Columbia livia domestica - Domestic pigeons

Think the breeding of show animals is exclusive to dogs and horses? No way. My eyes have been opened to the intensely competitive and diverse world of domestic pigeon keeping. Domestic pigeons (Columbia livia domestica) are derived from the rock dove (Columbia livia), similar to how domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are a subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus). There are three different features or characteristics pigeons are selectively bred for: utility, fanciness, or flying. These traits aren’t so unlike the different characteristics for which dogs are bred (except for the flying part [maybe]). 

  • Kite Saddle Fantail - Fancy show breed; fantails have 2x-3x as many tail feathers as your average rock dove. 
  • Black English carrier: Fancy show breed, no longer used for message delivery.
  • Red Jacobin - The jacobins are able to hide the head entirely in a muff of feathers, which is raised and lowered at will. 
  • Blue barred spot swallow - The swallows are usually bred with the feathered toes known as “muffs” 

I half expect that jacobin to be wearing a monocle underneath its fancy collar. 

All of these beautiful examples were donated by breeders from the Chicago Pigeon Club.

From the “Results of Artificial Selection in Domestic Pigeons” case at The Field Museum.