Asils in the United States
Dr. Charles Everett
with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2010, 15(1):3-4
The Internet has opened up an entirely new world for breeders of rare poultry: especially for those breeds whose country of origin is not the United States. Through the use of modern technology the American breeder is able to learn about these foreign and exotic breeds directly from breeders in the country of origin. In the case of the Asil that would be India.
We have long known the Asil is the oldest documented breed in history. As a matter of fact, it can be argued rather successfully that the Asil is the primogenitor of the Oriental Class. Thanks to men like Herbert Atkinson and Carlos Finsterbusch we have also had both standards and basic histories of the breed well before they were listed and standardized in our own American Standard of Perfection. However, as well as these men wrote, they didn't give us all the information on the Asil.
In the past few years we have learned the Asil comes in three basic sizes or types: the Reza (4.5-7 lbs), the Hint (7-10 lbs) and the Large type (10-15.5 lbs). Further, we have learned that within these three basic types there are many sub-varieties. This would include, for example, the Kulang (predecessor of the Malay), Madras, Calcutta and Hyderabad.
In the States today the most often seen Asil is of the Reza type. This is to be expected since it is the variety which we find in our Standard. There are other types which are also found and held by a few breeders many who have been or are cockers. The most notable of these is the Hyderabad. Here is where things get a bit sticky though. The Hyderabad as found in the States is not identical to the variety of the same name in India. In India the Hyderabad is a very tall and large bird similar to the Kulang. In the States the Hyderabad is between the Reza and Hint types: with the basic difference being that it is the 'pit-Asil' in comparison to the 'show-Asil.' All this can become quite confusing for the novice poultry fancier. So hang in there with me!
Our Standard lists Asils in the following colors: Black Breasted Red, Spangled, Dark and White. All have yellow legs. One has to simply gain Internet access to discover that Asils come in a wide range of colors besides those listed in our Standard. The research will also discover that the most sought after leg color in her native India is not yellow but white! Just think birds that would be disqualified in an American Show because of leg color are actually the most desirable in their country of origin. Something is WRONG with that picture. Like one ole time American poultry breeder stated, "There is more to a chicken than the color of its legs." That said, there are many more points that our Standard has in common with the Indian standard than not. The most important point in an Asil is its tenacious spirit. If it is not GAME then call it what you will, but don't dare call it an Asil. For more information see http://www.kampfhuehner.de/e/asil.html.
One of the most interesting aspects of Asils color-wise is their likelihood to throw laced offspring. Whether the base color is BBR or Wheaten, Asil hens tend to show some form of lacing: usually this lacing is black in color: so, the hens are actually black laced brown, black laced wheaten or black laced red. However, you also see black laced white (think Sebright) or even double lacing.
Varieties in the States
(There may be others that I am unaware of. If you know of other varieties please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
As has already been stated this is the most often seen variety and usually when people think of Asil they are thinking of the Reza type. Unfortunately, there has been lots of alien blood introduced into the Reza type. Today, the birds are seen with smaller heads and longer beaks. This comes from crossing them with American Pit Games. These faults should be squarely placed at the feet of American cockers who never had any desire to breed them in their purity. These folks breeding for the pit desired a faster bird than the pure Asil. They admired the Asil spirit but disliked his slower methodical style.
Note* Cockers have a language all their own and refer to all Orientals as 'Japs.'
The true Reza Asil is a bulldog not a greyhound. It should have a large head, parrot beak, broad chest, and a heart shape when viewed from above facing away from you. The feathering is very close and hard with the flesh showing through the feathers on the breast. The legs are thick and square -- unlike the round legs of the Old English Game. The Asil stands upright with the neck curving up from the body toward the massive head.
Many of the Asils being shown today have several major faults due to the alien blood: the smaller head, longer beak and round legs have already been mentioned. In addition, Americans who love all things big have increased the size and weight of their Reza Asils. This actually throws them into the Hint category. Unfortunately, this has been done through out-crossing to Thai, Shamo, and Saipan. In the shows many of these large birds are walking away with the prizes due to judges not being familiar with the Standard and the weight requirements. These birds should be entered as Hint Asils and not as Standard-bred Asils.
These Asils are the true pit Asils direct from the world of cocking. Of all the Asils I have raised, these are the most tenacious. The hens will fight to the death with other hens and are best kept in separate pens. The cocks must be kept in individual pens or on tie-cords. These birds were originally imported into America by Manuel Reynolds of Virginia. Manuel has been dead nearly 45 years. I'm not sure when the actual import was made, but based on what I can find out it would be safe to say that they have been here nearly 100 years now. In that time only 2 breeders have had these birds. Manuel Reynolds and Curt Hanson of Ohio.
Though not the exact equivalent of the Large type Hyderabads of India, they are their equivalents in pit quality. Whether they were bred down by American cockers from the Indian Hyderabads or are actually a different sub-variety cannot now be determined. There are no standardized colors; that said I have never seen any Hyderabad hen that does not have lacing in some fashion. Interestingly, the cocks do not typically show the lacing of the females. The cocks are most often some shade of Red with Blue fluff or Duckwing in color. They Hyderabad female is slightly larger than the Standard-bred Asil hen. Potentially, the American Hyderabad could be crossed on the Standard-bred Asil to increase the color varieties available without making an alien outcross.
Finsterbusch maintained that these Asils were various shades of Blue. Knowing more of basic genetics today, we understand that this is not entirely the case. Of all the sub-varieties found in the United States these appear to be the least seen. I know of only one breeder: Billy Bender of PA.
Based upon recent research it appears that the Malay of today is nothing more than the Kulang Asil bred for extremes in length of leg and neck. The length of the Malay leg has through the years caused many problems for the breed. The Kulang, on the other hand, possess the three curves of the Malay without the extremes, and thus, without the problems of the modern Malay. It has even been suggested by breeders in Europe that the Kulang be utilized to freshen-up the Malay.
The Kulang is generally more athletic or gamey in type than the refined Malay and it also typically possess a pea-comb though the cushion comb is not uncommon. The ideal weight for a mature Kulang cock (2 years old) is 10 lbs; whereas the Malay cock of the same age should weigh no more than 9 lbs. The Kulang's weight is concentrated in his body, bones, and thighs which are extremely massive.
To conclude, those of us who have chosen to breed and raise rare Oriental Gamefowl must be aware of the Standard of Perfection, the Standard that exist in the countries of origin and be cognizant of the differences that exist between the two. In addition, we should avail ourselves of the wealth of knowledge that is now available to us through the Internet. Let us seek to breed better fowl in accordance with the existing Standards; otherwise we will be guilty of the same sin as our English cousins who in breeding the so-called Indian Game bred a bird that is neither Indian nor Game.
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