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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/261

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THE INTRODUCTION OF DOMESTIC ANIMALS.

this power of flight, and the impulse to wander connected therewith, which made it impossible for man to draw the majority of fowls into closer relations with himself, and to make them useful to him. He was in reality able to domesticate only those which had lost more or less the power to fly, or those which had in only a slight degree the character of flying animals, and were not compelled to change their dwelling-place in winter. Thus our presentation is limited to the few which are now regarded as really domestic animals—viz., to the goose, duck, turkey, and peacock.

Although the taming of the goose and the duck reaches back to a very early period—since neither of them was brought hither from Asia, but both are descended from our native wild varieties—the fowl, or chicken, is of comparatively recent date in Europe. In the Old Testament, and upon the Egyptian monuments, it is not to be found. It appeared first in India, and gradually spread farther westward, where it gained much respect, especially among the Persians. In the religion of Zoroaster the cock was sacred, being regarded as the herald of the morning and a symbol of light, because he drove away the evil spirits of darkness.

In Homer and Hesiod, and in general in the oldest Greek poets, we find no trace of the fowl. It seems to have been first mentioned by Theognis (about 600 b. c.), and was universally known to the contemporaries of the Persian War. The comparison between the fights of cocks and of men is a favorite one with the poets of that period.

Themistocles is said to have once stirred the courage of his army by pointing to two fighting cocks which staked their lives for the glory of victory, and not for their hearths and gods. It agrees well with its late introduction that the cock has attained to but little importance in cultivated circles: he was sacred to Ares (Mars), and people were accustomed, after recovery from sickness, to bring to Æsculapius, the god of medicine, a cock as a sacrifice.

From Greece the fowl quickly found its way into Sicily and Lower Italy; only the Sybarites, who were notorious gluttons, are said to have admitted no fowl within their walls, so that they might not be disturbed in their sleep.

Among the Romans the fowl played a very important part: sacred cocks accompanied the departing commanders to the scene of war, and were used for taking the auspices. It was considered a favorable sign if the fowls ate greedily; but, on the other hand, it denoted a misfortune if they refused food. It will thus be readily seen that the attendant of these birds (putllarius) exercised much influence in this matter, according as he did, or did not, give the fowls food before the taking of the augury.

How widely the breeding of fowls spread and developed in Italy may be learned from the writings of Varro and of Columella. Fowls, and especially fighting-cocks, were constantly imported from places