Madagascar Games

a.k.a. Malgache

A Madagascar Game
Original drawing by SPPA member Ross Simpson, 2003

The Madagascar Game

Craig Russell

with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2003, 8(1):4

Like the Dorkings, Oriental Games are history's chickens. At least some members of the group were well established and in their present form at a time when existing records let the old five toed breed (Dorkings) and western games disappear into the mists of time. The group has a family tree with several connected yet very distant branches. Some would place the Aseel at the heart of this tree. Others reserve that honor for the Malay. I don't intend to get into a detailed discussion of the arguments and records, but the family seems to have three primary branches. The Aseel (the old Indian pure blood games), the tall, hard bodied Malayoid types (like the Malay and the Shamo), and the Pheasant Malay (including Sumatras and fowl in the background of the Cubalaya and the Kraienkoppe).

I have found references to a sparsely feathered member of the Malayoid group that had at an early date made it to the western coast of Africa and to the island of Madagascar. Other examples of the Madagascar Game could be found in southeast Asia and in scattered portions of the East Indies. These fowl apparently first came to European notice in Madagascar, hence their western name. Actually early voyagers transplanted most of the Asian game group to Africa and the Islands in the Indian Ocean. Only the naked neck members of the group received a uniquely African name. In time, traders from the Middle East carried the Madagascar Game home, where they eventually reached Turkey and Eastern Europe. This is the fowl in the ancestry of the modern Naked Neck (or Turken). When compared to other chickens, Malays, Shamos and Aseels exhibit reduced featherization. This is true both in terms of down and in actual size of the feather tracts. The naked neck trait is simply an exploitation of this unique Oriental fowl characteristic.

Not being able to obtain Madagascar Games, early in my poultry career I settled for their descendents, the Naked Necks, and found them to be a hardy and thrifty fowl. My experiences with Naked Necks, along with the enjoyment of other Orientals in my collection, kept the Madagascar Game on my mind through the years. While in France in the 1970s I thought I located a real Madagascar Game but the bird turned out to be a Cornish X Naked neck cross. In Asia I talked to people who knew of them, but I never saw one. The best I was able to do was locate photographs in old magazines and glimpses on TV travel shows. In the 1990s I heard rumors that some Madagascar Games existed in the United States. I finally obtained some of these birds and learned that they had a slight western game infusion. They nonetheless lived up to my fond expectations. They were a large Malay type fowl (film footage from Africa often shows Madagascar Games ranging with Malays). I would think a lot of crossing back and forth over the years, yet most African Malays and Shamos seem to be Black Red with cinnamon or wheaten females. Madagascar Games are highly variable, with Black and Brown Reds predominating. Regular Black Reds, Orange Reds (similar to the color of a light New Hampshire) and various Blue patterns have all shown up in my breeding pens. Not long ago SPPA member Claus Twisselmann located a web site of the German Malay Club that describes the Madagascar Game, complete with pictures, and provides some fascinating historical information. The breed is also mentioned in a few 19th and early 20th century American and British poultry books. In Madagascar the breed is known as Malgache and in France as Cou Nu de Madagascar.

Like the Oriental group in general the Madagascar Game is a first class broody and an attentive mother. The German Malay Club credits the Madagascar Game with a willingness to adopt chicks from other broods and even reports that some males will brood chicks. I haven't seen those characteristics in my stock, but I haven't kept them in a situation where such behavior could be demonstrated. In the west their history goes back at least 150 years. They have been used both for meat crosses and to give size and strength to Western Games. They are a unique and historic breed, well worth the attention of poultry preservationists and anyone interested in exotic fowl.

Malgache Links:

Madagascar Game males
Photos courtesy of Jacob McConnell

A Black Madagascar Game hen
Photo courtesy of Jacob McConnell

A young Madagascar Game stag
Photo courtesy of David Lee

Blue hens
Photos courtesy of Jacob McConnell

Madagascar Game chicks
Photos courtesy of Gary Newlen

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