The Forest Duck
The Story Behind The Mysterious Breed
By Stuart Sutton, United Kingdom
For me the name “Forest duck” has always conjured up an image of an unusual, perhaps even mystical type of beast from long, long ago; however, in reality, I am afraid, like a lot of things in life, it is not so enigmatic, although it is still a captivating breed. In fact, it’s name is pretty mundane and has nothing whatsoever to do with woods, woodland, boscage or la foret! Let me explain.
The story of this breed started around 1890 when a Mr. Herman Bertrand from Vorst nearby Brussels in Belgium decided to create a blue duck that would combine both a good laying capacity and fine meat quality. He originally named his creation after himself and gave it the Latin name Anas bertrandi, meaning, “Bertrand’s duck.” However, this duck was renamed later after the community he lived, Vorst (Forest in French), et voila!
In 1905, the breed was launched with a collection of 30 blue ducks at an international exhibition in the Halfeeuwfeestpaleizen in Brussels. These 30 ducks were beautiful in color, with a magnificent small lacing, just like Andalusian chickens. In 1924 the breed club sent a collection of 24 high-quality Forest ducks to the famous Crystal Palace show in London. After it’s success here there were a lot of demands for Forest ducks from other countries. At one time, it was said that the city council of St. Petersburg in Russia wanted to import 350 hatching eggs as they were so revered and were required to embellish the city parks with the beautiful plumage of the blue ducks as well as also being used for their eggs. Unfortunately, the two world wars almost entirely eradicated this once world-famous duck.
The characteristics of the Forest Duck are that they are an easy bird to keep and have several good utility qualities. The ducks lay a nice number of rather large eggs and the ducklings grow up very fast and without any problems. They are known to breed easily, with natural incubation having better results than with a machine. Some breeders also use Muscovy ducks to hatch Forest duck eggs.
The breed’s appearance is that of a rather large duck that can weigh up to 6.6 pounds. It has a deep breast and a slightly upright carriage. Very typical is the blue bill in both sexes and all the varieties. It is an especially attractive combination in the white variety and is rather a spectacular sight. The legs should be as dark as possible and should preferably also have dark webs. The abdomen is very well developed in the females.
The most typical and also a striking variety is without any doubt the blue laced. The lacing or “zooming” as it is known in Belgium on these birds should resemble that seen on the Andalusian chicken. Unfortunately, good quality birds have become very rare. Other recognized varieties are blue, black, white, pearl gray, pearl gray laced and chocolate. Lilac and buff are new colors and are not yet recognized.
The breed is rare although it is scattered across Belgium, the blue (laced) and black varieties being the more common. The white is very rare and the pearl gray even rarer. In the last few years, interest in the Forest duck has increased, as it has in Germany and to a smaller extent the United Kingdom.
Stuart Sutton is a specialist in poultry breeds and heritages, and works as a freelance writer and photographer.