Dorking, Houdan and Faverolles
by Edward Brown
Races of Domestic Poultry - 1906
by Edward Brown - 1906
Dorking is used in all countries.
Dark or Coloured, Red, Silver-grey, White, Cuckoo.
of flesh: White.
of legs: White.
Colour of egg-shells: White.
been suggested that the Dorking fowl originated in Italy, and that its
introduction was a result of the Roman occupation of Britain. The basis upon
which this theory is built is very slight indeed, and circumstantial rather
than direct, as the earlier references to this race do not carry us back
further than the seventeenth century. In a work
published in 1854, by Mr. G. Ferguson, he states that ‘from 1683
to the present time we have ample proofs that the principal fowls of this
description have been bred at Dorking or its environments, and that they have
had for a considerable period, and do still retain, the credit of supplying
the market with the finest specimens both for appearance and the table.’
What authority the writer had for tracing back the Dorking to
1683 is not stated, and consequently we are unable to form any judgment as to
its reliability. That, however, does not carry us to the Roman period, and it
may be briefly stated that Columella, a Roman writer who lived about the
beginning of the Christian era, described a breed which was evidently in many
respects similar to the present-day Dorking. He stated that those hens are
reckoned of the purest breed which are five-clawed, but so placed that no
cross spurs arise from the legs.’ He further says: ‘Let them be of a
reddish or dark plumage, and with black wings... Let the breeding hens,
therefore, be of a choice colour, a robust body, square build, full-breasted,
with large heads, with upright and bright red combs...Those are believed to be
the best bred that have five toes.’
evidence is given as to the fifth toe especially, for Pliny, whose ‘Historia
Naturalis’ was published A.D.
77, says: ‘Superiority of breed in liens is indicated by an upright comb,
sometimes double, black wings, ruddy visage, and an odd number of toes.’ The
evidence here given is by no means sufficient, and we are compelled to assume
a great deal; but in Ferguson’s work, already referred to, he states that
from the southern parts of Italy friends had procured three specimens which
were facsimiles of our Dorking fowls, with the exception of the size, which
was smaller. During a visit to Italy in 1903 we found birds bearing some
resemblance to the Dorking, although these may have been the descendants of
fowls taken from Britain to the Peninsula. From the ancient references quoted
it may be taken for certain that a breed of the Dorking type was known in
Italy at the period of the above-named writers, and, judging the habits of the
Romans from our own, it is not unreasonable to assume that when they held
Britain they introduced into this country animals from their own land. Be that
as it may, it is very evident that fowls of the Dorking type have been known
in Britain for a very long period of time, far beyond any direct record that
we possess. It is unnecessary to give excerpts from English writers, because
many of these quotations would hardly help us. It was not until the nineteenth
century that we have any definite information as to the fowl under its present
name. We find from a work published in the early part of the eighteenth
century by the great Frenchman, De Réaumur (the English edition being issued
in 1750) — but which does not deal much with breeds — the following
: ‘The hens of one of these species I mean have five toes, viz.,
three fore and two hinder ones; the second of these two hinder claws, which is
the supernumerary, is much larger than the other; it seems not, however, to be
the most useful to the foot, as it keeps frequently off the ground. As for the
rest, this kind of hen is one of the largest, and deserves, on account of
their considerable bulk, that we should endeavour to multiply them.’
— The first definite description of the Dorking, or Darking, as it was then
called, with details enabling us to recognise it, is found in Moubray’s ‘Practical
Treatise,’ which was first published in 1815.
Darking Fowl, so called from a town in Surrey, where probably the variety was
first bred, and where, and in its vicinity, they are to be found in great
plenty and perfection, is, in the third degree, the largest of our fowls, well
shaped, having a long, capacious body and short legs, and is a plentiful layer.
The genuine colour entire white; chief distinctive mark, five claws upon each
foot. The white is probably not so pure as that of certain of the dunghill
fowls, nor is the colour of the flesh, that inclining to yellow or ivory shade.
The Darking are the species generally made into capons. In a large
agricultural survey of the county of Sussex an attempt is made to deprive
Darking of the honour of originating this famous variety of fowls, with what
degree of success it would be a waste of time to inquire; it is sufficient we
possess such a variety, and know where it is in perfection. The surveyor
pretends that the Darking fowls are all raised in the Weald of Sussex, and
that Horsham is the chief market for them; that their having five claws is by
no means their true and original characteristic, such peculiarity being merely
fortuitous, and, in fact, objectionable; and that those so marked are deemed a
bastard breed. No doubt it is probable that having five claws accidentally
brought into notice certain fine and well-formed individuals; but from those
proceeded a distinguished variety, and that variety bearing the name of
Darking, seems a sufficient proof in favour of that town and its neighbourhood.
In the meantime, the appellation “Darking fowl” has been in use, I
apprehend, far beyond the memory of anyone now living; and it is not at all
improbable the large Sussex breed has originated from a Darking cross, the
peculiar mark of five claws employed, compared with that of the Sussex or
common cocks, which were not so distinguished. Such is a common case in
crossing varieties of livestock, the home variety in the end gets uppermost,
as being the majority. In fine, five claws form an original distinction in the
common cock and hen, adverted to by Buffon; nor is there anything inconvenient
or injurious in it, the fifth claw being seldom of sufficient magnitude to
cumber the foot, or cause it to scratch out the eggs, as has been apprehended.’
