The Black Cubalaya
Claus W. Twisselmann
with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2001, 6(1):5
It was so very nice and flattering of Ed Hart to ask me to share some thoughts and experiences, practical and acquired, to share with the members and readers of the SPPA. Naturally, since antiquities are involved, it is only logical to share what little I know about a breed very dear to my heart, the Black Cubalaya. Black is one of the three recognized colors, Black Breasted Red, Black and White, and just about as rare a variety as it can come.
It could be that the White, though I raised them many years ago, are now extinct. I have not started to check whether there are more breeders in this country nurturing them. Of course, nobody really knows of the existence or popularity in their land of origin, "Castro's Cuba." One thing is for sure, the Cubalaya is not strictly an Oriental breed, but a combination Oriental fighting stock combined with British and European utility breeds. This is mirrored in the fact that the Cubalaya is strictly a white skinned, white legged (slate in Blacks) breed. They also have multiple spurs. Most spurs have round knobs, though, indicating other than Sumatra blood. From the European side of their ancestry stems a fairly good production in number of eggs. They are almost pure white in color and more round than pointed. The male birds, especially when they get some age (over 2 years) on them, display usually a good amount of colored feathers with white under color. Selective breeding will overcome this unfavorable effect and pure black males are possible to produce. Sadly, it takes longer than other visible faults, more or less like monarchism in dogs, it is only 100% visible on the males. A perfectly black colored female can still harbor the gene for red hackle and saddle feathers in her sons. Some day old chicks may expose a deep red spot somewhere on the down and should be disposed. They are definitely carriers for AOTB (any other than black) genes. At this point it is also recommended to check for multiple spurs should you desire to anchor them into your breeding line. Since we know they have Oriental ancestry, we can only guess breeds used from the opposite side of the world. In my breeding line I constantly experience a high percentage of five toes usually in Siamese style forming one unit and usually only on one foot. All genetic science points to a dominant gene for five toes, here it shows up in a recessive incomplete form. First, I thought that maybe the Dorkings were the other half of the pedigree, but have discarded that thought and actually have to lean toward the Faverolles. Several hundred years ago the French epicures valued the Faverolles as one of the finest meat-breeds at that time and I believe the British followed suit. It is claimed that no white skinned European breed has finer texture and tastier meat. What makes me think of the Faverolles is actually the color and the five toes combined. The Black Breasted Red (the original variety) is indeed a form of Wheaton expressed as a Cinnamon in the female. The other two colors, Black and White, are sports bred for purity.
The reason the cross between Orientals and European breeds took place was the Latin origin of the Cuban people, especially the men. They enjoyed a good cockfight every now and then, while the women of the household had to feed the family and wanted eggs and meat. A double purpose satisfied everyone. Since Cuba is part of the American continent the Cubalaya breed should actually be classified as American, instead of Oriental. This could be part of the reason this lovely breed has never attained the popularity it rightfully deserves.
When kept on free range, they practically nourish themselves foraging. They are easy on the eye to look at, they are nice to have around and are very smart. I have never had one to attack his human keeper and they are naturally tame from day one. It is not uncommon to see your breeding rooster jump on your lap and look you straight in the eye and/or one of his hens on the other leg just wanting to get petted.
All my birds originate from one pair of not much consequence, though they were purebred. The male had too many red feathers and poor type, the female was black and resembled a Cubalaya. Neither of the original pair came up to the weight called for in the Standard. Vitality was excellent from the start and preserved throughout my breeding them. Every egg was hatched and not many survived the knife the first year. Strict culling for type, size and stamina has paid off handsomely. Most males are black, all have much better type and ironically size has increased yearly. The best pullet I raised last year weighs five pounds and has fantastic green sheen. Artificial incubation is excellent, but traditionally right from the start takes 22 days. The Cubalaya as a backyard fowl, a show fowl, meat and egg fowl or just a plain pet is hard to beat, that's why it takes another day of incubation to put the whole package together.
An after thought: several years ago, the Cubalaya invaded central Europe. The imports came from the U.S. and found more fanciers faster than many now popular breeds. At present they are recognized in our traditional Black Breasted Red and in Blue Breasted Red. Over there they are listed under the proper color description, "Cinnamon."
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