Daniel Haag-Wackernagel
Die Taube – Inhalt/content

Daniel Haag-Wackernagel (1998)
Die Taube
Vom heiligen Vogel der Liebesgöttin zur Strassentaube
248 Seiten mit 312 Abbildungen und 2 Karten
Grossformat 23,5 x 30,5 cm
The Pigeon
From the Holy Bird of the Goddess of Love to the Feral Pigeon
An English supplementum
translated by Derek Goodwin

Besprechungen „Die Taube”

 

 

Inhalt

Das Buch «Die Taube» schildert die Geschichte der Mensch-Taube Beziehung mit allen ihren Auswirkungen auf die Gegenwart aus biologischer und kulturgeschichtlicher Sicht. Der Autor versucht dabei, aus der Sicht des Naturwissenschaftlers kulturelle Prozesse verständlich zu machen und zu zeigen, wie sehr diese Erscheinungen auch biologischen Gesetzen unterliegen.

Die Taube ist eines der ältesten und beliebtesten Haustiere des Menschen. Durch diese nahen Kontakte lernte der Mensch die Verhaltenswelt der Taube kennen und lieben. überall wo die Taube gehalten wurde spielte sie eine herausragende Rolle als Symbol und Verkörperung menschlicher und göttlicher Eigenschaften. Kein anderes Lebewesen wurde so häufig vergeistigt, vergöttlicht und symbolisiert wie die Taube. Bei fast allen Völkern wurde sie gleich beurteilt und bewertet. Eine Analyse der Biologie und des Verhaltens der Taube einerseits und ihren Assoziationen die sie beim Menschen auslöst anderseits, bieten eine Erklärung für dieses Phänomen, das im Wesentlichen auf ganz bestimmte biologische Strukturen und Prädispositionen von Mensch und Taube zurückzuführen ist. Ganz bewusst werden kulturelle, theologische und geschichtliche Ereignisse aus dem Blickwinkel des Naturwissenschaftlers und Verhaltensforschers erklärt.

Die faszinierende Reise der Taube durch Völker und Zeiten beginnt im alten Sumer und Babylonien. Dort wird sie im 3. Jahrtausend vor Christus zum heiligen Vogel der Liebesgöttin Inanna-Ischtar, die mit ihrem Kult den ganzen vorderen Orient erobert. Im Judentum ist die Taube von grosser Bedeutung im Glauben und als Haustier. Im griechischen Raum wird die 'Göttin mit der Taube' zur Aphrodite und danach zur Venus der Etrusker und Römer. Die Taube überlebt unbeschadet die Abschaffung ihrer Göttinnen und setzt sich anfänglich im Christentum zaghaft als Symbol des Heiligen Geistes durch. Nach und nach verbreitet sich ihre Symbolik über das ganze christliche Denken, in dem sie göttliche und menschliche Ideen und Personen verkörpert. Im Orient, vor allem im arabischen und indischen Raum, erlebt die Taubenhaltung eine nie wieder erreichte Perfektion, was sich auch in der Kunst niederschlägt. In Mitteleuropa lebt die Taube erst in der Renaissance in allen ihren antiken Symbolbedeutungen wieder auf und hat sich bis heute erhalten können.

In den letzten Jahrhunderten war die reale Taube in Mitteleuropa dann vor allem Haustier, zur Zierde und als Lieferant von delikatem Fleisch, das den öden Speisezettel bereicherte. Die Taubenhaltung setzte sich immer mehr als Freizeitbeschäftigung durch. In den letzten 250 Jahren entstanden hunderte von verschiedenen Taubenrassen. In beinahe jedem Dorf wurden spezielle Tauben gezüchtet. Es gibt kaum eine biologische Eigenart der Taube, die nicht in der einen oder anderen Form verändert worden wäre. So erschuf der Mensch Tauben, die in der Art ihres Fluges, ihres Balzverhaltens, ihres Aussehens, ihres Heimfindevermögens oder ihrer Fleischqualität voneinander abweichen.