Moubray here says as to the name being a sufficient proof of the breed having
been originated around Dorking cannot be accepted, but at any rate it is proof
that it had been greatly developed in that district, and there can be no
question that at one time the finest Dorking fowls, as we have since come to
call them, were bred largely in the Weald of Sussex. There is, however, other
evidence to show that fowls of this type were not confined to the South of
England, for it is stated that in Cumberland birds having five toes, and with
a square body, were bred there, being known as the Jew breed, and in other
places as the Silver Pheasant breed, whilst in Scotland they were called the
old Scotch breed. As one writer in the Gardener’s
Chronicle in 1848 stated: ‘This Jew kind is said to be very ancient in
Cumberland; and it is still very usual for the Lancashire men to carry oft any
fine birds of this race which they see among the mountain cottages. However,
it would be a vain attempt to trace the origin of a breed which was accurately
described 2,000 years ago by a Roman writer; and, as Roman stations abound in
Cumberland, it is quite possible that a poultry-fancying praetor, 1,500 years
since, might send or carry in the same year the first couple of Dorking fowls
to the banks of the Thames, and to the old camp at Ambleside, or Castle Hill
— Pre-eminently the Dorking
is valued for its meat properties. Whilst there is a considerable difference
in the laying powers of the varieties, and in families of those varieties, at
the same time we do not regard the Dorking as a first-class layer. It produces
large-sized, white-shelled eggs, and is an early layer, which is always a
distinct advantage in the production of table poultry, because the chickens
can be hatched out early in the year. It would be a mistake, however, to
unduly increase the laying qualities of the breed, because this would be at
the expense of the table properties, and the Dorking, by its fineness of flesh,
its delicacy of skin, the whiteness of the flesh and legs, and the abundance
of meat carried upon the body, must be regarded as one of the best table fowls
that it is possible to obtain. Birds of this breed, however, do not fatten
quite as well as when crossed with some other varieties, and we are inclined
to think that, so far as the fattening is concerned several breeds which owe
their origin to some extent to the influence of the Dorking look better when
finished off, though this does not apply so much in the case of the younger
specimens as in that of the older birds. It is a fact undoubtedly, as can be
proved by observation at the Smithfield and other table-poultry shows, that
the Dorking seldom looks as smooth and even as some of the cross-breds, and a
few other pure breeds. One great point to keep in view, and it has not been as
much regarded as might have been expected, is fineness of bone. In order to
obtain huge size for exhibition purposes, there has been a tendency to
coarseness of bone, probably due to some extent to extraneous influence. This
is a point which should be carefully avoided. Whilst there must be a
substantial frame, at the same time we do not desire any coarseness in the
bone. The one great disadvantage which the Dorking has when bred pure is that
it is found unsuitable for heavy or clay lands, for under these conditions it
does not thrive well, as it appears to be unable to withstand such influences.
It is important to know this, because we always advise those living upon clay
lands not to go in for the production of first-class table poultry, but rather
to select the yellow-legged varieties, and make egg production the primary
— It would require much more space than can be
afforded to discuss all the different influences that have been at work in
making the Dorking such as we know it today; but from the evidence which is
obtainable we may accept the statement that the Dorking, as bred 100 years ago
and previous to that time, was to a large extent white in plumage, although
there were many other colours. In an edition of Moubray’s ‘Treatise’
published in 1854, the white is there acknowledged as the pure Dorking, and
the writer goes on to say
that ‘this, the genuine Dorking breed, owing to the innumerable
crosses to which they have been subjected, is now becoming exceedingly scarce,
and can scarcely be met with beyond a very circumscribed district in Surrey.’
It is interesting, in connection with the discussion as to the colour of the
pure Dorking, that Columella said, speaking of the fowl already referred to,
‘Let the white ones be avoided, for they are generally both tender and less
vivacious, and are also not found to be prolific.’ There is further evidence
also that a good many of the fowls of this type which have been found in South
Italy during the last hundred years have been chiefly white in plumage. The
question, however, is one which is fill of difficulties, and we can leave it
as here stated.
work gives the following subvarieties of the improved Dorking
Grays: speckled, spangled.
speckled or pied, pencilled.
Black breasted: silver, golden, Japan.
Ferguson’s work the Dorkings are divided into the following subvarieties:
white, coloured, grey, mottled grey, spangled or speckled, brown, rubles,
cuckoos, virgils, bride-laced, Japans, Norfolk-fords, grey-fords, and muffs.
As to some of these we have no present knowledge, and as descriptions are not
given in the works referred to, it is impossible to say what they were like,
more especially as the writer suggests that they were either cross-breds, or
that the names were merely local distinctions.
present purpose is to describe the Dorking as we know it today. Many people
are apt to exalt whatever belongs to the past, and to depreciate the present.
