Bekisar

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The Bekisar is the first generation hybrid offspring of the Green Jungle fowl and a domestic female game chicken of bankiva subspecies. Bekisars were traditionally used by the original inhabitants of the Sunda Islands as symbolic/spiritual mascots on outrigger canoes.

The wild Green Junglefowl is a mangrove forest adapted species. Unlike the Red Jungle Fowl, the ancestor of most domestic chickens, the Green Junglefowl is specially adapted for life with little fresh water. During the dry season, and also on arid volcanic islands, the Green Junglefowl gets most of its water from dew in the coastal fog on fruits and insects. The Green Junglefowl also thrives on aquatic animals washed up on the shores and littoral pools, which Red Junglefowl are unable to do. At low tide Green Junglefowl forage for starfish, small crabs, copepods and detritus. At high tide the Green Junglefowl fly to mangrove islets where they roost. The far-carrying cries of the male Green Junglefowl can be heard over the breakers, even though their volume is quite low in comparison to that of a domestic fowl or Red Junglefowl.

The natives of the Sunda Archipelago learned that they could persuade young, unpaired wild Green Junglefowl males to mate with domestic game hens. The progeny, called Ayam Bekisar, were used for communication between canoes. Each individual Bekisar rooster has a unique voice, due to its hybrid ancestry. A Bekisar rooster was selected for its unusual voice, and placed in a special bamboo basket, which was hoisted up above the mast of the canoe. Being partly Green Junglefowl, the hybrid Bekisar found the elevation of these bamboo baskets to be much to their liking. This resulted in the Bekisar roosters crowing almost incessantly, in prolonged shrieking matches.Thr Bekisar also gave rise to the long tail fowl(Onagadori) and long crowing fowl(Tomaru)and a few others. The crows of the Bekisar rooster combine the prolonged notes of the Green Junglefowl with the added volume of the domestic games (whose wild ancestors' voices had to be heard through the dense vegetation). The Bekisar's voice can often be heard for two miles over the sea. The seafaring cultures took to keeping these male Bekisars on their canoes at all times.

When the natives of Java and the Sunda Islands migrated to Oceania and beyond, they brought with them dogs, pigs, yams, coconuts and chickens. Each migration brought a few dozen semi-domestic game fowl, not unlike those seen today running feral in tropical Asian villages. Anthropologists have provided evidence that probably only a very few boats in a flotilla carried domestic animals. Each sea-faring vessel would likely have carried at least two or three cages with Bekisars aboard, however. The chieftain and warriors may have carried even more Bekisars on each of their vessels. Nearly every new migration of seafaring people brought game fowl (the semi-domestic chickens descended from the Indonesian Red Junglefowl, Gallus bankiva) to their new island homes. The Bekisar roosters were also present in sufficient number to significantly impact each island's native base population of feral fowl. An escaped Bekisar was next to impossible to capture. A Bekisar rooster released into a tropical mangrove forested island in Oceania or the South Pacific would easily re-adapt to the wild, as if it were a wild Green Junglefowl.

Many of the more remote, typhoon-prone islands with very small or failed human colonies are the naturalized homes of wild junglefowl, described as Violaceous Junglefowl by early European naturalists and considered a new species. Backcrossing of many generations of the hybrid Bekisar males with feral domestic game hens must occur before fertile females are produced. Female hybrid offspring of Green Junglefowl crossed with domestic fowl are mostly always sterile, laying eggs which are incapable of being fertilized by either Green or Red Junglefowl, or by domestic fowl. This means that back-crossing would be a common mode of self-perpetuation.

When competing clans, tribal wars, disease and typhoons extirpated or very nearly exterminated human populations or forced migrations, feral fowl, pigs and dogs would often remain on these remote islands. Natural predators such as monitor lizards, seabirds, pythons and other predators would hunt out the feral chickens with the most domesticated traits. Those incapable of flying or running rapidly would not live long enough to reproduce. Those incapable of surviving long periods without fresh water would also perish, and those lacking the appropriate instincts to survive frequent typhoons would also be selected against.

The Bekisar, with the progeny they generated by interbreeding with feral chickens, adapted to these natural challenges. Green Junglefowl genes in the island populations is likely to be a selective advantage in the long term.

With each successive generation of back=crossing, the occasion of a fertile hybrid female increases. At a certain point a genetic equilibrium is reached, and a fresh generation of viable females, capable of reproducing, is produced. Over the long run, some of the more remote islands, such as New Caledonia, Ponape, Marquesas, Rapa and Rapa Nui, became populated with flocks unique in appearance, not closely resembling either parental form.

When successive migrations of Polynesians carrying their own domestic flocks of game fowl (derived from Red Junglefowl) appeared on these islands, most of the Violaceous traits vanished through genetic swamping. These traits persisted only on the most isolated islands. From these refined isolated island populations, unique breeds were developed, in particular, on Ponape, Marquesas and Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The famous Araucana hens, named after the Araucanian Indians of Chile, are derived from these breeds. These breeds produce tinted blue, grey, lilac and green eggs. The Green Junglefowl is the only species of junglefowl that produces tinted eggs. Nuclear DNA studies provide evidence that the blue egg gene is derived from ancient Green Junglefowl founder sires.

The practice of hybridization is so ancient that it is not known precisely where it began. Modern Sundanese and Javanese people claim that hybridization first occurred in the Kangean Islands in the Java Sea. The roosters have a glossy blackish green plumage and are highly prized for their loud clear vocals and beautiful colorations, while the hens are mostly dull and sterile.

The male is used by natives in East Java, Bali and surrounding islands in popular vocal competitions. This practice caused the decline of the wild Green Junglefowl population.

The Bekisar is the faunal symbol of East Java, province of Indonesia.

Sources

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