Scots Dumpies

Craig Russell

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2003, 8(2):10

I've recently written about the Scots Grey, one of those breeds that enjoyed a period of American popularity but then disappeared in the U.S. and Canada. The Greys and Dumpies are usually listed as the only breeds of chickens developed in Scotland, although the actual origin of both the Dumpies and the Grey are not completely certain. At one time specimens with five toes were fairly common in both breeds, so at the very least there was some contact with the old Five Toed breed (now called Dorkings). In 1972 I talked to an older Scottish poultry keeper at the Royal Highland Show who agreed with others that at one time any cuckoo fowl that was in Scotland was a Grey (even if it was something different elsewhere) but felt that the preferred type was simply long legged Cuckoo Dumpies.

Chicken bones showing the short legged characteristic have been found in the north of England as well as Scotland. So far the oldest date to the eleventh century. The actual history of the Dumpy in northern Britain may be much, much older. Some traditions link them to Phoenician traders and settlers while others link them to the Dorking fowl and a possible Roman connection. (Certainly they resemble the Five Toed breed in type, but that doesn't get us much closer to an origin because the origins of the Five Toed breed are also lost in the mists of time.)

Like the Five Toed breed, the Dumpy is a breed developed around a unique characteristic. While that trait, the short legs, is probably the main reason for its modern rarity, it has also maintained a continued, even if relatively slight, interest in the breed in North America. Historically, Cuckoo has been the common Dumpy color. But Dumpies have occurred in virtually any color known in Dorkings: Cuckoo, Black, Dark Grey, Silver Grey, White, and Blue. I've never heard of Dumpies other than Cuckoo, Black and Dark Grey in North America. Today the only North American Dumpies I know of are Cuckoo. Despite the presence of a lethal gene (the same gene found in Japanese bantams), the Dumpy is a quality production fowl. The Dumpy has many of the same production capabilities and mothering skills as the Dorking. Typically the Dumpy lays a cream white egg like a Game or a Dorking. Chalk white and light brown eggs are not unknown.

To some extent the creeper gene may stunt overall growth because breed outs with two normal genes are on average larger than birds with a creeper gene. If we use C for the Creeper gene and c for the normal leg gene, a CC bird dies in the shell about the 18th day. Cc birds are short legged and cc birds are normal. Dumpies can be successfully bred by using Cc birds with other Cc birds or Cc birds with cc birds. The Cc X Cc produces 25% dead in the shell, 50% short legged, and 25% long legged. Cc X cc prduces 50% short legged and 50% long legged. From a production stand point the second option seems to be the best choice. The long legged trait is variable and some breeders believe that more very short legged birds are produced by using short legged birds on both sides. Short legged males on normal or long legged females usually reduces levels of fertility.

In Europe Dumpy-like fowl are known as Creepers or Krupers. Other Scottish or English names include Crawlers, Creepers, GoLaights, and Bakies or Balkies. The Dumpy is both a historic and unique breed that deserves official recognition and more attention in North America.

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