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DESCRIPTION OF THE DIFFERENT SPECIES OF FOWLS,
HAVING briefly noticed such of the various wild herds of the gallinaceous group as Europeans have been enabled to become acquainted with, we next enter upon the task of describing the individuals which constitute the domestic race of poultry. On no point connected with this subject does there exist greater diversity of opinion, than has been elicited by the inquiry,—to what can the origin of the common fowl be traced? Most commonly some of the wild species of the East are pointed to as the aboriginal stock: whilst a totally opposite theory obtains among many who have given their attention to the matter, and who assert that all attempts to trace the wild origin of our domestic species must fail; that the races of domesticated animals never were wild ; that the futility of all efforts hitherto made to tame or domesticate existing wild species of fowls, proves that the domestic race must be aboriginal,-from the beginning designed and created by a beneficent Providence for the uses of man: others, again, contend that our domestic fowls, are but the survivors of extirpated and now extinct races that once ranged the primeval woods and jungles: and in support of this last theory, it is urged that the extinction of wild races has taken place, and is even now going on around us; the Dodo, (already lost,) the Bustard, Emu, Capercaillie, and Mallard, (gradually disappearing,) are given as illustrations.
It would not, however, be of any practical use to consider the arguments by which it is sought to establish these conflicting theories, especially as we could have but little hope of satisfactorily settling the point; and until the researches and investigations of naturalists and scientific men put us in possession of further means of information, we may content ourselves in the belief, that in all probability it is to the operation of each or all of the causes or principles assigned, either separately or in combination, that we are indebted for many of the existing species of domestic fowls.
We now proceed with our description of the
Name.-Loo-Choos, Chinese; Cochin China ; Shanghai ; and Ostrich Fowl.
Of these, the two first should alone be retained, the first as the name by which the Chinese are said to designate them,—and the second as that by which they have ever been known to us since their first introduction to this country. The cognomen “ Shanghai,” recently applied to them by some writers, who seek to substitute it for that of Cochin China, should be avoided, as the change, being useless, serves only to create confusion,-a cogent reason why poultry fanciers and dealers should scrupulously resist an arbitrary and capricious attempt to smother a tolerably well-known appellation, for one more un-English, but certainly not more accurately applied. The last designation should at once be banished, as it originated in a ridiculous supposition that the construction of the wing was double-jointed, and similar to that of the ostrich; a fallacy we are surprised to find again repeated in the last edition of Richardson's little hand-book. If any change in the name by which these fowls have been from the first distinguished is necessary, (a point, however, we cannot admit,) surely the most reasonable and unexceptionable would be to substitute that of the country whence imported, about which no doubt is entertained, rather than that of any particular place, whose claim may be a matter of dispute: and in this view the term “ China fowl” has been suggested, as being less open to objection; it is, however, an incorrect form of expression, as we might with equal elegance and propriety speak of a Spain fowl, an England fowl, &c. : but it may be worth considering whether “ Chinese fowl ” would not be a desirable compromise between the rival names of Cochin China and Shanghai or Shanghae. On the whole, we have preferred to retain for the present the one we have selected, as being that almost universally adopted, and by which it is now most widely known.
Origin.—The inquiry “when and whence was this famous breed conveyed hither?” elicits a very striking illustration of the confusion and obscurity which surround, not only such and similar facts of ancient date, but even those of a recent period. Here we have a foreign variety introduced here, certainly within the last ten years, and yet the poultry historians cannot agree either as to when or whence it was imported! The editors of the Poultry Book assert that they were not imported until the year 1845, grounding such statement on the fact that although the Zoological Society held a Poultry Show in May of that year, and offered prizes for “ Asiatic varieties,” yet no oriental birds but Malays found their way thither; and also upon the assumption that her Majesty did not receive her presentation specimens until then. Now the first ground affords only a very slender and negative support to the assertion, whilst the other is altogether erroneous: it was shortly after the termination of the Chinese war in 1843, that
Sir Edward Belcher, on his return to England, presented some of these fowls to our sovereign, by whom they were ordered to be placed in the royal aviary,-a confirmation of which is found in a volume published in 1844,* wherein mention is made of the “ Cochin China fowls lately presented to her Majesty.” Those made their“ first appearance in public,” at the Dublin Royal Agricultural Society's Exhibition, held in the early part of the spring of 1846, whence they became known, and likewise distributed by the liberality of their royal possessor. It has been stated that Captain Heaviside, of Walthamstow, (Essex,) received a present of some, from a friend, with a letter dated Canton, August, 1842; but in the absence of more detailed particulars, we must be excused for believing that her Majesty's were the first introduced here. The next direct importation appears to have been that by Mr. S. Moody, a gentleman residing at Droxford (Hampshire); which were followed in the same year (1847) by the celebrated originals of the stock of Mr. Sturgeon, of Grays, (Essex,) who obtained them by chance from on board a “ Chinaman,” lying in the West India Docks. So much for the period of their importation hither. In America they did not make their appearance (at least not genuine specimens) until 1846. The exact spot which may be regarded as the one of their original location, cannot, perhaps, be accur
* Farming for Ladies.