, with the .contents 
of which birds are generally supposed to oil their feathers. There is another 
singular effect of this abnormal multiplication of the feathers — the central 
feather of the tail is frequently double, two shafts, each having a vane on both 
sides, rising out of one quill. 

The neck of the Fantail should be long, slender near the head, and curved in 



a graceful swan-like manner. A thickly-feathered neck — such as is found in 
the tnfted Indian birds — is a great drawback to their elegance. The neck is 
constantly moved in a peculiarly tremulous manner, which gave rise to the old 
name of " Broad-tailed Shakers," formerly bestowed on the breed. 

In size, the Fantail should be small and petite. - 

The colour varies greatly ; whites are the most frequent, but very good blacks 
and blues are not uncommon. Mr. H. Weir states, " There are blacks and blues 
quite as good as any whites. One of the best Fantail hens I ever saw was a 
black." By crossing, various colours may be produced. We have possessed some 
good reds with white tails, and others with slatey tails. Mr. H. Weir states 


that he has heard of some in India that are white with blue heads. There is no 
doubt but that some very pretty varieties would reward the fancier who would 
devote a few years to raising new colours in this breed, as by crossing a very 
heavily-tailed Fantail with a bird of the desired colour and markings, and care- 
fully selecting the offspring for brood stock, there would be no difficulty in 
breeding Fantails with any marking that might be desired. 

The Germans have self or whole coloured Fantails of the following varieties, 
namely, black, blue, red, yellow, as well as white. They also possess parti- 
coloured birds, as white with black shoulders and tails; but these birds fail to come 
up to the English standard of excellence in shape and carriage. 

A statement is made in some of the works on pigeons that the Fantail is 
generally incapable of breeding with the Barb, or that the offspring of such a 
union, if produced, is perfectly sterile. Such a statement has not the slightest 
foundation in fact. Mr. C. Darwin, in the passage we have quoted in our Third 
chapter (page 29), describes such a cross ; and in the course of some physiological 



experiments, we had occasion to mate together several pairs of white Fantails 
and black Barbs ; they bred freely, and the young, when mated together, bred 
with equal fertility. It may be stated that the colour of the produce of these 
crosses generally was influenced most strongly by the male bird : a white Fantail 
cock with black Barb hen gave us birds purely white. On the other hand, black 
Barb cocks with white Fantail hens always produced broods with more or less 
colour, varying from pure black or dark-pied birds to such as were slatey in 
colour ; and the mongrels when mated followed the same rule. 






rpHE earliest notice that we can discover of the Trumpeter is that of Moore, 
-*- who states : — 

" The Trumpeter is a bird much about the size of a Laugher, and very runt- 
ishly made ; they are generally pearl-eyed, black-mottled, very feather-footed and 
legged, turn-crowned, like the Nun, and sometimes like the Finikin, but much 
larger, which I take to be the better sort, as being more melodious ; but the best 
characteristic to know them, is a tuft of feathers growing at the root of the beak, 
and the larger this tuft is, the more they are esteemed. The reason of their 
name, is from their imitating the sound of a trumpet after playing ; though I 
once inquired of a German, who brought pigeons over to sell here, the reason of 
their being so called, and as he told me, he believed, was that they were first 
brought to Holland by a drummer or trumpeter, and so were called Trumpeters 
from him. Credat Judfeus Appela, let who will swallow this gudgeon. 

" The more salacious they are, the more they will trumpet ; for which reason, 
if you have a mind to be often entertained with their melody, you must give them 
good store of hemp seed ; otherwise they will seldom trumpet much, except in 
spring, when they are naturally more salacious than usual." 

The Treatise adds nothing to this account, but the copper-plate engraving is 
worthy of notice, as showing the character of the breed at the date of its publica- 
tion, a hundred years since. The figure represents a bird of large size, with black 
flight and tail-feathers, the rest of the body white, excepting about thirty large 
black spots on the side. It has a slight tuft or rose, and a small recurved turned 
crown ; the legs are feathered, but the feet are bare. 

Girton and Dixon add nothing of importance, but Mr. Brent gives us some 
useful information respecting the Continental varieties of the breed. He states: — 

" This variety of the domestic pigeon came, I believe, originally from Egypt 
and Arabia ; they are distinguished from all others by the prolonged and gurgling 
coo, from which they derive their name of Trumpeter. In Germany they are 
called ' Trommel Tauben,' and in France ' Pigeon Tambour,' or ' Glougou,' 
names all expressive of their peculiar note, which is sustained frequently for 
several minutes, and somewhat resembles the distant rumbling of a drum, or 
the gurgling of water ; the voice sounds like a combination of the word 
' Coo-coo-coo-oo-coo,' rapidly repeated in a deep tone, interrupted by an occasional 


inspiratory ( Ah ! ' Some are, however, more rapid and tremulous in their voice 
than others. Some naturalists consider them a very pure race, because if at all 
crossed they lose this distinctive coo. In addition to their coo, they have a 
peculiar tuft or turn of the feathers over the beak, which spreads in the form of 
a pink, and the finer and more evenly this spreads, the more they are admired. 
They are usually turn-crowned, but sometimes only point-headed ; they are well- 
booted, or, as the Shanghae fanciers style it, ' Vulture-hocked,' and their feet 
are covered with very long feathers ; the length of these feathers is also considered 
a great point ; they are stout thick-set birds, what the fanciers call ' runtish ' 
made, of good size, and excellent breeders, but should be kept clean and dry. 
The long feathers on their feet often incommode their walking on rough ground. 
Their prevailing plumage is quite white, and of the white there seems to be two 
varieties, the one rather smaller, with white beak and dark eyes, heavily feathered 
and excellent vocalists ; the other rather larger, with slightly tinged beak, a pearl 
eye, and better turn over the beak and back of the head. This last, I fancy, is not 
quite so musical, though generally more esteemed ; of the former variety I had 
some excellent birds bred from stock imported from Egypt, and though they were 
not quite so handsome as some, I never had but one other that could equal them 
in trumpeting a prolonged finale. The fancy plumage is the black-mottle ; these, 
to be perfect, should have the twelve tail-feathers, and the ten flight-feathers in 
each wing, perfectly black, the rest of the body being white, regularly mottled 
with black feathers ■ the eyes should be of a clear pearl colour, the turn of 
feathers over the beak and at the back of the head well developed, and the feet 
well feathered. There are also blacks, blues, and reds. The Germans have some 
they call ' Bastard-Trommel Tauben,' which are beautifully marked, but which 
rarely trumpet well, if at all; the German fanciers generally think more of 
leather than of the other properties, which will account for the numerous varieties 
of toys which they cultivate. These cross-bred Trumpeters are variously marked, 
as reds or yellows, with clean white shoulders, also white birds with dark shoulders, 
like our Turbits, as black, blue, red, or yellow-shouldered, the two former some- 
times having white wing-bars ; some of these cross-bred birds have no turn-crown, 
and others have neither turns and yet trumpet very well ; these have various pro- 
vincial names, as 'rauchfuszige,' 'latschige,' ' strausz,' 'Eussische,' or "Alten- 
burgische,' i.e. rough-footed, slippered, tufted, Russian or Altenburg pigeous." 

For the following account of this breed, good specimens of which are highly 
esteemed, we have to express our obligations to Mr. P. Jones, formerly one of the 
most successful breeders and exhibitors of this variety. He states : — 

" Trumpeters should certainly hold a high position among Toys, in my esti- 
mation ranking at least next to Jacobines in the number and importance of the 
properties required to constitute a perfect bird. 

" The properties of the Trumpeter are very numerous, and may be classed 
thus :— Crown or Shell, Rose, Feet, Colour, Size, Shape, Carriage, and Trumpeting. 

"The crown or shell should be perfectly ereu and well developed, standing 


up boldly at the back of the head, extending widely and down the cheeks on 
each side. 

*' The rose should be large and well defined, the feathers spreading in a rose or 
circular form from a point at the junction of the upper mandible of the beak with 
the skull ; it should lie nearly flat, and in good specimens is sufficiently large to 
partially obstruct the vision. In some exceptional cases the rose is as large as an 
old fiYe-shilling piece. 

" The feet should be extravagantly feathered, the feathers spreading well out- 
wards from each toe, in first-class birds the longest of these feathers are from 
four to five inches in length; a good strong quill is desirable. The legs are rather 

" The prevailing colours in Trumpeters are black, white, yellow, and also black 
mottles, the latter, when all other points are equal, having the preference, it being a 
difficult matter to produce a pair of well-mottled birds, most of the so-called 
mottles having a great preponderance of white, splashed with a few black feathers. 
A good pair of mottles should approach as nearly as possible to the recognized 
marking of the short-faced mottled Tumbler. Reds and duns are also occasionally 
met with. 

" Much diversity of opinion prevails among fanciers as to the size of Trumpeters, 
but, as a rule, large birds are preferred, — a good-sized bird would weigh over a 

" The carriage of the Trumpeter is somewhat runtish and squat ; the legs 
being very short, as compared with those of many other varieties. 

" The trumpeting is a peculiarity possessed by this breed, and consists in a 
prolongation of the ordinary coo of the male pigeon ; in some cases good birds, 
when nesting, will continue to trumpet without intermission for several minutes. 

" Trumpeters are very tame and familiar in their habits, and free from shyness ; 
they are fair breeders and nurses, though from the feathering of the feet liable to 
break their eggs in the nest; consequently they should be provided with large-sized 
nest-pans, such as have been recommended for Pouters and the other large breeds. 
It is hardly necessary to add, that the extreme amount of feather on feet neces- 
sitates the most careful cleanliness in their management." 

Under the title of " The Laugher," Moore describes a variety that, like the 
Trumpeter, has a very peculiar voice. He says : — 

'•' This pigeon is about the size of a middling Runt, and much of the same 
make, and I am informed has a very bright pearl eye, almost white ; as for its 
feather, it is red mottled ; and some tell me they have seen blues. They are said 
to come from the Holy Land near Jerusalem. When a cock plays to his hen he 
has a hoarse coo, not unlike the gurgling of a bottle of water, when poured out, 
and then makes a noise which very much imitates a soft laughter, and from 
thence this bird has its name." 

