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The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Game Breeding

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GAME BREEDING signifies to most persons the rearing in captivity of gallinaceous birds for purposes of sport, as pheasants, grouse, quails and the like; but it must be extended to include the rearing of wild ducks and geese in confinement to be sold as food. The peacock, turkey and our domestic poultry (originally jungle fowls) are familiar examples of ancient success in this direction and local species of wild birds of this order are “pets” in all parts of the world. Great Britain rears annually, under personal care, millions of the common South-Russian pheasant (see Pheasant) for the sake of sport in the autumn; and great quantities of this game and of the red grouse preserved on the grouse-moors of Scotland and elsewhere have been utilized as food in the scarcity of food resulting from the present war in Europe. The ring-necked pheasant of eastern China and Japan was long ago taken to Europe and has interbred with the Western pheasants until now it is difficult to find any of either kind there of pure blood. This ring-neck was introduced from semi-domesticated Japanese stock into Oregon about 1890 and in a few years had become a common wild bird throughout all that coast-region and still remains so, although no particular care has been given to it. This is owing to the similarity of the mild climate to that of their native lands. Some years later pairs of these and of the British pheasants were acclimated in the Eastern States and did well. They are now reared on country estates and farms all over the United States for both pleasure and profit and in many places have been turned out as wild birds. They are described as light eaters, of good size and are very prolific; and both birds and eggs bring excellent prices. Several other species are reared, with more trouble, for ornamental purposes, principally the golden, silver, eared, Reeve's and Lady Amherst's pheasants; but they are more costly and less hardy. Very full and trustworthy directions for their care during the breeding season, the treatment of the young, feeding, etc., may be found in the books quoted below.

The wild turkey has been bred in some cases, but only where an extensive tract of enclosed wild woodland is available. It is possible to rear any of the grouse, but only the ruffed grouse has been successfully produced and this is attended with many difficulties on account of the pugnacity of the male and other troublesome factors. Each pair requires a large, separate wire-enclosure, the cost of which is so great that grouse-culture will not be profitable commercially until the wild supply is much diminished. The cultivation of bob-white (our American “quail,” called “partridge” in the South, where the ruffled grouse is known as “pheasant”) has been undertaken on a large scale and with considerable success on Long Island and in some other favorable places; but each breeding-pair must have a small separate enclosure and the eggs must be incubated in almost every case by a bantam hen. The increase is fast, but when the birds are strong the coveys are likely to stray out of bounds. The Mexican scaled quail, a very pretty and interesting bird, has been reared on several Northern estates as also has the California and other Western quails; but these are pets and ornaments only, as yet. The methods of culture have been learned, however, and hereafter may be of much service in restocking depleted areas. The common European partridge was imported very largely a few years ago under the name Hungarian partridge and was bred easily in preserved tracts; but it disappointed the hope of sportsmen, has not multiplied and is no longer in favor. On the whole the breeding of game-birds, while a very delightful amusement, has not become of any practical importance.

The breeding of waterfowl has much the same history. The Canada and other wild geese have long been reared by themselves in confinement, or are mixed with tame flocks; so, also, has the mallard, from which, indeed, our domestic ducks are mainly derived. Black ducks are easily domesticated and these, with mallards, are produced for market in some places. Experiments show that with labor and much expense any of the fresh-water ducks may be reared; but thus far the matter is one of enjoyment rather than profit. Many extensive “game-farms,” devoted to cultivating and selling breeding-stock of these various birds, exist in the Northern States; but the movement for general game-production in this way encounters considerable popular opposition and does not receive the legal encouragement that it desires and perhaps needs, owing to popular prejudice against its apparent exclusiveness. Consult files of the Game Breeder magazine and the writings of its editor, Dwight Huntington; Bulletins No. 1 and No. 2 of the National Association of Audubon Societies; Job, H. K., ‘The Propagation of Wild Birds’ (New York 1915).

Ernest Ingersoll.