Friday, March 27, 2009


Around the World with Chickens
by Alejandro Clemente

Observing that many of our students go through general education without soiling their hands or handling animals, I thought of a scheme wherein students can be exposed more to animals. Why not let school children raise different chickens in the school, I thought.
Not only will they be able to take care of living things. They will also help preserve the breeds of native chickens that are slowly disappearing due to adulteration by foreign meat and egg type chickens that are favored by large poultry operators.

That suggestion was made in 1994. The high school in Central Luzon State University adopted the scheme and has now come out with a good collection of native chickens. I do not know how many schools have followed suit. On my part, I put the money where my mouth is, so to speak, and started collecting chickens.

For some reason, word spread out that I like chicken. The next thing I know, some congressmen whom I have helped with their requests were sending me chickens.

English sailors sailed the seas with their Old English chicken. As Irishmen found a new home in America, they also brought along their cocks. Towards the South of the United States, settlers there got Spanish breeds from Cuba and Mexico. From 1842 onwards, the Americans imported Sumatras and Asils. In 1887, Dr. H. P. Clarke of Indianapolis, Indiana crossed Asils with the old English fowls and came out with an American fighting cock that is better known today as Roundhead.

Chickens in Canada were brought in by French settlers in the French side of Canada. Otherwise, most of the chickens in English-speaking Canada came from the United States.

The chickens of South America came mainly from Spain. There were basically two drop points, Mexico for north of Latin America, and Peru for the south. Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama got their chickens from Mexico. So did countries like Venezuela and Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay got their chickens from Peru. Argentina and Cuba had the benefit of direct importation from Spain.

Brazil, a Portuguese colony, not only received Spanish fowls but also chickens from Indonesia, India and Madagascar that were brought in by Portuguese sailors. The Dutch, which colonized Indonesia, also brought Indonesian, Malaysian and Indian chickens to Dutch colonies in Latin America, dropping some of the chickens along the way in Madagascar. No wonder, the Malay gamecock, known as Asil in India and Shamo in Japan, is found and bred in many Latin American countries even up to this day.

From the mid-1800s onwards, Latin America had an influx of Americans and Europeans and these people introduced their own chickens.

If Europe is the source of most of the chickens in the new world of South and North America, where did the European chickens came from? They were not natives to Europe. It is believed that most of the European chickens found their way from the Middle East. From there, Phoenicians, people who occupied a 240 km coastal strip in Palestine and good seafarers and traders who plied the seas even as far as China, brought the chickens to Western Europe. As for chickens in Russia, they came overland from China.

Within Europe, Romans, who conquered most of Europe, also brought along Italian chickens. These were still the same Bankiva pheasant type chickens from Persia.

Where did the Persians got their chicken? They got most of them from India.- both the Bankivoid and Malayoid types.

There is a belief that the Asils found in India may have come from Burma and Thailand. Some also came from Singapore. And when we talk of Singapore some may have come from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Black fighting cocks with black tongue, feather, skin and even blood come as different breeds known as Black Arabian, Black Egyptian, Black Mallorca, Black Mozambique, Black Persian, Black Tanagra, Black Tartentum and Black Tassel. All these could have originated from the Black Java and Black Sumatra of Indonesia.

The Philippines seems to be a paradise of chickens as most of the ancient and basic breeds from Bankivas, Varius, to Malays have been here right from the start. I had to bring in Malays from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, not to mention Sumatras only to discover that these chickens are found in abundance in Sulo, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Cotabato and Lanao. In a manner of reserve cock-drain, the breeds perfected in Spain and America out of the basic breeds found in the Philippines were introduced back to the Philippines by the Spanish and American colonizers.

All this time, we have been sitting on a goldmine as we have the basic ingredients to concoct and come out with our own breeds, whether for game or barndoor fowls. It is a pity we never worked systematically on mixing these ingredients. Instead, we depended more on importing new breeds.