Some few years since, several of these pigeons were imported into England from 
Arabia, and some of them ^passed into our possession, In form they were the 


shape of the ordinary dove-house pigeon, offering no distinctive peculiarities 
whatever ; their colours were various, — some were blue, others slaty, some were 
irregularly mottled, whilst others were self-coloured, as red or white. Their voice 
was very remarkable, being far more irregular and varied than that of the 
Trumpeter, and so strikingly peculiar, that no person unacquainted with the sound 
and not seeing the bird, could have imagined it to have emanated from a pigeon. 
As these birds offered no structural peculiarities that would render them valuable 
as show birds, they were not much sought after, and we do not know whether the 
breed has been maintained in its purity even since the date of its last intro- 






rPHE Nun is an old and well-known variety, originally described by Moore as— 
■*- " A. bird somewhat larger than a Jacobine ; her plumage is very particular, and 
she seems entirely to take her name from it, her being as it were covered with a 
veil. Her body is all white ; her head, tail, and six of her flight feathers ought to 
be entirely black, red, and yellow ; and whatever feathers vary from this are said 
to be foul, though the best of them all will sometimes apt to breed a few foul 
feathers, and those that are but little so, though not so much valued, will often 
breed as clean-feathered birds as those that are not. A Nun ought likewise to be 
pearle-eyed, and to have a white hood or tuft of feathers on the hinder part of the 
head, which the larger it is, adds a considerable beauty to the bird." 

The copyists of Moore, the compilers of the Treatise and of Girton's work, add 
nothing of any great value to this account. In the Treatise it is stated : — 

" The Nun is a bird that attracts the eye greatly, from the contrast in her plu- 
mage, which is very particular. Namely, if her head be black, her tail and flight 
should be black likewise ; if her head be red, then her tail and flight should be 
red ; or if her head be yellow, her tail and flight should be also yellow ; and are 
accordingly called either red-headed Nuns, yellow-headed Nuns, &c. Should a 
black-headed Nun have a white or any other coloured feather in her head, except 
black, she would be called foul-headed ; or a white feather in her flight, she would 
be called foul-flighted, &c, and the same rule stands good in the red-headed or 
yellow-headed Nuns." 

Mr. Brent, who was very partial to this pretty breed, writes as follows : — 

" Of all the toy pigeons the Nun is perhaps the best known and most cultivated 
in England. It is much admired for its pretty appearance and the contrast of its 
colours ; it is with me a very favourite pet, from the fact of its having been the 
very first I had to call my own ; nevertheless, I regret to see it take precedence, as 
it sometimes does at our shows, of such birds as Jacobines, Turbits, or Barbs, 
which have many properties, while the pretty Nun is truly a toy, having but one 
property, namely, feather. The Nuns are about the size of common dove-house 
pigeons, but stouter made, and rather more elegantly shaped ; the beaks are long 
and dove-shaped ; the eyes should be pearl-coloured, though occasionally gravel, 
but a black eye is a great fault. They are merry, active, and good breeders ; they 
are clean-footed, and being sharp flyers, are capable of finding a part of their food 



in the fields. Their plumage is beautifully white, the extremities only being 
coloured ; the crown of the head, face, and a small portion of the upper part of the 
throat is dark, and at the back of the head is a nice white turned crown, which 
gives the bird the appearance of wearing a dark veil and white hood, from which 
circumstance it derives the name of Nun. The twelve tail feathers, and a few of 
the tail-coverts, as also from seven to ten flight feathers in each pinion are dark of 
the same colour as the head, either black, blue, red, or yellow ; and they are 
designated black-headed or yellow-headed Nuns, as the case may be : but black- 
headed Nuns are by far the most common ; the body should be perfectly white, any 
dark or ' foul ' feathers among the white, or white where they should be black, 
are fatal blemishes ; the hood, too, should be perfectly white, so as to contrast well 
with the dark visage, and not lined with dark feathers, as is sometimes the case. 
The German Nuns differ from the English in having white flights, and are there 
called ' Bard Tauben,' or Beard pigeons." 

The Bev. E. S. Dixon substantially repeats Moore's account of the birds of this 
breed, but adds the following paragraph : — • 

" ' The most beautiful specimens,' says Temminck, 'are those which are black, 
but have the quill feathers and the head white; they are called Nonnains-Maurins.' 
But the most usual sort — and exceedingly pretty birds they are — are what Buffon 
styles ' coquille hollandais,' or Dutch shell pigeons, ' because they have, at the 
back of their head, reversed feathers, which form a sort of shell. They are also of 
short stature. They have the head black, the tip (the whole? ) of the tail and the 
ends of the wings (quill feathers) also black, and all the rest of the body white. 
This black-headed variety so strongly resembles the Tern (hirondelle de mer) that 
some persons have given it that name.'" 

We have quoted this in order to note the errors it contains, which if uncontra- 
dicted might lead to misconception. Temminck does not allude to the variety 
known as Nuns, but under the title of " Pigeon Nonnain " describes the Jacobine ; 
and the passage which Mr. Dixon quotes is applicable to black Jacobines, and 
not to Nuns. 

Buffon is also in error in stating that the name of Tern, or Sea-swallow, has 
been given to the Nun, it having been bestowed on a very distinct variety. 

Nuns usually constitute a favourite class at the pigeon shows, but from the 
tendency of the black and white feathers to intermix at the turn-crown, they are 
generally subject to a certain amount of manipulation before exhibition, which 
is alluded to in the following communication on this breed, which we have been 
favoured with by the Rev. A. G. Brooke, one of the most ardent admirers and 
successful breeders of this variety : — 

'"An uncommonly well-trimmed class of Nuns,' used generally to greet my ears 
at various shows, and, to be candid, as far as mine were concerned, I could but 
plead guilty to the fact that trimmed they were. How to breed them for exhibi- 
tion free from foul feathers was a puzzle to me. Having, however, a great partiality 
for Nuns, about four years ago, as a last resort, from observation rather than from 


information received, in order to keep the breed as pure as possible, I disposed of 
all my other varieties of pigeons, and left a pair of black-headed Nuns the sole 
occupants of my pigeon-house. Remarkably content and happy they were, and at 
first bred me mostly foul-feathered birds, but I have gone on breeding in-and-in, and 
am able to report decided progress, the Nuns I have bred this year being better in 
their hoods, and far freer from foul feathers than any I have had before ; in fact, 
my nunnery can now boast of Nuns ' Superior.' I have bred almost all my prize 
birds from a cock with seven black flights in each wing, and a very good hen, but 
was unable to exhibit her, as she had seven black flights in one wing, and only five 
in the other. She has bred me twenty-three birds in two years and a half, and 
only one pair have been, like herself, short in the number of the dark flight feathers. 
My prize Nuns at Birmingham, in 1865, were bred by her during that year, and 
they had six flights in each wing, which I believe to be the correct number. Tho 
Nuns I won with at Birmingham in 1866, were likewise her progeny ; but I have 
the majority of my birds with more than six dark flights ; still, in my opinion, six 
denote perfection. These flights in the wing, together with the tail, should be jet 
black ; the hood white and full ; the eye, though dark at first, becomes pearl 
with age. 

"Cleanliness is very essential to them ; mine have a bath twice a week, constructed 
of a good-sized earthen pan, placed inside a larger tin one, which receives the 
greater part of the water splashed over, and thereby the floor of the pigeon-house 
is kept comparatively dry. After the young ones are hatched, I have their nest- 
pans changed frequently ; thus they are kept sweet and clean and free from para- 
sites. The water in their fountains is changed every morning, and the fountains 
well rinsed out. Their food consists all the year round of white peas and small 
round Indian corn mixed together, of which they always have a plentiful supply in 
a pan on the floor ; by this means the young ones are never at a loss for food, and 
arrive sooner at maturity. In one of my prize pens this year, the hen was only 
three months old. They are particularly fond of rock salt, a lump of which is 
likewise kept in a pan on the floor. I occasionally give them a grass sod, which 
they much enjoy, especially when the grass is in seed. My Nuns being always 
confined to the house, I have the floor covered with dry earth, mixed with coarse 
gritty sand ; this is frequently swept from the floor, and fresh dry earth sub- 
stituted. I attribute the excellent state of health which my birds have always 
enjoyed mainly to cleanliness. 

" I have often tried to obtain either really good yellow-headed or red-headed 
Nuns, but in vain ; the reds I am afraid are an extinct race. So much more 
success than I ever anticipated has attended my keeping my Nuns by themselves, 
and allowing them to mate as they choose, that I can only advise other amateurs 
to adopt the same method, where it is practicable." 

We believe that very good red and yellow-headed Nuns are still to be obtained 
on the Continent, but it is a long time since any good birds of these colours have 
been exhibited in England. 



Closely allied to the Nun, but differing from it in the absence of the shell or 
turn-crown, is the breed known under the title of Helmets. 

Helmets were, as far as we are aware, first described by Moore, who states : — 

" This pigeon is much about the size of a Nun, or somewhat bigger. The 
head, tail, and flight-feathers of the wings are always of one colour, as black, 
red, yellow; and I have been informed there are some blue, and all the 
rest of the body white, so that the chief difference between them and the Nun 
is, that they have no hood on the hinder part of the head, and are generally 

" They are called Helmets from their heads being covered with a plumage 


which is distinct in colour from the body, and appears somewhat liko a helmet to 
cover the head." 

Neither the compiler of the Treatise nor the author of the " Dovecote " furnish 
any further information on the breed. Mr. Brent, however, writing in the Poultry 
Chronicle, stated : — 

" This toy, like the preceding, is evidently descended from a German race, 
namely, the ' Kappen,' or ' Platten-Tummler,' or ' Burzel taube;' but, like the 
foregoing, their Tumbler properties have been disregarded, and the birds are 
rarely much thought of, though their pretty appearance ought to bring them some 
admirers. The upper mandible is dark, the lower light ; the top of the head is 
coloured, either red or yellow, in a line from the beak through the eye, which 
gives the appearance of the bird's wearing a cap or helmet, whence the name; 
the tail also coloured the same as the head, and in those that have feathers on the 
feet they are likewise coloured : the whole of the remainder of the plumage is 
spotless white. 

" The old-fashioned Helmet pigeon, with dark flights, as described by Mr. 
Moore, 1735, I have never seen." 