Whilst, therefore, we may accept the statement that there were some good
Dorkings fifty years ago, at the same time it must be conceded that there was
a great uncertainty in type and in character. That there were first-rate birds
is evident from an interesting letter which appeared in the Live
Stock Journal, nearly thirty years ago, from Mr .A.B. Allen, of New York,
who said: ‘I first visited England in 1841, and in looking over the poultry
there, this bird (the Dorking) struck me as being the shorthorn of barn-door
fowls — that is, the best for general purposes — and I resolved to take
some of them back to America with me. I accordingly selected two cocks and
half a dozen pullets, and got them safely to my farm in the State of New York.
They were of brilliant variegated plumage, chiefly brown-spangled and
partridge colours of the darker shades, and the cocks black-breasted. They had
shortish white legs, five toes, and both single and double combs: the bodies
were pheasant-shaped, long, round, and full, with a deep breast, like a
shorthorn ox; the head was fine, well-set on to a small, clean, graceful neck;
they were thickly feathered, hardy and thrifty, excellent layers, steady
sitters, and careful nurses. Well fatted, the hens weighed 6 to 7 pounds each,
the cocks nine to ten pounds; when caponized they came up to 12 pounds. They
were the best table fowls I ever ate. They had white skins and flesh, with
little offal. So far as I have been able to ascertain, I was the first
importer of the Dorking fowl into America. Subsequently many other
importations followed. Some of these were of larger size than mine, but
possessed the same characteristics. They varied in plumage from light or
silver to dark grey, partridge colours to brown-spangled and almost black.
Pure White Dorkings were also imported; but instead of being small, like
bantams, as suggested by a correspondent, they were nearly as large as the
coloured, but not quite so hardy.’
breeding has undoubtedly led to greater fixity of colour, and, as we see below,
the number of varieties is considerably reduced. This, however, is generally
the case when attention is fixed more especially upon certain types, and no
attempt is made to take advantage of variations in the formation of new
varieties. The main points in the Dorking are that the head shall be large; the neck thick, rather short, and with full hackle;
the breast full and prominent, with long, perfectly straight breast-bone;
the body large, square, and deep; the back broad and rather long, flat on the
shoulders, narrowing slightly towards the stern; wings large and well carried
up; tail large and flowing in the cock, carried moderately up, and with long,
broad, and well-arched sickle feathers the thighs thick and stout, but covered
by the plumage; the legs short and strong, but fine in bone, and the feet
large and broad, with five toes. In all the breeds of Dorkings, without
exception, the legs and feet are pure white in colour, as also are the
toe-nails; the beak is horn colour. Weight: males, 9 to 12 pounds; females, 7
to 10 pounds.
very difficult indeed to trace the evolution of the varieties of the Dorking,
which have been reduced rather than increased in number. We have seen that in
the early fifties of last century eight at least were named, but some of these
are no longer to be found, and were probably then merely slight variations of
three or four leading types. It will have been noticed that the Whites were
not included, which is surprising, as they were known long before that time.
Much controversy has arisen as to Coloured Dorkings. The editor of the 1854
edition of Moubray’s ‘Poultry Book’ stated that the Black-breasted
Dorkings were produced by crossing with Spanish, which statement is supported
by the testimony that about the period named Dorkings of this variety were
decidedly flatter in front than we are now accustomed to see. It would appear
that the variety, as we know it to-day, was really produced by Mr. J. Douglas,
then manager of the poultry-yard at Clumber, and no secret was made of the
fact that a cross had been employed. Mr. Douglas selected hens of a grey and
brown Dorking type; these he mated with a male imported from India, and in the
last edition of Wright’s ‘Book of Poultry’ he gave the following
particulars with regard to that bird
bird was a model single-combed Dorking in all but the fifth toe, which was
absent; and it is quite wrong to say that he was of the Malayan type, for
there was not the least type of Malay about him; he had white legs and all the
characters of the Dorking, except, as before stated, the fifth toe. I firmly
believe that he must have been a cross from a bird of the Dorking tribe —
taken out to India — with what cross I could not say, but certainly not the
can be no question that for many years the Dark Dorking was distinctly a
coarser bird than we know it today, but the advantage of the out-crossing was
considerable, and its evil influences have to a large extent been obliterated
by breeding. The Dark Dorking is the largest of the race. Taking the general
type already mentioned as the basis, the variations are that there is a good
deal of black upon a greyish-white or steely-blue background. It has a single
comb, with red earlobe, though often this is slightly tinged with white, and
it has a black breast. The appearance is very striking when viewed sideways,
by reason of its square shape. The Coloured Dorking is the heaviest in bone of
all the different varieties, and special care requires to be taken in that
direction. In flesh qualities the Dark Dorking does not compare favourably
with the silver-grey, as it does not fatten so well, nor is the breast so
thickly covered with muscle as might be expected. An attempt has been made to
introduce a Dark Dorking with rose comb, but it has not met with popular
Red — A variety
which would appear to have been commonly seen in Kent and Sussex, but which is
now seldom met with, is the Red, although it has been kept by a few breeders
for at least sixty years. One of these breeders, Mr. Harry Hamlin, of
Edenbridge, read a paper at Edenbridge, July 29, 1899, in which he said:
own recollection of these beautiful fowls dates back some thirty years ago,
when my father, the late Mr. Henry Hamlin, of St. Piers’ Farm, Lingfield,
Surrey, finding this good old breed becoming very rare, decided to carefully
preserve them, which he did until his death, and which I have continued to do
ever since, with the greatest pleasure, profit, and satisfaction. One great
point in favour of the Red Dorkings is that they have never been crossed with
Asiatic fowls, which gives coarseness of bone, thick yellow skin, and
looseness of feather. In viewing a pen of Red Dorkings, the first thing that
strikes us is the beautiful red hackles of the cock, and his most compact
shape and general absence of all coarseness. We also notice his well-formed
single comb, which is smaller than the present-day Dorking, and which, with
his face, earlobes, and wattles, are of a beautiful red. We notice that his
breast and tail are black; his legs are beautifully white, with some pink on
the inside of shank; that the legs are very short indeed, and that he has five
well-developed toes on each foot. If you take this fowl in hand you will be
astonished at the weight, owing to great quantity of ineat on the breast.’
