Archive for the 'Gamefowl' Category


Manuel Reynolds’ Hyderabad Asils and Shamos

(As related to me by Billy Sumner and Carr Harris)

by Charles Everett

I had heard about this eccentric old gentleman chicken breeder from Virginia for years before I discovered that I actually possessed some of his blood on my yard. He died nearly 45 years ago: which means he was breeding Asil and Shamo before anyone on this site was even born. He had the most sought after Asil and Shamo on the eastern seaboard. The American cockfighters bought his birds to cross onto their American Gamefowl. None of these people bred them pure, however three young men from different backgrounds, and states, became the sole possessors of Manuel’s Asil and Shamo upon his death.

Manuel imported his Asil from Pakistan and his Shamo from Japan. His were not the first imports of these breeds into the United States, but they were considered to be the best in their day and the Asil are still viewed that way. The Shamo are another story that will be related further in this article.

Today, Manuel Reynolds’ Asil are sold as Hyderabad Asil in the United States. Whether that is because Manuel related to the sole inheritor of his Asil that they were indeed Hyderabad in origin, or whether the name was just attached to them, I cannot say with any degree of certainty. What I can tell you is that his Asil are different than any other Asil in America. Generally, the females come laced, whereas the males show no lacing. They are heavily beetle browed, around 5 to 7 lbs., and of excellent type and constitution. Of all the Asil I have kept, they are the gamest of the game. Unless raised together, the females fight like cocks, and cannot be kept with any other hens. If they are penned with other hens, the result will be death. This is not simply a pecking order thing I’m speaking of. I’m telling you they will kill the other hens.

Pure Manuel Reynolds' Asil hen: today refered to as a Hyderabad Asil
Pure Manuel Reynolds’ Asil hen: today refered to as a Hyderabad Asil

Hyderabad Asil cock.

Assuming Manuel Reynolds’ imported his Asil a century ago, and then there have only been 2 primary breeders of these birds during this time. These birds have not received any new blood during this time, but have been inbred with no disastrous results because of the vigor of the breed, and vast numbers hatched.

Manuel’s Shamo looked vastly different than the Shamo seen today. They did not possess the long legs of the Shamo of today. They had parrot beaks and big thick heads; the scales on the front of the legs are often lifted as if the bird had scale mites (which they do not) and was considered a very desirable trait. Also, they were not as upright as many of the Shamo seen in our shows in America. In there day, Manuel’s Shamo were the most sought after Shamo in America. Today, only one man possesses pure Manuel Reynolds’ Shamo blood: Billy Sumner, of North Carolina.

Recently, I had a conversation with Craig Russell, of Pennsylvania, concerning the Shamo. Craig is the foremost authority on chickens in America today in my opinion. I asked him which he considered to be the more correct Shamo type. Craig lived in Japan for several years during the 1970’s, as well as in other areas of Asia. He stated that when he traveled around to different areas of Japan, you would see birds that people were calling O Shamo with variable type. Some carried their bodies at, or around 45 degrees, while others carried them nearly horizontal. Carr Harris, who knew Manuel Reynolds agreed. Carr further added that the Shamo in America today show the influence of Thais. He stated that this could be seen in the ‘snake-headed’ feature of many Shamo. Both Carr Harris, and Craig Russell believe the head of Manuel Reynolds’ Shamo to be the more correct in type: thick all over, and without taper towards the front.

Billy Sumner still shows the Manuel Reynolds Shamo as they have been shown in America for nearly a century now. He seldom wins today because most exhibitors and judges aren’t even aware that standing in the cage before them is an old strain of fowl, that has been bred pure from imports, which came to our shore nearly a century ago. A breed of fowl kept by only two breeders in the United States in all that time, which in turn has been bred to look, and act, like Manuel Reynolds believed they should be.

This Shamo cock has 1/2 Manuel Reynolds blood. This can be seen most easily in the beak, head, length of leg and neck. Manuel’s pure Shamo stock were somewhat more upright than this bird, but not much.

Up and down the eastern seaboard, American cockers of the early twentieth century used the Asil, and Shamo bred by Manuel Reynolds to bring the added weight, and height to their American Gamefowl. If the actual histories of all the Roundhead breeds on the east coast could be told, I believe somewhere in their background would exist one of Manuel’s birds. He was the quintessential American breeder.

Read the comments below for additional information we have been finding out!