As show birds, Helmets must be very correctly marked. Their only properties 
are those of colour and accuracy of marking : wanting these, they are no better 
than mere dove-house pigeons. 

The Spot is a very old though now rather scarce variety. Willughby mentions 
it in the following terms : — " Spots, because they have each in their forehead, 
above their bill, a spot. Their tail is of the same colour with the spot, the rest of 
the body being white." 

Moore writes : — 

" This pigeon is about the size of a small Runt, and was first transmitted to 
us from Holland, but from whence the original of this breed came I cannot as yet 
learn ; they have a spot upon their heads, just above their beak, and from thence 
take their name; the feathers of the tail are of the same colour with the spot, and 
the rest of their body is all white. The spot and tail in some of these pigeons is 
black, in others red, in others yellow ; and I have been informed that there are 
some blue ; they look pretty when they spread their tail and fly, and always breed 
their young ones of the same colour." 

Mr. Brent writes : — 

" They were frequently to be met with a few years back, but now seem to be 
getting scarce. They have a coloured spot on the head, over the beak, and the tail 
is also of the same colour, either black, blue, red, or yellow ; the whole of the 
rest of the plumage is white. They are clean-footed, and occasionally turned- 
crowned ; the upper mandible should be dark and the lower light ; they are the 
size. of the common dove-house pigeons. They are active and field well, and are 
reported always to breed their young ones of the same colour. Their German 
name is 'Bless' (Spot), or ' Masken-Tauben ' (masked pigeons)." 

Both Spots and Helmets, though very pretty birds, have so few properties that 
they are not as highly esteemed as the other more artificial varieties, and but few 
fanciers breed them to any great extent. 

In Germany there is a variety which is unknown in England. It may be 
described as a Spot with the colours reversed, viz., the body is dark, the spot on 
the forehead white. Mr. Brent has described this variety as follows : — 

" This variety is very scarce in England, but common in Germany, where they 
are known as ' Die Weiszblessige Taube,' "White Spotted Pigeon, or ' Weisz- 
masken Taube,' White Masked Pigeon. They are rather smaller and lighter made 
than the common dove-house pigeons, also quicker and more active, and take 
willingly to the fields to cater for themselves ; they are smooth-headed, and gene- 
rally slightly feathered on the feet ; the upper mandible is white, the lower dark ; 
on the head, directly over the beak, is an oval white spot ; the tail also is white, 
the rest of the body being coloured, so that they are exactly opposite to the Spot 
pigeons last described ; some few, however, have white wing bars. 

"Herr Gottlob Neumeister enumerates five sub- varieties as follows : — 

" 1. The Black — white spot, with and without white wing bars, and occasionally 
with white spangled shoulders. 


" 2. The Blue — white spot, with the same markings as above. 

" 3. The Red — white spot, of a fine copper-brown red, without wing bars. 

" 4. The Yellow — white spot, their colour brown yellow ; they also have no 
wing bars. 

" 5. The Copper-shouldered — white spots, their ground colour is dark slaty- 
black, the neck changes to shining olive-green, the shoulders of the wings are 
deep copper-red, and the under parts of the body light ash grey." 



rpHIS pigeon was not known to the older fanciers : the author of " The Dovecot 
-*- and the Aviary" states, that at the date of the publication of his work in 
1S51, it had not been mentioned in any treatise previously published. The 
history of its introduction and the description of its characteristic properties are 
more correctly given in the following valuable account, by Mr. S. Betty, the 
honorary secretary of the National Columbarian Society, than by any other writer. 

Mr Betty states : — 

" The Archangel is one of the few artificial or fancy breeds which, without any 
change of form or structure from that of the wild species, commends itself to the 
critical fancier by the extreme beauty and the novelty of its colouring, and taxes 
his skill to the utmost to preserve its peculiar characteristics. 

" The introduction of the Archangel into England has been of comparatively 
recent date, consequently no account of it appears in any of the older treatises. 
Dixon, in his ' Dovecot and Aviary,' devotes a chapter to it, but his description is 
very inaccurate, and he confesses to being ignorant of the date of its introduction. 
I have, therefore, much pleasure in publishing the following statement, which I 
received from the well-known fancier Mr. Frank Redmond, formerly of the Swiss 
Cottage, St. John's-wood. Mr. Redmond informs me that he was in Ghent, in 
1839, and whilst there was selecting some pigeons for the late Sir John Seabright, 
when he saw this breed for the first time, and was informed that it had been 
recently introduced from Russia. With some difficulty he procured a pair, and 
this breed, from its novelty and beauty of plumage, remained high in favour with 
Sir John, at whose death the Archangels became distributed, the greater number 
passing into the possession of the late Earl of Derby ; so that Dixon says he first 
saw the bird at Knowsley. I am not aware that, even at the present time, any 
fancier possesses a large stud of Archangels, and I am inclined to think the bird 
has deteriorated in our hands through in-and-in breeding. 

" The chief points or properties in the Archangel are : colour, tuft, and 

" Colour. — The colouring is both rich and unique. The head and neck-hackle 
should, after the first moult, be of a deep and brilliant copper-red, changing into 
dark bronze ; the wings and back of a deep black, shining with a brilliant bur- 
nished metallic lustre, and reflecting the richest iridescent hues of blue and 



green. There is no other variety of domestic pigeon which, in metallic brilliancy 
of plumage, even approaches that of the Archangel, whose colours recall to mind 
the glossy brightness of the Indian pheasants rather than the more sober tints 
generally found on the ordinary Columbine birds. The flight feathers are of a 
dusky black. The tail, I am informed by their original importer, was black 
throughout, but we find it now of a dull blue at the base, with a black bar at its 
termination. A few years since yellow-necked birds were much esteemed, and no 
doubt that colour would give a value to this variety in the fancy ; but I have 
found that with the yellow-neck comes more conspicuously the blue-tail ; and 
these lighter birds are apt to be deficient in the brilliant metallic lustre that is 
the great and distinguishing beauty of the breed. The eye should be of a bright, 
golden, orange-red. Some good birds are pearl-eyed, and although that colour 
does not accord so well with the general brilliancy of colouring that ought to 
characterize the birds of this breed, I am not prepared to reckon it as a defect. 
The feet, which are small, should be of a bright deep red. 

"Tuft. — The tuft is formed at the junction of the feathers of the skull with 
those of the neck ; the feathers of which it is composed should not be sufficiently 
long to overlap, and they should end in a finely-drawn point at the back of the 
head. Any approach to a broad shell-tuft, resembling that of the Trumpeter, is to 
be regarded as a great defect ; and as such a character is apt to be inherited, an 
untufted bird would be far preferable for stock purposes to one with a shell-crown. 

" Carriage. — The Archangel should have a smart carriage, standing well upon 
its thighs, the head well up, the shoulders close set, the girth narrow. 

" For public judging, the numeral value of points may be thus distributed : 
colour 8, tuft 4, shape and carriage 3 — total, 15. 

" Though comparatively few good birds are now to be seen, nevertheless Arch- 
angels are reasserting their place in public estimation. They are much sought 
after, and very liberal prizes are now offered for them at the Birmingham and 
other shows. Archangels are prolific, and make good nurses ; and although 
among the produce there may be some that are valueless, the greater number bred 
will be generally gratifying to their owners. 

" A large flight of these pigeons, such as I recollect seeing at the Swiss Cottage, 
was a very pleasing sight. They have much in common with the Rock dove, 
particularly in size, shape of body and beak, and quick darting flight ; as they 
walked daintily in the court-yard with the sun beaming on their lustrous feathers, 
they gave one the idea of their being the most gorgeous of their race. No court 
milliner could have clad them in more resplendent colours ; no coiffeur could have 
been more exact to a hair in arranging their toupee ; no bottier could have 
encased their legs and feet in brighter scarlet morocco ; and all their attire was so 
brilliantly harmonized that they seemed better adapted to suit the gorgeous beauty 
of an oriental court than the pale colouring of our colder clime." 

It is difficult to account for the English name of Archangel. A correspondent 
informs us that he sent expressly to Archangel for these birds, but they were 


•unknown in that locality. Mr. Brent has sent us the following information on 
the subject of their original locality, and the varieties of the breed as recognized 
in Germany : — 

" It was in 1842 or 1S43 that I first saw this variety of pigeon at Coblentz on 
the Ehine. I brought a pair home with me, but the hen died. Mr. Furer, in his 
excellent description of this breed in the ' Pigeon and Poultry Newspaper ' of 
April, 1S5S, published in Berlin, says this pigeon is a native of Ulyria, and that it 
is common in Upper Bavaria and the Tyrol, where they are kept as dovehouse 
pigeons, and gain their own living in the fields ; and that it is only within the last 
forty or fifty years that it has been known in Germany, in which country it is called 
the Htyrian or Bullfinch pigeon. Mr. F. mentions several varieties, besides the 
red and black, and yellow and blue ; as, for instance, ' those having white flights, 
either with or without a white spot on the forehead ; but those with a clean white 
head and flights are most highly prized.' Then there is a pigeon of exactly the 
same form, carriage, and marking as the common Archangel — that is, the white 
Archangel, or, as it is called in Germany, the coloured breast pigeon ; but it is 
very different in colour; the head, neck, and breast are of one colour, either yellow, 
red, black, or blue, and very glossy ; the rest of the plumage being a beautiful 
white. The English name of Archangel is a puzzle to me, for they certainly did 
not come originally from the north." 



UXDEB the name of German Toys we may include a very large number of 
different varieties, characterized almost entirely by mere variations in the 
colour and disposition of the feathers. The majority of these birds closely 
resemble the wild blue dove in form and in arrangement of plumage, though some 
are characterized by feathered feet, others by turned crowns and tufts over the 
upper mandible, and some combine all these peculiarities. 

In colour of plumage and markings they are infinite, and it is hopeless to 
attempt to describe all the variations that occur. Many of them are accidental in 
their occurrence, and a pair produced by crossing other breeds are designated 
by a new and fanciful name, and attract notice for a time ; but as they often fail 
to produce young resembling the parents, they disappear, to give place to new 
varieties. Those breeds, however, that have been longest established, and in 
which the process of the artificial selection of brood stock has been carried on for 
a longer series of generations, breed fairly true to colour and markings, and thus 
such varieties as Swallows, Bunts, Brunswicks, &c, have become firmly estab- 
lished and are constantly to be seen at our shows. 

