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MINORCA

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ORIGIN: Ancestral stock from Spain (Island of Minorca), developed into a standard breed in England.

CATEGORY: Soft feather

EGG COLOUR: White (Non-sitters)

 

CLASSIFICATION

CODE

MASSES

BREED CODE

RING SIZES

Light breed

 

 

 

 

LARGE

 

 

238

 

Cock

10

3.5kg

 

E

Hen

12

3.0kg

 

D

Cockerel

14

3.0kg

 

E

Pullet

16

3.0kg

 

D

 

BANTAMS

 

 

488

 

Cock

10

1000g

 

C

Hen

12

900g

 

B

Cockerel

14

1000g

 

C

Pullet

16

900g

 

B

The fowls which were imported to England from Spain in the year 1780 to 1820 were rather small and with much smaller ear lobes than the later standard Minorcas. They remained virtually unchanged for about a century, as valued layers of extra-large chalk-white eggs, until the competitive atmosphere of the British poultry show scene prompted fanciers to try some crosses to improve their chances of success in the 1880’s. Indeed, until about 1870 Minorcas were only kept in the south-west of England by breeders that were former Spanish and French prisoners of war, who decided to settle here when released from captivity as part of various colonial wars, as well as the 1807-1812 Peninsular War. Minorcas were virtually unknown north of Gloucestershire or east of Wiltshire.

The first series of crosses were made with White-faced Spanish, which had long been a very popular breed in the Bristol area. This was obviously done to increase lobe size, but the breed obviously required subsequent back-crosses to restore the red face. Minorcas were exported to the US and Canada in about 1885, and fanciers in those countries have continued with the type fashionable then, with smaller lobes and a bigger, more fanned tail, than has since become the norm in the UK, Germany, and most other countries. The second series of crosses was with large black breeds such as Langshans and Orpingtons, and was done by fanciers in the north of England. By 1890 Minorcas of large size and with big lobes, were being shown all over the UK, indicating that the North Country and Bristol breeders had exchanged stock.

They became a very popular breed from about 1900 until 1930, with several regional Minorca clubs in addition to the main UK Minorca Club formed in 1888. There was even a Utility Minorca Club formed in 1925 to promote the smaller, more productive type. This was followed by a gradual decline in popularity, with amalgamations of all those clubs to a single UK Minorca Club in 1962.

Black has always been the main colour variety of Minorcas, but other colours do, or did, exist. Whites have been known at least as far back as the 1880s, but have never been popular. This is probably because competitive exhibitors, who wanted something similar, regarded the White Leghorn classes as ‘the only game in town’. Buff Minorcas were only ever bred in the US, and were mainly bred and promoted by the Lindgren Brothers of California, circa 1905-25. A barred variety was made in Germany, but was never accepted as a Minorca. This variety was standardised as a separate breed, the ‘Deutsche Sperber’, where they still exist, but are very rare. Blue Minorcas were known in Devon, England as far back as 1890, but were not widely bred until promoted by another Devon fancier, Herbert Whitley in the 1920s. He had an extensive collection of poultry breeds and other livestock, concentrating in ‘Blue’ varieties in all of them. A classic English eccentric! Rose-combed Black Minorcas were made in both the UK and US by crossing with Black Hamburghs, but few have been seen since 1940.

Minorca Bantams were first seen in about 1900, but remained very rare until the 1920-1940 period. It can be a problem, but a fascinating problem for enthusiasts, to combine Minorca characteristics such as the long back, strong boned shanks, and relatively large lobes and comb, on a bird small enough to be a satisfactory ‘Bantam’. This conundrum may have limited their popularity, along with the difficulties of keeping the lobes perfectly smooth and white, and the face red. Judges appreciate the skill required, so a good Minorca Bantam has an excellent chance of going on to win top show awards over the other ‘Best of Breeds’.

It can be reliably stated that South African stock originally came from England.

The Pile variety was bred by the late Mr. Eustace Schoultz from Pretoria. He did this by crossing ‘sports’ from black Minorcas(black with some red on the back and shoulders) with pure white Minorcas. Over a few years and with careful selection, he succeeded to establish the Piles.

   

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Amended June 2012