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DORKING

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COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Great Britain

CATEGORY: Soft feather

EGG COLOUR: Tinted (Sitters)

 

CLASSIFICATION

CODE

MASSES

BREED CODE

RING SIZES

Heavy breed

 

 

 

 

LARGE

 

 

108

 

Cock

10

5.0kg

 

E

Hen

12

4.0kg

 

D

Cockerel

14

4.0kg

 

E

Pullet

16

3.5kg

 

D

 

BANTAMS

 

 

458

 

Cock

10

1.5kg maximum

 

C

Hen

12

1.3kg maximum

 

B

Cockerel

14

1.5kg maximum

 

C

Pullet

16

1.3kg maximum

 

B

 

Its purely British ancestry makes the Dorking one of the oldest of domesticated fowls in lineage. A Roman writer, who died in A.D. 47, described birds of Dorking type with five toes, and no doubt such birds were found in England by the Romans during the invasion under Julius Caesar (55 B.C.). By judicious crossings, and by careful selection, the Darking or Dorking breed was established.

Dorkings were mentioned occasionally over the intervening centuries, for example being sold at Dorking market in 1683 and 1824, but as far as present day fanciers are concerned, the story only picks up again at about 1850, when poultry shows started, which required standardised plumage colours and patterns for exhibitors and judges to agree upon. Previously, a few farmers had bred uniformly coloured flocks so their birds would be identifiable locally in case of theft. White and Cuckoo Dorkings were probably established for this reason, and ‘Old Red and Tawnies’ were known and named, along with ‘Japans’, black Dorkings with gold or silver hackles. ‘Red Speckles’ were also known, and could be either marked like present day Spangled O.E.G. or Speckled Sussex. Indeed, Lewis Wright noted that before 1850 the breast feathering of almost all Dorking cocks (except Cuckoos and Whites) had white speckles.

Wright also wrote at length about John Douglas, who established a consistent coloured strain of Dark Dorking, starting in 1857 when he crossed his variable coloured Dorking hens with a cock of unknown ancestry he had imported from India, which was an almost perfect exhibition Dark Dorking cock in terms of colour, size and type, just lacking the 5th toe, which was rectified after a few years of selective breeding. Silver Grey Dorkings were stabilised with their present pattern, particularly in respect of the salmon breast on hens, by crosses with Lord Hill’s strain of Silver Duckwing O.E.G., which were recorded as being used by some Dorking men, including Oswald Cresswell of Hereford, who tried this cross in 1868.

Dorkings remained a popular exhibition and practical table breed until the outbreak of war in 1914, and then declined. They only survived through to the present day because of the dedication of a few breeders, until a new generation of poultry breed enthusiasts appeared in the 1970s. The bantam version of the breed has appeared sporadically since the 1890s, but has never been very popular, indeed there are probably more of them, and in more colour varieties, now in 2012 (in the UK at least) than at any time in the past.

  

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Amended June 2012