The satisfactory arrangement of these birds is not an easy or even a possible 
task, as the varieties merge so readily into one another. By far the best descrip- 
tions of them that have ever appeared in England were written by the late Mr. 
B. P. Brent in the "Field" newspaper and in the defunct "Poultry Chronicle," 
which was published in 1854-5, and to which we are indebted for much of our 
information on the subject. 

We may first commence with a description of the spangled varieties. It is well 
known to all pigeon fanciers that the black marks on the wing coverts, which by 
their junction produce the upper of the two black bars, so characteristic of the 
Bock dove, are apt to extend irregularly over the wing, and to produce that marking 
known as chequered. When these marks are regularly dispersed they form a series 
of spangles, the colours of which may be so varied as to give rise to a very pleasing 

This spangling may be combined with any other colours in the plumage, and an 
indefinite number of varieties may result from the union. Mr. Brent says : — 

" The Suabian Spangled pigeons, or, as they are called in Germany, Schwaben 
Taubcn, are, I consider, the prettiest variety of Toys. They are doubtless the 


origin of all those pretty spangled Toys occasionally seen in England and known 
by various names, as Porcelains, Hyacinths, Ermines, &c. 

" The Suabian pigeons are about the size of Nuns in shape and make, and 
much resemble the Dovekouse pigeon in their manners, have generally a turned 
crown, gravel eye, and clean feet. They are rather shy, sharp flyers, and easily 
learn to find then food in the fields, as indeed is the case with nearly all the 
varieties of Toys, unless incapacitated for walking on the ploughed land by the long 
feathers on the feet ; and consequently they are well adapted for country amateurs, 
while the fancy pigeons generally require to be house-fed, and therefore belong 
more particularly to the town fanciers. 

" The chief, if not the only property of the Suabian pigeon, consists in its 
beautiful spangled plumage, the ground colour of which resembles that of a dark 
chequered Dovecot pigeon ; the feathers on the head and neck are tipped with 
cream-colour, or a soft whitish stone-colour ; the tail is a dark slaty-colour, barred 
with black near the extremity ; the flight feathers are of the same hue, but they 
have a small whitish spot at the extremity of each, like the white spots on the 
pinion of a Goldfinch ; the secondary wing feathers, as also the primary covert 
feathers of the same, have a large whitish spot on their outer web, which causes 
the wings to have two white bars, a feature much prized on the Continent by 
amateurs, when introduced into the colouring of any of the darker Toys, and one 
of very rare occurrence in any English pigeons. The whole of the lesser covert 
feathers of the wing shoulders, and the black or scapular feathers, have the white 
spots on both of the webs, which, when large, cause the feathers to appear almost 
all whitish with grey down, a black shaft, and a small triangular bluish or slaty 
spot at the extremity, resembling ermine marks in heraldry. Thus at a little 
distance the general plumage of the bird seems of a soft creamy white, slightly 
speckled with dark, but on closer inspection it is very beautifully and regularly 
marked — the whitish over-colour on the lower part of the neck across the crop 
gives place to a crescent-shaped band of an orange-brown shade : the rump and 
hinder parts are slaty-grey. In the young birds these white markings are of 
brownish or brindled colour, known to the fancy as ' kite ' or 'hawked,' but this 
colour only remains so long as they maintain their nest-feathers, and they lose it 
with them and attain the creamy white shade at their first moult. 

" If these pigeons are bred to a darker shade, either by crossing with a black 
pigeon or selecting the darkest for two or more generations, they present a 
very pretty appearance, becoming almost black, with two white bars across the 
wings, and the shoulders spangled (not ' mottled ') with white pearl-like spots. 

" The Germans have also what they call a Red Suab, or Roth Sclnvaben, the 
ground-colour of which is a brown-red ; but the whitish spangling is not so clear 
on their- shoulders, having a very faint pinkish tint, and being slightly marbled 
with red. The few I have seen of this variety had white upper mandibles, and also 
the crown of the head white, and a black iris. 

" The French have several sub-varieties, more or less spangled, some on a black 

Q 2 



ground, others on a clear blue, which are very pretty ; some of them are spangled 
with buff, fawn, or red-brown, instead of the creamy white ; some of the French 
birds are much larger than the German, and seem as if they had been crossed with 
other large birds." 

Under the title of Hyacinths, Victorias, Porcelains, &c, large spangled varieties 
are often shown ; some of these have evidently been crossed with the short-legged 
Continental Pouter, as they innate their crops to some slight extent when flying. 

Another group of German Toys well known at our shows is that of which the 
Priest, Brunswick, and Letz Pigeons may be taken as the representatives. The 
Priests are of various colours, with broad turn-crowns, white heads, white wing 
bars, and sometimes a white bar across the tail. Neumeister, a well-known Ger- 
man writer on pigeons, enumerates the following varieties : — 

1st. The Black Priest pigeon ; both with and without the white wing bars, 
and occasionally with the spangled shoulders of the Suabian pigeon cross. 2nd. 
The Blue Priest pigeon, with either black or white wing bars ; also occasionally 
spangled like the foregoing. 3rd. The Brown-red Priest pigeon ; these rarely have 
the white wing bars, but when they do, the flight and tail are usually strawberry- 
coloured. The chief point is to have them of an uniform dark brown-red. 
4th. The Yellow Priest pigeon : has markings similar to the red, and is equally 
rare with white wing bars. 5th. The Wild Blue Priest pigeon ; their colour is 
a light or mealy blue, with the white head, like all the others, but without any 
other mark whatever, not even the black wing bars so common to blue pigeons 
These are, however, not very plentiful." 

Under the absurd title of Blue Brunswicks a variety is often shown, in which 
the flight feathers, wing bars, and head are white, the rest of the plumage being 

Under the name of Letz pigeons a similar variety was shown a few years since. 
The body was entirely white ; the head was ornamented with a good sized 
turned crown, and the feet were well feathered. The shoulder only was coloured, 
the wing bars being white. 

Ice pigeons, as they are called, have recently been much shown ; they may 
be described as being generally silver or pale-blue in colour, of the ordinary dove- 
house form, with white wing bars, and with or without chequered wings, having 
the feet more or less feathered. 

The Swallow is a variety that sometimes has a class awarded it at our pigeon 
shows. Mr. Brent was a great admirer of this very pretty breed, and we willingly 
take his description as the best that has been published : — 

" This beautiful variety of Toy pigeon is called by the French Hirondelle de 
mer, and by the Germans Die See Sclmalben Taube, or for shortness simply 
Schicalbcn Taubcn, which literally means Swallow pigeon ; but as they derive their 
name from their marking, which resembles that of a small kind of seagull, called 
a Tern, though known to the French and Germans as a Sea Swallow, it follows 
that the name Swallow pigeons, as commonly applied to them in this country, is 


' ■■ . 

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w^^^^Htt^. ^h i-^^Bifc^^JrJ^jji ^-x ^-* 

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LrlCillXO.N, D&OB. 


inappropriate, and that the proper English name would be Tern or Gull pigeoon. 
The Germans also designate them Feen Tauben (Fairy pigeons) and Numberger, 
or Farben Flugeliche. 

" Of all the Toy pigeons (I mean those I have classed as such, in distinction 
from the fancy pigeons, which have many properties) these are, with the exception 
of the Suabian Spangled pigeons, the most worthy of the fancier's notice, their 
decided and beautiful marking, and the contrast of then - colour, placing them in 
character above the general run of Toys. They are good breeders, about the size 
of the Dovehouse pigeon, and are equally light and active in their movements, 
though the feather-footed varieties, which are most esteemed on the Continent, are 
not well adapted to provide their own living, owing to their short and heavily ■ 
feathered feet. There are of this sort of pigeon both turned-crowned and smooth- 
headed, as well as clean-footed and shod ; their necks are short ; their heads, 
breasts, and backs broad ; their ground plumage is white ; their marking consists 
of the scalp, wings, and the slippers in those that are shod being coloured, which 
in the blue variety resembles the partition of colour in the Tern, the bird before 
mentioned, from which they derive their name. 

" Then- points of marking are as follows: — First the head; the upper mandible 
should be dark and the lower light ; the scalp or top of the head in a line from the 
corners of the mouth across the eye, evenly marked, passing round to the back of 
the head dark, but in those that are turned-crowned the hood must be perfectly 
white. Secondly, the wings of these should be wholly coloured without any white 
feathers, but the epaulets or scapular feathers, which lie on the back, at the 
junction of the wings to the body, should be quite white, and as they overlay a part 
of the wing when closed, it necessarily appears narrow, which is considered a par- 
ticular point. Thirdly, the feet, if shod, should be thickly covered with coloured 
feathers from the heel or hock-joint to the toes ; but the boots, or as Cochin, 
fanciers would style it, the vulture hock, must be white. 

" Herr Gottlob Neumeister, of Weimar, enumerates five sub-varieties, as 
follows : — 

" 1. The Black Tern pigeon, in which the markings are of a beautiful velvety 
black. 2. The Blue Tern pigeon, the markings of which are clear blue, with 
regular narrow black bars on the wings, the flight feathers being dark slate- 
coloured. 3. The Bed Tern pigeon, the colourings of a fine dark brown-red. 
4. The Yellow Tern pigeon : the markings are either bright yellow or buff. 5. 
The Light Blue Tern pigeon : they are light blue on the coloured parts and 
have no wing bars ; their pinions are slate-coloured. All the above varieties are 
frequently to be met with with white wing bars, but they are not generally so 
accurately marked, still more rarely have such fine shell-turned hoods. In addition 
to the above, I have seen some with dove-coloured markings ; also of a kind of 
lavender colour, and mealies. This sort of pigeon is becoming somewhat plentiful 
in this country, though they are of but recent introduction, and they are now 
frequently exhibited at our shows. 

174 tigeons. 

" According to M. Boitard and M. Corbie, the hooded varieties are considered 
distinct from the smooth-headed in France, and known by a different name, or at 
least they are the high fancy of the breed, and are bred with much care and 
of a small size." 

