As fancy pigeons are generally kept in small aviaries, and are abundantly supplied with food, they must walk about much less than the wild rock-pigeon; and it may be admitted as highly probable that the reduction in the size of the feet in the twenty-two birds in the first table has been caused by disuse (5/38. In an analogous, but converse, manner, certain natural groups of the Columbidae, from being more terrestrial in their habits than other allied groups, have larger feet. See Prince Bonaparte 'Coup d'oeil sur l'Ordre des Pigeons.'), and that this reduction has acted by correlation on the beaks of the great majority of the birds in Table 5.I. When, on the other hand, the beak has been much elongated by the continued selection of successive slight increments of length, the feet by correlation have likewise become much elongated in comparison with those of the wild rock-pigeon, notwithstanding their lessened use.

As I had taken measures from the end of the middle toe to the heel of the tarsus in the rock-pigeon and in the above thirty-six birds, I have made calculations analogous with those above given, and the result is the same-- namely, that in the short-beaked breeds, with equally few exceptions as in the former case, the middle toe conjointly with the tarsus has decreased in length; whereas in the long-beaked breeds it has increased in length, though not quite so uniformly as in the former case, for the leg, in some varieties of the Runt varies much in length.


As fancy pigeons are generally confined in aviaries of moderate size, and as even when not confined they do not search for their own food, they must during many generations have used their wings incomparably less than the wild rock-pigeon. Hence it seemed to me probable that all the parts of the skeleton subservient to flight would be found to be reduced in size. With respect to the sternum, I have carefully measured its extreme length in twelve birds of different breeds, and in two wild rock-pigeons from the Shetland Islands. For the proportional comparison I have tried three standards of measurement, with all twelve birds namely, the length from the base of the beak to the oil-gland, to the end of the tail, and from the extreme tip to tip of wings. The result has been in each case nearly the same, the sternum being invariably found to be shorter than in the wild rock-pigeon. I will give only a single table, as calculated by the standard from the base of the beak to the oil-gland; for the result in this case is nearly the mean between the results obtained by the two other standards.



Column 1. Name of Breed.

Column 2. Actual Length in Inches.

Column 3. Too short by (inches).

1. 2. 3.

Wild Rock-pigeon. 2.55

Pied Scanderoon. 2.80 0.60

Bagadotten Carrier. 2.80 0.17

Dragon. 2.45 0.41

Carrier. 2.75 0.35

Short-faced Tumbler. 2.05 0.28

Barb. 2.35 0.34

Nun. 2.27 0.15

German Pouter. 2.36 0.54

Jacobin. 2.33 0.22

English Frill-back. 2.40 0.43

Swallow. 2.45 0.17

This table (Table 5.III.) shows that in these twelve breeds the sternum is of an average one-third of an inch (exactly .332) shorter than in the rock- pigeon, proportionally with the size of their bodies; so that the sternum has been reduced by between one-seventh and one-eighth of its entire length; and this is a considerable reduction.

I have also measured in twenty-one birds, including the above dozen, the prominence of the crest of the sternum relatively to its length, independently of the size of the body. In two of the twenty-one birds the crest was prominent in the same relative degree as in the rock-pigeon; in seven it was more prominent; but in five out of these seven, namely, in a Fantail, two Scanderoons, and two English Carriers, this greater prominence may to a certain extent be explained, as a prominent breast is admired and selected by fanciers; in the remaining twelve birds the prominence was less.

Charles Darwin

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