SUMATRA - diverse





The Onagadori - PHOENIX Debate, from an historical perspective



All European Phoenix today are descendants of Onagadori or proto-Onagadori breeding. Most lines of Phoenix from America are infused with Onagadori from Mr Cy Hyde's birds which originated from true Onagadori presented at the World's Fair in Toronto, Canada. This particular line, however, has not maintained the standards for the true Onagadori and many birds from this line, even though grow long tails, moult regularly, as do the Phoenix.


Many breeders have been confused or simply not informed that pure Onagadori possess the gene "nm" or "ns" for non-moulting, which is a phenomenon only seen in true Onagadori. If the gene is lost, the longtailed birds are no longer considered Onagadori. Because few breeders of Onagadori were able to maintain the extreme care and upkeep of the roosters, selections were made in breeding that did not consider this realtively newly discovered gene. Note these first two illustrations of "Phoenix-chickens" from Belgium. It is clear here that the O

know today.

I have added a quote from a noted authority on Longtails, Brian Reeder, as it pertains to this discussion about the genetic makeup of the Longtails:

"...the gene "gt" is not the gene responsible for non-molting. It is the gene which causes the faster rate of growth in tail and sickle feathers each year, whether they are non-shedding or not.

All longtail breeds carry "gt", or they would be short tailed. It is the "gt" gene which causes F1 crosses to have tails longer than their short tailed parent, but shorter than their long tailed parent, as the gene "gt" is co-dominant, expressing itself partially in the F1. The gene for non-shedding is "ns" or "nm" (non-shedding or non-moulting) and is recessive, thus no non-shedders are produced in the F1 of crosses between non-shedding bird to shedding bird. There is a third and separate gene involved in the true Onagadori and that is saddle gene "sg". Saddle gene "sg" causes the saddles to grow long just like "gt" tail growth gene causes the tail to grow long and works independently of "gt" thus we sometimes see phoenix with wonderful tails, but insufficient saddles and vise-versa. Saddle gene "sg" can be combined with non-shedding "ns" as in Onagadori, it can occur on shedding birds as in Phoenix or can be absent altogether on a long tailed bird, as in Cubalaya or Sumatra. The Onagadori is the only known example of all three genes combined and expressed homozygously and is thus a true pinnacle of the breeders art."


Breeding lines of Phoenix from East Germany and from the UK have also maintained a relatively high level of Onagadori blood in that many roosters do not moult until the second year, with a few examples going three years without completely changing their plumage. Another factor showing their close relationship to the Onagadori is the slender, soft and supple feathers. The East German birds that I have in my breeding programme differ in that the Silver Duckwings have harder, firmer and more resilient feathers while the Golden Duckwings have the limp, dragging constitution of the Onagadori. Both types moult completely every two to three years, most every year. The West German birds I have are similar except that their lines are longer, back lines straighter (more horizontal) and that all feathers harden each year and are moulted.

In West Germany (I use these terms of East and West to refer historically to areas where specific tastes were developed and perfected, even though "East" and "West German" no longer exist as political unities) the clear demarcation between the Phoenix and Onagadori has been underway for at least 25 years where a small but devoted association of Longtail breeders began changing the official standards for the Phoenix to reflect the modern direction of breeding. These birds are not to carry their feathers more than one seasons and birds with blood feathers at the shows are penalised or marked down in comments. The birds should have a straight back line rather than a falling, tail-dragging line as is seen in most Phoenix standards.

Crosses with Malayan, Shamo, Bruegger Game, Modern English Game and Ramelsloher were undertaken to "get the birds off the ground", the results being extremely elegant birds but with much less feather wealth than their more Onagadori-like ancestors. At least this is the state of affairs at the moment. Improvements are being made each year to perfect this new direction and I have recently seen birds at the National Show in Ulm, Germany which showed very high level of refinements in this direction. More about the new German Standard under this link.


In Switzerland the situation with Phoenix is mixed between the East and West German standards, with Onagadori-like birds and those of more elegant carriage, longer bodied and longer in leg like the West Germans prefer today.

The Onagadori is not a Longtail breed of form, but rather of feather. Its feathers must be slender, soft and supple and as many of the sickles and coverts are not to moult under carefully maintained conditions. The Phoenix, on the other hand, must have hard, firm feathers which moult normally. In Germany, from which I got all of my breeding material, fanciers want a bird that is not finicky, but that is hardy, vigorous and does not need the stall requirements of the Onagadori to stay in good condition. The Phoenix was created by the first President of the National Germany Poultry Association Hugo du Roi in an attempt to save the sickly and dying long tail birds that he imported at high costs from Japan. He used Old English Game birds and a few native German breeds. The results were birds of semi-Onagadori character: heavier bodied, lower standing, very feather-rich with tails that sometimes did not moult until the second or third year.


It is important to note that the type was not fixed in the Onagadori in this initial period of imports and the comb forms, face/wattle colour as well as leg and feather colours were all different in these first imports. The breed seems to have been well under way in this period of time, but the consistent characteristics of the Onagadori today were not genetically fixed when the first birds began to arrive in Europe. This is also what gave rise in England to the generic Long Tail description "Yokohama" which encompasses all types and forms of Long Tails except the Satsumadori which has been allotted Game Bird Status by the Asian Gamefowl Association.and the Ohiki which has been placed in the category "true dwarf breed".

The dispute between the countries who breed long tails arises mostly from the individual and particular development of the different lines after the original imports in the Victorian Period. France, Germany and England seem to have started the ball rolling with Onagadori and Minohiki types of bird, and then these two types were out crossed to Game Birds (mostly to the well-muscled and vigorous Old English Game) to save the birds from immediate extinction. They then interbred them to retrieve feather richness.

With free access to large number of breeds in West Germany, many crosses were undertaken in the late 60s, 70s and throughout the 80s with Modern English Game, the feather-rich German Leghorn, Ramelsloher, Malayan, Bruegger Game, Yokohama, true Onagadori and even Kruper to refine the long-tailed breed known as Phoenix (a name given by Hugo du Roi himself for the birds and subsequently the breed that arose from crosses he made with his Japanese imports).


The East German lines remained purer in that there was a lot less material into which to cross the Phoenix and their birds remain closer genetically to the DuRoi and older bloodlines. Their birds also carry more Onagadori blood and show this in longer feathers, sometimes moulting every two years (very much prized by the East German breeders) and heavier, lower body forms with downward-sloping back lines. Note the particular mix of characteristics found in the F1 cross in the illustration from Mr. Rold Ismer on this page.

The bird has the greater body mass and robust character of the German Phoenix but on a shorter, stockier frame (as in the Onagadori) as well as the limp, hanging, slender feathers of the Onagadori. I personally do not find this combination very attractive - it is exactly between the two standards.

Clear demarkation is something that we must strive for, i.e. the clear distinction between the Phoenix and Onagadori. And we should allow, however, differences of form and feather length under the virtue of tolerance.

The debates are heated in Germany where the West German standard has prevailed over the East German, to the point that many East German breeders have left the organisation. We at ASIAN GAMEFOWL SOCIETY, recognise the extreme achievements and conservation efforts that were undertaken sometimes under extreme social conditions that prevailed behind the iron curtain, keeping for us an extremely feather-rich, very long-tailed line of Phoenix. For their genetic potential alone it is worth making an all-out effort to preserve these lines and give credit to their breeders. As I am able to expand my breeding programmes here at Casa Rocca, Rocchetta Tanaro (Italy), I would like to take in some of these endangered-by-fashion longtails for preservation.




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