Mag-pies are another variety of German Toys that are well known in England. 
In appearance they offer very striking contrasts of colour ; the wings, lower part 
of the breast, and thighs being perfectly white, whilst the remainder of the 
plumage is coloured. The great beauty of birds of this breed depends on the 
purity and richness of their colours and the accuracy of their markings ; the line 
of separation between the coloured and white portions of the plumage must be 
sharply and accurately marked. If the white and coloured feathers intermix, 
such birds are valueless as show birds, and not to be depended on for stock. 

Magpies are of various colours, as black, red, yellow, and blue. 

Among the other German Toys less frequently seen in this country are the 
Starlings, Shields, Swiss, and Mooned pigeons. 

The Starlings are dark-coloured birds, white-barred, with a speckled, crescent- 
shaped band across the crop. 

The Shields are so termed from bearing on their wings a coloured mark like 
a shield, on a white ground. 

The Swiss and Mooned pigeons have a crescent-shaped coloured mark on the 

As we have before stated, the number of these Toys is almost infinite ; and 
by mating together different varieties, new breeds are constantly produced. 

Amongst the German birds we should not omit to notice the very pretty feather- 
footed Flying Tumblers so common on the Continent. They are not what English 
fanciers would call short-faced ; but they are exceedingly pretty lively little birds. 
They are of all colours ; but usually more or less speckled or mottled. 

Among the most remarkable birds that we have seen on the Continent are those 
known as " Long-winged pigeons." In colour the specimens we have seen have 
been bronzed, somewhat like the colour of an Archangel pigeon ; but their striking 
peculiarity is the extreme length of the flight-feathers of the wings, which 
extend beyond those of the tail. Of the power of flight possessed by these birds 
we know nothing, our acquaintance with them being limited to a few pairs 
confined in aviaries. They would form a very striking and novel addition to 
the varieties known in this country. 


LE101ITI1N. 1JR0S. 




THEEE are several breeds described by Moore and the older writers which are 
no longer recognized as distinct varieties ; some of these have been already 
alluded to in the course of this work, such as the Uploper, the Mahomet, and 
those that appear to be closely related to existing breeds. Others, such as the 
Finnikin, the Smiter, and the Turner, remain to be mentioned. We will quote 
the older authors on the subject, as it is desirable to put on record the existence 
of these lost breeds. Of the Finnikin, Moore states : — 

" This pigeon is in make and shape very like a common P»,unt, and much about 
the same size. The crown of its head is turned much after the manner of a 
snake's head ; it is gravel-eyed and has a tuft of feathers on the hinder part of 
the crown, which runs down its back not unlike a horse's main. It is clean-footed 
and legged and always black, and blue pied. When it is salacious, it rises over 
its hen and turns round three or four times, flapping its wings, then reverses and 
turns as many the other way. Were a gentleman in the country to stock a dove- 
house with this sort of pigeons, their whimsical gestures might engage the country 
people to imagine he kept an enchanted castle. Some people disapprove of this 
sort of pigeons as apt to vitiate their other strains by making a hen squat by these 
antic gestures ; but in fact they are no more dangerous that way than any other 
breed when salacious." 

Respecting the Turner, Moore writes : — 

" This pigeon is in many respects like the Finnikin, except that when it is 
salacious and plays to the female it turns only one way, whereas the other turns 
both; it has no tuft on the hinder part of the head, neither is it snake-headed." 

In the work ascribed to Girton, the variety termed the Smiter is described. 
The writer says : — 

" This pigeon, in shape, make, and diversity of plumage, nearly resembles the 
Tumbler, the size excepted, it being a much larger bird. The Smiter is supposed 
to be the same species that the Dutch call the Drager ; when it flies it has a pecu- 
liar tremulous motion with its wings, and commonly rises in a circular manner; 
the male, for the generality, flying much higher than the female, and though it 
does not tumble it has a particular manner of falling and flabbing its wings, with 
which it makes so loud a noise as to be heard at a great distance, which is fre- 
quently the cause of its shattering or breaking its quill-feathers." 


These birds were also alluded to by Willughby, in the passage quoted at 
page 55. 

Writing of these varieties, Mr. Brent says : — 

" I have seen some pigeons of this sort in Germany, where they are called 
' Ring-Schlagen Tauben,' i. e., Ring-beating pigeons ; and, apart from their 
strange movements and actions, I could see nothing else in them different to other 
common kinds. They are considered very productive, but I am not aware that 
any are now to be found in England. 

" The Smiter is described by M. Boitard and M. Corbie, French writers, as 
follows : — ' They are a little stouter than the Tumblers, have a small cere round 
the eyes, which are black; the feet are feathered. "Whatever the size of the place 
in which they are, they rise to the top, and come down again in circles, turning 
first one way and then the other, and they turn round in flying even in their 
dovecots ; hut they are quarrelsome and jealous. In plumage (they say) they are 
grey, with black marks on the wings, red, or pearly white, with a pure white horse- 
shoe mark on the back. They frequently break some of then- wing feathers by 
the violence of their movements, which seem to resemble convulsions ; and they 
are generally very productive.' " 



rPHESE two breeds are characterized more strongly by the remarkable character 
-*- of the plumage than by any singularities of form or colour. Such varieties 
have been known for a long period of time ; for Aldrovandus figures a Columba 
crispis pennis, but gives no description of the bird. Moore, in his " Columbarium," 
omits to notice either breed. Both, however, are described by the compiler of the 
Treatise of 1765, who also supplies an engraving of the Lace variety, of which he 
writes : — 

" This bird is, I believe, originally bred in Holland, where, I am informed, 
there are large numbers of them ; though not one that I know of to be seen in 
England at present. It is a size rather less than a common Runt, and like it in 
shape and make; though I once saw a Shaker of this kind. Their colour is 
white, and they are valued on account of their scarcity and the peculiarity of their 
feathers, the fibres or webs of which appear disunited from each other throughout 
the whole plumage, and not in the least connected, as is common with all other 
pigeons where they form a smooth close feather." 

The writer then refers to the cut, which represents a pigeon of the ordinary 
form, with feathers with disunited webs, and a well-turned crown at the back of 
the head. 

Mr. Brent states : — 

" This curious variety of domestic pigeon is very scarce ; their chief peculiarity 
consists in the webs of their feathers being disunited, like the plumage of the 
Silky fowls, and from which cause their powers of flight are much curtailed. 
The few that I have seen have always been white, and had much the appearance 
of half-bred Fantails ; and I have read that in both France and Holland Fantails 
are to be met with, with this beautiful lacy or silky plumage." 

The Lace pigeon, as described by the author of the Treatise, appears to be 
almost, if not quite, unknown in England at the present time. There have, how- 
ever, been several examples of very good laced Fantails imported from the Conti- 
nent, and exhibited at various shows during the last few years. The majority of 
them were white, but some have had a portion of the plumage black in colour. 

"The Frillback," writes the compiler of the Treatise, "is something less in 
size than a Dragoon, and in shape like the common Bunt ; their colour generally 
(if not always) white ; and what is chiefly remarkable in them is the turn of their 


feathers, which appear as if every one distinctly had been raised at the extremity 
with a small round-pointed instrument, in such a manner as to form a small 
cavity in each of them." 

Mr. Brent was well acquainted with this breed on the Continent, for he 
states : — 

" This curious variety of fancy pigeon is very rare in England, though they are 
more frequently to be met with in Saxony. They are about the size and make 
of a doyehouse pigeon, with a turned crown ; the plumage is white, and the 
eyes should be gravelly-red ; their chief peculiarity consists in the feathers, 
each of which is raised at the extremity, so as to form a small conical hollow, 
which gives the plumage the appearance of having been goffered or raised by 
a fine pair of curling-tongs. They are light and quick in their flight, but are 
easily tamed." 

There is no doubt that these two singular variations of plumage might, with 
care in the breeding and careful selection, be engrafted on any variety. We have 
seen some very good Dragons which were fairly frilled on the back ; and at the 
Continental shows, blue and other coloured Frillbacks not unfrequently make 
their appearance. 

Beyond the singularity in the feathers, Frillbacks offer no peculiarity, nor do 
they require any special management distinct from that of other breeds. 




rPHE title of Bunts is given by the English fanciers to any very large variety of 
-*- pigeon. It has been in use since the time of Willughby, who states : — 

'■'The greater tame pigeon, called in Italian Tronfo and Astumellato ; in 
English, a Eunt ; a name (as I suppose) corrupted from the Italian Tronfo : 
though, to say the truth, what this Italian word Tronfo signifies, and^consequently 
why this kind of pigeon is so called, I am altogether ignorant. Some call them 
Columbce Russicc?, Eussia Pigeons ; whether because they are brought to us out of 
Eussia, or from some agreement of the names Eunt and Eussia, I know not. These 
seem to be the Campania pigeons of Pliny. They vary much in colour, as most 
other domestic birds ; wherefore it is to no purpose to describe them by their 

" Perchance these may be the same with those which, Aldrovandus tells us, are 
called by his countrymen Colombe sotto banche, that is, pigeons under forms or 
benches, from their place ; of various colours, and bigger than the common wild 
pigeons inhabiting dovecotes." 

AToore, in his " Columbarium," describes several varieties of Eunts, as the 
Leghorn, Spanish, Friesland, and Eoman. His directions are not very definite ; 
nevertheless, as the author of the oldest English work on the subject, his remarks 
are worth reproducing. He writes as follows : — 

" The Leghorn Eunt is a stately large pigeon, seven inches or better in the legs, 
close feathered and fast fleshed, extremely broad-chested and very short in the 
back ; he carries his tail when he walks somewhat turned up like a duck, but when 
he plays, he tucks it down. His neck is longer than any other pigeon, which he 
carries bending like a goose or a swan. He is goose-headed, and his eye lies hollow 
in his head, with a thin skin round it, much like the Dutch Tumbler, but broader; 
his beak is very short for so large a bird, with a small wattle on it, and the upper 
chap a little bending over the under. 

" They are a very tender bird, and great care ought to be taken of their young 
ones. I was offered seventeen shillings for a single cock, and Sir Dolbey Thomas 
would have given me a guinea and a half for the same bird. There are few true 
original ones of this breed in England ; and, if matched to a Spanish Eunt, they 
will breed a very large pigeon, closer in flesh and feather than the Spanish Eunt, 
and will breed much faster. I have killed of their young ones, which when on the 


spit were full as large as middling spring fowls : where note that these, and all 
other Runts, increase in their hulk till they are three or four years old. 