The American Game Fowl

By: Daniel Thornton & Randy Stevens

Kelso Cock

Breed Statistics:

Purpose: Ornamental, Cockfighting (where legal)

Comb: Pea,  Straight, Triple, and combinations of each

Broodiness: Frequent

Climate Tolerance: All Climates

Breed Temperament: Aggressive towards other birds, but easily handled by people. Bears confinement well, and very vocal

Breed colors/varieties: Almost any color imaginable

Leg Color: White, Yellow, Green, Blue, Black

General Egg Info:

Productivity: Average

Size: Medium

Color: White or Cream

Kelso Hen


American games were created by the various European, and Oriental games that were brought into our country by our forefathers. They bred them specifically for cockfighting, leaving us the birds we have today. Cockfighting is a large part of our heritage, like it is in many other countries around the world, but due to recent law changes, these beautiful birds are becoming more popular as an ornamental, or show fowl. There are organizations, like the American Gamefowl Society, that have standards for showing these birds, just as the APA does, and many people are starting to breed these birds for this, instead of the pit, but in the same time keeping the gameness that makes them what they are. The American gamefowl is broken down into strains, unlike most other fowl. Some of the more popular strains are Hatch, Kelso, Albany, Sweater, Whitehackle, Claret, Roundhead, and Butcher. Strain names originated from people that performed well in the pits, with the birds they made themselves through selective breeding. Strains are also broken down further by other breeders who did well with a particular strain, which in turn had a version of that strain named after them. A good example of this would be the Kelso fowl. The original Kelso was named after Walter Kelso, but one of the most well known breeders that did well with them was Johnny Jumper. This is where the Jumper line of Kelso originated. Most strains have several well-known bloodlines that other breeders have made famous. I know it sounds confusing, but these are all considered American games, but they have been broken down further based on their performance in the pits. Now days, most of the originators of these lines are long gone, but they are still called by these names, and an experienced gamefowl enthusiast knows that if they have a certain strain, it will have the correct look, and performance attributes of the original line it was named after. A few more examples of this are: Marsh Butchers, named after Phil Marsh; Sweaters, named after Herman “Sweater” McGinnis, who got his nickname from one day in 1926, the temperature dropped considerably, and Herman McGinnis was seen wearing a red knit sweater with buttons down the front. The bottom went to his knees like a dress, and the sleeves were rolled up to elbows and were bunched up as big as a football. About all you could see was a face, two hands, and two feet sticking out of a red sweater. Immediately people around him would say, ” Come here, Sweater” and the name just stuck; Lacy Roundheads, named after Judge Ernest Lacy. There are also other strains that their names came from certain circumstances, or a particular color. Some examples of these would be: Nigger Roundheads due to their dark feathering; Whitehackles got their name from being a red hackled fowl that if you lifted the hackle feathers, they were white underneath; Bumblefoot Grey fowl got their name from their color, and how these birds were raised in a very rocky area, and showed up at the pits with damaged feet from this on a regular basis. As you can see, there are many different strains of American games, and I only touched on a very small percentage of the most well known ones, but this should give you more of an understanding on how the different strains were created.

Game hen with chicks

Breed Comments/Experience:

American gamefowl are some of the hardiest birds that you will ever come across, and in my opinion, by far the most beautiful. They are known most for being excellent flyers, very good foragers, and you can’t beat them for broodiness. All of these traits make them an excellent choice for free ranging, until the stags come of age, then they will need to be separated, as they will fight to the death defending their territory. This is something that is part of their nature, being “game”, and nothing you do to them will change this unless you start mixing non-game breeds into them, and even then it doesn’t mean you will not still have this issue to deal with. This is why you see many people keep mature cocks on tethers attached to barrels, as it is a great way to keep them separated, and at the same time, allow them to move around enough to keep them happy and healthy. It is also common practice to dub cocks tight to the head, and remove the ear lobes and wattles as well. This practice was originally done for the pit, but now it is done for purely aesthetic reasons. Hen’s lay mid-spring to late summer, but some will continue until early fall. As a rule, games are normally easily handled birds, and are a joy to own. I highly recommend at least a pair of these birds in every yard.

Young stag and pullet



By Dr. Charles R H Everett

The old poultry writers, Browne, Finsterbusch, Temminick, and Wright felt the Malay was one of the more ancient breeds of fowl. Some even believed this race of fowl was derived from a now extinct breed of fowl. Whether they were correct in this last assumption has yet to be proved or disproved. What is for certain is their relationship to all the other Oriental Gamefowl excepting perhaps the Sumatra.

The Malay is one of the rarest breeds of poultry in North America. According two independent surveys conducted by the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy there are estimates of less than 300 breeding Malays in the United States and Canada. Most of these birds are in the hands of individual breeders. Currently, Billy Summers of North Carolina has the largest breeding flock in the States. As rare as the Malay large fowl is the bantam Malay is even rarer. Past APA President Danny Padgett of Florida is one of only a handful of breeders of Malay bantams in the country.

