Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Female Shama - Choosing for Breeding

There is much to write about the female shama. I will start with a consideration of Taufik’s question: Is it preferable to breed from the female that sings and displays rather than the female with feminine characteristics?

There is no information available on the topic so I have had to turn to other sources as has been the case with almost every question that I have had about the shama that discussion with fellow hobbyists and my own independent thinking did not provide the answer.

I think that information from cockfighting is especially relevant since fighting cocks have much of the features and characteristics that we look for in the shama. Let me state that I have no interest in the actual fight itself but the care, training and especially the breeding aspects, fascinate me.

Below is an extract from “Cocking Science” on the characteristics that should be sought in a female. It was first published in 1937. I offer it to provoke thought. In the text, “pullet” is a young hen, “stag” is a cock before its first molt and “spurred hen” is one that exhibits male traits.

[The hen] should be active, healthy and alert, but not timid. Hens on free range may be a bit man shy, but excessive timidity in cooped fowl is a fault. On the other hand I do not favour a quarrelsome, fighting or heavily spurred hen. Not that these are serious faults, or that such hens never produce good stags. Nothing so definite as that. Merely that best acting cocks in hand and pit are usually from even tempered hens. However, you will find some who prize pugnacious females. Perhaps, where extreme tension, high nervousity and great speed is sought, that may help. I do not know, never having bred for that type. I think it was Mr. Riddle, who, when asked for his secret of breeding so many famous thoroughbreds, replied: “If you look to the parentage of great men you will find back of most of them some quiet, even-tempered, unassuming, little mother. Good blood lines, coupled with those qualities are what I want in brood mares.”

In other words, it takes the truly feminine to produce the truly male. It is this belief that prejudices me against the heavily spurred hen. That it is more than prejudice I have never been able to prove definitely, having had a few of that kind which threw wonderful stags, fully equal to those from hens lightly spurred. Nevertheless, it is a masculine feature. It is brought about by breeding and inbreeding over a long period from the cock side alone. A poor system for long range results.

As a rule I would avoid, too, a hen large and heavily boned. The one exception I should make would be in case your prospective brood cock is small in size, but otherwise perfect. If you must add size, get it from the hen, not the cock. Size got from the hen side is more apt to be permanent in your strain a avoids the danger of encountering in a large cock the worst result of poorly judged inbreeding, where cocks run much above the norm for the strain, are loose feathered, clumsy, and often lacking in gameness.

Below is a continuation of the above topic on "The female shama". It sets out Cocking Science's views on Inbreeding. It is offered to provoke thought for those who are interested in the subject.

Inbreeding carried on scientifically is not in itself the cause of deterioration. It it were possible to select flawless specimens in every mating close inbreeding could be continued indefinitely. It is the quickest way of fixing a type. But imperfections not visible to the eye sometimes are present and through inbreeding to one such faulty individual the flaw may become fixed in many . Steriliiy, for example. It occurs more frequently in the male. It is often caused by too long inbreeding from the male line, which is likely to produce an imbalance of sex characteristics, the male predominating to an extent which leaves the female unable to properly equip her sons - for their potency as males is in ratio to her feminity. The nearer complete is suppression of opposite sex features in hens the more certain it is that proper sexual balance is being maintained. Such pullets or young hens are the type to select when inbreeding back to their sire. The same is true inversely of a stag. Here there is little danger of error, for the pit puts him to the test. [Note: In the case of shamas, the equivalent would be competitions. That's why I intend to compete my birds next year.] But where fighting ability is equal between two or three sons that survive for the brood pen, select that one which is outstandingly male in other respects also, for use over his dam. Thus your first line will be based eventually on fowl carrying on one side a preponderance of the blood of the original cock, and on the other that of the hen. The secondary line can be handled the same way, inbred the same, and kept separate. After a few years infusions will be in order in one or both directions. Such infusions are used mainly as a corrective for hidden mistakes in selection, fresh blood having a tendency to neutralize flaws, (sterility in particular) which develop in a strain.


In crossing types to combine them in a new strain which will have the admirable qualities of both, the first generation will bring out only the dominant features of each, which, incidentally, may not be the ones desired. It is not to this first generation, but to their offspring, you must look for the one chick in four that has the right combination, if the wanted points are recessives. Such brother-sister matings, of course, bring us at once into close inbreeding. Except for some specific purpose this is seldom used. When it is found necessary, make as many different matings among your first generation as possible. It is better to get your recessives from several sources, rather than from one pair. Thus you can avoid full brother-sister matings thereafter.

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