The Dorking is one of the oldest British breeds being descended from stock brought to Britain by the Romans. Columella's "Book of Husbandry", written in 50 AD, mentions five-toed fowls, which is one of the distinguishing features of the Dorking.
It was developed in Victorian times mainly as a table bird, having delicate white flesh with a long body and short legs.
The Dorking is a docile breed but does like to range widely; they make good mothers and lay moderate numbers of good-sized white eggs.
Standardised colours are Silver Grey, Dark, Red White and Cuckoo and features common to all of them are five toes and white legs. There is a bantam version in the Silver Grey colour one quarter the size of the large birds.
The Silver Grey has a single comb and are the most numerous, therefore tending to take top prizes at the shows, although recently the other colours have done well. The Dark is much darker than the Silver Grey and can have either a single or rose comb. The Red (pictured), single combed, is a dark rich red and black on the cockerel and the hen is rich red with black spangling. The white is pure white in both sexes and has a rose comb, as does the Cuckoo which has grey and dark grey stripes.
Maturing at about two years, the Dorking is a magnificent breed.
Weights: Cock 4.55-6.35kg (10-14lb); cockerel 3.60-5.00kg (8-11lb) Hen 3.60-4.55kg (8-10lb)
The breed club secretary is Mrs. Victoria Roberts, Heather Bank, Hillings Lane, Menston, Nr. Ilkley, W. Yorkshire LS29 6AU, email Secretary. Club subscription is £7 per year and there are currently over 100 enthusiastic members. A triennial survey is taken of breed numbers and members keeping Dorkings not only in order to conserve this ancient breed but also because they are beautiful and useful.