The Shamo chicken’s ancestors are believed to have arrived in Japan during the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867) from Siam (Thailand). As with many other Oriental fighting breeds, the Shamo chicken was designed with strength in mind for striking and endurance for sustained combat; qualities necessary in the naked-heel “boxing” form of fighting practiced in the Orient. Without a doubt, Japanese breeders admired many qualities of the original birds and applied much care into enhancing those qualities. The end result of their efforts was a breed uniquely Japanese.
Across Japan the Shamo can be found in some variety of colors and sizes according to region – different regions favoring fowls of different sizes for boxing. The O-Shamo is a large bird with males weighing 12.4 lbs and females 7.5 lbs. The Chu-Shamo is a medium bird with males weighing 8 lbs and females weighing 6 lbs. The Kimpa Shamo is a smaller bird with males weighing 4 lbs and females 3 lbs. Kimpa-Shamo males are also hen-feathered, that is the plumage of their hackles, saddles, and tails have wide, blunt feathers like a hen, lacking the classic well-furnished tails typical on roosters.
The first documented Shamos outside of Japan were noted by German poultry author Bruno Duringen. He wrote that the first breeding pairs of Shamos arrived in Germany in March 1884 and were owned by the Countess of Ulm-Erbach. It is not until 1953 that a second importation of Shamos to Germany is recorded; this time the owner of the Hagenbeck Zoo was able to obtain birds from the Tokyo Zoo.
In 1941, to protect the breed from possible extinction, the Japanese government placed the breed under protection of law. The first Shamos known in America returned home with G.I.s after World War II; some probably being transported as eggs in a pocket. In America’s south, the breed was admired and became popular for crossbreeding to produce superior fighting stock. Even today the majority of Shamos in America can be found in southern states.
In appearance, the Shamo is a large, tall chicken with upright, nearly vertical, body carriage, well-muscled thighs, wide, muscular body, and hard, closely held feathers that often do not completely cover their bodies. Shamos have pea-shaped combs, pearl colored eyes, and exhibit a rather cruel expression. In temperament the breed is quite friendly to humans, though considerably pugnacious to other chickens of the same sex.
Shamo chickens are fair to poor egg layers but are devoted mothers. The meat is noted for being excessively firm, even rather tough. During the nineteenth century Shamo meat was favored as a “pep” food and slices of Shamo chicken were a part of many Sumo wrestlers’ diet.
The Shamo chicken is recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) and was admitted as a standard breed in 1981 in the following varieities: Black; Dark; and Black Breasted Red (Wheaten). In America males should weigh 11 lbs and females 7 lbs.
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.