this variety Mr. Harrison Weir
: ‘The Red
Dorkings were at one time common in Kent and Sussex, and are not a new breed,
as some writing on the subject have stated. The Reds are mentioned by almost
every writer for over 300 years as the best
of all. They were quite common fifty years ago. The late Mr. Hamlin,
liking their appearance, kept them pure, and those I had were the descendants
of them. Kept pure by his sons —- Mr Hamlin, of Highfields, Speldhurst, Kent
(selecting his more for the lacing), and Mr. Harry Hamlin, of Haxted Mill,
Edenbridge (selecting his more for the richness of the red colour) — I had a
very fine Black-breasted Red cock from him a short time ago. These birds are
the old Kent and Sussex five-toed breed, and their crow has the ring of that
we used to hear about our home-steads fifty years ago and more.’
Hamlin very emphatically repudiates the suggestion that the Red Dorking is
related to the Red Sussex.
Silver grey — The
Silver-grey Dorking may, without depreciation of other varieties of that breed,
reasonably be claimed as the handsomest of its family. Its beautiful
gradations of colour in both sexes, its conformity of size and shape, the
compact yet substantial build of body, the pure whiteness of legs and feet in
the best specimens, offer an attractive combination. For many years the
efforts of some of the most skilful breeders have been devoted to its
perfection, and we may claim that it is of a higher type of excellence than
ever before. We have only to read the descriptions of Dorkings as bred thirty
to forty years ago to see that, whilst the birds then kept were good, they had
not attained the same quality as is now to be met with. This has not been at
the expense of size or flesh qualities, for the birds are as large, if not
larger, and the external points have not been secured by either coarseness of
meat or of bone.
the Coloured Dorking frequently attains a slightly increased weight as
compared with the Silver-grey, the latter has finer flesh and bone, and thus
the actual quantity of muscle found on the body is remarkably even between the
two varieties. Weight is not in itself a determining factor in all cases, for
the relative quantities of bone and of flesh must be taken into consideration.
It is in this direction that the Silver-grey excels. The French, who are
nothing if not practical, have adopted this variety in preference to any other
Dorking, and it has had considerable influence in making some of the breeds,
which are specially favoured across the English Channel. Size is not the first
consideration with our French neighbours, who look to quality, and several of
their finest races are not very large in frame, but when properly fattened are
found to carry a great quantity of flesh.
is essentially as a table fowl that the Silver-grey Dorking excels. The
fineness of bone, delicacy of flesh, and large proportion of breast-meat, win
for it one of the first positions among domestic poultry. To retain these
should be the aim of every breeder, who must remember that there is no
antagonism between external appearance and profitable qualities if the true
principles which underlie our livestock are understood. The hens are by no
means to be despised as layers, and whilst they do not equal some of the
non-sitters in the number of eggs produced, they are early layers — a most
important quality in connection with table poultry. The eggs are large, white
in shell, and of excellent flavour. There are many who prefer a Dorking egg to
one from any other breed and it is unquestionable that they are excellent.
This is to be expected when we remember the flesh qualities of the fowls.
White — It
is generally admitted, that the original type of Dorking was chiefly white in
plumage, but it was allowed practically to become extinct until resuscitated a
few years ago for exhibition purposes. The White is distinctly different from
those already named, in that it has a rose comb. But we find
that at one time this feature was by no means a fixed character.
Further, it is scarcely so square in body as either of the two former, more of
the thighs being seen. It is pure white in plumage, and upon lawns or grass it
is a very beautiful bird indeed. Generally bred for ornamental purposes, it is
not nearly so widely kept as the two varieties before named.
— There is a variety of Dorking which has now and again attained a measure
of attention, but thus far has not won much favour. In this variety the
plumage has a light bluish-grey ground, each feather barred across with bands
of darker grey or blue, and uniform throughout, both in cocks and hens. It is
a hardy variety, and it is to be regretted that it is not more developed.
by Edward Brown - 1906
In all countries, Houdan.
of flesh and skin: Creamy-white.
of legs and feet: Pink-white, mottled with blue or black.
