1735: Treat snakebite by attaching a pigeon’s anus

John Moore was an English apothecary and pigeon fancier of the early 18th century. In 1735, two years before his death, Moore self-published a book titled Columbarium, or the Pigeon-House, probably the first English book focused entirely on pigeons. Columbarium became something of a rarity, with only six copies believed to exist at one point – though numerous forgeries and reprints later appeared.

Moore’s book became the ‘go to’ resource for pigeon fanciers; it contained information and advice on all aspects of pigeons. Moore described different breeds and colourations, including carrier pigeons, roller pigeons, the ‘Horseman’, the ‘Dutch Cropper’ and the ‘English Powter’. He offered tips on feeding, breeding, rearing and veterinary care.

Moore even listed the medicinal virtues of pigeon parts and by-products. Pigeon dung, for example, is “worth ten loads of other dung” when used for fertilising, tanning or in plasters and poultices. Young pigeon, when roasted, is not only delicious, it “provokes urine” and “expels the gross matters” that stick in the bladder and urethra. Pigeon feathers, burnt and mixed with other ingredients, stops bleeding. Warm pigeon blood can be dropped into the eyes to alleviate pain and blurred vision. Migraines or headaches are eased by applying a live pigeon to the soles of the feet.

In a similar vein, Moore suggested an usual treatment for snakebite:

“The anus of a live pigeon, applied to the biting of a serpent, viper or rattlesnake, draws away the poison and cures the sick, [who will be] renewed as the pigeon dies.”

Source: John Moore, Columbarium, or the Pigeon-House, London, 1735. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.