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Irish Hennies

History of the Hennies I got from Rick Bohn of California Gamefarm:

In about the year 1890, there was a strain of Hen Feathered Games, in the hands of cockers in & around Jackson, Michigan. They attracted attention from the fact that they were apparently invincible. While in the hands of John Neil & the Robson Brothers, they defeated all new comers & most of the old strains, that were represented at that time. In fact, when a well conditioned Hen Cock was theown into the pit, it was almost impossible to get a bet on him.

As to their breeding or origin, they came from a William Blair of Pontiac, Michigan, about 1880. Mr. Blair's fowl were believed to be descendants of a trio of Hennies, from an old Irishman. This old Irishman brought them over to Quebec in a wicker basket some years prior to this. Old Jack Neil kept Hennies from this stain until his death in 1921. About twenty-five percent of the Hennie stags will be long feathered until they molt out as cocks, nearly all then become hen feathered. Colors run from brown to black, with generally a few lighter colored feathers in hackle.

As a cross they usually put speed in another strain & produce a large percentage of Hen feathered males. In several instances crosses of Hennie have wiped out strains thought to be invincible.

Hennies by Paul Dawson

by Paul Dawson (1976)

I have been asked many times how the Hennies were made up - what crosses were used. A Hennie is one of the very few Strains of pure Game Fowls. They were first seen in India and they must have come out of the Jungles as did the Bankiva, and when you cross them they are no longer a Hennie. I believe they are just as the Maker made them. Their traits, their fighting style, their speed and cutting makes them as different from their long feathered cousins as daylight and dark. I have bred, fought and sold them for sixty five years so I feel I am qualified to write their history.

They came into England in the early fifteenth century and the good British breeders bred them to perfection and at one time they challenged all of England with their Hennies. From the Sports and Mutations they bred them in many different colors, including the beautiful Grouse bred by John Harris. They soon found their way into Spain where the Spanish bred them over their Brown and Grey Spanish. My good friend, the late John Thrasher, bred the Spanish just as they came from Spain and many of them came hen-feathered. The first Hennies were brought into this country by a party named Story and they proved to be great fighters in short heels as used along the East Coast. Mr. Chester A. Lamb imported the Black Thorne, also the brown Hennies in the early eighties. He bred them for fifty years and sold most all of the old time breeders, Hennie brood cocks. Mr. Lamb also imported the Kikilia from Ceylon.

These he gave to me about a year after he imported them. My first Black Hennies came from Mr. Lamb and I also imported some great fighting Brown Hennies from England. I never aspired to be a big shot, I bred my Hennies because I love them. I fought a few each year but never enough to make a nuisance out of it. They won for me and for my customers all over the world and after 65 years my Hennies are just as fast, just as rugged as in years gone by and they are bred and fought all over this country. Not in large numbers but by men like me who like them and they win for them. A good Texas cocker has a Black Hennie cock that has won seven derby fights. Another Texas cocker who went to Copper State last season, saw one of my Black Hennies win his tenth fight in one short pitting. In the early 30's I helped W.R. Hudlow run a pit south of Chickasha, Oklahoma. I only had nine Hennie stags and cocks but I won thirty-four fights without a single loss. This was reported to Grit & Steel. These Hennies were fought with any one that could match the weight, the great Sweater McGinnis included.

I married in 1935 and my wife informed me that she didn't like game chickens. I have five stags ready to fight so I told her if she would go with me and see them fight I would dispose of them. (A man will do funny things when he is in love.) We were having a brush fight with about a dozen of the local cockers. I matched Sweater with a 4-8 Black Hennie stag; Sweater had a hot Grey Toppie that coupled and wry necked my stag in the first buckle. When I set my stag down for the second pitting he just rolled over on his back but when the Grey reached for a bill hold it sounded like a snare drum and the fight was over. While I was cutting off the heels my wife asked me for some money to bet on our stags. I won all five fights and the best Pal a man ever had, my wonderful wife Opal. So as long as I live I will always breed a few of what I believe to be the greatest fighting cocks on earth, Dawson's Black Hennies.

The gene responsible for the hen feathering is not sex linked and is carried by either the male or female in different strengths. Since this gene is an Incomplete Dominant, Autosomal, about 1/4 of the stags produced from pure Hennies will be long feathered, 1/4 will be hen feathered, and the remainder will be of mixed feathering until their second year when they moult out completely hen feathered. From an article written in 1891 Hennies were very plentiful in Wales and Cornwall. There is an account of a main fought at Ponterfract (in the country of Yorkshire) in 1670 of hen-cocks v. long feathers.

The black hen-cocks of Wales were thought a fit present for a prince, and Pembrokeshire ( a country in Wales) once challenged all England with them. Hennies are an old-established and well-known variety of British game fowl, from which they differ chiefly in length, form and brilliancy of feather, the plumage of the male resembling that of the hens, hence the name of hen-cocks or hennies, and the more rounded, short and free from sheen or gloss they are in the hackle, cloak, and tail, in short the more hen-feathered they appear in neck, wings, body and tail the more they are entitled to claim purity of breed. They are generally lighter in bone than other cocks, having light corky bodies that appeared larger than their wieght at the scales, and on that account were never favorite match cocks with the old feeders at the "Cockpit Royal" who preferred cocks with more bone.

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