Colour of egg-shells: Dead white.
Houdan, both in its native country — France — and in Britain, appeared as
if it would step into the first rank
of domestic poultry, as measured by general distribution and universal
popularity for utility purposes, but it has failed to reach the position
anticipated for it, and has lost ground considerably of late years. In the
United Kingdom a reasonable explanation can be found, as seen below.
— Many suggestions
been put forward as to its descent, some of which were due to characteristics
found in other breeds, and the inference was-accepted that these breeds had
been used in making the Houdan as we know it today, but without a particle of
direct evidence. From the fact that it has five toes on each foot the Dorking
has been claimed a one of its ancestors, and the crest has suggested descent
from the Polish
. But later observations have shown that we cannot fully accept
these statements That the fowl originated in the Seine-et-Oise department of
France seems to be undoubted, and at one period it was almost universal there.
M. La Perre de Roo says
‘that some authorities suggest that it has descended from the
Padoue (Polish), from which it has inherited the crest; and also the Dorking,
from which it has taken the peculiarity of the fifth toe. But all is pure
conjecture without any positive proof, and its relationship with the Dorking
is very doubtful, because it has neither the comb, the plumage, nor the form
of body of that breed. It is certain that the Houdan has existed in Beauce for
centuries, taking its name from the little town of Houdan, chief of the canton,
arrondissement of Mantes, Department of Seine-et-Oise, where large quantities
of fowls of this race are raised and fattened for the Paris and London
M. La Perre de Roo adduces no evidence in support of the claim for the
antiquity of the breed, it is not improbable that birds of this type have been
known for more than a century in the Houdan district, where poultry-breeding
has for long been an important industry. We have already seen that the Polish
fowl was at one time common in Normandy
, and doubtless was distributed over a wide area; also that the
late Charles Darwin classed the Houdan as well as the Crèvecoeur as sub-races
of the Polish. Our view is that the descent was through the Crève, not
direct. That Crève influence has been used in later years is undeniable, both
in France and England, but our present purpose is to learn the prior origin.
It should be remembered that French authorities claim that the Dorking was
received into the South of England from Normandy, that it has been bred there
since the time of the Roman occupation of Gaul, and that five-toed fowls of
this type have been known in Northern France for many centuries. In support of
this statement M. La Perre de Roo speaks
of the ‘race commune à cinq doigts’ (common fowl with five
toes) as follows: ‘The breed is characterized by the peculiarity of a fifth
toe which she carries on each foot, and is found in the neighbourhood of
Courtrai, Bruges, Ghent, and other Belgian towns, and also in the northern
departments of France, where it has a high and well-merited reputation.’
nearly allied does this author regard it with the Dorking that he uses the
same illustration for the Silver-grey Dorking hen and the common five-toed hen.
Perhaps this may explain the striking preference in France for Silver-greys,
as Dark Dorkings are seldom seen; but we must confess that in our
peregrinations in France we have not met with the type to the extent here
suggested, although fowls more or less of this shape and colour of plumage are
found in all countries. It is impossible to decide whether the Dorking came to
Britain from France, or was brought direct by the Romans, but we do know that
large numbers of Dorkings have been sent to France from this country in recent
years. M. Mégnin, in ‘Élevage et Engraissement des Volailles,’ mentions
the common five-toed fowl as one of the progenitors of the Houdan. Taking the
evidence so far as obtained, the following table of descent may be accepted:
x Common five-toed fowl ---> Houdan
1878 there has been further infusion of Crèvecoeur blood, as shown by the
darker plumage which for a time prevailed, and M. Lemoine
says that Light Brahma influence has been used to increase the
size of body. This may be true in France, but in Britain the Crève and the
Dorking have alone been employed.
— It may be accepted that the Houdan was widely distributed over Southern
Normandy in the early part of last century, but would appear to have been
introduced into Britain about 1850. At first they were known as the Normandy
fowl, of which Wingfield and Johnson thus speak
: ‘The old birds are entirely speckled in black and white; they
have a small erect top-knot, not drooping backwards like a lark-crest. The
plumage of the male bird is much darker than that of the hen. In shape they
are lengthy, but become contracted towards the tail. The cock’s tail is of
great length; his comb and wattles are also of large size. The chickens are
very peculiar, having at first perfectly black backs and white breasts
, but they gradually become speckled, like the old birds. They have
five claws, and the skin of the leg is pied black and white.’ They are
mentioned under the same name by Moubray (edition 1854), Ferguson, and other
writers of that period. No reference is -made to the shape of the comb, which
is characteristic of the breed, but descriptions were not very precise. They
were first brought prominently forward by Mr. Geylin in 1865, in a pamphlet
entitled ‘Poultry-breeding from a Common Point of View,’ in which it is
stated that they have a triple comb, ‘the outsides opening like two leaves
of a book, and the centre having the appearance of an ill-shaped, long
strawberry’ — the first reference to this peculiar form we have been able
to trace. In the first edition of Wright’s ‘Book of Poultry’ (1874) it
is stated that ‘when first imported the fifth toe was very uncertain,’ and
in the last edition (1902) Mr. S.W. Thomas says that ‘twenty years ago a
leaf-comb was quite the exception’; but we bred Houdans in 1875, and then
the leaf-comb was general, as also the fifth toe, as proved by the
illustrations published about that period.