Malays possess several important traits in their pure form which is important for preservationist: namely, their ability to invigorate other breeds of fowl when used in a grading breeding system. Their height, weight, and general good health can be used to great advantage by the breeder when any of these are lacking in other rare breeds of fowl. Of course, we are all aware of the use of Malays to create the Cornish which is the cornerstone of our modern chicken meat industry. What many are not aware of is its use in improving many of the other non-Oriental Game breeds as well.

Though they are not a favorite of all poultry fanciers, there is no doubt that an excellent Malay demands attention. The best are cock birds are nearly 3 feet tall and weigh more than 10 pounds! Furthermore, the best hens reach nearly that same height and possess a definite game-disposition.

The ones I have seen in the shows lately have the height and weight but many are missing the refinement of Malays of the past. Without exception they should ALL possess the 3 curves: neck, back, and tail. The back should not be a roach back, but instead, produced by the wing carriage. The tail should be carried below the horizontal and should even be drooping or ‘whipped’ as it is called. The comb is known as a strawberry, walnut or cushion comb. All of these are one in the same they are just called various names by breeders from different parts of the country. The comb looks like a strawberry that has been cut vertically with the stem end placed at the top of the head. The Malay is one of those breeds where ‘type is everything!’

The stock that I have been working with contains ‘blood’ of the great stock of the past as shown by Hazel Matthews and Henry Miller. However, I will readily confess that I have experienced my share of problems in producing quality Malays. One of the problems I experienced early on was chicks with crooked toes. I mean, they would be near perfect in every area except for those crazy crooked toes! At first, I thought it was an inbreeding problem, and then, quite by accident I discovered it was an incubation problem. I had a bunch of Malay eggs in the incubator when I allowed the temperature to go up to 104*F. (This happened during one night). To my surprise, when these particular Malay eggs hatched there were no crooked toes! Thus, from this point on I allowed for higher temperatures with Malay eggs—never 104*F again, as this was an accident, instead I run my still-air incubator at 101-102*F for Malay eggs only. With these temperatures I have eliminated the crooked toes and have experienced excellent hatches. Could it be that the Malay has a higher body temperature than other breeds of fowl?

I have not had any fertility problems with my Malays, but I have culled for basic stamina. My stock does suffer from a peculiar genetic disorder experienced by various Gamefowl known as the ‘shakes’ or ‘tremors.’ I am almost certain that this difficulty is a result of inbreeding without proper culling. Thus, I cull ruthlessly for healthy stock. If any bird shows even the slightest lack of general good health, then we call that bird ‘supper!’

Malays are not the best laying females; though mine do lay rather well from January through March. From March onward it is hit and miss. The hens will also go broody in a skinny minute; especially when the weather gets warm. The cockerels tend to be fertile before the pullets. However, I try not to use young cockerels for breeding purposes. I like to give them time to adequately mature to see if there are any health problems that will develop. The cockerels are typically not mature until they are between 2 and 3 years of age. So, if you are looking for a fast maturing breed, then you need to look elsewhere.

To avoid growing problems, remember the legs of the Malay are very long and are required to hold a tremendous amount of weight—for a chicken—when mature. I take Malay chicks off chick starter when they are 10 weeks old. I grow them out on scratch grains, bread, and grass. This lower protein diet allows for them to mature slowly. Still, I have had Malay cockerels to ‘go down on the hocks’ abruptly at 12 weeks of age. This seems to be an inability of the young bird to absorb adequate amounts of riboflavin. SPPA member, Andy Marsinko, advised me to mix active yeast into the drinking water of the cockerels for one week at weeks 12, 14 and 16. The yeast helps breakdown the riboflavin in the green feed; thus, helping the young cockerel to absorb it into his system. Since beginning this practice, I have not had a single cockerel with this problem. Interestingly, I have never had a pullet to exhibit the same problem. When telling my story to a meat poultry producer, he gave me this funny look and said, “Now that you mention it, I’ve never seen a pullet go down on the hocks either; though we have cockerels do it all the time.” I cannot explain this phenomena, but on my farm and with my stock it is a fact—only cockerels ever exhibit the problem of going down on the hocks and this only seems to happen between the ages of 12 to 16 weeks.

These giants of the poultry world have almost disappeared from North America. There survival is due to a handful of breeders. A Malay breeder must possess adequate space for the breed to mature properly. This is not a breed for a cage! However, the bantam Malay still has all the characteristics of its’ larger counterpart without as much of a space requirement. I do believe the Malay needs to be preserved for future generations. It has been a foundation breed of our modern poultry industry and may be needed again. Besides, a flock of these giant chickens it simply a sight to see!

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