The Vietnamese people during the 19th century (formerly known by French Colonials and early ethnographers as the Annamese people) had semi-domesticated crows. They kept crows within human company because of their extraordinary intelligence and ability to communicate. In 1881, A. Landes notes “Crows (corone macrorhyncha) may also be trained to speak, and since they are more intelligent than the other talking birds, they are much more highly valued.” Landes goes on to note that the Vietnamese used crows as household monitoring guards, saying “It is claimed that a crow can guard the house of his absent master.”
Furthermore, Landes’ data suggests that the Vietnamese believed crows could recognize individual people. Writing on this unique cognitive ability, Landes notes “A story has been told of one of these birds that revealed a wife’s infidelities to her husband, as he came back from a journey, whereupon the husband killed her” (Landes 1881, 10). A crow transmitting specific information about an infidelity may sound far-fetched, but the ethnographic information is telling nonetheless. Stories like this indicate that, during French colonial rule, people in Vietnamese society regarded crows as intelligent creatures with specific understandings of social relationships. The ethnographic data also suggests that Vietnamese people were aware of the crow’s cognitive ability to identify individual faces.