The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon, from which all domestic pigeons derive.
Dogs are not the only animals that have been selected for function and dysfunction at the hand of man.
For more than a thousand years, pigeons have been bred to express an amazing amount of genetic variation, from beautiful to grotesque, and from whimsical to functional.
The litany of pigeon breeds is truly jaw-dropping and reflects a global fraternity of breeders.
There are Aachen Lacquer Shield Owl pigeons, Aachen Pouter pigeons, and Aargau Peak Crested pigeons.
There is the Absy Egyptian Swift, the Afghan Sherazi, African Owl pigeon, Agaran Boinije, Ahmar Gohzar, Alpine Swift, Altenburger Trumpeter, American Bohemian Pouter, American Flying Baldhead, American Flying Flight, American Flying Tumbler, American Giant Homer, American Giant Rumbler, and the American Giant Runt (love that name!).
We have the Anatolian Ringbeater, the American Strasser, Anbary Asmar Egyptian Swift, Ancient Tumbler, Antwerp Pigeon, Antwerp Smerle, Arabian Trumpeter, Arad Barred Highflier, Archangel, Armenian Tumbler, and Asiatic Crack Tumbler.
We have Australian Saddleback Tumbler, the Barb, Bavarian Pouter, Beak-Crested Jacobin, Belgian Ringbeater, and the Berlin Medium Face Tumbler (which also comes in Long Face and Short Face varieties).
We have the Bernburg pigeon, the Berne Half Beak, Berne Peak Crested, Bernhardin Magpie, Birmingham Roller, and the Blondinette.
We have the Blue Tumbler of Cluj, Bohemian Pouter, the Bohmentaub, the Bokhara Trumpeter, the Bolk Egyptian Swift, Boston Blue Tumbler, Bremen Tumbler, British Show Racer, and Brunner Pouter.
We have the Bucharest Ciung Highflier, the Bucharest Show Tumbler, the Buda Grizzle, Budapest Short Face Tumbler, and the Budapest Highflier (to say nothing of the Budapest Muffed Tumbler and Budapest Muffled Stork).
We have the Cassel Tumbler, the Catalonian Head and Neck Tumbler, the Central Asiatic Roller, Chinese Nasal Tuft, Chinese Owl, Clean Legged Fullhead, Clean Legged Spot Swallow, Coburg Lark, Colillano Pouter and Cologne Tumbler.
We have the Czech Ice Pouter, Czech Muffed Tumbler, Czech Trumpeter, the Dragoon, and the Damascene.
We have the Danish Suabian, Danish Tumbler, the Danzig Highflyer, the Escompadissa Tumbler, the Dewlap, the Donek, the Double Crested Priest, the Duchess, the Egyptian Swift, the Eichbuhl, the Elster Pouter, and the Elster Purzler, to say nothing of the English Carrier, English Fantail, English Longface Muff Tumbler, English Magpie, and English Owl.
We have the Exhibition Flying Tippler, the Fat Shan Blue, Felegyhazer Tumbler, and the Fish Eye Roller.
We have the Florentine pigeon, Flying Oriental Roller, Flying Saddle Homer, Flying Tippler, Fork-Tailed pigeon, Franconian Heart Magpie, Franconian Toy Self, and the Franconian Velvet Shield, to say nothing of the French Bagdad, French Mondain, Frillback, Gaditano Pouter, Galaţi roller, German Beak-Crested, the German Modena, German Nun, and German Shield Owl.
We have the Ghent Cropper, Giant American Crest, Giant Mallorquina Runt, Giant Show Runt, the Gier pigeon, the Gorguero Pouter, Groninger Slenke, the Hamburg Sticken, Hana Pouter, Hanover Tumbler, Helmet pigeon, Hindi Fantail, Hollander pigeon, Hungarian Buga Pigeon, the Hungarian Giant House Pigeon, Hungarian Giant Pouter, and the Hungarian Short.
We have the Huppé Picard, the Hyacinth pigeon, Ice pigeon, Indian Fantail, Indian Gola, Indian Mondain, Iran Roller, Italian Owl Jacobin, and the Jiennense Pouterm as well as the Indian Fantasy pigeon (love that name!),
There is the Kaluga Turmani pigeon, the Karakand Fantail, Karakandy Egyptian Swift, Kazan Tumbler, Kelebek, Kiev Tumbler, King pigeon, Kiskunfelegyhaza Tumbler, Kojook Egyptian Swift, Konigsberg Moorhead, Lucerne Gold Collar, and the Lebanon pigeon.