" As to their feather, they are various, but the best that I have seen were either 
black or red mottled. 

' ' There is a vast difference in these birds ; and I have seen very bad ones that 
have been brought from Leghorn, little better than a common Runt. However, 
this is the genuine true description of the Leghorn Runt, which is more valued 
than any other sort of Runts. 

" This pigeon was originally bred either at Pisa? in the Duke of Tuscany's 
dominions, or at Pisse in Peloponnesus, and from thence brought to Leghorn, and 
so transmitted to us ; but I rather judge the latter, because it answers the descrip- 
tion of the pigeon which Willughby, in his ' Ornithology,' calls Columba Turcica 
seu Persiea, the Turkish or Persian pigeon. 

" The Spanish Runt, as may readily be perceived by its name, comes originally 
from Spain, and is the longest bodied of all pigeons ; I have seen them three-and- 
twenty inches long, from the apex of the beak to the extremity of the tail. They 
are thick and short-legged, loose-feathered and loose-fleshed, and don't walk erect 
as the Leghorn Runt does. 

" There are of all feathers in this kind of bird, but, being short-legged, are 
apt to sit too heavy upon their eggs, and by that means break them, to prevent 
which inconvenience the best way is to put chalk eggs under them, and set their 
eggs under a pair of smaller Runts, or Powting Horsemen, which are more kindly 
breeders, not forgetting to give your Spanish Runts a pair of young ones at the 
time when they ought to hatch, that they may feed of their soft meat, which they 
always prepare against that time. 

" IJiave seen a pigeon very much resembling the Spanish Runt, with longer 
legs, but I rather take these Runts to come from Mexico, Peru, or some other 
parts of the Spanish "West Indies. 

" The Friesland Runt comes from Friesland, and is one of the larger sort of 
middle-sized Runts ; its feathers stand all reverted, and I cannot see for what it 
can be admired except for its ugliness. 

" There are other sorts of Runts, as the Roman Runt, which is so big and heavy 
it can hardly fly ; and the Smyrna Runt, which is middle-sized and feather-footed. 
I have seen the feathers growing on the outside of each foot, that they look as if 
they carried wings on their feet. I have measured some of these feathers which 
have been four inches and a half long. These birds are very apt to drag their 
eggs and young ones out of the nest, if not kept clean and dry. To these we may 
add the common Runt, which are kept purely for the dish, and generally in locker- 
holes or inn-yards, or other places, and are well known to everybody ; they are 
good feeders, and therefore good nurses, for any of the more curious sorts of 

The compilers of the " Treatise " of 1765, and of Girton, repeat the statements 
of Moore without any addition of importance. 



The distinction between these different lands of Emits is not accurately marked 
at the present time, whatever might hare been the case when Moore wrote. At 
the shows held a few years since at the Crystal Palace, prizes were offered for both 
Spanish and Leghorn Runts; but birds similar in character were shown in 
both classes, consequently at no other poultry show has it been attempted to 
maintain the distinction. 

Large varieties of pigeons have always been bred along the shores of the Medi- 
terranean, and fair specimens are not unfrequently brought to England by the 
sailors. The size of these birds has long been a subject of notoriety. The Rev. 
E. S. Dixon, in his '•' Dovecote and Aviary," quotes a letter from Mr. Edward 
Browne to Mr. Craven, written in 1664, in which the writer states : — 

" Wee came home by the island of Nisida, some two miles in compasse, belong- 
ing to one gentleman, who in it keeps all creatures tame by force, haueing no way 
to get from him, in sight of Caprea, once the delight of Tiberius, and so under 
the mountain Pausilippo again, with torches in our hands, it being night before 
wee could reach it, which wee passed safely ; the better by reason that the holy 
virgin is gouuernesse of this cauern, and hath a chappell dedicated to her in the 
middle of it. By this time you must coniecture wee had a good stomach to our 
supper, which wee made of pigeons, the best heare without controuersy in the 
-world, as big as pullets." 

Mr. Dixon did not appear ever to have seen any really good specimens of the 
breed, for he gives the weight of two pairs in his possession as two pounds seven 
ounces and three pounds seven ounces, respectively, and writes of their ponderous 
character. Runts have been exhibited of very much greater weight. Four pounds 
fifteen ounces have been reached by the birds in a show-pen, and as these must 
necessarily have lost somewhat from the excitement of their journey to the show, &c, 
■we may take five pounds as the weight of a first-rate pair. At the present time, 
Runts not weighing more than four pounds a pair have no chance whatever of 
-winning in a strong competition. 

Runts vary considerably in form and colour. One of the largest birds we ever 
remember to have seen was the cock belonging to Mr. Butt which is alluded to at 
page 32. It was a mottled bird, with a turned crown and hog mane, and strongly 
Tesembles Moore's description of the Finnikin, a breed no longer recognized as 
distinct from other varieties. The record of the exact weight of this bird was not 
kept, but the size of the stuffed specimen now in our possession far surpasses 
that of any other pigeon we have ever seen. 

Under the French title of Bagadais, the German of Bagadotten, and the English 
of Scanderoons, a very large, long-legged, long-necked, close-feathered variety of 
pigeon is much valued on the Continent. Scanderoons have small eye and beak- 
-wattles, and are remarkable for the extreme length of their beaks. In some birds 
these are straight, in others much curved. In their size, length of limbs, and 
closeness of feathering, they strongly remind the observer of Malay fowls, and are 
amongst the most striking of all the varieties of pigeons. We have not seen a 


good pen at the English shows for some years. The colour is often irregularly 
and boldly pied with black or blue and white. 

The Runts shown at the present time are mostly blue or silver with dark bars 
on the wings and white rumps, like the wild blue Rock dove. From their great 
weight they do not fly well, and consequently are best kept in a room on the 
ground. They are fair sitters and nurses, if allowed room to fly a little, but in 
close confinement are unprolific. 

One great drawback to letting them fly at. large is the difficulty of keeping the 
young out of the way of eats. 

In rearing they require no special care. Where large size is required, it is 
better only to rear one young one in each nest, giving the other to some strong 
vigorous foster parents. In feeding for weight, maize should form a good propor- 
tion of their food, and they soon learn greatly to relish oatmeal mixed stiffly into a 
paste with water. The great weights to which we have alluded cannot be gained 
without close attention to their dietary. 



NUMEROUS laws relating to the protection of pigeons in dovecotes have been 
enacted from time to time. At the present period, according to Oke's 
"Handy Book of the Game and Fishery Laws," 1863, 

" It is larceny at common law (i. e., simple larceny, punishable on indictment) 
to take house doves or pigeons, being fit for food, when reclaimed and reduced 
into possession, as in a dovecote, or shut up in their boses every night ; and, 
indeed, also when tamed, although unconfmed, with free access at their pleasure 
to the open air (Reg. v. Cheaper, 2 Den. C. C. 361 ; 21 L. J. (N. S.) M. C. 43 ; 
15 J. P. 301 ; Roscoe's Ev. in Or. Cas., 5th ed., p. 601 ; Arch. Or. PI., by 
TVelsby, loth ed., p. 276). If the dove or pigeon is not reclaimed, so as to be 
capable of a felonious taking, then this section will operate ; but if the pigeon be 
quite ferce naturce, it is not property, and not within this section or the common 
law. In a recent case (Taylor v. Newman, 32 L. J., N. S., M. C. 186; 8 Law 
T., X. S., 424 ; 27 J. P. 502), however, it has been held that this section doss 
not apply where a party, under a claim of right, and after notice to the owner that 
he would do so, killed a pigeon belonging to a neighbour which was doing mischief 
upon his own land. In Scotland, the taking of pigeons is theft, and such a 
defence would not avail the offender (Irvine, G. L. 19). In Ireland, it is also 
an offence punishable summarily by 10 Will. 3, c. 8, s. 8." 

The case of Taylor v. Newman, quoted above, is the most recent decision of a 
superior court respecting the killing of pigeons under circumstances that do not 
amount to larceny ; we therefore think it desirable to give a detailed report of the 

case : — 

Mat 30, 1863. 

(Sittings in Banco, before the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Blackburn, and Mr. Justice Mellor). 

Taylor v. Newman. 
This case raised tlie curious and novel question ■whether a man can be convicted summarily 
and criminally for shooting a tame pigeon, damage feasant. The appellant had been convicted 
by justices in Susses of " unlawfully and wilfully killing a pigeon belonging to the prosecutor." 
He had suffered some annoyance and damage from the depredations of the prosecutor's pigeons, 
and gave him notice that he should shoot them if he found them again upon his land ; and the 
next time he saw them there he fired at them, and when they rose and were flying away fired 
again, killing one of them, for which he was convicted under one of the Criminal Law Consoli- 
dation Acts, the 24 & 25 Vict. c. 9G, s. 23, which enacts that — 

"Whosoever shall unlawfully and wilfully kill , wound, or take any house-dove or pigeon 
under such circumstances as shall not amount to larceny at common law, shall, on conviction 


before a justice of the peace, forfeit and pay over and above the value of the bird any sum not 
exceeding £2." * 

Mr. G. Francis argued that the conviction was right. The killing of the pigeon was unlawful. 
There was certainly an old case in the time of James I., in which one judge said that if 
pigeons ate the com the owner of the land might kill them ; but it was added that he might not 
take them by any means prohibited by law. And there was an ancient statute prior to that 
case, and a later statute of the 2nd Geo. III. making the shooting of a house-pigeon unlawful. 

Mr. Justice Mellor : Surely that Act only applies to malicious or wanton killing ; not to killing 
by a farmer on his own land. 

Mr. Francis submitted that it was a positive prohibition of shooting house-pigeons or doves, 
and the act itself being unlawful, the giving of the notice did not make it lawful. The owner 
of the land had his civil remedy, but he must not take the law into his own hands. 

Mr. Justice Blackburn : He may take the pigeon damage feasant, if he can get at it. (A laugh 'i. 

Mr. Justice Mellor asked if it could realty be contended that it was a criminal and punishable 
act for a farmer to shoot a pigeon while eating his corn ? 

