The dove-cotes are found in some of the other Cycladic islands, but the most impressive ones are located on the island of Tinos. The local people breed pigeons mainly for their tasty meat and their dropping, which constitutes a first quality fertilizer.
The dovecotes are built in the countryside at well-chosen locations near cultivated areas and water, on the slopes of mountains and ravine. They are a strikingly beautiful ornament of the Tinian landscape. They are massive, stone-built edifices, the lower floors of which are used as storerooms for agricultural and live-stock products and tools while the upper floors are for pigeons.
The dove-cote builders used the local material, slate, with great skill in order to form unusual decorations on one or more facades of the building (rhomboids, triangles, suns and cypress trees. These ornaments form an astounding and harmonic picture.
They are truly “built embroideries”. Each one individually and all of them as a whole, constitute architectural monuments and are expressions of popular artistic creation, unique in the world. Only when architecture springs from the same emotional urge as decoration, do such results occur.
Though pigeons have been present on the island for many centuries, it appears that the Venetians introduced their systematic breeding.
The precise number of dovecotes is not known, but it certainly exceeds 600. The majority of them are in the central and eastern sections of the island especially in the Tarabados valley. Most of the “surviving” dove-cotes are dated back in the 18th and 19th centuries.