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THE DOMESTIC FOWL
ORIGIN AND HISTORY.
fowls were prepared for me, and also onco in ten days, store of all sorts of wine."
THE COMMON Fowl, as well as the pea fowl, are of Indian origin, and we learn nothing respecting them till within a comparatively recent epoch. It will naturally be asked, What is the earliest date of poultrykeeping ? Nobody knows. It is thought by some to be coeval with the keeping of sheep by Abel, and the tilling of the ground by Cain—a supposition which cannot be far from probability, if there is any foundation for the legend that Gomer, the eldest son of Japhet, took a surname from the cock. Indeed, it would be to him that Western Europe stands indebted for a stock of fowls from the ark itself. For, it is supposed by the erudite, and shown by at least probable arguments, that the descendants of Gomer settled in the northern parts of Asia Minor, and then spread into the Cimmerian Bosphorus and the adjacent regions, and that from them the numerous tribes of the Gauls, Germans, Celts, and Cimbrians (lescended. It is true that there is no mention of fowls by name in the Old Testament, except a doubtful allusion in the Vulgate
translation of the book of Proverbs, (xxx. 31,) which is lost in the authorised version. There is another equally disputable passage in Ecclesiastes, xii. 4. “ And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, (that is, at cock-crowing,) and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.” A still less certain evidence occurs in the book of Job, xxxviii. 36. “ Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts ? or who hath given understanding to the heart ?"
The apparent omission of the name of the domestic fowl from the Old Testament may possibly have arisen from this cause, namely, that tending them would be the occupation of women, whose domestic employments are less prominently brought forward by oriental writers than the active enterprises of men ; and, also, that the birds specially named there are the unclean birds, which are to be avoided, whereas those which may be eaten are classed in a lump as
See Leviticus, xi. 13, and Deuteronomy, xiv. 11.
That the fowl was domesticated and extensively spread at a very remote period, is very evident; but it does not seem clear whether it was possessed by the Israelites before the consolidation of the nation under Solomon, when commerce began to flourish, and the arts of life to be strenuously cultivated. After the Babylonish captivity, we cannot doubt that the fowl was among the domestic animals of Palestine, and it is to this bird, most probably, that Nehemiah, (B.C. 445,) alludes, when in his rebuke he says, “ Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox, and six choice sheep, also fowls were prepared for me, and also once in ten days, store of all sorts of wine" (v. 18). Antecedently to this period, the fowl was abundant in Persia. Thus Peisthetærus relates why the cock is called the “ Persian bird,” and how it reigned over that country before Darius and Megabazus (B.c. 521). Not only do the classic poets and historians speak of the high antiquity of the fowl, but medals and coins
proclaim the same, and bear its figure stamped upon them. Nor is its delineation absent on other relics of remote periods. In Camparini's “ Etruscan Tombs,” we see several persons reclined on a sort of couch, taking wine and bread after the burial of some friend. Under one of the tables a cock and hen are depicted, and under another a cat is seen insidiously creeping towards them. Figures of the domestic fowl are carved in relief on the marbles lately brought into England from Lycia, in Asia Minor, by Sir C. Fellows, and their outlines are represented to be remarkable for accuracy.
Among the Greeks and Romans the fowl figured in the public shows. It was dedicated to Apollo, to Mercury, to Æsculapius, and to Mars; and its courage and watchfulness were well appreciated. The Rhodian fowls, and those of Delos, Chalcis, Media, and Persia, were celebrated for their superiority in fight, and for the excellence and delicacy of their flesh. Cock-fighting, as might be expected, was a diversion in consonance with the tastes of the Romans, and they were as much devoted to it as the Malays of the present day, who will stake all upon the issue of the battle. To the rearing of these birds for the table, the greatest attention was paid by the luxurious. They had their gallinaria, and were accustomed to cram their fowls with meal, and keep them in the dark that they might the more readily fatten; nor were the capon, (gallus spado,) and the poularde, (gallina spadonia,) unknown.
Herodotus does not mention the fowl as among the domestic birds of Egypt, though he speaks of the goose, the vulpanser, or chenalopex, the duck, the quail, small birds, and two sorts of ibis ; neither does it occur on any of the ancient monuments of that country.
Aristotle, who wrote about 350 years before Christ, speaks of them as familiarly as a natural historian of the present day would. It is unnecessary more than to allude to the beautiful comparisons taken from them in the New Testament. The Roman authors of the
commencement of the Christian era record that they were classed into such a number of distinct varieties as could only have been the result of long cultivation. Whether we suppose that different breeds were collected and imported from different native stations, or assume that the differences of those breeds were the artificial result of domestication,—whichever case we take, domestic fowls must have been held in familiar esteem for many, many ages before we have any clear record of them. Either supposition attaches to them a highly interesting and quite mysterious degree of antiquity.
When the Romans, under Julius Cæsar, invaded the shores of Britain, they found both the fowl and the goose in a state of domestication; but these, as well as the hare, were forbidden as food. “ They deemed it not lawful to eat the hare, the fowl, and the goose ; nevertheless, they bred these animals for the sake of fancy and pleasure." Through what channel, it may be asked, did the fowl reach this ultima Thule?
At the time of the discovery of the American continent by Europeans, the domestic fowl was not found in any part of it, neither was it found on any of the Atlantic Isles, although the Canaries, the supposed Fortunate Islands of the ancients, were inhabited by a half-civilized people, who held in subjugation sheep, goats, hogs, and dogs.
Dr. Kidd, in his “Bridgewater Treatise," doubts whether the camel ever existed in a wild and independent state. But others do not go quite so far as that in scepticism in the case of fowls, but still believe that those, who, at this epoch, hunt for cocks and hens of the same species as our tame ones, either on the continent of Asia, or throughout the whole inhabited vast Indian Archipelago, will have undertaken but a fruitless search. For certain writers have been at great pains, for some years past, with but little success, except in their own conceit, to pitch upon the wild origin of our domestic fowls. The first decided
attempts to do this, appear to have been made by Sonnerat, and to have been followed up by succeeding French writers, whose errors are glaring, and in whose praise little can be said. -Réaumur, whose writings are really philosophical and valuable, devoted his inquiries to more practical objects, but Sonnerat was merely a blind leader of the blind, if there is justice in the criticism of Mr. Swainson, who pronounces that “Sunnerat's works, although often cited by the French authors, are very poor ; the descriptions vague, and the figures, particularly of the birds, below mediocrity.” Buffon, who did not die till 1788, had therefore an opportunity of adopting Sonnerat's jungle fowl as the parent of cocks and hens, and his vivid imagination made him very likely to have adopted so apparently clear an account, ready telegraphed for his reception. But instead of that, he speaks hesitatingly and doubtfully of the derivation of our domestic fowls from wild cocks, and seems to despair of indicating their origin. He
says, • Amidst the immense number of different breeds of the gallinaceous tribe, how shall we determine the original stock ? So many circumstances have operated, so many accidents have concurred; the attention, and even the whim of man have so much multiplied the varieties, that it appears extremely difficult to trace them to their source.”
A difficulty, which speaks volumes, is, that those birds which have been pointed out as the most probable ancestors of the domestic fowl, do not appear to be more tameable than the partridge, the American grouse, or the golden pheasant; moreover, so remarkable an appendage as the horny expansion of the feather stem, as seen in Sonnerat's cock, would, according to what is generally supposed to take place, be increased rather than diminished and obliterated by domestication; and even if got rid of by any course of breeding for a few generations, would be sure, ultimately, to reappear. Still, our own cocks and hens must have had some