Thursday, April 7, 2011

Russian Orloffs

Russian Orloff - Spangled Hen
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Below:  Russian Orloff - Spangled Young Pair
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Being from the COLD "Great White North", hardiness in a poultry breed is one quality which is important to me.  Russian Orloffs (a.k.a. just 'Orloffs' or 'Russians') possess this quality.  Not having a single comb - their combs described as being more a cushion, walnut or strawberry comb rather than a true rose comb, makes them ideal candidates for cold weather.  That, and the fact that they are a rather tall meaty bird with a thick neck and calm temperament would seem to make them the ideal fowl for these climes.  For some reason or another, the popularity of the Orloff never really took off in North America.  In fact, they are one of the breeds that was de-listed from the American Standard of Perfection in 1894,  this after originally being listed in 1875 (as 'Russians' not 'Orloffs'). 
Russian Orloffs - Spangled Pair
Photo Source: Unknown

The Orloff is a fairly tall chicken with an upright stance and an upright erect tail. It has a thick arched neck and a fierce looking face, probably due to its tiny wattles, dark curved beak, and reddish face with eyes set slightly back.
Orloffs are muffed and bearded, have yellow legs and a walnut/cushion comb.

They are a very slow growing breed.  According to old standards, males should eventually weigh out at around eight and one-half pounds and the hens at six and one-half.  Hens are fairly good layers of tinted brown eggs and produce well in winter.

Russain Orloff - Spangled Hen Head-shot
Photo Soource: Unknown

The Orloff is named after Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov, a Russian Count, who lived from 1737 to 1808. 

Not only was this Count one of the Russia's most able statesmen, he was Prime Minister to Empress Catherine the Great, and Commander-in-Chief of the Black Sea fleet. Count Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov was very interested in agriculture and developing new breeds of animals.
Count Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov
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At his estate farm in the European realm of the Russian Empire, he worked on breeding horses, dogs, sheep, chickens and pigeons.  He is credited for creating some 70 animal breeds including the Russian Wolfhound and Russia's most famous breed of horses, the Orloff Trotter; a horse noted for its fast trot and outstanding stamina.

Orloff Trotter - Photo Source:

Today many poultry historians refute the idea that Count Orloff  created the Russian Orloffs.  Instead, it is now believed that the Orloff comes from Persia, or what is now known as Iran, and made its way into Eastern Europe and northern Asian countries around the 17th century.  These early birds were referred to as "Chlianskaia" and were not really known for their egg-laying abilities.  There is some speculation that once in Europe and Russia, the Chlianskaia was bred with the Combattant de Bruges, Thüringer Barthühner, and Ushanka fowl (Ушанка Куры), creating what became known as the Russian Orloff.

Thüringer Barthühner - Black Hen
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Thüringer Barthühner - Buff Laced Hen
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Combattant de Bruges - Black Rooster
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Ushanka (Ушанка Куры) - Hen
Photo Source: www.fermer.rul

Russian Orloff - Cuckoo Rooster
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Whatever the case, it is acknowledged that Count Orloff refined the Chlianskaia, creating a hardy dual-purpose fowl, and was a great promoter of this breed and its appearance in Western Europe and the United States is largely due to his efforts.

 Russian Orloff - Cuckoo Hen
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It is believed Orloffs were only introduced to Britain in the 1920s; this after they had been “refined” in Germany. Germans  are also credited for creating created the bantam Orloff , also in the 1920’s, having it recognized by their National Poultry Association in 1925.  

 Russian Orloff - Red (Mahogany) Rooster
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Russian Orloff - Red  (Mahogany) Hen
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Early importations of Orloffs to America were mainly black, heavy boned, hard muscled, chickens which were great meat fowl.  

 Russian Orloff - Black Cockerel
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Russian Orloff - Black Pullet
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Various colours soon gained popularity with the black variety quickly losing its prominence to the new colours, especially the Spangled variety. 

Russian Orloff - Spangled Chicks  Photo Source: Unknown

Supposedly there was a hatchery operating in Pennsylvania that hatched Orloffs in seven colors, but unfortunately closed around the late 1930's or early 1940's.  Today in North America, you would be hard pressed to find a Russian Orloff other than the Spangled Variety.  There are a few Mohagany (in some countries this is a variety called "Red"), but for the most part, Spangled is what you will find in Standard varieties.  Although the A.P.A. no longer recognizes the Russian Orloff, the A.B.A. does.
More Russian Orloff Pictures

  Russian Orloff - White Rooster
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  Russian Orloff - White Hen
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  Russian Orloff - Mottled Rooster
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 Russian Orloff - Mottled Hen
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The following pictures are of Spangled Russian Orloffs.  If anyone knows the source please advise me so that proper Source Credits may be asked for and presented.

Interesting Links Regarding Orloffs: - The Russian Orloff Club of Great Britain     - Mahogany and Spangled Standards      - Cuckoo and Spangled Standards    - Mahogany, Mottled and Spangled Bantams - Spangled Standards    - a British Site with interesting pictures    - German Orloff Society

German Orloff Society

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If you would like your site listed or have additional information or comments, please email me at: or


  1. Their heads look similar to my Ameraucana or "Easter-Egger" hens' heads. Again, I knew about teh Orlov Trotter but not the chicken breed!

  2. We have Russian Spangled and they're the most friendly and docile chickens. My husband thought I was crazy for wanting them and now they're his favorite breed.

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    The Chicken Chick

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  5. Does anyone happen to have a copy of the old APA Standard for Perfect that the Russian Orloffs we're in? We raise both the bantam and the large fowl. We have been raising and showing exhibition poultry for over 18 years. Would love to have a copy of the standard dating back in the 1800s when they were accepted in the standard.