I talked my way up to one of the ubiquitous wood slat roosts that are visible across the city….these eccentric hobbyists…pour hours each day into feeding, breeding, raising, and loving these amazing birds. Though I shot it in Egypt I keep hearing about the hobby across the Middle East. Historically each country or region would have it’s [sic] special pigeon breed and everyone would focus on improving their bird against their local neighbor’s bird. In the pre-internet age the elders of the community would pass their knowledge and finest specimens directly on to their younger neighbors, pigeon markets were the place to browse and socialize, but in the last 10 years a major shift has come with the internet. Pigeons are traded across borders, knowledge is shared on internet forums, images of their finest birds are posted on facebook.—David Degner, “Fancy Pigeons“
Degner’s photo collection of fancy pigeons in Cairo reminds me of Charles Darwin and his fascination with and work on pigeon breeding in relation to the process of selection.
Pigeon breeding was an ancient pastime even in the 1850s, and through its long history fanciers had published books filled with practical advice and observations. Darwin decided to keep and breed pigeons himself. He joined two London pigeon clubs and attended pigeon competitions, where he connected with fanciers from around the world.
In studying pigeons, Darwin made meticulous measurements of their skeletons and marveled at the breeds’ different behaviors, colors, and proportions. He also noted the patterns of inheritance of many characteristics, and he showed that birds of very different breeds can in fact produce fertile offspring, supporting the argument that they all arose from a single species.— “Why Study Pigeons?“