Extracted from
Leghorn Fowls Exhibition & Utility
by C A House published Poultry World Ltd

THE PILE (click for pictures)            return to homepage

In the Pile Leghorn we have a bird which combines the general breed characteristics of the Leghorn with the beautiful colouring of the Pile Game. The originator of the Pile Leghorn was Captain George Payne, and he began his work in 1881 by mating a White Leghorn cock with a Brown Leghorn hen. The result of this was that the pullets which were raised were except in their breast colour, which was The Brown hen which was used for the had some white in her wings, and this was the reason why she was used, as Captain Payne thought it would help in establishing the colour he needed.

For five years did Captain Payne persevere in (he production of his Piles, and it was not till 1886 he was able to produce any that were fit to be shown. He then exhibited some pullets which took the eye of the judges and won a number of prizes.

Head pattern of male
Head pattern of male

Writing of his work in the Fanciers' Gazette in November 1886 Captain Payne said:   "Perhaps no variety that has been produced during the past few years can claim a better title than the Pile variety of Leghorns, inasmuch as it emanates from two pure varieties—the Brown and White Leghorns. It is a fair combination of both ancient and modern—ancient through being produced from the somewhat old-established White and Brown Leghorns, and the colour being that, as its name would infer, of the Pile Game—the modern part of the business consists in affixing the colour of the Pile to the Leghorn breed.

 The idea was well conceived and fully matured before the birds forming the first pen saw each other. Acting on the theory that the Pile Game owed its origin to the Black-red and White Game,

  I concluded that to produce a Pile Leghorn from the Browns and the Whites must he one of the easiest things in the world, but, like n great many more, found I had made a mistake; for what I anticipated could be done in a year has cost me the time and labour of five years breeding, endless study, and the killing of hundreds of birds. "Thus did Captain Payne write of his early experiences. He found, as many before and since have found, that the way of the pioneer is hard.

  After the birds had made their appearance in the show pen, and stock got distributed, other I Breeders experimented with a view to improving upon the original work of Captain Payne. These breeders "did what seemed only natural—Introduced the Pile Game. The result of this was seen in the appearance in the show pen of a number of birds which whilst they had improved Pile colouration were not so true in Leghorn character of type and feather as the originals which came from Woking. One thing the Pile Game cross did, and that was to more permanently fix the Pile colour and marking.

  The Fancy accepted the Pile Leghorn, and for a time it had a good following, but in recent years it has fallen from the high estate which it had attained, and is now only occasionally seen.

  For many years Mr. G. T. Drake, of Maidstone, who was a great Leghorn enthusiast, was the most prominent breeder and exhibitor, bred many very excellent Piles, and captured the majority of the prizes at the Crystal Palace and other big shows, but after his retirement the variety drooped and fell from favour. In recent years several breeders have tried to revive the variety; one most prominent has been that skilful breeder of Brown Leghorns, Mr. E. LI. Simon of Pembroke, and he has met with much success. There is not much doubt that his experience with the Browns has helped him in establishing his strain of Piles.

  The Pile is quite the opposite to the Brown, and if one were asked to give a short description of the difference between the Brown Leghorn and the Pile one could say—substitute white in the Pile for the black in the Brown and you have your Pile Leghorn.
  The Pile cockerel is like the Brown cockerel except that the breast, thighs, under parts of the body, tail, and wing bar in the Pile are white instead of black as in the Brown. The neck hackle is bright orange, but it has not the black stripe which is seen in the hackle of the Brown. The back and saddle should be a rich red bay, or dark chestnut as should the shoulders, wing bows, and the wing bay.

Back pattern of male
Back pattern of male

The Pile pullet should be entirely white in body, except the breast which should be of a rosy tint, or salmon red like unto the breast of the Brown Leghorn pullet, the neck hackle should be white with a golden tinge.

  Breeders of Pile Leghorns have the same difficulty in breeding as have the breeders of Pile Game, and that is to keep the white portions of the plumage free from black ticking or spots. This can only be overcome by selecting for I needing birds that are pure in their white.
  Another difficulty is in the maintenance of the rich bay colour. This can be counteracted by an occasional cross with a Brown cockerel and pale coloured Pile hens, and then working back through the pullets so bred to the original Stock. Breeders of Pile Game cross into the Black-red about once every five years so as to maintain the richness of the bay colour in the cockerels. Pile Game breeders generally have two Strains, one for cockerel breeding, and one for pullet breeding, and in cockerel breeding introduce the Black-red colour on the cockerel side, and in pullet breeding they mate a pale coloured Pile cockerel with Black-red pullets. Did breeders of Pile Leghorns work in similar manner it is possible that Piles would soon be bird of higher quality than before.

  In breeding Pile Leghorns good birds of both sexes may be bred from the same pen, but it is equally true that those who use the double mating system and breed specially for cockerels with one pen and for pullets with another will be most successful. Thus to breed tip-top cockerels one should take an exhibition cock or cockerel for the head of the pen and mate him to hens or pullets that are too rich in breast colour, and which show colour on the wings. Contrariwise to breed pullets that shall be free from rosiness on the wings and not be inclined to carry too much colour on their breasts one should mate cocks or cockerels that are too pale in colour to be shown to hens or pullets that come well up to the exhibition standard and are very pure in their white.

The Pile Leghorn is a very handsome bird and it is as hardy and prolific as any of the other varieties. To anyone interested in breeding for colour the Pile Leghorn affords a good field for operations, and it will at the same time give them a good supply of eggs for the breakfast table.

  In the opinion of Mr. E. LI. Simon who is the President of the specialist club which watches over the Piles, and who is, as before said, a very skilful breeder, it is certain that really good exhibition birds of both sexes may be bred from one pen if care is exercised in the selection of the females. Mr. Simon advises that the head of the pen should be as nearly an exhibition bird as possible, one that is good in the Leghorn breed characteristics with a good dark chestnut top and as clear in his white as possible. It is important that he should have good wing ends, the diamond being sound and solid in colour. This means the breeding of good topped cockerels. The mates for such a bird should have good size and shape, be medium in size of comb, with good open lobes, and as near as possible to the standard colour. If some are a bit warm in colour, so much the better, they will throw good topped cockerels, but are hardly likely to breed exhibition pullets.
  The great difficulty is to keep the colour of the cockerels dark on top, and at the same time have pullets with clear sides, and good breast colour. But the greatest difficulty of all is the bright sound topped cockerels. The pullets are more easily bred, but to get the cockerels right Mr. Simon says he has had to resort to the Brown Leghorn. Some seasons all his Piles have been bred from a Brown cock and Pile hens, but this he advises should only be done occasionally. With such mating many of the pullets will in appearance be Browns, but they are invaluable for mating to Pile cocks. This kind of mating should only be followed about once in four or five years, but even from such a mating first class pullets are sometimes bred, and Mr. Simon says he has bred some of his cup winners by so mating.


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