To shore up his understanding of variation under artificial selection–the kind of selection that had produced pets and domestic farm animals–Darwin started to learn all he could about pigeons. Breeding pigeons was a pastime that few aristocrats threw themselves into, but Darwin eagerly built a shed in the yard behind Down House. He started making trips into London to speak to the professionals, downing beers with them while they boasted about how they could see differences of 1/16th of an inch between two pigeon's beaks. Darwin studied not only living, breeding pigeons, but also dead ones; for a while, his workshop became a shop of horrors as he killed and 'skeletonized' pigeons of all varieties and ages, not to mention the occasional rabbit or chicken, studying the sometimes striking differences in structure between different varieties. Meanwhile, Darwin was testing out his theory of evolution on friends like Hooker and
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