Mr. Francis said he could no more shoot a pigeon than he could a pig. He must take it if he 
could, or sue for the damage. A pigeon was a tame animal, and had the animus recertendi. 
Besides, here the pigeon was going off as fast as it could. (A laugh). 

Mr. Justice Mellor: The animus revertendi was shown 'strongly enough, no doubt ( a laugh) ; 
but he might return. 

Mr. Justice Blackburn : The object of killing liim was to prevent his return. 

Mr. Francis urged that even in the case of a dog actually following a hare, it was not lawful to 
shoot him unless it was necessary to save the hare. So of a dog following a deer. 

Mr. Hannen argued against the conviction that the statute only applied to criminal shooting, 
and must be construed with reference to the law of larceny. It was larceny to take a pigeon out 
of the dovecote, but if ont of the cote it would be otherwise, and so if a man shot it, but was 
not able to get hold of it. It was to such cases the statute applied ; that is, to cases in which 
there was a criminal animus or intention which fell short, by some accident, of the actual com- 
pletion of the offence. In the case in the time of James I., Mr. Justice Dodridge said, " If 
pigeons come upon my land I may kill them, and the owner has not any remedy, provided they 
be not taken by any means prohibited by statute," though it was true that the Chief Justice was 
of a different opinion, and held that, as tame pigeons were domestic, and had the animus rever- 
tendi, they ought not to be killed; but he added, "for the killing of them an action lies ; " so that 
clearly, at common law, it was only a civil wrong. There was no mens rea in this case, no 
element of guilt ; there was the mere erroneous assertion of a civil right. The appellant had not 
fallen into so serious an error as the Lord Chancellor, who distrained ducks, damage feasant, on 
one of his islets on the Thames, but unfortunately ate the eggs they laid while in his custody, 
and so was ''cast" for the eggs, though he justified distraining the ducks. t (Much laughter.) 
It was admitted that the pigeon might be distrained, but who could put " salt upon his tail? " 
(Laughter.) It was idle to talk of distraining a bird. In the case of pigs or dogs, they could be 
got hold of and distrained, but it was otherwise of a pigeon, and there was no practical remedy 
but to shoot it. In 1824, a great case came before this Court about rooks, in which it was laid 
down that a man on his own land might kill birds or beasts (not game) fera natures, such as 
rabbits, pigeons, or rooks. In " the Queen v. Cridland," a case in this court in the time of Lord 
Campbell (7 Ellis and Blackburn's Reports, 871), it was laid down as the general rule of law 
that, as a bond fide claim of right, justices could not convict summarily. Now, in this case, it 
was obvious, from the notice, that the appellant was under the impression that he had a right 
to kill the pigeon, to prevent its eating his corn or coming upon his land. 

The Court said they were of opinion that the appellant ought not to have been convicted. It 
appeared to have been deemed doubtful whether pigeons were subjects of property ; and though 
it was now settled that if tame, and reclaimed, they were so, yet still, as the farmer had acted 
under the honest persuasion that he had a right to shoot the pigeons in order to protect his 
crops, the conviction was improper, however he might be liable to an action. There might, 
certainly, be cases in which the killing of a pigeon might be property the subject of a conviction, 
as a wilful and wanton act. But in this case it was not so, and the magistrates ought not to 
have convicted. The judgment, therefore, was that the conviction should be quashed. 

* This clause is taken from the 7 and 8 Geo. IV. c. 29, s. 33, and extended to Ireland. 
+ The statement that the Lord Chancellor was "cast' 



IN consequence of the artificial conditions under which domesticated pigeons are 
reared and nurtured, they are liable to a variety of diseases which appear to 
be unknown to the birds in their natural state. 

Several of these are described, the older Treatises and the most empirical 
modes of treatment recommended for their care. 

Dr. Chapuis, in his valuable work " Le Pigeon Voyageur Beige," has given 
far more rational descriptions of the diseases of these birds than had been pre- 
viously published. His remarks, however, apply chiefly to the homing birds that 
are reared in such immense numbers in Belgium, and consequently he omits 
noting some of the diseases affecting the more artificial varieties cultivated in this 

The causes of nearly all the diseases affecting pigeons are the unnatural 
conditions under which they are maintained. If the birds are kept in localities 
where they can be permitted to fly at large, housed in well- sheltered lofts that are 
frequently cleaned, and are supplied with a sufficient amount of wholesome food, 
and a constant supply of clean water, disease will be almost, if not entirely, 
unknown amongst them. But if overcrowded and confined in dirty lofts, the 
atmosphere of which is charged with the exhalations from the dung of the 
birds, more especially if fed from the floor, where the food becomes contaminated 
with the dung, and supplied with water that is fouled by the same cause, the 
birds become unhealthy and subject to scrofulous and other diseases that are 
unknown when they are maintained in more natural and healthy conditions. 

The most frequent of these diseases are known to English fanciers under the 
names of roup, canker, wing disease, staggers, purging, and fallen gizzard. 

It will, however, be more advantageous to consider these diseases in a some- 
what more methodical manner, as several are really but different manifestations 
of the same disease. 

Scrofula in pigeons, as in the human subject, makes itself manifest in several 
apparently distinct diseases. It is produced in birds by similar causes to those that 
develop it in man, namely, bad food, foul water, overcrowded unhealthy dwelling- 
places, and deficiency of fresh air and exercise. 

Wing disease is one of the most common forms in which scrofula occurs ; it 
consists essentially in a deposit of cheesy scrofulous matter in and around the 
joints, the elbow joint (C. Figures I. II. and IV., pages 4 and 7) being the one 


186 PIGE0XS. 

most frequently affected, apparently from the circumstance of its being largely 
extended in flight. In the early stages, wing disease may be cured by the appli- 
cation of tincture of iodine, which causes the absorption of scrofulous deposit, 
attention being paid to the general health of the bird ; but, in advanced cases, 
recovery is hopeless. In many cases of partial recovery from this disease a 
stiff joint remains, and the bird is incapable of flight. A cock bird with such a 
deposit is perfectly useless, but a hen may still be bred from ; although, unless 
her characteristics are of unusual excellence, we should strongly advise her 
destruction, scrofula in all its forms being one of the most hereditary of 

Scrofula often occurs in the liver and other organs in the form of white 
tubercles. In these cases the birds lose flesh and are said to " go light." The 
only effectual treatment is that extension of the cervical vertebrae which is 
commonly known as " wringing their necks." 

Roup is a disease affecting the mucous membranes lining the mouth, nostrils, 
and air-passages, and often extending up the tear-ducts into the eyes. It is a low 
form of inflammatory action, resembling a severe cold or influenza. In bad cases it 
becomes purulent, matter is formed in the eyes and nose, an offensive discharge 
takes place, and in this condition there can be no doubt that the disease is 
contagious ; the affected bird in drinking contaminates the water, and so affects 
those who drink after it. Roup may originate at any time by exposure to cold and 
wet, either in the loft, or at an exhibition or railway station ; consequently valuable 
and delicate birds should always be sent to shows in hampers, the sides of which 
are lined with canvas. 

Warmth alone will not unfrequently restore those birds that are but slightly 
affected. In more advanced cases we have found copaiba balsam, which has an 
almost specific effect on mucous membranes, very advantageous. The most ready 
way of administering it is to procure some of the gelatinous capsules containing the 
drug, and give one at night to the affected bird. In severer cases, where the 
discharge is offensive and purulent, a few drops of a lotion made of five grains of 
nitrate of silver (lunar caustic) in an ounce of rain or distilled water may be 
applied to the eye ; but it should be remembered that this stains the skin of the 
fingers or any animal substance with which it comes in contact. During roup 
the birds should be kept very warm and well nourished with stimulating food, 
( such as hemp-seed. 

Soke Eyes (Conjunctivitis) is particularly common in carriers and barbs, owing 
to the great development of wattle around the eye and the tendency that old birds 
have to the formation of spouts by the turning out of the lower lid. The lotion of 
lunar caustic is very effectual in these cases, or, if preferred, a very small 
fragment of an ointment composed of five or even ten grains of lunar caustic to 
an ounce of unsalted lard may be employed. The spouts, as they are termed, 
may be removed by being cut from below upwards with a pair of very sharp 


Canker is a peculiar growth that takes place from the mucous membrane lining 
the mouth and throat. Sometimes it forms in large masses, that require to be 
dissected away carefully. It is a troublesome disease to cure ; but the application 
of powdered burnt alum, or a solid point of lunar caustic, after the removal of the 
white diseased growth, is often effectual in removing the complaint. 

Pustules containing matter are said to be of common occurrence in the lofts 
in Belgium; but we have never been troubled with them in our own cotes. 

Vebson. — Pigeons are infested with numerous parasites. Four distinct species 
of lice are found upon them, the most common, and by far the most remarkable, 
being the Lipeurus baculus, the feather-louse of fanciers. This, in the living bird, 

a Antenna of Mule, b Antenna of Female.] 

is generally found between the vanes or fibres of the feathers, for which habitation 
its peculiarly elongated form particularly adapts it. Its body is dull yellow, its head 
and chest being bright chestnut. The male and the female may be distinguished 
by the form of their feelers, those of the male only being hooked. After death, 
the feather-louse collects on the feathers on the head and neck, where it is some- 
times found in large numbers. Pigeon fanciers do not regard it as injurious ; but 
it must derive its sustenance from the body of the bird. There is also a small 
mite, a species of Acarus, that during summer, in overcrowded dirty lofts, appears 
to annoy the birds to a very great extent, infesting the cracks in the nests, 
walls, and perches in countless thousands. A large tick, a species of Ixodes, as 
large as a tare when full grown, is sometimes found on the birds. Its size is so 
great that it may be observed through the feathers ; and, lastly, a peculiar flea, 
the Pulex columbce, is often found in dirty lofts. 

Cleanliness is the great preventive of these pests. The lice and mites may be 
destroyed by dusting sulphur under the feathers, or the Persian insect powder 
may be used in the same manner. A little paraffin oil, or, still better, the more 
volatile spirits known as vegetable or mineral turpentine, poured on the perches, 
soon expels them ; and, in very bad cases, a single drop may be placed in the 
feathers of the bird. 


