The Russian Orloff is the only distinctly Russian chicken breed in the U.S. Russian tradition credits Count Orloff – Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov (1737-1808) – with the importation and promotion of the breed. This is the same Count responsible for Orlov horses. It’s said that the Count imported the breed from Persia.
There’s also speculation that the European Bruge, Thuringian, and Ushanki chickens formed the basis or have contributed to the Russian Orloff. The Bruge is a heavy-boned, Malayoid type Game chicken found in Belgium. The Thuringian is a bearded breed found in central Germany. It’s lightweight and in size close to that of a Leghorn. The Ushanki is an eastern European landrace fowl that’s very similar the Russian Orloff in appearance, with the exception of having a single comb. The Ushanki is an ancestor of the Thuringian and it seems quite probable that some Ushanki birds have been, at the least, incorporated into the Russian Orloff.
The Russian Orloff chicken wasn’t known in England and western Europe until 1899, but the breed arrived in America way before this, having been included in the American Poultry Association’s standards in 1875 until 1894. It was removed due to lack of popularity. Famous American poultry author, John Robinson of Reliable Poultry Journal, also remarked that he had seen the breed as a child in America many decades before 1899.
The Russian Orloff is tall, with a very thickly feathered neck, yellow legs, minuscule wattles, and a cushion/strawberry comb. The first APA standard lists the breed as having a rose comb (double comb) without a spike and solid black plumage. This lack of spike is genetically consistent with what we now call a cushion comb, or another variant, the strawberry comb. Strawberry, cushion, and walnut combs result from the interaction of the dominant genes for rose and for pea-shaped combs. The Russian Orloff chicken males should weigh 8.5 pounds and the females 6.5 pounds.
The Russian Orloff chicken can be found in three color varieties: Red, White, and Spangled. The once-popular Black variety is rarely seen anymore. At least three other color varieties have also existed: Mottled, Black Breasted Red (Wheaten), and Buff. The British Standard lists four varieties of Russian Orloff: Black, Mahogany, Spangled, and White. The chief distinction of this chicken though, besides its looks, is their extreme hardiness. They’ll tolerate cold and foul weather, and survive when other breeds cannot. Russian Orloffs are indifferent layers of light brown eggs. They’re classified as non-broody and are noted to have a calm temperament. They were primarily favored for meat production, but are noted for being hard fleshed.
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.