Sunday, April 10, 2011

Standard Old English Game Fowl

Golden Duckwing OEG Cock
Wheaten OEG Hen
Oxford Style Ginger OEG Cock
Black Breasted Red OEG Hen
When I mention this blog to my father, he always asks me. "Have you done one on the Old English Game?  Standard, not Bantam! You know I'm not interested in chickens other than Old English Game..." And each time he says this, I promise him that I will soon write one up - just for him.  My father has been around poultry all of his life, and pigeons for more than seventy years. He has frequently told me that during his childhood and youth in Jamaica, he often visited an uncle who kept Old English Game, thus the interest in "only" this breed.  So, to my father, and other Old English Game fanciers, this post is dedicated.


OEG Poultry Cards - Available from Poultry New Zealand (www.poultrynz.com)
Photo Source: Poultry New Zealand
The history of fighting Game fowl goes back to almost as far as mankind's recorded history.  In various cultures the world over, Game fowl has represented  courage and strength.  The Old English Game is probably the oldest of the British breeds of chickens. It is a direct descendant of the ancient fighting roosters brought in by the Roman invaders.


Roman Mosaic found in Pompeii - Photo Source: ganoi.com
Some historians credit Julius Caesar, a huge enthusiast of cockfighting, with the introduction into Britain of not only cockfighting, but also the lineage of the fighting birds that would become the ancestors of the Old English Game.  These birds were apparently sourced from within the Roman and Gaul empires.
Black Breasted Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Black Breasted Red OEG Hen
Photo Source: Unknown


Black Breasted Red OEG Pair
Photo Source: Unknown
One cannot talk about Game Fowl without talking about cockfighting, the pros and cons of which will not be discussed. However, it is important to realize that the history of the Old English Game corresponds to the history of cockfighting in Britain.
Head Close Up of a Blue Breasted Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Golden Duckwing OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
The raising of cockfighting birds has been recorded in numerous documents referring to kings, queens and princes of Britain, in particular the Scottish Royal House of Stuart and the English Tudors.  In the 16th century, cockfighting was hugely popular in Britain; even the clergy got into the act.  Church yards and churches themselves were used as arenas. During the reign of King Henry VIII, cockfights were held at Whitehall Palace and it was decreed a national sport. 
Golden Duckwing OEG Cock
Photo Source: Sabong.net

Golden Duckwing OEG Cock
Phoot Source: Unknown

During this period, "cockfighting schools" were established to teach the finer points of the breeding and conditioning of the gamecock.   As the British Empire expanded, so too did the popularity of the British Game fowl as sailors, soldiers and traders took fighting cocks with them wherever they went. 

Blue Breasted Golden Duckwing Cock
Source: Unknown

Blue Red OEG Cock
Photo Source : Unknown
During the reign of Queen Victoria in the 17th century, cockfighting and breeding of fighting birds declined when she banned cockfighting with a royal decree. Never completely disappearing from the landscape, cockfighting became an "underground sport" until the end of Queen Victoria reign, when once again it grew in popularity.

Crele OEG Cock
Photo Source - Backyard Chickens
Crele OEG Hen
Photo Source: Backyard Chickens

Crele OEG Pair
Photo Source: Unknown
It was at this time that the first real changes occurred to the cockfighting birds that were brought the Continent. Some of the top fowl breeders of the time began to worry about what they saw was a lack of vigour in the birds. To increase their strength and size, they decided to breed their game fowl to various Oriental breeds. It is said that the Asil (a.k.a. Aseel) played a large part in the infusion of new bloodlines. It is also thought that Shamo and Malay blood were introduced around the same time period. Unfortunately, historical records of exact crosses no longer exist, or if they do, are not privy to public record. However, what should be noted is that these new crosses with the Oriental birds were to provide the foundation stock of what is now known as Old English Game.
Black Red Asil Cock
Photo Source: kippenencyclopedie 