years ago, taking its economic qualities into consideration, it was
anticipated, and not without reason, that the Houdan would become almost
universal in this country, and for a few years it obtained a large measure of
popularity; but, for reasons given below, that has not proved to be the case,
neither as an exhibition or utility fowl. With a few exceptions, it is only
bred to a limited extent, and. in France also other breeds — notably the
Faverolles — have taken its place. But it has yet considerable value for
Qualities — The Houdan in this country has always been
recognised as a most useful fowl, and had it not been for the crest, we believe
that it would have attained a much greater amount of popularity, more
especially amongst utilitarian poultry-keepers. It is a good layer of
large-sized eggs, and makes an excellent table fowl. In neither direction does
it compare with what may be termed specialized breeds, but with the
combination of these two qualities it is specially suited to farmers, and also
from the fact that the chickens are precocious. The one drawback to the breed
has undoubtedly been the crest. In a moist climate such as we have in the
United Kingdom crested fowls need special care in that they should be
sheltered during wet weather, otherwise the rain, passing between the feathers
of the crest, makes them more liable to cold. All this involves trouble, and
although some breeders, as a matter of course, cut the feathers from the heads
of Houdans, still, the majority of people cannot trouble themselves in this
way. To some extent the same is found in France, and it is suggested by some
writers that Houdans do better in a dry climate and upon dry soils. There can
be no question that, for practical purposes, with the exception just referred
to, the Houdan is a most valuable breed, and as the smaller-crested birds are
found the better for practical purposes, anyone going in for Houdans would be
wise to select these in preference to the larger-crested show-birds. M.
thus speaks with regard to this breed:
Houdan a large portion of the eggs are hatched by turkeys, and breeders
regularly compel the turkey-hens to hatch when required. The Houdan chicks are
very precocious, and they take fattening well at the age of four months. The
food employed is generally barley-meal mixed with milk, but the fattening is
not pressed to a very high extent. The poulterers seek, above all, what they
call the “soft pullet,’’ which is sold very easily.’
the Houdan district large numbers of chickens are raised in winter for the
spring markets, and at one time — to a greater extent formerly than now —
the Houdan was chiefly depended upon for this purpose, as its quickness of
growth, light bone, and excellent flesh qualities, make it very suitable for
that special trade. Hatching usually commences in October, and continues until
March — that is, the hatching of chickens intended to be killed — but
birds bred to be used as breeding-stock are not usually brought out until
March and April, and the pullets are depended upon to produce the early eggs
in the autumn. These young pullets are mated with two or three year old cocks
in October, to minimize as far as possible their immaturity, to which the
measure of loss of vigour noted in recent years can be attributed. As already
stated, hatching is largely by means of turkeys. The eggs of Houdans are of a
dull white colour, and are of a good size, averaging in adults nearly 2¼
following description of the method of feeding chickens will be read with
food employed for chickens consists of stale breadcrumbs mixed with
hard-boiled eggs and cooked rice, and plenty of boiled milk, which, however,
is often given with bread alone. This food is continued for eight to ten days,
when the eggs and rice are stopped, and after that time fine barley-meal mixed
with skim-milk is given alone. Boiled milk, however, is continued several
times per day during the next three or four weeks, which is found very
appetizing and beneficial... At the age of three and a half to four months the
birds are fatted.’
crossing purposes the Houdan is found very useful, and some of the best layers
we have known were Leghorn-Houdans, and excellent table chickens are produced
by mating the Dorking or Indian Game or Wyandotte with this breed.
Unfortunately, in confinement the Houdan is very prone to the objectionable
habit of feather-eating. It is desirable to note that the smaller-sized hens
are usually the better layers.
the Houdan, we must not forget that considerable modifications have taken
place in birds bred in England. This is not peculiar to the Houdan, nor yet to
fowls, as it is seen in other directions also, but more has been done in this
case to change the type than is usual. Of late years the French Houdans have
been brought more into character with the English than was formerly the case.
