CHAPTER I. VARIATION UNDER DOMESTICATION.
6. UNCONSCIOUS SELECTION.
At the present time, eminent breeders try by methodical selection, with a
distinct object in view, to make a new strain or sub-breed, superior to
anything of the kind in the country. But, for our purpose, a form of
selection, which may be called unconscious, and which results from every
one trying to possess and breed from the best individual animals, is more
important. Thus, a man who intends keeping pointers naturally tries to get
as good dogs as he can, and afterwards breeds from his own best dogs, but
he has no wish or expectation of permanently altering the breed.
Nevertheless we may infer that this process, continued during centuries,
would improve and modify any breed, in the same way as Bakewell, Collins,
etc., by this very same process, only carried on more methodically, did
greatly modify, even during their lifetimes, the forms and qualities of
their cattle. Slow and insensible changes of this kind could never be
recognised unless actual measurements or careful drawings of the breeds in
question have been made long ago, which may serve for comparison. In some
cases, however, unchanged, or but little changed, individuals of the same
breed exist in less civilised districts, where the breed has been less
improved. There is reason to believe that King Charles' spaniel has been
unconsciously modified to a large extent since the time of that monarch.
Some highly competent authorities are convinced that the setter is directly
derived from the spaniel, and has probably been slowly altered from it. It
is known that the English pointer has been greatly changed within the last
century, and in this case the change has, it is believed, been chiefly
effected by crosses with the foxhound; but what concerns us is, that the
change has been effected unconsciously and gradually, and yet so
effectually that, though the old Spanish pointer certainly came from Spain,
Mr. Borrow has not seen, as I am informed by him, any native dog in Spain
like our pointer.
By a similar process of selection, and by careful training, English race-
horses have come to surpass in fleetness and size the parent Arabs, so that
the latter, by the regulations for the Goodwood Races, are favoured in the
weights which they carry. Lord Spencer and others have shown how the
cattle of England have increased in weight and in early maturity, compared
with the stock formerly kept in this country. By comparing the accounts
given in various old treatises of the former and present state of carrier
and tumbler pigeons in Britain, India, and Persia, we can trace the stages
through which they have insensibly passed, and come to differ so greatly
from the rock-pigeon.