White Malay Cock
Photo Source: kippenencyclopedie.nl
Black Malay Hen
Photo Source: kippenencyclopedie.nl
Black Shamo Cock
Photo Source: kippenencyclopedie.nl


White Shamo Hen
Photo Source: kippenencyclopedie.nl
The year 1849 was another date of importance in the history of the Old English Game fowl.  It is during this year that the prohibition law was passed in Britain, thus relegating the famous cockfighting bird to showroom-only status.  Poultry shows in Britain are recorded to have begun just a few years earlier, the first known to take place in 1845. The English cockfighting bird (not yet officially named) then took its place amongst the various fancy breeds.
Silver Duckwing OEG Hen
Photo Source: Unknown
As a result of the prohibition law and probably in defiance of it, many of the top strains of fighting birds were exported out of Britain; the U.S. and the British West Indies being the main recipients. Cockfighting and the breeding of fighting gamecocks was once again driven underground. Some of the strains were kept relatively pure and supposedly, there still exists a strain of Old English Game Fowl known as the "Pyles Strain of Charles II" that is highly sought after.



Pyle OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown

Pile OEG Cock with Pile OEG Hen in the Background
Photo Source:  Unknown




Of the fowl that made its way to America, breeders recognizing the cockfighting quality, kept a lot of these strains pure.  Through linebreeding and selection for cockfighting quality, the Old English Game became established as a top-notch fighting fowl.
Black Breasted "Dark" Red OEG Cock
Oxford Black Breasted Red OEG Cock
Ginger OEG Cock


Some of the Old English Game in the United States today are said to be as pure, if not more so, than their relations across the pond;  some of them tracing their ancestry directly back to the British game fowl of the 18th and 19th centuries.  
White Muffed Old English Game
Photo Source: Unknown
Muffed and Tasseled OEG Pullet belonging to Ed Hart of Sorento, Illinois
Photo Source: Poultry Bookstore


The relegation to the showroom was almost a death sentence for the Old English Game.  In the late 1800's it was a breed in danger of being lost.  To ensure its continuance, a club was formed and standards were created.   It was at this time that the name "Old English Game" was accorded these gamefowl, partially to distinguish them from the Modern Game, which had become quite popular, and partially in acknowledgement of the breed's long history.  One of the original members of this club was a gentleman by the name of Herbert Atkinson.  He was very instrumental in the creation of the standard and the promotion of the breed and he wrote many books and breeding guides about this "new" old breed. The original standard stressed the differences between the Old English and Modern Game fowl while at the same time stressing the breeding for fighting ability. 
Black Breasted Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Brown Red Modern Game Cock
Photo Source: flickr.com


