Manuel Reynolds's Hyderabad Asils and Shamos: As Related to Me by Billy Sumner and Carr Harris

by
Dr. Charles Everett

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2010, 15(1):6

I had heard about this eccentric old gentleman chicken breeder from Virginia for years before I discovered that I actually possessed some of his blood on my yard. He died nearly 15 years ago, which means he was breeding Asil and Shamo before anyone on this site was even born. He had the most sought after Asil and Shamo on the eastern seaboard. The American cockfighters bought his birds to cross onto their American Gamefowl. None of these bred them pure. However, three young men from different backgrounds and states became the sole possessors of Manuel's Asil and Shamo upon his death.

Manuel imported his Asil from Pakistan and his Shamo from Japan. His were not the first imports of these breeds into the United States, but they were considered to be the best in their day and the Asil are still viewed that way. The Shamo are another story that will be related further in this article.

Today, Manuel Reynolds's Asil are sold as Hyderabad Asil in the United States. Whether that is because Manuel related to the sole inheritor of his Asil that they were indeed Hyderabad or whether the name was just attached to them I cannot say with any degree of certainty. What I can tell you is that his Asil are different from any other Asil in America. Generally, the females come laced whereas the males show no lacing. They are heavily beetle browed, around 5 to 7 lbs., and of excellent type and constitution. Of all the Asil I have kept they are the gamest of the game. Unless raised together, the females fight like cocks and cannot be kept with any other hens. If they are penned with other hens the result will be death. This is not simply a pecking order thing I'm speaking of. I'm telling you they will kill the other hens.

Assuming Manuel Reynolds imported his Asil a century ago, then we can safely say there have only been two primary breeders of these birds during this time. These birds have not received any new blood during this time, but have been inbred with no disastrous results because of the vigor of the breed and vast numbers hatched.

Manuel's Shamo looked vastly different than the Shamo seen today. They did not possess the long legs of the Shamo of today. They had parrot beaks and big, thick heads; the scales on the front of the legs are often lifted as if the bird had scale mites (which they do not) and was considered a very desirable trait. Also, they were not as upright as many of the Shamo seen in our shows in America. In their day, Manuel's Shamo were the most sought after Shamo in America. Today, only one man possesses pure Manuel Reynolds's Shamo blood: Billy Sumner of North Carolina.

Recently, I had a conversation with Craig Russell, of Pennsylvania, concerning Shamo. Craig is the foremost authority on chickens in America today. I asked him what he considered to be the more correct Shamo. Craig was in Japan during the 1970s as well as in other areas of Asia. He stated as one travels around Japan one would see what people are calling O Shamo today with variable type; some carrying their bodies at or around 45 degrees, while others are all the way to nearly horizontal. Carr Harris, who knew Manuel Reynolds, agreed. Carr further added that the Shamo in America today show the influence of Thais. He stated that this could be seen in the 'snake-headed' feature of many Shamo. Both Carr Harris and Craig Russell believe the head of Manuel Reynolds's Shamo to be the more correct in type: thick all over.

Billy Sumner still shows Manuel Reynolds's Shamo as they have been shown in America for nearly a century now. He seldom wins today. Most exhibitors and judges aren't even aware that standing in the cage before them is an old breed of fowl that has been bred pure from imports which came to our shore nearly a century ago: a breed of fowl kept by only two breeders in the United States. Still, he breeds them to look and act like Manuel Reynolds believed they should be.

Up and down the eastern seaboard American cockers of the early twentieth century used the Asil and Shamo bred by Manuel Reynolds to bring added weight and height to their American Gamefowl. If the actually histories of all the Roundhead breeds on the east coast could be told, then somewhere in their background would exist one of Manuel's birds. He was the quintessential American breeder.


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