PCGB/DEFRA LIaison Update - 12/04/2017
The Abacot Ranger was one of many breeds developed from (or crossed with) Indian Runners. Starting with “sports” from Khaki Campbells, themselves originally the products of Runner crosses, Mr Oscar Gray of Abacot Duck Ranch, near Colchester, mated their offspring to a white Indian Runner drake. The eventual results were “light drakes of Khaki carriage and type with dark hoods, and white ducks with blue flight bars and fawn or grey hoods.” This development was begun in 1917 and the Wye College Duck Laying Test of 1922-3 indicates a very successful outcome: the breed came top with 935 eggs in the four bird section. Originally called the “Hooded Ranger”, this breed almost died out in this country. Imported into Germany via Denmark in 1926, it was “stabilized” as a colour form by H. Lieker, whence it acquired the name “Liekers Streifere” (Lieker’s Ranger or Scout). In 1934 it was eventually standardized under the name of Streicher-Ente (Ranger Duck). Later standardized by the BWA in 1987, the modern Abacot Ranger owes both its survival and written standard to the work done in Germany.
Originally imported from Malaysia in 1925, these ducks take their name from Bali, an island east of Java where they were indigenous. Originally standardized in 1930, the breed has recently been re-created in Britain (in the 1990s) by crossing crested ducks with Indian Runners.
One of the first, and certainly the most successful, of the utility breeds designed in the 20th century from the Indian Runner, the Khaki Campbell largely took over as the top egg-laying duck. The colour of farmyard mud, from which it gets the first part of its name, the Khaki Campbell proved to be exceedingly agile, very fertile and extremely prolific. It too has spawned many variants: the White Campbell, the Dark Campbell, the Welsh Harlequin (a simple mutation of the original Khaki), the Abacot Ranger (a cross back to the Runner) and the Whaylesbury hybrid (Harlequin and Aylesbury). “This breed,” writes Captain R A Long (1926), “was produced by mating a Rouen drake with a Fawn and White Runner duck, some Wild Duck blood being added later.” Mrs Campbell writes of her ducks that they were meant for utility layers “not show birds” but that since some people wished to show them (and the birds must be bred to a definite type), she drew up a standard of what she would like them best to be in plumage.
Mrs Campbell’s Original Campbell ducks were not khaki at all. They quite closely resembled Abacot Rangers. It was not until about 1901 when she tried to produce buff coloured birds, and failed, that the Khaki variety emerged.
The white variety was developed by Captain F. S. Pardoe in 1924 and standardized in 1954. It was hailed as having identical utility properties to the Khaki but with more attractive selling appearance, at least for the table. The white plumage is the result of a recessive gene that hides other colours. The White Campbell has also a gene that makes the bill appear yellow rather than pink.
The Dark Campbell, first standardized also in 1954, was the product of attempts to breed auto-sexing ducks. Mr H. R. S. Humphreys of Devon is credited with creating this variety in the September 3, 1943, edition of “Poultry World”. The element of sex-linkage is caused by a lack of the brown dilution normally in the Khaki. Because this is a sex-linked gene, it is possible to cross a Khaki drake with a Dark Campbell female to produce Khaki female ducklings and Dark-looking male ones, thus allowing breeders to cull unwanted males in their day-old fluff. Essentially the Dark Campbell has the same colour form as the Dusky Mallard Call. Quite simply it is a Khaki without any brown dilution.
Darwin described the “Tufted Duck” (1868) which he obtained from Holland, as well as another sent to him “from the Malayan archipelago”. The connection is significant. Dutch trading interests in Asia date back at least to 1602 when the Dutch East India Company was formed. Seventeenth century Dutch paintings by artists such as Jan Steen and Melchior d’Hondecoeter feature crested ducks and those with pied markings like the Fawn & White Indian Runner. Bali Ducks also emerged from this part of Asia. Since a duck with crested genes would survive with difficulty in the wild, its development and cultivation may be jointly attributed to the inhabitants of the East Indies and the Dutch.
The breed was also described by D. J. Browne in the USA in 1853 and admitted to the American Standard in 1874. Harrison Weir depicted the breed in his work “Our Poultry” in 1902 and the breed was finally admitted to the UK Standard in 1910.
