The discussion of Dino-Chicken brought up what’s called the carriage or stance of various breeds, in particular the ones that stand up quite straight and tall. That erect carriage is typical of the large group of breeds known as Games. Oriental Game breeds such as Shamos, Asils and Malays are ancient breeds with this distinctive posture. Modern Games, developed entirely for exhibition, also stand tall.
Game breeds are still fighting birds in Asia and Latin America, but Games are raised worldwide. Regional conditions and preferences have influenced breed development, such as Brazilians, Madagascar Games, and Sumatras. The breeds’ influence goes far beyond the cockfighting pit, though. Game breeds have long histories not only for their value as sporting birds, but for the many other qualities that accompany their strong nature. Their heavily-muscled bodies were valued to increase size in less pugnacious domestic breeds.
The Malay is an old Oriental Game breed, with origins in the misty past of Indonesia. Their distinctive posture identifies them in artwork dating back to the 16th century in Germany. Their heads are broad and strong, with protruding eyebrows and a broad, rounded beak give them an intimidating appearance. These photos, of the wheaten color variety Malays, are of birds belonging to W. Lakenmeyer of Germany and reproduced in Horst Schmudde’s book, Oriental Gamefowl: A Guide for the Sportsman, Poultryman and Exhibitor of Rare Poultry Species and Gamefowl of the World, available from AuthorHouse, http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=34292. Due to these birds’ large size, as much as 32 inches tall and weighing up to 14 lbs., the breed’s wings are insufficient to get the bird into the air to take flight. You hardly have to squint your eyes to see this flock as dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
The Asil is an ancient Indian breed. The name may come from a Hindustani word for ‘highborn,’ which may refer either to its valuable bloodline or the fact that they were associated with royalty; or it may be traced to an Arabic word meaning ‘pure’ or ‘thoroughbred.’ Either way, the association is similar. Poultry historians differ on the relationship between Asils and Malays, which breed was the ancestor of the other. That they are closely related is not in dispute. The Asil is considered the ancestor of the Cornish, a variety of which is virtually the only kind of chicken sold in grocery stores today. In the 19th century, the breed now known as Cornish was called the Indian Game. Three size categories are raised, with the largest growing as tall as 29 inches and weigh over 15 lbs. This photo shows a Spangled color variety Rajah Asil, one of the small category, less than 19 inches tall, bred by Mr. Schmudde. His trio of red Asils are the Ghan color variety.
Shamos originated in Thailand from Malay breeding, imported to Japan in the 17th century. Today Japan considers them a national breed, and they have been protected by law since 1941. ‘Shamo’ is generally translated from Japanese into English as ‘fighter.’ Adults are 23 to 31 inches tall, with a drooping back line and tail. They are divided into four size categories, ranging from 2 lbs. to over 12 lbs. This pair of Black red Shamos belongs to Sakaguchi of Japan. The Black Shamo rooster was bred by Dirk Henken of Germany.
The characteristics of these breeds suggest that relations to dinosaurs may not be far. They are not well known outside the poultry world, but their strength, intelligence and size are traits well worth preserving.
Their aggressive personalities require some careful handling. Roosters may need to be separated from each other and the hens, to avoid carnage. However, they are unquestionably smart and can make excellent companion birds. When raised with humans, they are friendly and playful. We had one hen who was among the sweetest birds we ever owned. We called her Angel.
All these photos are from Mr. Schmudde’s excellent book. He has performed a valued service to the poultry community by collecting the information on Oriental Game breeds and compiling it in a single volume. If you are interested in historic poultry, you must include his book in your collection.