Pigeons in Ancient Egypt
Submitted by Dr B. W. F. Hollander.
The following excerpts were found in musty old tombs of a British weekly fancier's magazine. Since they offer a rather interesting insight into the origin of our breeds, they will be of interest to pigeon fanciers. Journal of Horticulture (London) 1867, vol. 12 n. s., page 155. (Remarks by "Wiltshire Rector")
In regard to Trumpeter pigeons, I had recently an opportunity of seeing some birds, brought from Egypt by a gentleman long resident there, and called by him Egyptian pigeons; but they were of all intent and purposes white Trumpeters, though not quite equal to our best fancy birds. This fact confirms the late Mr. Brent's observation that " Trumpeters are of Egyptian origin"
Condensed from two articles under "Pigeons of Egypt by J.W. Ludlow, (Secretary of Birmingham Columbarian Soc.) Journal of Horticulture, London 1871, n.s 21, P231 and 1874, n.s24, P234 in the same Journal
Reprinted in "Fanciers journal and Poultry Exchange (Philadelphia), 1874, vol. 1 page 117 and 118.
"The Egyptian spend much time on pigeons. As you go by rail to Cairo, and as you ascend the river, you are never out of site of a mud-built village. The only story that is raised above the ground floor is the Dovecote. This, therefore is the only object in the village, which attracts the eye of the passer-by. In the Delta the fashion appears to be to raise a mud tower full of earthenware pots for the pigeons to breed in. These are inserted-of course, lying horizontally in the mud, which the tower is built. In Upper Egypt these tows have assumed the square form, about 12 feet each side. Three or four tiers of branches are carried round the building for the pigeon to settle on; these are stuck into the wall, and as the branches depart from the straight line, each according to its own bent. No were noted without its dovecotes. From the summit of the Prophylaea of the grand ptolemaic temple of Edfou, I counted about forty of these dovecotes. The number of domestic pigeons in Egypt must be of several times as great as that of the population.
They have many singular varieties, But like most earnest fanciers, they keep the best for themselves; so it is difficult to obtain even a sight of their best birds. Out of the varieties, which are to be found in Egypt, may be mentioned: Turbits, Owls, Barbs, Tumblers, Lahores, Swifts, and host of others, no doubt, which I am not familiar. Lahores are said to be Indian pigeons; such may be the case, but I know they are cultivated extensively in Alexandria, Egypt for I have on several occasions seen them unshipped at Liverpool from that place.
Swifts are Egyptian birds, and remarkable ones; they are almost unknown in England, therefore I briefly describe them. They have a round head, short thick beak, and a very singular-looking pale eye. They are actually small birds, though in appearance they are large. Their wigs and tail are unusually long, and give the bird a novel appearance. The legs of these birds are short. Their colors are various; the most striking are those with a bronzed appearance and light hackle. Pied and spangled ones seem the most numerous. Why they are called Swifts I cannot comprehend. It cannot be from the speed, which they fly, for, like most birds with long pinions, they cannot fly fast. The long wing is most desirable in birds that have to perform great distances. Short and sharp-pointed wing for speed.
Owls, of course -that is, the smaller, are peculiar to Africa, as most fanciers; in fact that fruitful portion of Africa, abounds in hight class pigeons".