American Game Fowl

Historically known as the Pit Game

A Grey American Game stag
Photo courtesy of Krystal Moran

These are the birds generally used for cock fighting in the states where this is still legal.

In cockers' circles a young rooster is referred to as a stag, an older rooster is called a cock.

History and Comments on American Game Fowl


Daniel Thornton & Randy Stevens

American Games were created from the various European and Oriental games that were brought into our country by our forefathers. They were bred specifically for cockfighting, leaving us the birds we have today. Cockfighting is a large part of our heritage, like it is in many other countries around the world, but due to recent law changes, these beautiful birds are becoming more popular as an ornamental, or show fowl. There are organizations, like the American Gamefowl Society, that have standards for showing these birds, just as the APA does, and many people are starting to breed these birds for this, instead of the pit, but at the same time keeping the gameness that makes them what they are. The American gamefowl is broken down into strains, unlike most other fowl. Some of the more popular strains are Hatch, Kelso, Albany, Sweater, Whitehackle, Claret, Roundhead, and Butcher. Strain names originated from people that performed well in the pits, with the birds they made themselves through selective breeding. Strains are also broken down further by other breeders who did well with a particular strain, which in turn had a version of that strain named after them. A good example of this would be the Kelso fowl. The original Kelso was named after Walter Kelso, but one of the most well-known breeders that did well with them was Johnny Jumper. This is where the Jumper line of Kelso originated. Most strains have several well-known bloodlines that other breeders have made famous. I know it sounds confusing, but these are all considered American Games, only they have been broken down further based on their performance in the pits. Today most of the originators of these lines are long gone, but they are still called by these names, and an experienced gamefowl enthusiast knows that if they have a certain strain, it will have the correct look, and performance attributes of the original line it was named after. A few more examples of this are: Marsh Butchers, named after Phil Marsh; Sweaters, named after Herman "Sweater" McGinnis, who got his nickname from one day in 1926, the temperature dropped considerably, and Herman McGinnis was seen wearing a red knit sweater with buttons down the front. The bottom went to his knees like a dress, and the sleeves were rolled up to elbows and were bunched up as big as a football. About all you could see was a face, two hands, and two feet sticking out of a red sweater. Immediately people around him would say, " Come here, Sweater" and the name just stuck; Lacy Roundheads, named after Judge Ernest Lacy. There are also other strains whose names came from certain circumstances, or a particular color. Some examples of these would be: Nigger Roundheads due to their dark feathering; Whitehackles got their name from being a red hackled fowl that if you lifted the hackle feathers, they were white underneath; Bumblefoot Grey fowl got their name from their color, and how these birds were raised in a very rocky area, and showed up at the pits with damaged feet from this on a regular basis. As you can see, there are many different strains of American Games, and I only touched on a very small percentage of the most well-known ones, but this should give you more of an understanding on how the different strains were created.

American Gamefowl are some of the hardiest birds that you will ever come across, and in our opinion, by far the most beautiful. They are known for being excellent flyers, very good foragers, and you can't beat them for broodiness. All of these traits make them an excellent choice for free ranging, until the stags come of age. Then they will need to be separated, as they will fight to the death defending their territory. This is something that is part of their nature, being "game," and nothing you do to them will change this unless you start mixing non-game breeds into them, and even then it doesn't mean you will not still have this issue to deal with. This is why you see many people keep mature cocks on tethers attached to barrels, as it is a great way to keep them separated, and at the same time, allow them to move around enough to keep them happy and healthy. It is also common practice to dub cocks tight to the head, and remove the ear lobes and wattles as well. This practice was originally done for the pit, but now it is done for purely aesthetic reasons. Hen's lay mid-spring to late summer, but some will continue until early fall. As a rule, games are normally easily handled birds, and are a joy to own. We highly recommend at least a pair of these birds in every yard.

From the UK we have the Old English Game Colour Guide by Dr. J. Batty. Totally filled with pictures of OEGs, both large and bantam, there's no logic to the order of things that I can see, but if you want pictures of many colors of OEG, this is the book for you. It is available from Beech Publishing.

Here's the new book Oriental Gamefowl by Horst W. Schmudde, 2005, 208 pp., AuthorHouse, ISBN: 1420876813. If you want to learn about the history, breeding and maintenance of many breeds of gamefowl, including longtails and long-crowers, this book is for you. Read more about it in the SPPA review.

Another new book is The Game Fowl Colour Guide by Owen Dickey, [2006], 141 pp., privately published. Available from the author at: Owen Dickey, PO Box 1016, Ballymena, BT42 9AH, Northern Ireland. 30.00L plus postage: UK: 2.50L, Europe & Irish Republic: 4.00L; Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA: 6.00L. Very nice book if you want to see the range of colors that Game Fowl can be found in. There are 86 full color original images, mostly photos but a few paintings. Most of the birds shown are Irish Game, but there are also some American Game and some Oxford OEGs. There is also a section at the end on Asils.

And I've also discovered A Bibliography of Gamecocks & Cock-fighting, by John Norris & John Palmer, 1995, 34pp., pamphlet, Arnold Books, ISBN: 0-9583250-0-6. The emphasis in this collection is on historical titles.

Breed clubs:

American Game Fowl Society

American Game Links:

You can find pictures of American Game on Orchard Poultry Farm's page

Oakridge Farms

Game Roosters

FowlAfoot Poultry Conservation Farm

Pumpkin Hulseys at Greenfire Farms

Here's a youtube movie on the history of cockfighting in France, Spain, the US, Puerto Rico, Bali and the Philippines

More Game links can be found on my Old English Game page

A Brown-red American Game stag
Photo courtesy of Krystal Moran

A Hatch stag
Photo courtesy of Michael Wigginton

A Blue Bandita hen
Photo courtesy of Reed Baize

Two more American Gamecocks
Photos courtesy of D'Renda & Joe Lewis

Two nine-month-old Grey stags and a pullet
Photos courtesy of Mike Wigginton

An American Roundhead stag
Photo courtesy of Michael Wigginton

Yellow Birchen Pit Game pair
Photo courtesy of Connie McCardle, from the collection of Manuel Reynolds

A Pumpkin Hulsey cockerel
Photo courtesy of Greenfire Farms

Stags: Spangled Hennie, Coal Minor Mug X Ruble Hatch and Coal Minor Mug
Photos courtesy of Reed Baize

A Grey American Game hen
Photo courtesy of Cynthia Gonzalez

Three American Game stags -- from the left: a Hatch, a Kelso and a Spanish
Photos courtesy of Cynthia Gonzalez

Stags: Jerry Lawrence Dom and Brassyback Butcher
Photos courtesy of Reed Baize

A White Muffed Hull Pit Game (with some Asil blood)
Photo courtesy of Connie McCardle, from the collection of Manuel Reynolds

Blue American Game stags
Photos courtesy of Jeffrey L. Lay

Grey American Games
Photos courtesy of Michael Wigginton

This stag is 3/4 Yellow Legged Hatch and 1/4 Marsh Butcher
Photo © Danny Pritchett

More stags: Lloyd Minor Blue X Cobra Asil, Frost Grey and White Kelso
Photos courtesy of Reed Baize

Hatch stags
Photos courtesy of Mike Wigginton

Another Pumpkin Hulsey stag
Photo courtesy of Taryn Koerker

This is a Miner Blue stag
Photo courtesy of Billy Lykins

A couple more American Games
Photos courtesy of Daniel Munoz

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