Saturday, January 24, 2009

Asiatics -- Langshans

Langshans differ from the other breeds in the Asiatic class in being more noticeably dual purpose. Cochins and Brahmas, although they can be good layers, are thought of as meat breeds because of their large size. This drawing is by Franklane Sewell, published in the Reliable Poultry Journal’s book on The Asiatics (1902).

Historically, their introduction to the U.S. is ascribed to E.A. Samuels, an ornithologist, of Waltham, Massachusetts in 1876. That was four years after Major Croad of Sussex, England introduced them to his home in 1872. Croad Langshans are still specified in the English Standard of Perfection. I.K. Felch, who describes them in The Asiatics, wrote the original Langshan standard and worked to get the breed recognized, in 1883. The breed was controversial at the time.

“…its path was a thorny one for any breed – no breed probably ever had such opposition and probably none ever had a greater triumph in its acceptance. A petition of nearly a thousand names accomplished its admission,” he writes.

Langshans are named for their origin in the five Langshan Hills above Shanghai. The pinnacle hill, Langshan (Wolf in Mandarin) Hill is still a nationally prestigious site, known for the Guangjiao Temple, a Buddhist shrine established in the Tang Dynasty, and the view overlooking the Yangtse River from its southern bank.

They are large birds, at 9 ½ lbs. for a mature cock and 7 ½ lbs. for a mature hen, if not quite so massive as the Cochins and Brahmas. Their white skin is less familiar to American consumers than yellow skin, although it is preferred in Britain. They lay dark brown eggs.

Mr. Felch is particular about the green iridescence of the neck, saddle, tail covert and sickle feathers. The rest of the feathers should be black, without the green sheen, but not rusty.

Legs and feet should be feathered well enough that the outer toe is not visible, but not so much that the bird looks like a Cochin. “This (looking like a Cochin) disgusts every first-class breeder of Langshans,” he wrote.

Langshans have longer necks than the other Asiatic breeds, making them taller, balancing a flowing tail carried high. The present APA Standard describes tail feathers reaching 17 inches long. Today, wings are described as medium size, but Felch says that at that time they had wings large enough to allow them to fly. Any Langshan breeders who can comment on this?

White Langshans developed from natural sports in Black Langshan breeding operations. Rees F. Matson, in The Asiatics, recounts his experience of setting 14 eggs from his best Black Langshans and hatching twelve white chicks! They became the foundation of his flock. White birds may also have been imported. In those early days, the excitement over them was so great that Dorking/Leghorn/Cochin crosses were fraudulently sold as White Langshans. The variety was recognized in the Standard in 1893. At that time, their eggs varied from brown to pink.

A modern Blue variety was recognized in 1987.

Another wonderful breed well worth efforts to continue to keep the breed vibrant and vigorous.

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