The Hook Bill is described and illustrated by Francis Willughby (in his Ornithology, published in 1678). Harrison Weir (1902) asserts that these birds are of Indian origin. He notes also that he saw them between 1837 and 1840 on the lake at Surrey Zoological Gardens. Weir maintains that the Dutch released their Hook Bills every morning on to the local canals and rivers, a very cost-effective way of feeding them. At dusk the birds flew back to their owners. Fancifully perhaps, he suggests that the bill and white bib made them distinct from the wild targets of the local hunters. Both Durigen and Broekman (referred to in Schmidt, Puten, Perlhuhner, Ganse, Enten, 1989) reinforce the Asiatic origin of the bird. Durigen calls it haken- or bogenschnabel (hook or bow-bill). The name Krombekeenden occurs in the Dutch references and the Germans use the term Krummschnabel-Enten. How and when it arrived and later spread in Europe is not reported, although there is evidence (A. Buehle, 1860) that the bird was widely distributed throughout Europe in the mid nineteenth century, centred particularly in Thuringia where it was kept on garden ponds for egg-laying and as a prized meat bird.
The era of the high egg-laying breeds of ducks started with the introduction of the Indian Runner into this country from Malaya. A ship’s captain brought home fawns, fawn-and-whites and whites, distributing them among his friends in Dumfriesshire and Cumberland. They proved prolific layers, and there was a class of fawn Runners at the Dumfries show in 1876 but the fawn-and-whites were not exhibited until 1896. The Indian Runner Duck Club’s Standard of 1907 described only the fawn-and-white, that of 1913 recognized also the fawn, while the 1926 Standard described the black, Cumberland Blue and Chocolate varieties.
The Magpie is an unusual duck breed named only according to its original plumage markings of black and white. Developed by Rev. Gower Williams and Mr. Oliver Drake in the years following the First World War, the breed was first standardized in the addendum to the 1926 Poultry Club Standards. It has a comparable colour form in the later German Altrheiner Elsterenten produced by Paul-Erwin Oswald.
The Orpington Ducks were developed by William Cook of Kent, who also bred Orpington chickens in the late nineteenth century. The Buff and Blue versions are likely to have emerged sometime after 1894, and were being advertised for sale in 1898. These ducks were believed to be the result of cross-breeding Indian Runners to Aylesburys, Rouens and Cayugas. The Buffs were standardized in 1910, followed by the Blue variety in 1926. Black, White and Chocolate Orpingtons were also developed but these were not standardized.
The Standard Buff Orpington is an attractive but unstable colour form. Standard birds are impure for blue dilution and produce three colour forms, the first of which is the standard:
Buff. Intermediate head colour in the males (seal brown), a dark grey brown colour. There is very slight indication of blue on the rump, and the females, like the males, have an overall even buff body colour with little evidence of pencilling.
Blond. Pale buff with a light grey brown head (in the case of the drake) and possibly more blue on the rump. The females are paler than the Buffs and there is even less chance of pencilling.
Brown. Light khaki pencilled plumage on the females; brown heads and rumps on the males; no evidence of blue at all.
Originally bred by Group Captain Leslie Bonnet at the end of the Second World War, the breed owes its existence to a chance production of two mutations (?sports?) from a flock of Khaki Campbells in 1949. These ?Honey Campbells? were renamed ?Welsh Harlequins? when the Bonnet family moved to Wales.
The Harlequins were saved from virtual extinction after the late 1960s by Edward Grayson in Lancashire. He had retained birds from the original Bonnet strain, bred these back to Khaki Campbells and eventually stabilized the colour form. This was possible simply because the Harlequin is genetically almost identical to the Khaki Campbell. It possesses two recessive genes, which F. M. Lancaster established as harlequin-phase. Both Khaki Campbell and Welsh Harlequin have dusky mallard genes and sex-linked, brown dilution genes, hence the bronze rather than blue specula. Modern examples of the Welsh Harlequin, however, tend to have bright olive bills, compared to the blue-green of the Campbell and a proportion of the early Harlequins.