In the 1930's the original British Old English Game Club split into two as some breeders were breeding "size" into their birds - mainly for show purposes - while others wanted to keep breeding for fighting ability (and for the actual cockfighting which was still going on, albeit in secret). Hence today in Britain and other parts of the British Commonwealth (mainly Australia, New Zealand and the British West Indies), there are now two types of Old English Game recognized; The Carlisle and The Oxford. Canada, even though a member of the British Commonwealth, follows the standards set by the American Poultry Association.
Oxford White OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Oxford White OEG Hen
Photo Source Unknown
White "American = More Carlisle-Type" OEG Cock
Photo Source: Backyard Chickens
In Britain, the Carlisle Old English Game became the dominant exhibition type.  According to British Standards, it has a horizontal back and a very large breast.  It is recognized in approximately 13 different colour varieties, with many more existing, but still not yet officially recognized by the British Standards.  Popular colours include the Black Red, Wheaten, Brown Red, Grey, Golden Duckwing, Silver Duckwing, Blue Red, Crele, Pyle and White. 
Grey OEG Cock
Pyle OEG Hens
Photo Source: Poultry Bookstore
Cocks must be dubbed (comb, wattles and lobes removed) prior to one year of age, or it is a show disqualification. It is also a disqualification if a cock is missing his spurs. This, supposedly, in recognition of their ancestry being fighting birds. Even though Continental European countries recognize the Old English Game Fowl - in more colours than Britain - dubbing is not a prerequisite and is only done by those still involved with cockfighting.
Dubbed Brown Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Non-Dubbed Brown Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
The stated objective for the Oxford Old English Game Club is to preserve the breeding of the traditional old English strains of gamefowl, but not for exhibition. The birds are bred for the prime purpose of fighting, still to this day. The birds are smaller than the Carlisle type, having a tightly feathered plumage and backs held at an angle of 45º to the ground. They have big, strong beaks, single combs , small thin earlobes and wattles and fairly large eyes. Their wings are large and powerful and the legs are strong and short. Through careful linebreeding, these birds are kept as pure as possible to the birds from which the first standard was based.  
Oxford OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
At this time, I would like to quote some interesting information about the Oxford Old English Game Club.  The information comes from Chapter 7, of the book The Cockfighters, A Survey and Analysis of the Sport of Cockfighting in Britain, and a study of the Criminology of Cockfighting Offenders, in the period 1991-1992.  The book is written by Dr Barry F. Peachey and is published by Beech Publishing House: 
For reasons which will become obvious the vast majority of the British public have never heard of the Oxford Old English Gamefowl Club. 
Although you might be having trouble finding out who the Oxford Club members are, many of them are known to the authorities. They have got us all catalogued and listed, and the only reason that we don’t get a lot of attention is because it is so hard for them to actually catch us at it. Knowing about us is one thing, but proving a court case is quite another.  
The Club holds two meetings a year. New members have to be sponsored by two existing members who have known the prospective new member for at least five years. About ten Mains per year are fought, generally of five to seven birds.
New members are ‘vetted’ personally and professionally, and their criminal convictions are checked using the Police National Computer. People with criminal convictions will not generally be admitted. This is of course an illegal misuse of the computer. Prospective members with ‘unfortunate’ business histories or who have attracted media attention in an unfavourable light are also frowned upon. 

The Club operates a strict ‘Black Ball’ system; one vote against you and you don’t get in. It is an extremely secretive organisation. There appears to be a standard line of defence which is used by Club Members who are put on the spot by enquirers. The first thing that they do is to absolutely deny that the Club does anything except breed Game Fowl for showing. The second is to say that the Club has one Annual Show for members and invited guests only. That would be an acceptable response to the interested enquirer, except for the fact that no member will say who the Club officers are, or even who is the current Secretary for correspondence. Some idea of the secrecy involved can be gained from the following comment from a senior member:
"You have to understand my position. If it gets out to other members of the club that I have been talking to you I am in deep trouble. It is quite possible for very nasty things to happen to me, and my life would not be worth living."
By this stage it was not surprising that I was starting to stir up the pot a little. The expected telephone call was not long in coming:
“Hello, is that Dr Peachey?”
“Yes, can I help you?”
“I hear that you are busying yourself sticking your nose into our business where it doesn’t belong”
“If you mean I am running a research project into cocking, you’re right. Do you want to help? ”
“Let’s put it this way. If you don’t stop wandering round enquiring into Club affairs, we’ll see to it that you don’t have any legs to walk around on. Get it?”
Before I got the chance to tell him that I’ve been threatened by far worse individuals than a few self-important cockers he put the phone down.  

