The Lille Collection of Preserved Breeds, Part 2

The Lille Collection of Preserved Breeds, Part 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Stuart Sutton, England

The Collection of preserved poultry of the Natural History Museum of Lille is one of the best kept, largest and most interesting in Europe. It dates back to 1823. This series details many of the birds in its collection.


Roman writer, Columella, described the Dorking as having a square frame and large and broad breast, large head and five claws. Both the 1864 and 1901 males pictured could be said to look smaller in size, slightly taller and less cloddy than today’s birds.

Whether it was an indigenous fowl in Britain is debatable, and the great Victorian poultry authority Lewis Wright, certainly thought the Dorking originated from fowl descended from prized birds bred in Rome. Interestingly, William Tegetmeier, another famous poultry expert, thought that the Dorking breed had been spoiled by a Mr. Douglas, whom he said, “had crossed Dorking with a Malay cock causing coarseness and a lack of table qualities.”

Another authority, Mr. Cresswell, states in 1881, “The silver Greys in breeding for feather have lost the hardihood and plumpness they originally derived from the game. It was the fanciers who cried out against dark shanks and long legs and thus brought back short legs and white feet as points to be insisted upon.”

Dorking Silver Grey Male
A Dorking silver grey male.

Game Fowl

Game fowl were mentioned in Britain in the Roman times when they were bred for cock-fighting, this continuing up to 1849 when the activity was banned. Show exhibitors gradually started changing the breed after this to produce a taller bird with tighter plumage, though many Game breeders did not approve of these changes and in the 1880s established the original type under the name Old English Game.

Old English Game Fowl
Old English game fowl.

Two clubs were formed, one in the north of England (Carlisle), the other in the south (Oxford), initially with the same type of birds. Poultry enthusiast Mr. Douglas wrote in 1872, that people now preferred “the taller, reachy type and not the old heavy cart horse style.”

Old English Game Fowl
Old English game fowl. The birds pictured dating from 1903 could be said to show attributes of Malay influence.

The change process in the breed was thought to be so interesting that the artist Ludlow was asked to prepare an illustration of it that showed the bird in its transition state, with the third drawing showing a 1900 exhibition bird that had Malay influence. This produced a bird of greater length of limb with shorter, harder and more scanty feathered.

Old English Game Gold Male
Old English game gold male head.

Scots Grey

The Scots Grey is a very old breed, going back to the 16th century, and over time, it has been known by many names in different areas, including: Chick Marley, Shepherds Plaid, Chickmalins, Mauds, Greylings and Greylocks. Little is known of its exact origins, although leading poultry historians are inclined to support the widely held idea that the breed is a refinement from the Scottish native fowl, which was to be found on farms.

A Scots Grey Hen
A Scots Grey hen.

Little is known about the origin of the Scots Grey, although it was once commonly called the “Scottish Dorking.”

A Scots Grey Male
A Scots Grey male.

It was called “Scottish Dorking,” although completely different in the port and shape with this breed, and has become more slender in its form, with some resemblance with the Old English Game Fowl.

Stuart Sutton is a specialist in domestic poultry breeds mainly in their natural surroundings with an emphasis on the rare breeds of the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Holland. All inquiries can be directed to

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