Auch in unserer rationalen und materiell geprägten Gegenwart konnte sich die Taube erfolgreich behaupten. Sie begegnet uns in beinahe allen alten Bedeutungen wieder. So erscheint sie aks Symbol des Heiligen Geistes, des Friedens, der geistigen und körperlichen Liebe bis hin zum Emblem des Postdienstes Post beinahe. Heutzutage sind alle Symbolgehalte präsent, mit denen die Taube während ihrer nun über viereinhalb tausend Jahre lange andauernden Symbiose mit dem Menschen verbunden wurde. Zudem wird sie heute vielfältig in der Werbung und Verpackung als allgemein verständlicher Repräsentant von verkaufsfördernen Attributen wie Reinheit, Sauberheit und Licht verwendet.

Während der langen Zeit ihrer Domestikation sind immer wieder Tauben entflohen und haben mehr oder weniger grosse Strassentaubenbestände aufgebaut. Erst als Lebensmittel billig wurden und als ein Produkt unserer Wohlstandsgesellschaft in Form von Futter für die Tauben auf der Strasse landen, konnten sich die Strassentauben weltweit stark vermehren. Die Strassentaube bevölkert heute mit einem Weltbestand von Hunderten von Millionen Individuen jede grössere Stadt. Angesichts dieser langen gemeinsamen Geschichte und ihrer vielfältigen geistigen Bedeutung verwundert es nicht, dass die Strassentaube nicht als das gesehen wird, was sie eigentlich ist - als ein ungemein anpassungsfähiger, intelligenter und schöner Vogel, der gelernt hat, vom Menschen und mit ihm in der Stadt zu leben. Die Taube ist aber nur deshalb so erfolgreich, weil der Mensch sie in seiner jahrtausendelangen Domestikation verändert und damit für ein Stadtleben prädisponiert hat. Dieser überlebenserfolg hat viele Schattenseiten. Die weit verbreitete und beliebte Taubenfütterung hat in vielen Städten eine überbevölkerung verursacht, die zu Slumbedingungen führt. Darunter leiden die Tauben sehr. Unter Stress, Krankheiten und Parasiten verkommen die Populationen und sind zudem Ursache für verschiedene Probleme, die dem Menschen durch hygienische Gefährdung und Verunreinigungen durch Taubenkot entstehen. Trotz widrigster Lebensbedingungen ist die Strassentaube heute zum erfolgreichsten Tier im menschlichen Lebensraum geworden Die Taube wird von den meisten Menschen geliebt und von wenigen gehasst und verfolgt. In verschiedenen Städten sind eigentliche Taubenkriege entstanden, in denen sich Taubenfreunde und Taubenfeinde mit erbitterter Entschlossenheit gegenüberstehen. Für die einen sind sie die Kinder des Lichtes, die Verkörperung der Liebe, des Friedens und des Heiligen Geistes, für die anderen fliegendes Ungeziefer und Ratten der Lüfte, die es auszurotten gilt.

Wo und mit welchen Mitteln der Mensch den Kampf gegen die Taube auch aufgenommen hat, er wird ihn nie gewinnen können. In einer seit Jahrtausenden andauernden Domestikation hat er die Taube durch Zucht genetisch manipuliert und nach seinen Vorstellungen geformt. Dadurch ist die Taube dem Menschen ähnlich geworden. Sie beginnt uns zu gleichen, in ihren fortpflanzungsbiologischen Eigenschaften, ihren Slums und ihrem Erfolg.

Vorliegendes Buch über die Taube in allen ihren Bezügen zu ihrer Natur und zum Menschen ist eine interdisziplinäre Arbeit im klassischen Sinne, die sich nur schwer einem bestimmten Gebiet zuordnen lässt. Es wurden über 1000 Beiträge aus den verschiedensten geisteswissenschaftlichen und naturwissenschaftlichen Disziplinen eingearbeitet und zueinander in Beziehung gesetzt. Das Resultat dieser interdisziplinären Synthese könnte für Interessierte der verschiedensten Fachrichtungen, vor allem aber der Altorientalistik, Altphilologie, Religionsgeschichte, Soziologie, Kunstgeschichte, Wissenschaftsgeschichte und Biologie, vor allem aber der Domestikationsgeschichte und Verhaltensforschung, von Interesse sein. Besonderer Wert wurde auf exakte Quellenangaben und die vollständige Wiedergabe der Originalstellen gelegt. Eine grosse Zahl von Texten wurde zu diesem Zweck aus dem Hebräischen, Lateinischen, Griechischen, Französischen und Englischen ins Deutsche übersetzt. über 300 Abbildungen, darunter viele Erstveröffentlichungen illustrieren die Inhalte und tragen so zum besseren Verständnis des Buches bei.