Several diseases of the digestive organs occur in the different varieties. Pouters 
are apt at times to overgorge themselves with dry food, which, swelling in the crop, 
forms an impacted mass that, if not removed, causes the death of the bird. The 
old method of treatment was to endeavour to soften the mass by pouring some 
water into the crop, and then to put the bird into the leg of a stocking, so as 
to prevent the weight of the food in the crop hanging down — and suspend it 
until the loosened mass had passed into the gizzard and been digested. In 
intractable cases, the only mode is to cut into the crop with a sharp penknife, and 
to remove the hardened mass. This operation is not attended with any danger to 
the bird if skilfully performed. 

Scouring, or Diarrhcsa, is not uncommon in delicate birds not flown, or in 
those fed on bad food. "When arising from the latter cause, the remedy is 
obvious. In delicate birds it may often be checked by a little astringent, such as 
a grain of green vitriol or sulphate of iron ; or, if all the birds are affected, a 
sufficient amount of sulphate of iron may be added to the drinking water, to give 
it a decidedly inky taste. 

Fallen Gizzard. — In some birds the muscular system is so impaired by want 
of exercise, &c, that the weight of the internal organs presses the body down in 
front of the vent. The term " gizzard fallen," &c, is often used to designate 
such cases. As far as we are aware, they admit of no remedy, and the birds 
suffering are useless as stock. 

Vertigo. — Highly-fed pigeons are subject to some diseases of the nervous 
system, manifesting themselves in vertigo or giddiness, staggers, and unnatural 
twisting of the head. Constrained abstinence from food for two or three days, 
and very moderate feeding subsequently, are the most likely remedies to prove 













Area, construction of 

. 41 

Darwin, on origin of varieties . 

28, 36 

Argyll, Duke of, on tli 

e flight of birds 


Digestive organs in pigeons 



Diseases of pigeons . 

. 185 

Austrian Pouter 


. 71 

Dove-house pigeon . 

. 38 
. 13 


Dragons . 

. 80 


. 181 


Bald Heads . 

. Ill 


. 133 

English Pouter 

. 49 

Beards . 

. 112 



. 86 


Blue-backed dove 

. 13 

Blue rock dove 



Blyth, on varieties of wild pigeons 
Booz pigeons .... 

. 26 
. 140 


. 177 

Brunnen Pouter 

. 71 

Food of pigeons 


10, 47 





. 146 

Graham, Mr. H., on 

.he rock clove 


Carrier, the English . 
Cats, how to destroy. 



. 40 

Ground Tumblers 

. 127 

Collared dove . 

. 13 


Colour, breeding for 

. 63 

Colamba renas . 

. 13 

Helmets . 

. 164 

, . affinis . 

. 27 


. 86 

, gymnocyclos 

. 27 

Homing Birds . 

. 82 

, intermedia . 

. 26 


. 79 

, livia . 

13, 15 

House Tumblers 

. 127 

, leuconota . 

. 27 

Hunter, on soft food 


, palumbus . 

. 13 

Huxley, on the origir 

of varieties 

. 32 

, risoria 

. 13 


. 171 

, rupestris 

. 27 


, sehimperi . 

. 27 

, turretum . 

. 26 

India, wild pigeon of 


. 26 

, turtur. 


. 13 

Columba, British species of 

. 13 


Columbarian Society, 

ordinances respecting 



nond Tumbler . 

. 125 





Lace pigeons . 


Salt 43 


. . . .159 

Suabians . ■ 

. 170 

Laws relating to pigeons 






Shaker, broad-tailed 

,, narrow-tailed 
Shakspeare on Barbary pigeons 
Shields .... 


MacgillivTay, on the rock dove 

. 15 

Silky pigeon 


Magpies . 






Smerles . 


Matching-cage . 






"Soft food" 


Mooned pigeons 




Mortar . 


Starling . 


Muscles of wing 


Sternum of pi;. 



Stock dove 



Swallows . 


National Columbarian Soci 

ety on the carrier . 78 




. 43 




Tail, use in flight 8 




Tumblers, Almond . 





,, Bald-headed 
,, Bearded . 
,, Common . 


Parisian Pouter 

. 50 

,, Mottled . 


Pigeons, general character 



, , Short-faced 


Pigeon-houses . 


Turbit . 




Turner .... 


Pigeon race, account of 


Turtle dove 


Pigeon voyageurs 



Pigmy Pouters . 




Pouter, Austrian 


,, Brunnen 



„ English 


, , Parisian 


Varieties of pigeons, origin of . . . .25 

,, Pigmy 


Vermin of pigeons . . . . . .187 

Pouting Horseman . 


Victorias 172 

Priests . 


Volants 85, 108 





Willughby, on Pouters 48 



"Wing, muscles of ...... 7 

Wing, structure of ...... 4 


Wood pigeon ...... 13 

iling dove 



Rocs dove 

13, 15 

. 146 

Young of pigeons 10 


Young, nourishment of 




Just published, imperial Svo, handsomely hound in cloth, bevelled boards, gilt edges, price 18 










With Thiktt Full-page Illustrations of the different varieties, drawn from the Life by Haeeison 
Weie, and printed in Colours by Leighton Beothees ; and numerous Woodcuts. 


Saturday Review, August 3.— Third Notice. 
" For Mr. Tegetmeier's ' Poultry Book.' its compre- 
hensiveness, research, philosophic treatment, and 
charms of anecdote and description, the fittest expres- 
sion of praise we can find is, that it is a book no 
country gentleman ought to he without." 

Saturday Review, July 20. — Second Notice. 
"A volume which is invaluable as a book of refer- 
ence, and of multifarious research, although, from its 
size and exhaustive character, less quotable than 
smaller works." 

Saturday Review, June 15. 
' Invaluable for reference." 

-First Notice. 

Athenaeum, August 24. 
" The ' Poultry Book ' is edited by the Editor of ' The 
Standard of Excellence,' and supplied with information 
by breeders of renown and by judges whose decrees 
are final in the prize shows. . . . The best adapted 
for exhibitors." 

Hark Lane Express, June 24. 
" The work is one of the best and most elaborate 
on the subject of Poultry-keeping that has ever been 
published, and leaves little or nothing for any future 
writer to add to it." 

Morning Post, September 3. 
" The most complete work which has yet been 
published. It is impossible to give an adequate idea 
of the amount of information contained in this work. 
. . . . Essentially practical and useful." 

Sporting Gazette, Septemher 21. 
" Mr. Tegetmeier, himself an accomplished naturalist 
and acknowledged authority on the subject of poultry, 
has been aided by contributions from the most eminent 
breeders of the different varieties of profitable and 
ornamental poultry, so as to render this treatise, for 
fulness of detail and the practical character of the 
information imparled, more reliable and complete than 
any work on the subject previously published." 

Morning Star, June 3. 
" We have all heard, and often, of the fame of 
Mr. Tegetmeier as a high authority in the breeding and 
management of Poultry, but had not anticipated till 
now in how gorgeous a volume the result of his ex- 
perience would be preserved to the world 

Its greater value will consist in the mass of really 
practical information on Poultry management." 

Standard, July 22. 

" A grand volume, profusely and admirably illus- 
trated So well is Mr. Tegetmeier known 

in connection with the subject of Poultry, that any 
commendation of the text of works edited by him is 

Scotsman, August 10. 

" So superb a work as this on the subject of Poultry 
is a sort of sign of the times. . . . An admirable 
one of its class ; as useful as it is most certainly 

Sportsman August 1. 

"A valuable acquisition, for not only are the more 
ornamental breeds described with accuracy, but great 
attention has been paid to the practical details of 
Poultry-keeping. . . . Tfe most approved modes 
of fattening, as followed in England, are given, and 
the methods adopted in France to produce the cele- 
brated fat capons are described at length." 

The Field, June 2. 
" Mr. Tegetmeier has had recourse to the most 
eminent authorities on each particular breed." 

Land and Water, June 15. 
" We cannot dismiss the book without saying that 
whilst it will be an attractive one on the drawing-room 
table, it is essential among the books of the farm, and 
to those who keep poultry either for home pleasure or 
for public exhibition." 

Illustrated Times. March 17. 
" The fruits of years of thought, experiment, and 
observation are embodied in the work " 


Now ready, in demy 8vo, price 12s., cloth. 



Pis Bmtths, 


By J. H. WALSH, F.E.C.S. (Stonehenge), 



This very handsome volume is "a Complete Practical Work on the Horse, in a form and style suited to the 
Country Gentleman of the Nineteenth Century, and embraces the most recent views of the most 
Eminent Authorities, on every subject, treated in a practical manner, and in a style popularly intelligible, 
by the best Sporting Writer of the present time. 


Chapter I.- 








X.— ' 







•Early History of the Horse. 

-Natural History and General Character- 

-The Horses of the East. 

-The Horses of the Western Hemisphere. 

-European Continental Horses. 

-The English Thoroughbred Horse. 

-Half-breds, Cobs, and Ponies. 

-Agricultural and Dray Horses. 

-On the Locomotive Action in the Various 

■The Principles of Breeding Applicable to 
the Horse. 

■The Brood Mare and her Foal. 

■The Breaking of the Colt. 


■Stable Management. 

Stable Management, continued. 

•Riding and Driving. 

Classification of the Various Organs and 
Physiology of the Skeleton. 

■Descriptive Anatomy of the Several Bones. 

■Of the Joints, and the Tissues entering 
into their composition. 

Chap. XX, 








—The Muscular System. 

—The Thoracic Organs and their Appendages. 

—The Abdominal and Pelvic Viscera. 

— The Nervous System. 

— Special Organs. 

— The Diseases and Injuries of Bone. 

— Injury and Diseases of the Joints, Muscles, 

and Tendons. 
— Diseases of the Thoracic Organs and their 

— Diseases of the Abdominal Viscera and their 

Appendages . 
— Diseases of the Nervous System. 
— Diseases and Injuries of Certain Special 

— Constitutional Diseases. 
— Operations. 
— The Action of Medicines, and the Forms m 

which they are Prescribed. 
— List of Veterinary Drugs, with their Action 

and Doses. 

Appendix. — On the Law of Soundness, and on the Pur- 
chase and Sale of Horses. 


Woodfall and Kinder, Printers, Slilford Lane, Strand, London, W.C. 

r v 159 5