By Charles Darwin, David Quammen
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Additional info for On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition
It is also a most favourable circumstance for the production of distinct breeds, that male and female pigeons can be easily mated for life; and thus different breeds can be kept together in the same aviary. I have discussed the probable origin of domestic pigeons at some, yet quite insufficient, length; because when I first kept pigeons and watched the several kinds, knowing well how true they bred, I felt fully as much difficulty in believing that they could ever have descended from a common parent, as any naturalist could in coming to a similar conclusion in regard to the many species of finches, or other large groups of birds, in nature.
As soon, however, as gardeners picked out individual plants with slightly larger, earlier, or better fruit, and raised seedlings from them, and again picked out the best seedlings and bred from them, then, there appeared (aided by some crossing with distinct species) those many admirable varieties of the strawberry which have been raised during the last thirty or forty years. In the case of animals with separate sexes, facility in preventing crosses is an important element of success in the formation of new races,—at least, in a country which is already stocked with other races.
Youatt, who was probably better acquainted with the works of agriculturalists than almost any other individual, and who was himself a very good judge of an animal, speaks of the principle of selection as ‘that which enables the agriculturist, not only to modify the character of his flock, 35 On the Origin of Species but to change it altogether. ’ In Saxony the importance of the principle of selection in regard to merino sheep is so fully recognised, that men follow it as a trade: the sheep are placed on a table and are studied, like a picture by a connoisseur; this is done three times at intervals of months, and the sheep are each time marked and classed, so that the very best may ultimately be selected for breeding.
On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition by Charles Darwin, David Quammen