Whilst the Club has a good number of top people, it also has a lot of ordinary working class men. The situation is well illustrated by the following quote from Ed Reid, the Canadian who introduced the American Pit Bull Terrier into Britain, and who is this country’s leading authority on the breed. Although not a cocker or fowl keeper himself, he has come across one or two:
In the mid 1970’s I went to the funeral of Joe Mallen from Cradley Heath in the West Midlands. He was one of the most famous breeders of Bull Terriers and gamecocks of all time, and a member of the Oxford Old English Game Club. It was incredible. He was just an ordinary bloke to all intents and purposes, but the guest list at the funeral read like Who’s Who . I was introduced to Lord this, and Sir that, and a man who was already well known in the animal world and later became more widely known to the public. I didn’t know then, but I know now, that they were all members of the Oxford Club, within which it seems social rank is of no consequence. Normally these people would not have been seen dead in the company of an ordinary working class man.
As my research progressed it was necessary to use subterfuge to track members down. The next member of the club to telephone me was in nothing less than a flat panic. He was obviously terrified. He was a member of the Bench, a barrister who had been made a Judge. The conversation went as follows:
Judge: I hear you know something about me that is a pretty closely guarded secret. I just want to know if you intend making it public.
BFP:  I suppose you mean that I know you are a cockfighter. I’ve got no particular interest in making it public because this is an academic research study which depends upon confidentiality for any information at all.
Judge: You do realise don’t you that there are a good few members of the fancy at the Bar, and that any one of us is finished personally and profes sionally if it gets out into the gutter press. Quite apart from that, you could be in serious danger personally, you know.
BEP: Are you threatening me?
Judge: No, not at all. I am just pointing out that you make your professional living in front of people like me and it could be said that you are dependent upon the goodwill of certain parts of the judiciary.
BEP:Come off it. ‘Certain parts of the judiciary’ as you put it would be only too happy to stick you in jail if they got half a chance.
Judge:All right, I’m sorry. I just don’t want my name being bandied about in connection with gamefowl. I hope I can rely on your discretion.

Grey OEG Flock
When the settlers came to America, so followed chickens and the tradition of cockfighting. As a result of this, through the years, the original British types were often crossbred with Spanish or Latin Game fowl and also the French cockfighting fowl, thereby creating the "American" Old English Game.  

French "Gatinaise-Style" OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown

As mentioned earlier, some strains have retained their purity, but for the most part, the Old English Game in North America resembles more the British Carlisle type than the historical Oxford type.
Grey OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Gray OEG Trio
Source: Unknown
 Cockfighting was very popular in the U.S. - even presidents are known to have partaken; especially George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln.  Supposedly some committee rooms of the President were actually used for cockfights. Abraham Lincoln refereed many and was well-known for fairness whilst doing so; they didn't call him "Honest Abe" for nothing.
Cockfighting Art by E. Dean
Photo Source: Christie's Auction House
The U.S. became a leader in the breeding of game fowl and was recognized for its cockfighting activities and events. To be a true "gentleman", one was supposed to have a flock of game fowl and be involved in cockfighting.  It is said that gamecock almost became the national emblem of the U.S. only losing by one vote to the American eagle. The golden era of American cockfighting declined with the Civil War.
Orange Red OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown

Orange Red OEG Hen
Photo Source: Unknown
Some people equate the raising of Standard Old English Games to the raising of pheasants. They are known to be feisty, intelligent, hardy birds that are excellent in free range situations.  They are good foragers and tend to fend for themselves.  These fowl love to roost in trees at night.  They can tolerate the extremes of climate very well.  My father had a friend who had his birds outside all year round - this in south-western Alberta!  They used to roost in the Spruce trees, not far from his house. Old English Game are also known for their longevity - some living as long as fifteen years or more!
OEG Cock in small Tree (Not Spruce!)
Source Unknown
If kept in pens, it is suggested to either clip wings or have a top netting over the runs as they are very good fliers. As well, inside roosts should be made as high as possible.  Most important is to keep roosters separate as their cockfighting blood still flows within. If more than one rooster is kept, then a visual and/or distance barrier should be used because if one sees another cock through wire fence, the two will try to fight.  Inexperienced game fowl keepers have learned this lesson the hard way as the cocks will often have extensive damage to heads, spurs and back toes. Some people tether extra roosters away from the main pen, but again, if tethered close together, they will spend most of their time trying to attack each other.
Wheaten OEG Hen
The Old English Game dresses out well for a small bird and the hens lay well for a game bird. The hens are excellent mothers and are often used as foster mothers for other breeds. They are fiercely protective of their young. Old English chicks seem to mature rather slowly, but beware, their fighting spirit is showcased at a young age.







