THE CUCKOO (click for pictures)
return to homepage
The Cuckoo Leghorn, like several other varieties, has had its ups and downs since its introduction to this country in 1884. At times it seemed to be sailing on a wave of success and prosperity, and at others it has experienced an ebb tide which threatened its existence altogether. Why its friends should be so inconstant is difficult to understand. Birds of similar colour such as the Campines and the Barred Plymouth Rocks maintain their popularity, and never get left stranded high and dry as has the Cuckoo Leghorn on several occasions.
In America and Denmark the Cuckoos are known as Dominique Leghorns, and from this one might be led to believe that at some time or the other the Dominique had been mixed with the Leghorn, but there has been little sign of the Dominique in the structure of the Cuckoo Leghorn since I first knew it, and that was shortly after it made its appearance in this country. One can therefore only come to the conclusion that the title Dominique has been applied to it because of its resemblance in colour and marking to the Dominique fowl.
As contrary to the Dominique idea of origin must be set the fad that Cuckoo Leghorns are fairly common in Italy, also in Switzerland, where they have been known for ages and ages.
In its early days the marking was like unto that of the old-fashioned Barred Plymouth Rock, although more blurred, and consequently after the style of marking seen in the Dominique. About 1906 and 1907 the birds advanced more towards the Plymouth Rock character of marking, and became more distinct- in their barring, although never approaching the clean cut barring of the Rock. This was due, so it was said at the time, to a cross between a Black Leghorn cockerel and Black Plymouth Rock hens. Whether that was true or not, there was no doubt that the cockerels approached the Barred Plymouth Rock in their marking, whilst many of the pullets were distinctly Rocky in shape and style.
In my many visits to the shows of Holland 1 have been struck with the Cuckoo Leghorns of that country, and have said in reports which I have written that they were superior to those to be found here in England.
In 1925 shortly after the Crystal Palace Show my old friend Mr. E. LI. Simon of Pembroke wrote to me saying that he had noticed I had often spoken in terms of praise of the Dutch Cuckoo Leghorns, and as he regretted to see the variety falling away at our own shows he felt tempted to make an effort to resuscitate it. In the course of correspondence he said that if I really considered the Dutch birds to be better than our own would I on my next visit to Holland secure for him a breeding pen. This I did in January 1926, I purchased the second prize breeding pen at the Hague Show. In my opinion they were a better pen than the winners. When they arrived at Pembroke Mr. Simon was delighted with them and wrote me that they were the finest he had ever seen, and that he had not thought such birds were in existence.
sequel was seen at the Crystal Palace Show of 1926 when Mr. Simon won first and
second in both classes of Cuckoo Leghorns with cockerels and pullets bred from
the pen I sent him: from Holland. The birds were generally admired although some
thought they were too distinct in
their barring. One very old breeder of the variety said to me : "Yes they are
fine birds, they are Leghorns, but I would like them better if they had more of
the old-fashioned blurred Style of marking."
birds fail in flights and tail, some being blurred and having too much of the
darker blue colour, and some running lighter and being almost white in the
lighter shades of the barring. Those which are too heavy and dark in their
barring generally fail in leg colour, being sooty in legs instead of rich clear
yellow, whilst those which run light in body colour have nice clear coloured
In breeding Cuckoo Leghorns it is not necessary to resort to double mating as both exhibition cockerels and pullets may be bred from the same pen.
this, a first class exhibition cock or cockerel should head the pen, and amongst
the hens and pullets mated to him should be some which are of exhibition
quality, and some a shade lighter. In the same way a male bird too light in
colour and marking may be mated to hens or pullets that are some of exhibition
standard, and some that are on the dark side. It only means that in mating up
the birds the breeder must keep the standard in his mind, and so mate his stock
birds that they will not produce progeny that are too light, or too dark.
Cuckoos should be red in eye, and
this should be watched. Breed from good sound red eyed birds, and you will keep
your eyes right.