Das Buch 'Die Taube' wurde aber nicht nur für den Fachwissenschaftler, sondern auch für den interessierten Taubenliebhaber geschrieben. Der Taubenzüchter, der sich mit der Herkunft seines Tieres vertraut machen will, wird genauso auf seine Kosten kommen wie die Stadtbehörde, die sich mit dem Strassentaubenproblem beschäftigen muss.

 

Content

Introduction  
9
It began with the Rock Pigeon  
10

The ancestors
The Pigeon family
The origin of the Rock Pigeon
The life of the Rock Pigeon
The other Pigeons

 
12
12
12
15
17

How the Rock Pigeon came to mankind
Domestication theories
Why the Pigeon?
 
20
20
21

Not all Pigeons are the same
The Dovecote Pigeon
The Domestic Pigeon
 
22
22
22
   
The journey of the Pigeon through peoples and time  
24
   
The Pigeon in the Near East
Mesopotamia
Birds and bird-catching in ancient Babylonia
The beginning of Pigeon breeding
The Pigeon as a symbol
26
26
26
26
27
  «Like a Pigeon scared by a snake»
The frightened Pigeon
I lament like a Pigeon and break down groaning
27
28
28
It began with Utnapischtim
29
  Pigeons and their orientation abilities
Pigeons as a mean of orientation
29
29
The Goddess and the Pigeon
32
 

The great mother and her sacred bird
Inanna-Ischtar
The Holy Wedding

32
33
35
The conquering journey of the Love Goddess
37
 

The conquest of the East
Semiramis
The sacred bird of the Love Goddess
The Phoenician Pigeon Goddess

37
38
40
40
Egypt
The bird paradise of the Nile Valley
Pigeons and Pigeon-keeping
44
44
44
  A zoo dedicated to Aton
Egyptian use of Pigeon dung

46
49
The Pigeon with the Israelites
Pigeon breeding
The Pigeon in the Old Testament
50
50
53
  The sacrifice of Pigeons
Your eyes are Pigeons
The banishment of the Love Goddess
55
56
59
The Pigeon with the Ancient Greeks
The Rock Pigeon in antiquity
Domestic Pigeons in ancient Greece
60
60
61
  Pigeon breeds in ancient Greece
The first message-carrying Pigeon
63
65
The Pigeon in archaic Greece
65
  The birth of Aphrodite
Sacrifice of Pigeons to the Love Goddess
66
69

Pigeon oracles – the voice of the Gods

Conquering the world with Rome
The Romans as Pigeon breeders
The Roman message-carrying Pigeons
The Pigeon's extension of its distribution
The Love Goddess Turan of the Etruscans
Venus and the Pigeon
The Pigeon as the symbol of Virtue

The Pigeon in Christendom
From Ishtar to Holy Ghost

73

74
74
79
81
82
82
85

88
89

  The Pigeon in Baptism ritual
The conception of Jesus
The Pentecostal Pigeon
The spiritual insemination
Messenger from God
Appearance and character of the Holy Ghost Pigeon
93
95
97
98
100
102
Pigeon as the embodiment of Christ
106
  The Pigeon and the Sacrament
107
Symbol of the Church and the believers
The Pigeon as the soul bird
107
108
  The origin of the soul Pigeon
The soul Pigeon in Christendom
The Pigeon in Alchemy
«La Paloma ade» – The soul pigeon in Folklore
108
109
113
113
The sweet «Dove of Peace»
114
 

Bringer of God's Peace
Misunderstanding of the Pigeon's peaceful nature
The Pigeon as a model of Christian virtue
The bad Raven – the good Pigeon
The Pigeon between War and Peace
Communism's «Dove of Peace»

114
117
118
119
120
124

The return of the Pigeon Goddess
The Pigeon in Folktales and Fairytales
The Pigeon in Folklore and Folk medecine