(The above Photos were in a Folder marked "European OEG"; I apologize for not having the sources)

The Old English Game was recognized by the American Poultry Association:
In 1938
Varieties:
  • Black Breasted Red
  • Brown Red
  • Golden Duckwing 
  • Silver Duckwing 
  • Red Pyle
  • White
  • Black
  • Spangled
In 1965
Varieties:
  • Lemon Blue
  • Blue Breasted Red
  • Blue Golden Duckwing 
  • Blue Silver Duckwing 
  • Self Blue
In 1996
Variety:
  • Crele
(Reference: American Standard of Perfection 1998)
If there are more varieties recognized, please let me know.



Standard Weights: Cock - 5 pounds;    Hen - 4 pounds
                              Cockerel - 4 pounds;   Pullet - 3-1/2 pounds (Source: A.LB.C)

American Poultry Association Class: Any Other Standards Breeds Class
ALCB Conservation Status: Study
Cackle Hatchery has perhaps the largest selection of Standard Old English Game Fowl (http://www.cacklehatchery.com/oldenglishgamepage.html) and a good selection of Bantam Old English Game colour varieties.. Unfortunately, they do not appear to export at this time.
Black Breasted Red OEG Cock
Black Breasted Red OEG Cock
Bantams in Brief
The Bantam O.E.G. became recognized as a standard breed in 1925.  The A.P.A. recognizes 24 colour varieties, but there are actually many more.  At poultry shows across North America, they are often the largest classes shown, unlike the Standards, which are few and far between. It is interesting to note that American O.E.G. Bantams and British O.E.G. Bantams are considerably different.  Roosters weigh in at around 24 oz and hens around 22 ounces. It seems as though the "Fighting blood" does not flow as strong in these mighty mites as in their Standard counterparts as I have heard many stories of roosters being kept together or several in a flock.
Some of the Colours Of Old English Game Bantams:
  • Barred
  • Birchen
  • Black
  • Black Breasted Red
  • Blue Copperheads
  • Black Tailed Red
  • Black Tailed White
  • Blue Splash
  • Blue Brassyback
  • Blue Breasted Red
  • Blue Gingers
  • Blue Golden Duckwing
  • Blue Mille Fleur
  • Blue Quail
  • Blue Red
  • Blue Silver Duckwing
  • Blue Wheaten
  • Buff Laced
  • Brassyback
  • Brown Red
  • Buff
  • Columbian
  • Crele
  • Cuckoo
  • Fawn
  • Fawn Breasted Red
  • Fawn Silver Duckwing
  • Ginger Red
  • Golden Duck-wing
  • Golden Campine
  • Golden Laced
  • Golden-Neck
  • Lemon Blue
  • Mahogany
  • Mealy Gray
  • Mille Fleur
  • Mottled
  • Pearl
  • Porcelain
  • Quail
  • Red
  • Red Pyle
  • Red Quill
  • Self Blue
  • Silver Blue
  • Silver Duckwing
  • Silver Quill
  • Silver Campine
  • Silver-Laced
  • Silver Wheaton
  • Spangled
  • Self-Blue
  • Splash
  • Wheaten
  • White
  • White-Tailed red
  • White-tailed buff
  • Muffed White

