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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.
Joining a pleasingly diverse menagerie that also includes the cockroach and the oyster, this latest addition to Reaktion's Animal series aims to rehabilitate the much-maligned birds that Woody Allen infamously referred to as "rats with wings" ... Barbara Allen constructs a detailed portrait of the cultural, spiritual and scientific significance of the pigeon ... engaging and illuminating. The Observer we also find that our much-maligned avian "rats" have an awful lot going for them, with some scientists rating them as intelligent as three-year old humans ... So next time you moan about the clutter of urban pigeons ... spare a thought for the good contributions these animals make to our lives. BBC Wildlife magazine
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Barbara Allen is Chaplain at the Lort Smith Animal Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. She is the author of a picture book I Was There and has contributed to Peace of Mind (2004) and Uniting Church Studies (1995).
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