Al Hamam - the Pigeon in the Arab World
Eastern Rome's heritage
The Persian use of Pigeon dung
The peak of Pigeon breeding

126
128
129

132
132
133
133

  Al Djahiz
The perfection of the message carrying Pigeon
Quicker than the lightening, more changeable than the clouds – The Arabian Pigeon post
Two-way Pigeons

133
137

137
142

The Pigeon in Islamic belief

The Pigeon in India
Kapota - The Pigeon in old Indian literature
Pigeons under the Islamic Moguls

The Pigeon in China
From the Middle Ages to Modern Times
The rediscovery of the Pigeon
Pigeon houses - Pigeon legislation
The Pigeon on the plate
Breeds of Pigeon and races of the Pigeon
From the message carrying Pigeon to the Racing Pigeon

146

148
148
151

154
156
156
162
165
167
174

  The biology of the Pigeon's orientation
Pigeons at sea
Pigeons in War
The sport of Pigeon racing
How Racing Pigeons are brought to make the greatest efforts
Methods of journey
175
176
177
179
179
180
Pigeon hunting
Trap-shooting

The Pigeon in recent times
The language of postcards
The Pigeon as messenger
The Dove of Peace at the end of the 20th century
The Pigeon in films and advertisements

The cultural ethology of becoming sacred

The Feral Pigeon

Previous history
The origin of the Feral Pigeon
The Feral Pigeons in Basel (Switzerland)
The conquest of the town

Living and dying in the town
Those who love the Pigeons feed them...
The Pigeons' friends
The Pigeons' enemies
The Pigeon as a laboratory animal and biological indicator
The Pigeon problem
The war against Pigeons
The Basel Pigeon Action

The future of the Feral Pigeon

Appendix
Acknowledgements
Index to literature cited
Index to personal information
Index to pictures
Index to Pigeon references
Index of significant words (names of people, birds, actions,...)
Index of places
Maps

182
183

186
186
188
191
192

194

202

204 206
212
212

214
214
214
217
218
219
220
221

222

224
224
226
231
231
234
235
241
243

     

Introduction

In the course of the history of mankind the most different kinds of people have appeared, flourished and then vanished. Innumerable religions and philosophical theories have been thought up in the heads of people and later been forgotten. Only very few things have remained, either as ideas or as material objects. One that has is the Pigeon. It meets us with the first evidence of the presence of mankind as the holy creature of the gods. It accompanies the earliest people to practice agriculture over 10'000 years ago to all the then known parts of the world, as a domestic animal and as a symbol. It was involved both in the polytheistic religions of antiquity and in Judaism and Christendom and in many other religions.

Even in our present age the Pigeon has survived as the symbol of Peace and is a noticeable spiritual as well as physical presence. Inseparably linked with its symbolical significance is its actuality as both a domestic and a wild creature. The Pigeon has survived through time, both as a biological organism and as an idea. It multiplies, conquers the towns and adapts itself ever better to life in them. With this adaptation in the town the Feral Pigeon at the same time becomes a new creature.

This conquering journey of the Pigeon from its first meeting with people to its conquering of our large cities will be the theme of this book.

How the Pigeon came to mankind

Domestication theories

As to the exact point in time and the reasons for the first domestication of the Rock Pigeon one can only conjecture. In view of its wide distribution the Rock Pigeon might have been domesticated at different times and in different places. In such case in each such different domestication centre the local subspecies of the Rock Pigeon would have been domesticated. In Europe this was the subspecies Columba livia livia, in Egypt Columba livia schimperi and in India Columba livia intermedia (figs 2 and 199).

As a proof of this Darwin first instanced that nearly all (presumably if blue/black in colour) the Domestic Pigeons in northern Europe had a white lower back like the European Rock Pigeon while nearly all Domestic Pigeons from India have a grey lower back like that of Columba livia intermedia.

Species of pigeons that inhabit rocky cliffs tend in general to take to living alongside man. In Tibet and Mongolia, the Eastern Rock Pigeon, Columba rupestris lives and breeds on or inside buildings. The same behaviour can be seen in the White-collared Pigeon, Columba albitorques, in Addis Abeba and the Speckled Pigeon, Columba guinea, in many parts of Africa.

For the domestication of the Rock Pigeon, several different hypotheses are discussed at the present day.

a) The Synanthropy Hypothesis suggests that already in Neolithic times, when arable farming began in the 8th century B.C. the Rock Pigeon on its own initiative attached itself to man. It fed in the man-made grain fields and used the buildings of the settlements as a substitute for its breeding cliffs.

With the spread of arable farming outside «the Fertile Crescent» the Rock Pigeon was able to extend its range and inhabit new living space. Wherever people use stone as their most important building material, there stand substitute cliffsides. In sovereign indifference to our human intentions, also other cliff-dwelling birds (Swifts, Swallows, Jackdaws) use these new possibilities that stonewalls offer as nest sites.

Bechstein (in 1805) wrote of Pigeons: «As these birds feed largely on grain so in Europe they probably followed the spread of the plough culture from south to north in Europe, like the House Sparrow, and as they found no more cliff cavities they established themselves in castles, churches and towers and the cavities erected for them in courtyards, in which, anyway, they found their food in snowy weather and in this way became domesticated.»

b) The Domestication Hypothesis assumes that the early people gathered nestling Pigeons from Rock Pigeon breeding places for food. If then living squabs were taken back to the settlements they could have been brought up within human families. The artificial rearing of Pigeons is very simple as the still blind nestlings readily push their bills between a person's lips. By this mouth-to-bill feeding nestling Pigeons can be reared without difficulty. When such birds were fledged and independent, they settled down and bred freely among people. A possibly early bit of evidence for this comes from excavations in the Hayonim cave in West Gallilee, in Israel. In Neolithic times this was inhabited from people of the Natufien-culture. In various excavations also bones of Rock Pigeons were found. These remains were identical with the corresponding bones of Rock Pigeons now found on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. The Rock Pigeon and these early humans were using the same cliff formations (literally: "abiotic structures") and belonged to the fauna of that biotope (literally: "to the same biocenosis"). Perhaps man already had begun before about 12'000 years to gather the eggs and young of these synanthropic Rock Pigeons and by their own presence in the caves to protect them from other enemies. Perhaps these early people had already begun to make simple structural alterations to provide more nest sites for the Pigeons.

c) A third possibility for the domestication of the Rock Pigeon is the Temple Hypothesis (fig. 14). The first temples in the Mediterranean region were often built on exposed positions directly on the seacoast, on dangerous high places and mountains. These places were the natural habitat of Rock Pigeons. On one such place stood, for example, the sanctuary of Aphrodite-Venus on the Eryx-mountain in Sicily.

A few pairs of Rock Pigeons settled in these holy places and fed in part on the votive offerings such as grain and bread. Because of this these Pigeons were associated with the relevant Divinity and honoured and protected.

Unfortunately we cannot now be sure which of these theories is correct. All three possibilities for the domestication of the Rock Pigeon appear likely and all probably occurred in actuality in different places at different times.

Why the Pigeon?

Modern studies of animal behaviour have brought about a better understanding of animals. The starting point for every cultural interpretation of the biology and the behaviour of the Pigeon was observation of the living birds. People then sought to clarify and interpret what they saw in terms of their own experience and their own limited perceptions of the world, which often led to errors. Only so can one understand the often almost absurd mistakes that people made about their fellow-beings. Birds have many peculiarities that make people feel especially sympathetic towards them. According to Koenig, birds are pleasingly remarkable for their liveliness, their calls and their singing. Above all their courtship behaviour, their breeding and their rearing of their young can be easily observed and resemble the corresponding behaviour of people. In comparison with mammals that, because they find their way about largely by smell, often spread about penetrating smells, which are sometimes very unpleasant to us, birds are practically scent-less. Bird dung, in addition is, compared with mammal dung, relatively dry which is more convenient for people when birds are kept. In contrary to the largely nocturnal mammals birds are, with a few exceptions, diurnal. Because of their ability to fly, birds as compared with mammals, allow closer approach by humans and are thus easier to observe. Marshall attributed the high regard in which birds tend to be held by people as follows:«Birds are unquestionably the class of animals most beloved by both primitive and civilised peoples […] Birds are harmless, to people hardly ever are they dangerous creatures […] They are, further, mostly also fine creatures […] Their flight is the poetry of movement […] How our wider sympathies are touched by the family life of the birds! Most species live in monogamy, and the members of a pair keep faithfully together. Love makes the handless little creatures accomplished nest builders and where in the animal world will we find a more devoted attachment of parents to their own, yes, and even to stranger's young, so beautiful and so touching as in birds? Thus it is not to be wondered at that birds bring out all the best feelings and abilities that slumber in the human breast, the impulse to poetry and inner feelings and attachments more than any other animals. No other [class of animals] lives in the same way in both folk and classical poetry as the birds.» (Marshall, 1898).

