Friday, January 18, 2013

The Java Fowl

Pacific Poultry Craft  October, 1926
The Java Fowl by V. C. Augustine, Pomona, CA
Java research by Glenis Marsh

In my discussion of the Java Fowl, I shall endeavor first to take the reader back over some of the earlier history of this very interesting breed-back when American poultry culture was in it's infancy and the old Dominique the only representation of American breeds.  The breeders and fanciers of those days satisfied themselves with the breeding of foreign fowls--the Asatics, Mediteranean and European breeds.  It was with these breeds as foundation stock that the early American fancier and breeder began the building of the American breeds which have been developed to such high state of perfection today.

Many of these foreign fowls were brought to this country by sea-faring ships of the early days.  These small merchant ships touched at many foreign countries where, in many instances, poultry was taken aboard for food and in this way new specimens were brought to our shores by members of the ships' crews. And so it was with the Java Fowl.

History has it that in 1835 an old sea captain by the name of Schoville or Schofield who had made many voyages to the East Indies, brought from the Isle of Java some clean legged black fowls which he gave to his life long friend, Omasa Converse of Northhampton, Massachusetts.  These black fowls were bred quite extensively in this part of Massachusetts for many years.

From this point, and for some time following, the history of the Java Fowl is somewhat vague.  However, the one strain that according to our present knowledge has made the Java breed of today was derived from three eggs from the yard of a noted doctor in Missouri, it is naturally assumed that the doctor's birds were from the original Javas in Massachusetts.  This doctor was very jealous of their origin and guarded them selfishly.  He could never be persuaded to part with an egg or chick until the germ of life had first been destroyed.  The story goes that a coachman in the employ of the doctor appropriated three of the eggs and gave them to a family that moved back to New York state. It is from this nucleus of three eggs that most if not all of our present day Javas owe their existence.  Here I wish to call to your attention to the fact that in all these years this one blood line has persisted.  It has continued with no apparent signs of deterioration.  It was a case of live or perish as there was no other known line from which to obtain new blood.  This fact alone speaks for the sturdiness of the Java and the uniformity with which they breed. 

Associated with the breeding of Black Javas and playing some of the most important parts in Java history, are the names of J. Y. Bicknell, C. Whiting, George M. Mathews and Dr. W. H. Harwood.  These men choose their breed. Recognized it's merits and stayed with it.

It was Java and Dominique blood that made our Barred Plymouth Rocks.  Our Rhode Island Reds carry Java blood, as do some varieties of Wyandottes.  Our new and popular Jersey Black Giants. (the request of whose breeders for admittance to the standard of excellence in 1922 was denied on the grounds that the suggested standard too closely resembled that of the Black Java), also carry Java blood.

The Black Javas belong to the group of heavier breeds, their weight being about the same as that of the Plymouth Rocks--cock, nine and one-half pounds, cockerel eight pounds, hen seven and one-half pounds, which puts them in the general purpose class.  In body conformation, the Javas have rather long backs, full breasts and prominent abdomens.  They have the capacity for egg production, although small boned, they are capable of carrying a great amount of flesh and when well fattened command the highest market price as market poultry.  They have a yellow skin and lay a brown egg.  They stand confinement well but if given the opportunity, prove to be splendid foragers.  They are docile and friendly and can easily be made pets of.

The Black Java is a most beautiful fowl to look upon.  It's glossy back plumage with it's characteristic greenish sheen, black eyes, single comb and it's proud, erect carriage and alertness all combining to make it extremely attractive.

As a fancier's fowl the Java makes it's appeal not only through beauty but also because of the trueness of it's breeding due to the purity of it's blood.  The breeder finds for the product of his season's breeding a flock of uniform birds with few or no culls.

NOTE--The early history of the Javas was given me by Dr. W. H. Harwood of Malone, N.Y.  Dr. Harwood has this early history direct from J. Lyman Kelly also of Malone, N. Y., a grandson of Mrs. Tower, who was the niece of Omasa Converse, the owner of the original Javas in Massachusetts.

I've just recovered additional documents!...I'll provide them soon but here's an excerpt of yet another separate account of the origin of the Java (It matches Dr. Harwood's statement)....
"I enjoyed a pleasant visit with Mr. and Mrs. Lattin and received from the latter, the following history of the origin of the fowls in question:--

About twenty-five years ago a relative of Mr. Lattin, living in Missouri came in possession of three eggs from the yard of a celebrated doctor, who delighted in the ownership of a few fine fowls called Javas.  The doctor would neither sell the progeny nor allow it to grace the yards of another but his coachman "borrowed" the three eggs above named and from them the Javas of to-day have descended, all crossing having been made with different matings of the same family.  They were first brought into Dutchess County some twenty-five years since, then into Orleans County, where they have been bred by the Lattin family in purity for many years.  From what I can learn of them, I judge they are very hardy, mature early and belong to the useful as well as ornamental class.

Mr. Lattin presented me with one dressed for the table and although the shanks of the fowls are black, the fowl itself when served, presents that inviting rich yellow common to the Plymouth Rock and is in every way it's equal". -- J. Y. Bicknell  N.Y. May 1881

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