Ancient, exotic, and beautifully designed, the Aseel is a chicken breed developed in India and Pakistan for the sole purpose of cockfighting. They have compact, extremely muscular bodies held in a distinctive upright position, and are much heavier than they appear. Aseels also have short, strong, and well-curved beaks, as well as broad skulls, fierce, pale eyes, and an indomitable spirit.
The breed is so pugnacious that hens will often fight each other for hours. Even the day-old chicks have been seen sparing each other and chicks of other breeds – sometimes to the point of wounding them. Though aggressive to other chickens, Aseels are quite personable to their handlers. It’s their pugnacious nature and great stamina that have garnered these chickens worldwide respect.
The name Aseel, also spelled Asil and Azeel, translates to “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. Being given the name “Aseel” is a sign of the great respect held for the breed.
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 Pennsylvania 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 who are suitable for use on the range. 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. Reports show 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 said to be quite intelligent for a chicken and can be further recognized for some distinct physical characteristics, such as yellow-colored legs, a hawk-like beak, and a round skull with eyes neatly centered. The Aseel is also noted for having a large heart for body size and short intestines when compared to other chicken breeds.
Though slow-growing, Aseels have been used successfully in crossbreeding to produce very meaty carcasses in its offspring. In fact, Aseels were used to create the Cornish chicken and are 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 and was admitted as a standard breed in 1981 in the following colors: Black Breasted Red (Wheaten), Dark, Spangled, and White.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.