Not all Pigeons are the same

The Dovecote Pigeon

The Rock Pigeon became in the course of its domestication a utility animal. An originally loose connection between it and people led to an extensive form of domestic animal-keeping from which the Dovecote Pigeon developed. People provided water and nesting places from which they kept away predators such as birds of prey and small predatory mammals. The first arable fields of the early settled peoples lay between large areas of fallow or unploughed land that provided additional food for the semi-free ranging Dovecote Pigeons in the form of seeds of wild plants. In this symbiosis-like form of Pigeon-keeping, people used the young Pigeons for food and the Pigeon dung as a useful fertiliser. The original numbers-regulating factors such as birds of prey and seasonal food shortages were at this period likely to have been still the most important selective processes. The Dovecote Pigeon was only changed to a small degree by the interference of mankind. Principally used as food, pairs that produced large numbers of young and particularly beautiful or imposing individuals would have been selected as breeding stock.

The Domestic Pigeon

The breeds which belong with the truly Domestic Pigeon are much more highly domesticated than the Dovecote Pigeon and have developed marked differences in body structure, physiology and behaviour. Man fitted the Pigeon to his own various needs. Domestication besides changing morphology and selectively breeding for special behavioural aspects, above all had one aim: The greatest possible number of young to produce in the smallest possible space. To achieve this necessitated on the one hand successful breeding ability must be heightened and at the same time territorial aggression (defence of the largest possible breeding territory) must be lessened. By these means a large number of Pigeons could be kept in a small space. The natural terrified fear of man of the Rock Pigeon had to be reduced. Therefore as with many other domestic animals Pigeons were primarily selected for tameness and fertility. Modern table Pigeons can rear up to 22 young per year, whereas a pair of wild Rock Pigeons rear on average 4 young per year. The increase in fertility of the Domestic Pigeon has, through man’s artificial selection, produced a creature with the following specific attributes:

Breeding all year round: Rock Pigeons do not normally breed during cold times of the year.

Overlapping broods: As a rule the Pigeon’s clutch consists of 2 eggs. Therefore to adapt the breeding rate to particularly favourable environmental conditions cannot be done by increasing the number of eggs in a clutch, but is achieved by shortening the time between the laying of clutches of eggs so that for some days long both newly hatched eggs and young are being cared for.

Reaching breeding age early: Rock Pigeons are hardly able to breed in their first year. Under man’s care early maturing birds can rear more young and thereby increase in populations of Dovecote Pigeons. Hen Pigeons can lay eggs which hatch successfully when they are only 4.5 months old, cock Pigeons have viable sperm at 5.5 months old.

In addition come further biological factors such as a high fertility rate of eggs and sperm, a hormonal sensitivity even in short daylight periods or a complete emancipation of the hormonal system from being controlled by the length of daylight, efficient incubation and breeding behaviour and efficient glands for the production of crop-milk; Ability to continue breeding while moulting and further as yet unknown qualities. For the Rock Pigeon in its natural habitat a similar excessive productivity, such as most Domestic Pigeons show, would be fatal. Through increased investment in the offspring fat reserves, which are necessary to survive in periods of food shortage, would be lost. The breeding would also thereby produce a great number of young for which sufficient food and breeding sites would not be available, and would thereby cause sharper competition for these resources. A competing population with a lower mortality rate and a rate of reproduction adapted to the available resources would be more successful and in a position to out-compete Pigeons with such a strategy.

 

 
© Universität Basel Anatomisches Institut Research Group Integrative Biology Daniel Haag-Wackernagel