There is the Lucerne Gold Collar, the black Magpie, Macedonian Turbit, Majorcan Bort Runt, Maltese pigeon, Mariola pigeon, Martham pigeon, and the Memel Highflier.
We have the Mesawed Egyptian Swift, Micholaiyvski Shield Tumbler, Miniature American Crested, Mookee, Montauben, Moravian White Head, Moscat, Moscovite Tumbler, Moulter, New York Danish Flying Tumbler, Norwegian Tumbler, Norwich Cropper, and the Novi Sad Short Face Tumbler (what a name!).
We have the Nun pigeon, Nuremberg Lark, Old Dutch Capuchine, Old Fashioned Oriental Frill, Old German Cropper, Old German Owl, Ostrava Bagdad, Pakistani Highflier, Parlor Roller, Pheasant Pigeon, and the Ukrainian Skycutter (love that name!).
We have the Pomeranian Show Crest, Posen Colored Head Tumbler, Poster pigeon, Prague Medium Face Tumbler, Oriental Frill, Quet Roller, Racing Homer, Rhine Ringbeater, Roller Pigeon, Romanian Argintiu Tumbler, Romanian Blind Tumbler, Romanian Blue Barred Whitetail, Romanian Naked-Neck Tumbler, Russian Martini, Saddle Homer, Saint Louis Arch Crested Fantail, Saxon Breast pigeon, Saxon Monk, Saxon Stork, and Silky Fantail.
We have the Single Crested Priest, South German Charcoal Lark, Spaniard pigeon, Spanish Flamenca Runt, Spanish Frillback Bagadette, Spanish Owl Pouter, and Spanish Thief Pouter.
We have the Sverdlovsk blue-gray mottle-headed pigeon, Swiss Crescent, Swiss Mondain, Syrian Bagdad, Syrian Coop Tumbler, Syrian Swift pigeon, Syrian Turbiteen, Texan Pioneer, Thai Fantail, Thai Laugher, Thuringian Breast Pigeon, Thuringian Spot, Thuringian Wingpigeon, Tiger Swallow, Tippler, and the Transylvanian Double-Crested Tumbler (love that name!).
We have the Ural Striped Maned pigeon, the Tung Koon Paak, Valencian Giant Tenant pigeon, Valencian Magany Homer, Vogtland pigeon, Volga Russian Tumbler, Warsaw Schmetterling, the West of England Tumbler and the Zurich White Tail.
And yes, this is just a partial list!
As I noted some years back, there is a breed of pigeon called a "roller" where flocks go into a kind of synchronized neurological fit causing them to roll over and tumble in mid-air -- the kind of activity that tends to attract hawks. Talk about maladaptive!
In addition to rollers, there are racing or homing pigeons which look very much like natural rock doves (i.e. wild pigeons), but which may have a little more speed and slightly better orienteering skills.
Of course, as with dogs, many of these breeds are only slighty different variations from others of a very similar type, while others look suspiciously like odd-looking versions of the common feral form you might see in any city park, while still others look like diseased mutants.
But isn't that true of dog breeds as well?!
Some of the pigeons that have been crafted by the hand of man are truely beautiful and fly very well, while others are bizarre looking and fly less successfully.
In the bizarre catagory is the Blue Pouter, pictured below, which is an ornamental breed with long legs, an extruded body, and an amazing inflatable crop.
There are quite a few types of Pouters, and the function of one type, the "Horseman" Pouter is to serve as a "thief" bird. It turns out that a swollen crop is a bit of a turn on to female pigeons, and so female pigeons can sometimes be seduced to follow the Horseman Pouter back to his coop.
Charles Darwin was quick to notice the amazing varieties of livestock being produced by breeders in his day, and he was especially attentive to chicken and pigeon breeders as he himself had first noticed wide variation from an intermediate type when observing finches on the Galapagos Islands.
When Darwin came back to Britain in 1836, he began to correspond with dog, chicken, sheep, cattle and pigeon breeders from around the world as he worked out his theories of speciation through natural selection.
In 1855, he built his own pigeon loft and began raising a wide variety of pigeons himself.
For the rest of that story I recommend a lengthy tour through the excellent web site, Darwin's Pigeons.
A final note: the beautiful pigeon illustrations shown here are the work of Gary Romig, and are for sale at his web site.
They are redone versions of illustrations which first appeared in Robert Fulton's The Illustrated Book of Pigeons, published in 1878. A companion volume, by Lewis Wright, was called The Illustrated Book of Poultry.