The Pouter has long be regarded by pigeon fanciers in high esteem, they are generally very friendly towards their owners. Charles Darwin's first two pairs of pigeons included a pair of Pouters bought from a London poultry dealer named Bailey for 20 shillings a pair in early May 1855.
Pouters take great delight in puffing up their chest by inflating their crops as all pigeons do but in the case of the Pouter to a remarkable extreme, both sexes have this ability although the cocks far more than the hens. This can be achieved by talking to the birds and blowing into their face, the birds inturn enjoy the attention, get excited and 'play' but today fanciers say 'blow'. Once inflated "they glory in excercising this power and strut about with pride".
There are many breeds of Pouter such as the Norwich Cropper and Pygmy Pouter. Darwin was gifted a pair of small pale brown isobel German Pouters from a well known pouter breeder at the time Mr Mathew Wicken. However Darwin concentrated on the English Pouter, a tall breed with grouse feathered legs and slippered toes, this breed was developed from the old Dutch Cropper circa 1750's.
When Darwin was researching building a pigeon loft, March 1855, whilst reading E S Dixon's 'Pigeons and Rabbits' he placed a cross against the passage, " allowing 18 inches between shelves so that the pouters may not under the necessity of stooping for want of height for in that they would play low which spoils their carraige."
Darwin used both cock and hen Pouters in his crossbreeding experiments during 1856, crossing Pouter cock to Fantail hen and Fantail cock to Pouter hen.
During Darwin's skeletal examination of the English Pouter he discovered that the ribs were broader and the vertabrae more numerous than in other breeds. This was due to Fanciers selecting for traits they admired such as the long back. The beak was actually shorter in comparison to the overall length of the bird.
Years later, in her autobigoraphy, Darwin's daughter Henerietta said ''the Pouter was good natured but not clever''.