Game fowl were introduced to England by the Romans in the 1st century, thus creating a long history of cock-fighting for sport in the region. As an affordable sport, it attracted participants from all walks of life. Anyone could raise chickens and cock-fighting was extremely popular in England for centuries, until it was banned in 1849.
Cock-fighting was even introduced into public schools in England in the early 1800s, to introduce and inspire adolescence towards the endurance, strength, and courage displayed by the fighting cocks. The Old English Game chickens descend from the ancient fighting cocks and have changed little in shape or appearance in 1,000 years. Now raised for their exotic appearance, the breed’s history is imprinted in its appearance.
Game fowl have specific adaptations suited for their former life in the ring. The traditional Old English has a compact, muscular body, and broad shoulders with hard, glossy feathers. The feathers are tight to the body to prevent a competitor from grasping them in the beak. They also have large well-curved beaks, long necks with strong heads, fearless eyes, and indomitable spirit. The comb and wattles of male birds are trimmed early in life, a practice referred to as dubbing.
Old English Games come in a variety of colors, and the tail feathers are broad and strong, making the tails both large and distinctive, especially the curving tail feathers of males. In the United States, Old English Games were selected for speed and are smaller, narrower, and softer feathered than their British counterparts. Today, most Old English Game chickens are raised for exhibition. They may be aggressive to other fowl and must be confined appropriately.
Females lay few eggs and although they’re excellent brooders, they can be overly aggressive mothers. Because of their excellent muscle distribution, Old English Game makes a wonderful table bird. They can tolerate extremes of climate, are good foragers, and do well in free-range situations; however, they have great stamina and can fly and escape very well. They’re long-lived birds with some living as long as 15 years or more.
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.