Grey OEG Cock
Modern Cockfighting
The rules and ways of cockfighting have changed somewhat through the years. Cocks are still given the best of care until they are around two years old. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes. Wagers are made on the outcome of the match; some wagers said to be in the thousands of dollars.  Cockfighting happens in many kinds of neighborhoods and in states around the country. It became illegal in all states in 2008 with the last holdout, Louisiana, passing a law banning it. It is a felony in 39 states and the District of Columbia and it is illegal in 40 states, as well as the District of Columbia, to be a spectator at a cockfight.
"In most cases the birds are equipped with either metal spurs (called gaffs) or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird's natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range in length from "short spurs" of just over an inch to long spurs almost two and a half inches long. 
In the naked heel variation, the bird's natural spurs are left intact and sharpened: fighting is done without gaffs or taping, particularly in India. There it is mostly fought naked heel and either three rounds of twenty minutes with a gap of again twenty minutes or four rounds of fifteen minutes each and a gap of fifteen minutes between them (wiki - cockfight).
In those countries and territories in which cockfighting is still legal (France, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Guam for example) special cockfighting arena are used.  In some countries, cockfighting is government controlled.
Injuries such as punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes are commonplace - if the bird even survives.  There are cases where even the handlers or spectators have been killed.


Bird kills man at cockfight
Man dies after being stabbed by knife attached to rooster's limb at illegal cockfight in California
A man who was at an illegal cockfight in central California died after being stabbed in the leg by a bird which had a knife attached to its leg, officials said.
José Luis Ochoa, 35, of Lamont, California, was declared dead at a hospital about two hours after he was injured in nearby Tulare County on 30 January, the Kern County coroner said.

A postmortem concluded Ochoa died of an accidental "sharp force injury" to his right calf. Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said it was unclear if a delay in seeking medical attention contributed to his death.
"I have never seen this type of incident," Sgt Martin King, a 24-year veteran of the sheriff's department, told the Bakersfield Californian newspaper.
Ochoa and the other spectators fled when police arrived at the fight, King told the newspaper. Deputies found five dead roosters and other evidence of cockfighting, he said. No arrests were made.
Cockfighting is illegal in the United States. Specially bred roosters are put into a ring and encouraged to fight until one is incapacitated or killed, while spectators gamble on the outcome.
According to court records, Ochoa paid $370 (£230) in fines last year after pleading no contest to one count of owning or training an animal for fighting, according to the newspaper.
Attending or organising a cockfight, or training an animal to participate in one, are all misdemeanours under Californian law, although a second offence is a felony.
Associated Press, Tuesday 8 February 2011


Black OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown
Crele OEG Cock
Photo Source Unknown
Golden Duckwing OEG Cock
OEG - Black Breasted Red Pair
Photo Source:  Unknown


Crele OEG Cock
Photo Source: Unknown




You have probably noticed that many of the pictures did not list a source.  They come from a Photo Folder that no longer lists source.  If anyone recognizes a picture and can direct me to its source, it would be most appreciated. As well, if there are any mislabeled birds, or if someone has better pictures that they would be willing to share, please contact Cameron at: mcattack_ca@yahoo.com



11 comments:

  1. this is a very good site with lots of photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We adoped these birds...
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2881010590179&set=a.1224337934398.2036141.1407503948&type=1&ref=nf

    We now admit to ourselves that the big one is a rooster and the smaller ones are hens. Can hens also come with and without talons/hook?

    They have cream and/or green/blue legs.

    I have four of the small ones I think are hens.

    Please let me know, THANKS!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Actually USA oeg are resembling the oxford type more than the carlisles, US birds don't even come close to the broad brested short small tailed carlisles

    ReplyDelete
  4. I want to make an inquiry.
    What is the origin of the cock, OEG Crele?
    A friend of mine claims that Crele OEG, is caused by crossings of OEG and Plymouth Rock. Is this true?

    Thanks!

    Francis Lescano Carranza from Lima-Perú.

    ReplyDelete
  5. We have white bantam old English! Our hens lay 5-6 eggs a week each! I was shocked!

    We also have some other breads. They all are doing well together.

    http://choresandchandeliers.blogspot.com/2012/10/yes-i-have-wreath-on-my-chicken-coop.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. AN INQUIRY I WANT TO BUY SOME OEG STANDAR OXFORD'S HATCHED EGGS PLEASE WHERE CAN I GET THEM THANKS

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi I am looking for large type oxfords black eggs or birds, my email is irishgame@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. You can buy the standard oeg at cackle hatchery

    ReplyDelete