The following description of the French Houdan is taken from M. Lemoine’s
Houdan cock has a fine presence, somewhat proud, carrying the head high; beak is a little curved; the breast large; the feet short, strong,
carried widely apart, and with five toes, of which the three anterior rest
upon the ground, and the two hind-toes are well separate;
it carries a crest of fine feathers, falling backwards; the whiskers are
fully furnished, the beard standing well out; the comb is fleshy, and
represents the shell of an open mussel, a little serrated at the edges ; in
the middle of the two parts of the comb which compose it there is a third
rudimentary comb; the wattles are long and red; the earlobes white, short, and
covered by the whiskers; the plumage is black and white mixed, regularly
marked, some of the feathers being white and some black, but they are black
and white, not grey.’
legs are pinky-white, mottled with black. The Houdan hen is in all respects
similar to the cock, with the differences of sex. When we examine the English
Houdans it is to find that the type, as already stated, has been considerably
modified. In the first place, the comb is much more defined, and the crest
very large in comparison with those bred in France. In all cases there is the
tendency to incline backwards, and thus to fully expose the comb; but, instead
of the more scanty crest seen generally upon French Houdans, there has been a
large increase in size, and, without giving it the shape of the Polish crest,
making it a more prominent feature. This has undoubtedly been arrived at by
crossing the Crève into the Houdan.
further point is seen in that the majority of English Houdans are much darker
than those met with in France. At one time there was the same tendency across
the Channel, but this has been abandoned, and the lighter plumaged birds are
think that there has been an improvement in the colour of the legs, which at
one time were rather inclined to be too dark; but now it is recognised that
pinky-white, mottled with blue or black, is much more in accordance with the
birds themselves. The general shape and carriage of the bird is bold and
active. Weight: males, 7 to 9 pounds; females, 5 to 7 pounds. But as Houdans
have always been recognised as good layers, considering their table qualities,
an undue increase in size would be undesirable.
by Edward Brown - 1906
In all countries, Faverolles.
Salmon, Light, Black.
of flesh and skin: White.
of legs and feet: White.
Colour of egg-shells: Dark cream.
more than twenty years we have been familiar with a fowl in France bearing
some resemblance to the Faverolles, but which was regarded as a mongrel, the
result of indiscriminate crossing. About 1886 the name began to be given in
the Paris markets to birds having a distinctive character to the Houdan. In
that year the late Mr. Alexander Comyns, B.A., the editor of Poultry,
went on a quest, but his account
confirmed our own observations, namely, that no fowls could be
found deserving separate recognition. Since that time, however, much has been
done both in France and England.
Some of the leading French writers on poultry do not recognise the Faverolles
as worthy of notice, but we are fortunately able to obtain information from
other sources. It is generally accepted that the breed owes its existence to a
variety of crosses made upon the common fowls of the Seine-et-Oise and
Eure-et-Loir districts of France, where poultry production is a most important
industry. M. Cornevin
says that it has been formed by crossing either between the
Dorking and the Cochin, or the Houdan with the Cochin and Langshan. Neither of
these crosses would account for the Faverolles, which has characteristics due
to none of the breeds named. In the article by the late Mr. Alexander Comyns
referred to above he says, speaking of the fowls found in the Houdan market,
that (1886) ‘they are cross-breds, showing a trace of Houdan, Dorking,
Brahma, and sometimes Cochin,’ with indications of what he terms Cossacks,
but which we believe from other evidence to have been single-combed Crèves,
and he adds that he ‘saw a great many black, single-combed, bearded birds of
good size.’ In a work published about twelve years ago Mr. Rouillier-Arnoult,
of the Poultry School at Gambais, says
that ‘to get a true explanation of the breed it is necessary to
go back about forty years. Faverolles then possessed a common race of fowls
and Houdans. When the great feathered races of Cochins, Brahmas, and Dorkings
appeared, the infatuation for these fine-looking birds was excessive, and
cocks were used of these breeds to cross with the common fowl, particularly
with that of Houdan. From these crosses, made without method, came mongrel
fowls, but with the size and strength of the males, whilst keeping that
delicacy of flesh which contributes to the success of any fowl in France.’
Here we have, as far as can be traced, the origin of the Faverolles, shown in
the subjoined table of descent.
x Five toed common fowl --> Houdan
x Dorking --> Mongrel of Houdan with Dorking
of Houdan with Dorking x Light Brahma --> Faverolles
will be seen that to the Dorking and Houdan influences are due the white flesh
and legs and the fifth toe; to the Dorking the single comb; to the Crève and
Houdan the whiskers and beard; to the Brahma the feathering on the legs and
the tinted-shelled egg. Mr. J.P.L. Marx points out
that when first imported into Britain the single comb and beards
were difficult to breed, and we should expect from the ancestry that there
would be considerable variation.
— The name is obtained from a village called Faverolles, in the Department
of Eure-et-Loir, about midway between the towns of Houdan, Dreux, and
Noyent-le-Roi, and in a district where poultry-raising is carried on
extensively, supplying a large portion of the fowls sold on the Houdan market,
one of the most important in France. Faverolles were gradually evolved without
any definite desire on the part of breeders to establish a new breed, who had
in view the production of good table chickens and winter eggs. It was stated
by a visitor to that district in 1896
that ‘out of ten farmers [in the Houdan country] nine keep
Faverolles and one Houdans; also, 98 per cent. of the fowls on the central
markets of Paris under the name of Houdans are Faverolles, which weigh several
pounds more than the former. About 1895 an Irish lady, who had attended the
French Poultry School at Gambais, imported a number of specimens into the
Green Isle, where they were found most valuable; but in the previous year they
were introduced into England, since which time they have won a large amount of
favour among practical poultry-keepers, due to their hardihood and prolificacy.
