|First century BCE Mosaic of Scene with Egyptian Columbarium (Dovecote) for Breeding Doves and Pigeons found in Palestrina beside Rome|
Except for fanciers, pigeons are often seen nowadays as a pest species. But it was not always so. For wherever there were people, there were pigeons, and they were an indispensable source of protein.
The practice of domesticating pigeon as livestock may have come from the Middle East; historically, squabs or pigeons have been consumed in many civilizations, including Ancient Egypt, Rome and Medieval Europe. Doves are described as food in the Holy Scriptures and were eaten by the Hebrews.
Texts about methods of raising pigeons for their meat date as far back as AD 60 in Spain. Such birds were hunted for their meat because it was a cheap and readily available source of protein.
In the Tierra de Campos, a resource-poor region of north-western Spain, squab meat was an important supplement to grain crops from at least Roman times. Caelius Aurelianus, an Ancient Roman physician, regarded the meat as a cure for headaches, but by the 16th century, squab was believed to cause headaches.
From the Middle Ages, a dovecote (French pigeonnier) was a common outbuilding on an estate that aimed to be self-sufficient. The dovecote was considered a "living pantry", a source of meat for unexpected guests, and was important as a supplementary source of income from the sale of surplus birds. Dovecotes were introduced to South America and Africa by Mediterranean colonists. In medieval England, squab meat was highly valued, although its availability depended on the season—in one dovecote in the 1320s, nearly half the squab yield was produced in the summer, none in the winter.
In England, pigeon meat was eaten when other food was rationed during the Second World War and remains associated with wartime shortages and poverty. This was parodied in an episode of the sitcom Dad's Army, "Getting the Bird". Nevertheless, many people continue to eat it, especially the older generation.
Whether you call them a Columbarium, a doocot, a dovecote, borj kabootar khaneh, coop, or pigeonnier, these were and in some cases are, places to house pigeons. And some are nothing short of amazing. Just look...
|A Kaftar khooneh (lit. pigeon house) in Isfahan, Iran|
|A traditional Arabian pigeon house, or dovecote, at the Katara traditional village in West Bay, Doha, Qatar, Arabia|
|An old Dovecote in Doorn, Netherlands|
|Dovecote interior Château de Villesavin, France|
|Columbarium in a 3rd-century Roman mausoleum in Mazor (Israel)|
|Doocot at Auchmacoy, Crawhead, Aberdeenshire, built 1638.|
|Doocot c. 1730 in the grounds of a private house, Edinburgh, Scotland|
|Dovecote Tower on a hill between Rivington and Belmont, UK|
|Dovecote at Nymans Gardens, West Sussex, England May 2006|
|Hexagonal pigeonnier with a pointed roof at Uncle Sam Plantation near Convent, Louisiana|
|Iran,Yazd,Meybod,borj kabootar khaneh( inside pigeon tower ) pigeons set their nest in holes|
|Nesting holes on inside walls of an old dovecote, Palazuelo de Vedija (Tierra de Campos), Spain|
|Newark_Castle_doocot_Interior of doocot Newark Castle, Port Glasgow, Scotland, looking up past the pigeonholes to round opening in the roof|
|Contemporary pigeon-housing at a squab farming facility in the US|
|Pigeon house in Neduntheevu, used by the Portuguese, Dutch or British during their rule in Sri Lanka|
|Pigeon tower in Kavastu, Estonia (built 1869)|
|A small dovecote is directly over the altar of Elkstone church. Gloucestershire A small spiral stair directly behind the pulpit leads here.|
Here's a very fine little video about the largest pigeon farm in the world, which was located in Los Angeles California: