Pigeon.

Pigeon. Barbara Allen.

London: Reaktion Books, 2009. Octavo, paperback, illustrations.

Reaktion Animal Series. An exploration of the natural and cultural history of the pigeon, and the evolution of its relationship with humanity through the ages. Written out of love and fascination with a humble yet important bird, "Pigeon" relates its cultural significance, as well as its similarities and differences to its close counterpart, the dove. While the dove is seen as a symbol of love, peace, and goodwill, the pigeon is commonly perceived as filthy and ill-mannered, a 'rat with wings'. To say the least, the pigeon has a bad reputation, but Barbara Allen offers several examples of the bird's importance - from a source of food and fertilizer, and a bearer of messages during times of war; to a pollution monitor and an aid to Charles Darwin in his pivotal research on evolutionary theory. She goes on to connect pigeons and doves with writers and poets from Shakespeare, Dickens, and Browning, to Beatrix Potter, Proust and I. B. Singer, who she shows have all celebrated the birds' beauty and attributes.
Readers will find in "Pigeon" an enticing exploration of the historical and contemporary bonds between humans and these two unique and closely-related birds, bonds which have been in existence since their domestication over 3,000 years ago. Allen intends to correct the many stereotypes about pigeons and doves with hopes that the rich history of the relationship and the acknowledgement of what is one of the oldest human-animal partnerships will be both admired and celebrated.

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