The Variation of Animals and Plants HTML version
Chapter VII: Fowls
BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE CHIEF BREEDS — ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF THEIR
DESCENT FROM SEVERAL SPECIES — ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF ALL THE BREEDS
HAVING DESCENDED FROM GALLUS BANKIVA — REVERSION TO THE PARENT-STOCK IN
COLOUR — ANALOGOUS VARIATIONS — ANCIENT HISTORY OF THE FOWL — EXTERNAL
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SEVERAL BREEDS — EGGS — CHICKENS — SECONDARY
SEXUAL CHARACTERS — WING-AND TAIL-FEATHERS, VOICE, DISPOSITION, ETC —
OSTEOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES IN THE SKULL, VERTEBRÆ, ETC — EFFECTS OF USE AND
DISUSE ON CERTAIN PARTS — CORRELATION OF GROWTH.
As some naturalists may not be familiar with the chief breeds of the fowl, it will be
advisable to give a condensed description of them. From what I have read and seen of
specimens brought from several quarters of the world, I believe that most of the chief
kinds have been imported into England, but many sub-breeds are probably still unknown
here. The following discussion on the origin of the various breeds and on their
characteristic differences does not pretend to completeness, but may be of some interest
to the naturalist. The classification of the breeds cannot, as far as I can see, be made
natural. They differ from each other in different degrees, and do not afford characters in
subordination to each other, by which they can be ranked in group under group. They
seem all to have diverged by independent and different roads from a single type. Each
chief breed includes differently coloured sub-varieties, most of which can be truly
propagated, but it would be superfluous to describe them. I have classed the various
crested fowls as sub-breeds under the Polish fowl; but I have great doubts whether this is
a natural arrangement, showing true affinity or blood relationship. It is scarcely possible
to avoid laying stress on the commonness of a breed; and if certain foreign sub-breeds
had been largely kept in this country they would perhaps have been raised to the rank of
main-breeds. Several breeds are abnormal in character; that is, they differ in certain
points from all wild Gallinaceous birds. At first I made a division of the breeds into
normal and abnormal, but the result was wholly unsatisfactory.
1. GAME BREED.—This may be considered as the typical breed, as it deviates only slightly from the wild
Gallus bankiva, or, as perhaps more correctly named, ferrugineus. Beak strong; comb single and upright.
Spurs long and sharp. Feathers closely appressed to the body. Tail with the normal number of 14 feathers.
Eggs often pale buff. Disposition indomitably courageous, exhibited even in the hens and chickens. An
unusual number of differently coloured varieties exist, such as black and brown-breasted reds, duckwings,
blacks, whites, piles, etc., with their legs of various colours.
2. MALAY BREED.—Body of great size, with head, neck, and legs elongated; carriage erect; tail small,
sloping downwards, generally formed of 16 feathers; comb and wattle small; ear-lobe and face red; skin
yellowish; feathers closely appressed to the body; neck-hackles short, narrow, and hard. Eggs often pale
buff. Chickens feather late. Disposition savage. Of Eastern origin.
3. COCHIN, OR SHANGAI BREED.—Size great; wing feathers short, arched, much hidden in the soft
downy plumage; barely capable of flight; tail short, generally formed of 16 feathers, developed at a late
period in the young males; legs thick, feathered; spurs short, thick; nail of middle toe flat and broad; an