The Orloff, well-adapted to cold weather, has minimal wattles and a small raspberry comb, that is fitted low and close to the head, as shown on this rooster belonging to Michelle Conrad. Harsh winters will not freeze combs or wattles. They tolerate the cold very well. Although they were developed as a meat breed, the hens are good layers of light brown eggs even through dark winter days, around 160 eggs annually, and weigh 6.5 pounds. They are known to lay through cold weather. Roosters weigh 8.5 pounds.
The breed is characterized by its upright stance, legs that are well placed far apart, and deep-set eyes. The resulting overall appearance has led some to describe them as “vindictive,” “rebellious” and “cruel-looking.” Despite appearances, the Orloff has a wonderful genteel temperament. They are calm yet alert.
Their advocates find them possessed of an austere beauty. The Orloff should have a full beard and muffs. In the Spangled variety, such as Michelle Conrad’s hen, left, the hens and roosters will be a mix of golden, black and white. No two are alike, a good trait for those who would be bored by uniformity. They blend well into natural settings, making predation less of a problem. The Orloff varieties are: Spangled, Black, Mahogany, White, Cuckoo, Black Breasted Red, Buff and Crele. They are all rare.
Historically, Orloffs were assumed to have originated in Russia, but recent research suggests they originated in the Gilan Province of Persia (Iran), where it was called Chilianskaia. Russian Count Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov, whit the honorific title Techemensky, promoted the breed across Europe in the 19th century. It arrived in Britain in the 1920's. Malays, Belgian games and a bearded European Spangled breed probably contributed to its heritage.
The Orloff is so rare, the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection dropped it. So few birds were exhibited at shows that the breed is no longer recognized for showing. Charlie Casper in New York discovered that he was breeding incorrect plumage colors to his birds when he brought them to a show and had Craig Russell evaluate them. He acquired a rooster at the show and is improving his flock accordingly. In 2004 the members of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities reported only 74. Efforts from SPPA members increased its numbers in 2006 to a reported 221.
Please contact me if you are interested in this breed. Additional breeding flocks are needed.