1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fowl

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FOWL (Dan. Fugl, Ger. Vogel), a term originally used in the sense that bird[1] now is, but, except in composition,—as sea-fowl, wild-fowl and the like,—practically almost confined[2] at present to designate the otherwise nameless species which struts on our dunghills, gathers round our barn-doors, or stocks our poultry yards—the type of the genus Gallus of ornithologists, of which four well-marked species are known. The first of these is the red jungle-fowl of the greater part of India, G. ferrugineus,—called by many writers G. bankiva,—which is undoubtedly the parent stock of all the domestic races (cf. Darwin, Animals and Plants under Domestication, i. pp. 233-246). It inhabits northern India from Sind to Burma and Cochin China, as well as the Malay Peninsula and many of the islands as far as Timor, besides the Philippines. It occurs on the Himalayas up to the height of 4000 ft., and its southern limits in the west of India proper are, according to Jerdon, found on the Raj-peepla hills to the south of the Nerbudda, and in the east near the left bank of the Godavery, or perhaps even farther, as he had heard of its being killed at Cummum. This species resembles in plumage what is commonly known among poultry-fanciers as the “Black-breasted game” breed, and this is said to be especially the case with examples from the Malay countries, between which and examples from India some differences are observable—the latter having the plumage less red, the ear-lappets almost invariably white, and slate-coloured legs, while in the former the ear-lappets are crimson, like the comb and wattles, and the legs yellowish. If the Malayan birds be considered distinct, it is to them that the name G. bankiva properly applies. This species is said to be found in lofty forests and in dense thickets, as well as in ordinary bamboo-jungles, and when cultivated land is near its haunts, it may be seen in the fields after the crops are cut in straggling parties of from 10 to 20. The crow to which the cock gives utterance morning and evening is just like that of a bantam, never prolonged as in most domestic birds. The hen breeds from January to July, according to the locality; and lays from 8 to 12 creamy-white eggs, occasionally scraping together a few leaves or a little dry grass by way of a nest. The so-called G. giganteus, formerly taken by some ornithologists for a distinct species, is now regarded as a tame breed of G. ferrugineus or bankiva. The second good species is the grey jungle-fowl, G. sonnerati, whose range begins a little to the northward of the limits of the preceding, and it occupies the southern part of the Indian peninsula, without being found elsewhere. The cock has the end of the shaft of the neck-hackles dilated, forming a horny plate, like a drop of yellow sealing-wax. His call is very peculiar, being a broken and imperfect kind of crow, quite unlike that of G. ferrugineus and more like a cackle. The two species where their respective ranges overlap, occasionally interbreed in a wild state, and the present readily crosses in confinement with domestic poultry, but the hybrids are nearly always sterile. The third species is the Sinhalese jungle-fowl, G. stanleyi (the G. lafayettii of some authors), peculiar to Ceylon. This also greatly resembles in plumage some domestic birds, but the cock is red beneath, and has a yellow comb with a red edge and purplish-red cheeks and wattles. He has also a singularly different voice, his crow being dissyllabic. This bird crosses readily with tame hens, but the hybrids are believed to be infertile. The fourth species, G. varius (the G. furcatus of some authors), inhabits Java and the islands eastwards as far as Flores. This differs remarkably from the others in not possessing hackles, and in having a large unserrated comb of red and blue and only a single chin wattle. The predominance of green in its plumage is another easy mark of distinction. Hybrids between this species and domestic birds are often produced, but they are most commonly sterile. Some of them have been mistaken for distinct species, as those which have received the names of G. aeneus and G. temmincki.

Several circumstances seem to render it likely that fowls were first domesticated in Burma or the countries adjacent thereto, and it is the tradition of the Chinese that they received their poultry from the West about the year 1400 B.C. By the Institutes of Manu, the tame fowl is forbidden, though the wild is allowed to be eaten—showing that its domestication was accomplished when they were written. The bird is not mentioned in the Old Testament nor by Homer, though he has Ἀλέκτωρ (cock) as the name of a man, nor is it figured on ancient Egyptian monuments. Pindar mentions it, and Aristophanes calls it the Persian bird, thus indicating it to have been introduced to Greece through Persia, and it is figured on Babylonian cylinders between the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. It is sculptured on the Lycian marbles in the British Museum (c. 600 B.C.), and E. Blyth remarks (Ibis, 1867, p. 157) that it is there represented with the appearance of a true jungle-fowl, for none of the wild Galli have the upright bearing of the tame breed, but carry their tail in a drooping position. For further particulars of these breeds see Poultry.  (A. N.) 

  1. Bird (cognate with breed and brood) was originally the young of any animal, and an early Act of the Scottish parliament speaks of “Wolf-birdis,” i.e. Wolf-cubs.
  2. Like Deer (Dan. Dyr, Ger. Tier). Beast, too, with some men has almost attained as much specialization.