May 19, 2008

The mother of all chickens: Red Jungle Fowl

Honduras bantam roosterPancho, La Gringa's bantam rooster

Honduran bantam roosterI read a Yahoo Chicken discussion group and the other day someone posted a link to photos of his Red Jungle Fowl. Red Jungle Fowl are the predecessors of all domestic chickens. Tommy's fowl came from the San Diego, California zoo so he believed them to be pure Red Jungle Fowl (RJF). I had heard of RJF but didn't recall ever seeing a photo so I took a look.

Honduran bantam roosterImagine my surprise to see my chickens and rooster's doubles in those photos! Panchos's coloration is exactly like Tommy's cockerel. I was so curious that I spent hours reading info about the Red Jungle Fowl and looking at photos. Several good photos are on this Feathersite page.

Based on this article by H.S. Wong in Malaysia, it turns out that the chickens from the zoo (and mine) are somewhat removed from the originals. The true RJF roosters hold their tails horizontally rather than vertically like Pancho does.

Honduran bantam henRJF have a white thingymabob, rather than red, beneath their ears; only two of my hens do. The hens have no combs and mine do. Two of my hens have yellow legs and the true RJF have slate colored legs like Pancho. Then there is the matter of them being bantams (miniatures). I don't know if there were any bantam RJF or not. So....lots of differences, but still the similarities are amazing.

Honduran bantam henA lot of people who think they have RJF probably don't due to interbreeding with domestic hybrid chickens. In fact, scientists now think that true RJF may be in danger of extinction due to interbreeding with domestic chickens. A history of the Red Jungle Fowl can be found here. DNA studies done in Japan have narrowed down ancestor of the current day domestic chickens to a single RJF species originating in what is now Thailand and Vietnam about 8,000 years ago.

Honduran bantam henAnyway, they sure do look like the Red Jungle Fowl and I got a big kick out of that. Pancho is one handsome guy and he knows it. He is a very good rooster. He stands back, keeping guard, while the hens eat. He also chases the dogs off if they try to bother the hens. Nature at its best. Nature at its worst: He starts crowing at 4 a.m.

Honduran bantam rooster
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