Ancient, exotic, beautifully designed, the Aseel is a breed of chicken developed in India and Pakistan for the sole purpose cock fighting. Aseel chickens have compact, extremely muscular bodies held in a distinctive upright position, and are much heavier than they appear. They also have short, strong, well-curved beaks, a broad skulls, fierce, pale eyes, and indomitable spirit. Aseel chickens are so pugnacious that hens will often fight each other for hours; even the day old chicks have been noted to spar each other and chicks of other breeds – sometimes to the point of wounding other chicks. Though aggressive to other chickens, Aseels are quite personable to their handlers. It is the pugnacious nature of the breed and its great stamina that have garnered it world-wide respect.
The name Aseel (also spelled Asil and Azeel) translates as “pure” or “thoroughbred” in Arabic and “high-born, high caste, pure, and original” in Hindi. In India the name was originally applied to any chicken that was found to be genuinely game. It is a sign of the great respect held for this breed that it should be given the name “Aseel”.
In India, this breed has been known for thousands of years. The great poultry author, Lewis Wright, stated, “…the birds whose battles are alluded to in the Institutes of Menu [a legal document], 1000 BC, if not Aseel as now known, were at least their ancestors.” The first Aseels imported into the United States came from Lucknow, India, and were imported by Dr. H.P. Clarke of Indianapolis, IN. Dr. Clarke first exhibited the breed at the 1887 Indiana State Fair. Dr. D.S. Newill of PA also imported Aseel chickens from India in 1931. The breed was known in England by 1846, and may have arrived earlier.
Aseels are vigorous and tenacious survivors, and are suitable for use on range. The hens are poor and seasonal layers of brown-shelled eggs, but make excellent broodies and mothers, being quite formidable in the protection of their young. There are reports of Aseel hens fighting off snakes in the protection of their eggs or chicks. Both males and females have short and hard feathers, which are held tightly to their bodies. They have a meaty carcass and are slow growing. The males have a very distinctive, short, chopped-off crow. The breed is reported to be quite intelligent for chickens and can further be recognized for some distinct physical characteristics, such as yellow colored legs, a hawk-like beak shape, and a round skull with eye neatly in the center. The Aseel is also noted for having a large heart for body size, as well as short intestines – when compared to other chicken breeds.
Though slow growing, Aseels have been used very successfully to crossbreed to produce very meaty carcasses on the offspring. In fact, Aseels were used to create the Cornish chicken, and so may be said to be the original source of the genes that give today’s commercial broilers their meaty proportions.
The Aseel is recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) and was admitted as a standard breed in 1981 in the following colors: Black Breasted Red (Wheaten); Dark; Spangled; and White.
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