American Game Bantams

A two-year-old Golden Duckwing American Game Bantam cock
Photo courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr., who did the work to get them accepted by the APA

Text by D. Huggins

History & Current Status

American Game Bantams have been around as far back as the 1890s, although at that time they were bred mainly for pitting and were usually referred to as Pit Game Bantams. They also became very popular as an exhibition breed in the 1930s, and although they were remarkably consistent in type, size and plumage colors, there was no breed standard for them at that time. They were shown with a variety of different leg colors and with both red and white earlobes. Frank Gary, of New Jersey, made the assessment that the breed was lacking too much in length of hackle, saddle and sickles to make a truly attractive show bird. He decided to work on improving the breed in this respect and in getting it listed in the Standard. He purchased a Red Jungle Fowl male in South Carolina in 1940 that was well furnished in these areas and crossed the bird with a BB Red Pit Game Bantam female. The introduction of this male's bloodline increased feather length in these sections. By selection, the desired characteristics continued to be enhanced. Approximately 5-6 years were required to bring the fowl to the state of perfection required.

Gary approached the Standard Committee of the APA in the late 1940s to see if this new bantam could be admitted to the Standard of Perfection. A mandate was made that neither yellow, willow or pinkish white legs would be acceptable because these colors would conflict with Brown Leghorn, Modern Game and Old English Game. Eventually bluish slate was developed and became predominant. After coordination with other breeders, qualifying shows were held in New York City. Shape and color descriptions were listed in the 1950 ABA Yearbook. First varieties were Black and Black Breasted Red, but other varieties have become listed in the Bantam Standard since then.

The American Game Bantam never gained the popularity of the other Game Bantam breeds during the mid 1900s, and eventually became very rare. It is not known just how many individuals were still raising American Game Bantams during the last few decades of the 1900s, but there were a few dedicated breeders who kept the breed from extinction. In 2001, the American Game Bantam Club was formed to unite breeders and promote the breed. Since that time more breeders have taken a serious interest in them, and the breed has grown in popularity, with stock being supplied to numerous Game Bantam fanciers around the country.

Compared to Old English Game Bantams

American Game Bantams differ from Old English Game Bantams in that they are larger and have different standard leg colors with the exception of a few varieties. Bluish slate is the standard leg color for most, but not all varieties of American Game Bantams. American Game Bantams are required to have a higher tail carriage, more feather length and longer sickles with more curve or curl than Old English Game Bantams. They are also required to have a medium length back, whereas Old English are required to have a moderately short back. American Game Bantams tend to be more vigorous, less prone to mite infestations and lay more eggs than most Old English Game Bantam strains today. Old English Game Bantam males' tails tend to come back shorter each year with each molt as they grow older, with their tails being the longest their first year. American Game Bantam cockerels usually gain feather length when they molt into cocks and continue to retain that length every year thereafter.

Compared to Miniature Pit Games

Game Bantams that have been bred for "pitting" are generally referred to as "Miniature Pit Games," "Miniature Game Fowl" or "Pit Game Bantams," and they are typically 4 to 12 ounces heavier than the weights listed for American Game Bantams in the Bantam Standard. Miniature Game Fowl may come in a variety of non-standard leg and plumage colors and with either single or pea combs. Some breeders have originated show quality American Game Bantams from Miniature Game Fowl strains or from crosses of Bantam Games with Standard Game Fowl by selectively breeding for the traits outlined for American Game Bantams in the Bantam Standard.


The American Game Bantam is a hardy, vigorous, pugnacious bantam that is majestic, graceful and alert in the male and sedate in the female (Gary). American Game Bantams are highly recommended for both beginners and long-time bantam fanciers alike, as they are typically very easy to raise and are not prone to mite infestations. Fertility of the males is usually excellent even through the winter months, and the females are particularly good layers, sitters and mothers. When properly bred, the males are particularly attractive because they possess broad, well-curved sickles and lesser sickles and broad main tail feathers with an abrupt break at the juncture of back and tail. They exhibit an abundance of hackle and saddle feathers.

Brief Specs

Standard Weights: Cock-30 oz, Hen-27 oz, Cockerel-27 oz, Pullet-24 oz.

Standard Varieties: Black, Black Breasted Red, Blue, Blue Red, Brassy Back, Brown Red, Birchen, Golden Duckwing, Silver Duckwing, Red Pyle, Wheaten and White.

Comb Type: Single; males must be dubbed for exhibition.

Leg Color: Bluish slate is the predominant leg color with the exception of a few varieties: Blacks, Brown Reds and Birchens have black legs; Red Pyles and Whites have pinkish slate legs.

Eye Color: Red on all varieties except Black, Blue, Brown Red and Birchen, which have brown eyes.

For a complete list of standard breed and variety requirements for shape and color refer to the American Bantam Association's Bantam Standard, where the American Game Bantam is the second breed listed alphabetically. The Bantam Standard can be purchased online at the ABA's official website -

Note: By American Bantam Association rules, American Game Bantams are included with Old English Game Bantams in the "Game" class, therefore show officials are urged to coop the two breeds in the same section of the showroom whenever possible for ease of judging the class.

Breed clubs:

United American Game Bantam Club on Facebook and Yahoo groups

American Game Bantam Links:

Here's an online forum on American and other Game Bantams

Rosen American Game Bantams

Nick's American Game Bantams

A BB Red American Game Bantam cockerel
Photo courtesy of Ed Vasquez

A Blue Red AGB pullet
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

Blue Red and Silver Duckwing AGB roosters
Photos courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

Another BBRed pullet
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Leeuw

Gold Duckwing AGB pair
Photos courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

White American Game Bantams
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

Gold Duckwing American Game Bantams
Photos courtesy of H. Wood (left) and L. Bruffee (right)

A Silver Wheaten AGB hen
Photo courtesy of Denis Dooley

A Lemon Blue American Game Bantam cock
Photo courtesy of Ed Vasquez

BBRed males
Photos courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

Another Gold Duckwing cockerel
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Leeuw

A pair of Red Pyle AGBs
Photos courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

And here's a pair of Ginger Reds
Photos courtesy of L. Smart

BBRed AGB pullets
Photo courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

This is a Silver Duckwing AGB cock whose feathers are still growing in
Photo courtesy of L. Bruffee

Another pair of Gold Duckwing AGBs
Photos courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

Another BB Red AGB cockerel
Photo courtesy of L. Bruffee

A pair of White AGBs
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

A White American Game Bantam hen
Photo courtesy of Cyril C. Nicholson, Jr.

An A. O. Schilling painting from 1951 of F. L. Gary's Black-breasted Red American Game bantams
Picture courtesy of Bob Gary

Another AGB cock
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

A Wheaten American Game Bantam chick
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

American Game Bantam chicks -- they're supposed to be Silver Duckwing, BBRed and Blue/Golden Duckwing but I don't know which is which -- I have lately been told that the one with the most white is Silver Duckwing, the lightest golden one with bluish-gray on it's wing is Blue Gold Duckwing, & the darkest gold one with the brown on its wing is BB Red
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Leeuw

Wheaten, White and Red AGB chicks
Photo courtesy of Mark Rosen

[Chickens A-C]


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