Friday, February 13, 2009

Oriental Gamefowl

Horst Schmudde has raised Oriental Gamefowl of all types for many years. He was the perfect person to write about them.

Oriental Gamefowl originated as fighting birds. In many parts of Asia, they still are. In Thailand, fighting cocks can travel on their own passports. In the U.S. fighting birds is against the law, to various extents in different states. A large cockfighting ring was busted here on the Central Coast in January,, taking 1,216 roosters and additional birds totally more than 2,000 A large amount of methamphetamine was found at the home of one of the five men arrested,

The fighting breeds, despite that reputation, are beautiful and hardy birds. Some are difficult to keep because of their aggessive nature. Horst's book, Oriental Gamefowl: A Guide for the Sportsman, Poultryman and Exhibitor of Rare Poultry Species and Gamefowl of the World, is unique in compiling current information about them.

His range is the entire world. He surveys birds in America, Europe, Australia, Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Saipan, India, Japan), Russia and South America. He includes pictures of all these breeds and varieties, making the book a treasure. Those pictures tell the story in the clearest possible way. How else could these birds, so unusual to the domestic poultrykeeper's eye, be described?

These breeds are subject to vilification, much as pit bull dogs are, but those who are unfamiliar with them. I make no excuse for cock fighting. To me, civilized people do not take enjoyment from animals or birds killing each other. As in this recent bust, drugs and gambling are always involved. Sadly, the birds confiscated in the bust will probably be killed. For the birds, it doesn't make much difference whether they are owned by the cock fighters or law enforcement.

The birds themselves, however, are distinguished and honorable. They carry long histories and are part of the cultures from which they emerged. As Horst writes in his Preface, "Today after decades of environmental and political changes, countries changed names, ex. Siam became Thailand, Ceylon is now Sri Lanka, Persia became Iran, it is fascinating that most of those gamefowl breeds that existed centuries ago in those regions of the world still do exist and their popularity is flourishing worldwide."

This beautiful Cubalaya is of the national breed of Cuba. Originally brought to the island by Spanish explorers who had acquired them in the Philippines, the Cubalaya was developed more for exhibition than for fighting. Breeders retained its excellent dual purpose qualities, for both fine meat and plenty of eggs. Its flowing tail is reminiscent of Sumatras.

They make good pets and are naturally tame, according to another long-time breeder Horst quotes, Claus Twisselmann. "It is not uncommon to see your breeding rooster jump on your lap and look you straight int he eye and/or one of his hens on the other leg just wanting to get petted," Twisselmann wrote in the SPPA Bulletin in 2001.

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