Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dorkings in Rome

Dorkings are clearly the breed depicted in Roman mosaics. Five-toed chickens with Dorking plumage are described by Pliny and Columella, Roman writers of the first ce ntury AD. This depiction of Mercury with a Dorking rooster dates to the third century AD. It was unearthed at Carnuntum, which served as the Roman capital of the Pannonian Province on the Danube, in today’s Austria. It is reproduced from Frederick E. Zeuner’s A History of Domesticated Animals. He credits it to Niederosterreichisches Landesmuseum, Vienna.

Other historians set the date of their arrival in England later, to 1066 with the Norman conquest. They take their name from the English market town in Surrey. A breed with such a long history is inevitably of historical interest and discussion. This breed exerts a powerful attraction.

I'm grateful to librarian Karen Dunn of the Steenbock Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, for helping me locate this book and remarkable ilustration. We both wished we could see this in color. Perhaps one day we will travel to the museum in Austria and I shall take my own picture!

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