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The Aylesbury derives its name from the town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, where it was bred as a white table duck in the eighteenth century and used in increasingly large numbers to supply the London market. The white plumage was valued for quilt filling and the pale skin contributed an attractive carcass. This light colouration is evident in the pink bill colour that continues to be a key characteristic of the breed. The Aylesbury was a leading waterfowl exhibit in the first National Poultry Show held at the London Zoological Gardens in June 1845. This was the beginning of live poultry exhibitions, and it was the Victorian stress on size that led to the development of the modern Aylesbury with its pronounced keel and long, pink bill. It was standardized in 1865.
Blue ducks emerged in northern Europe during the nineteenth century in various breeds. Two of the most popular, the Blue Swedish and the Pomeranian (Pommern), were developed near the Baltic shores of what is now modern Germany and Poland. Both of these breeds have characteristics in common: both have bibs and are blue, but the Blue Swedish has some white primaries. A pair of exhibition Blues will produce a proportion of blue, black, and splashed offspring.
This breed takes its name from Lake Cayuga in New York State, and is thought to be descended from the wild black duck (Anas rubripes), the Cayuga was recorded in North America between 1830 and 1850. It was first standardized in America in 1874 and in Britain in 1901. Its colour is very similar to the smaller Black East Indian: black plumage with brilliant green iridescence. The drakes tend to retain their black plumage but the females develop patches of white as they get older.
The wild Muscovy (Cairina moschata) is a native of South and Central America where it was being domesticated long before Columbus arrived in 1492. (White ones were found on Guadeloupe, by Diego Alvarez Chanca in 1494). It is allocated to a sub-group of perching ducks known as “the greater wood ducks”, which it shares with the white-winged wood duck and Hartlaub’s duck. These are heavy-bodied birds with relatively short legs that give them a horizontal carriage. They have broad wings with bony knobs at the carpal joints and the males show a slight swelling of the forehead during the breeding season. The wild Muscovies are mainly black in plumage with white patches on the wing covert area. These vary, but usually develop with age. This is the basic wild pattern. Other patterns have been developed under domestication, including the magpie pattern and the white-headed magpie pattern. Three other characteristics are readily apparent: Muscovies have an erectile forecrown crest, wart-like “caruncles” that develop with age, especially in the case of the males, and webbed feet (with strong claws) equally suited to perching as swimming. The size has increased under domestication. A powerful bird requiring careful handling.
The Pekin was imported from China into Great Britain and America between 1872 and 1874. Crossed with other breeds, it had a large impact on the commercial table bird market. The American strain continues to show a less than upright carriage whilst the British and European Pekins retain the characteristics described below. The British Standard between 1910 and 1930 insisted on a plumage that was deep cream or ‘buff canary’, and when this strain ‘died out’ fresh importations were made from Europe. The present exhibition strain is therefore often referred to as the ‘German Pekin’, largely to distinguish it from the American. This is a variety that continues to thrive as an exhibition breed and also as basic stock for commercial breeding. In addition, it provided genetic material for several modern breeds, including the Saxony.
The Rouen is a very large domestic duck with plumage colour and markings that resemble those of the wild mallard (Anas p. platyrhynchos). Originally produced in Normandy, from the area of Rouen, it was imported into southern England some time in the eighteenth century. Here its size, shape and colouring were further developed to such an extent that it was distinguished from the commercial French ducks by referring to it as the Rouen fonce (dark Rouen) or even “English Rouen”.
This was one of the first duck breeds standardized in Great Britain (in the original Standards of 1865), and is now valued more for its size and plumage markings in the exhibition pen than as a commercial meat bird. It has also been used as basic stock for breeding many of the duck breeds developed in the twentieth century.
The Rouen Clair is a modern development of the traditional mallard-coloured ducks from the Rouen area of France. It is distinguished from the Rouen fonce by the pale (Isabelle clair) ground colour of the female, the slightly upright carriage and a number of other characteristics common to the light phase plumage. The modern Rouen Clair is largely the result of breeding accomplished by Monsieur Rene Garry between 1910-20. Beginning with birds selected from farms in the area of Picardy, he proceeded to develop bloodlines primarily for size and plumage colour. Further bloodlines, involving Rouen-mallard crosses, improved the vigour and resulted in a large, light-phase, commercial duck, first standardized in France in 1923 and in Great Britain in 1982.
Developed mainly from Rouens, German Pekins and Blue Pommerns around 1930, the Saxony was bred by Albert Franz at Chemnitz. It was first exhibited at Chemnitz-Altendorf at the first Saxony County Show of 1934. However, the breed stock was almost entirely destroyed during the Second World War and in 1952 Franz was forced to begin a revival using small surviving flocks and reintroducing some of the other breeds employed earlier in 1930. The Saxony duck was recognized in Eastern Germany (GDR) in 1957, in Western Germany (FRG) the following year and in Great Britain in 1982.
Originated by Reginald Appleyard in the mid twentieth century, the Silver Appleyard was developed as a layer of “lots of big white egg” and as a white-skinned table bird that attained a weight of 3.0 kg / 6 1/4 lb (cold and plucked) at the age of 9 weeks. For size, carriage and basic plumage colour, it closely resembles the Rouen Clair. Its unique feature, however, is the expression of the restricted mallard gene that limits the amount of pigment on the face and body plumage of both duck and drake. Little is known about the appearance of the first Appleyards other than from sources like the painting by Wippell commissioned in 1947. The modern Silver Appleyard (standardized in 1982) and its Miniature form (standardized in 1997) are largely the result of breeding by Tom Bartlett of Folly Farm.