No better words can describe one’s first impression of the Yokohama chicken besides “sheer elegance.” With its brilliant, pure white with plumage accented by red across its shoulders and back, red breast with white flecks in the Red Shouldered variety, long flowing type, long saddle feathers, and sickle feathers dragging the ground. In type, they resemble the Sumatra chicken, but with much longer saddle, sickle, and tail feathers. They have a walnut-shaped comb, small or missing wattles, orange-red eyes, and yellow legs.
Like the Phoenix chicken, the Yokohama is a German creation from long-tailed, Japanese fowls. The first importation of long-tailed fowls came from Japan to the Jardin d’Acclimatation (Acclimatization Gardens) in Paris in 1864. Instead of displaying the fowls as Japanese Long-tails or Jitori, or by the breed name Minohiki as they were called in Japan, they were named after the port city, Yokohama, and called Race de Yokohama.
In 1869, a Mr. Prosche from Dresden, Germany, was able to obtain a trio of these birds from Paris. Mr. Prosche twice tried to import more of these beautiful Japanese chickens, but only males survived the sea voyage. Concerned with the breed’s small genetic, famous German author Bruno Duringen imported some Yokohamas from Japan in 1902. Again, only males survived the long voyage. Out of necessity, breeders out-crossed to Malay, Phoenix, common game fowl, and later Sumatra chickens to reinvigorate the breed.
Tails of three and four feet in length have been produced on Yokohama chickens. In Japan, the Yokohama’s ancestors are said to have produced tails as long as 27 feet. Up until 1922, a red-shouldered variety of Minohikis also existed in Japan. Today they’re extenct and the Yokohama are all that’s left to represent this unique color variety.
Both White Yokohama and Red Shouldered Yokohama chickens have a purity and luster to the white feathering. This is a result of genes for dominant white. The color pattern on the Red Shouldered variety is the result of incomplete dominance of white to red genes.
The Yokohama chicken is an alert breed with a game-like appearance. They’re indifferent layers and go broody after laying only 12 to 14 eggs. The chicks are hardy, but require extra protein when their tails are growing. The breed is well-suited to estates where it can roam at large, thriving best when given a good deal of freedom.
It’s unclear when Yokohama chickens arrived in the U.S. However, they were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in 1981 in two varieties: White and Red Shouldered. Males are 4.5 pounds and females are 3.5 pounds.
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.