It cannot, however, be said that they are satisfactory to breeders, due to the
uncertainty in colour, but that is always the case with new races produced by
such a mixture as found in Faverolles. That is in process of correction, and
the type will ultimately be fixed. We can only hope that in so doing the
sterling economic qualities of the breed will not be spoiled, of which there
is always a danger.
Qualities — The Faverolles
is essentially a business fowl, bred by reason of its hardi-hood, prolificacy,
rapidity of growth, and fattening quality. A French writer has said that ‘as
idea, farmyard fowls they started unrivalled, their superiority being
uncontestable, having large size, early maturity, excessive hardiness, good
laying properties, superior quality of flesh, splendid sitters and mothers. No
fowls, either, are better adapted for cold countries-owing to their small
combs not being liable to be frozen, and on account of their downy and warm
claims have been fully supported by our experience in all parts of the United
Kingdom, and the absence of crest, which has been so fatal to the Houdan in
our moist climate, makes the Faverolles the most suitable French fowl for our
conditions yet produced. The chickens are quick in growth, and very fleshy. As
crosses they are excellent. In the spring of 1904, in an experiment made at
the College Poultry Farm, Theale, the Faverolles Buff Orpingtons made the most
rapid growth out of sixty birds. Five cockerels of this cross attained an
average weight of 2.9375 pounds and eight pullets an average weight of 2.3203
pounds in twelve weeks. The hens are very prolific layers, more especially in
winter, of medium-sized eggs, and make excellent sitters and mothers.
— In body
the Faverolles is large, broad, and deep; the breast is broad, prominent, and
with a deep keel; the back broad at the shoulders, flat, and square; wings
rather small and carried well up; the neck is short and thick, well covered
with hackle; head short and broad, with no crest, and a short stout beak, horn
in colour; comb single, moderate in size, evenly serrated, and fine in texture;
wattles small and fine; it has thick, full board and muffs, short, and
standing well out; earlobes white and small, hidden by the whiskers; the tail
is full, with broad medium sickles; legs medium in length, wide-set, and
strongly built, but not heavy in bone;
toes five, firmly placed the outer sides of the legs, which are pinky-white,
and the outer toe on each foot, are sparsely covered with soft feathers, but
there should be no appearance of hock feathers on the thighs; the carriage is
sprightly and active, but the birds are very tame, and can be kept easily in
confinement. Weight: males, 6½ to 8½ pounds; females, 5
to 7 pounds. At first birds of all colours were met with — partridge,
salmon, red, ermine, black, and white — but selection is gradually
eliminating all but those named below.
Varieties — As
already stated, there is great divergence of plumage, but the following are now
attaining greater evenness of colour. In all the beak is horn, the legs and
feet pinky-white, combs and wattles red.
In the cock, breast, wing-bar, primary feathers, thighs and under-fluff, and
tail black; beard and muffs black, ticked with white; hackles and wing-bows
straw; back and shoulders a mixture of black, white, and brown. Hens largely
Light — Like the light Brahma, namely, silvery-white, but with striped
hackles, and wing feathers and tail edged with black.
Black — Self-coloured.
‘Rare and Prize Poultry,’ by G. Ferguson,
Secretary to the London Poultry Improvement Association (London, 1854), pp.
Art of Hatching and Bringing up Domestic Fowls’ by M. de Réaumur (London,
1750), p. 443.
Practical Treatise on Breeding, Rearing, and Fattening all Kinds of Domestic
Poultry’, by Bonington Moubray (London, 1824) pp. 16-18.
Practical Treatise on Breeding, Rearing, and Fattening all Kinds of Domestic
Poultry’, by Bonington Moubray (London, 1824) p. 124.
Book of Poultry,’ by Lewis Wright (London, 1902), p. 370.
 Stockkeeper, March, 26, 1897.
‘Ornamental and Domestic Poultry,’ by Rev.
E.S. Dixon (London, 1850), p. 279.
‘The Houdan Fowl,’ by Chas. Lee (London,
1874), pp. 9-10; and ‘Practical Poultry-Keeper’, by Lewis Wright (London,
1885), p. 190, etc.
‘Monographie des Races de Poules,’ par V. La Perre de
Roo (Paris, 1902), p. 79.
‘Monographie des Races de Poules,’ par V. La Perre de
Roo (Paris, 1902), p. 39.
‘La Basse-Cour,’ par E. Lemoine (Paris), p. 69.
‘The Ponltry Book,’ by Wingfield and
Johnson (London 1853), p. 225.
A characteristic of Hondan chicks.— E.
‘La Basse Cour Pratique,’ par E. Lemoine (Paris), p.
‘La Basse Cour Pratique,’ par E. Lemoine (Paris), p.
21, 1886, p. 235.
‘Les Oiseaux de Basse-Cour,’ par Ch. Cornevin
(Paris, 1895), p. 215.
‘Artificial Incubation and Rearing,’ par
Rouillier-Arnoult (Paris), p. 33.
Book of Poultry,’ (London, 1902), p. 457.
World, October 23, 1896, p. 438.