Chickens wearing feathery scarves around their necks stand tall in their yard. A small comb sits on top of the head, above feathery eyebrows. Their ear lobes and wattles are completely covered by feathers. They look fierce, but aren’t alarmed by a visitor. They are Russian Orloffs.
Their walnut combs, which may have a few hair-like feathers springing from them, don’t freeze in cold weather. Their wattles and ear lobes are small and wouldn’t be affected, even if they weren’t insulated under those feathers. As befits a bird adapted to the Russian climate, these birds are hardy. Their expression is often described as “gloomy” and “vindictive.”
They originated in northern Iran’s Gilan province. They share that Asian game appearance, with their long, strong Malay legs of the local chickens of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Iran, the breed was called the Chilianskaia. In the late 19th century, Russian nobleman Count Orloff Techesmensky brought some to Moscow, where they became known by his name. In the 1920s, another Prince Orloff, living in exile from the Revolution in England, acquired some Orloff chickens and won some poultry show prizes with them, keeping up the family name and tradition.
They were included in the APA Standard from 1876 through 1888, but were dropped from later Standards. Bantams are still included in the ABA Standard, but they are not often seen.