Saipan

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Photo taken in 1999. Saipan stag from Dr. Burdette of Olmsted Falls, Ohio.
Photo taken in 1999. Saipan stag from Dr. Burdette of Olmsted Falls, Ohio.

Although they are known in the gamefowl world as "Jungle Fowl," Saipans are really one of the large game, or fighting breeds, The true Jungle Fowl as we know comprise four species of small birds, which inhabit India and Southeast Asia. Saipan Chickens are commonly called Jungle Fowl; however, they are not to be confused with the Jungle Fowl. They are quite different in appearance and temperment from many true Jungle Fowl, and are valued for their beauty. They include the Red Jungle Fowl, ancestor to all our domestic breeds of chicken.

The Saipan Jungle Fowl by B.W. Saylor (1977)

The writer spent four years in the U.S. Navy and was all over the South Sea Islands. Most of the islands had wild chickens; the island of Ulitha, close to the Philipines, had some little black chickens that could fly up and over the tree tops like quail, and they were about the size of a quail. One day I saw a six foot lizzard grab one and "chomped" twice and swallowed it whole, live and still kicking. The best fowl I found were on the island of Saipan. These had long legs and necks, the cocks stood tails low, head high. They were black reds with grayisn, platinum, red cock hackles, tail feathers were redish gold. cocks weigh six pounds or more. The hens were white on breast with black and white lacing on the upper part of the body. These chickens were game and would strike without a bill hold. They had small peacombs and some had no comb at all; not wattles. They had a big dew-lap in the center of the throat. A cock would have a certain area to run over and would have several hens scattered in this area. If another cock crowed in the vicinity, he would come charging out like a mad bull. There would be about four or five hundred yards between each cock's area and in this no-man's land, the bull stags would run. I have seen as many as two dozen together, and they would run like this until they were about two years old. Then one of them would challenge some old cock and take his hens and area. I questioned all the jap prisoners, and they said the wild chickens were there when they came on the island. I then went to the old Native Polynesian Chief and he said his ancestors brought the wild chickens with them when they first came to the island two or three thousand years ago. Most scientists think all domesticated fowl came from the straight comb Red Jungle Fowl - I say they are wrong and I think I can prove it. I brought back five baby chicks from Saipan in 1945. Three of these had no comb and some even to this day have no comb. After 30 years of breeding and studying them, I believe the pure ones never had a comb. So I am going to start breeding the no-comb to no-comb to see if I cannot get them back pure again. Now for the proof I referred to -Everyone knows you cannot cross a cow and a horse. No doubt they come from the same ancestors, but it is too far back, perhaps a billion years. A cow and buffalo will cross, so their ancestors branched apart just a few million years ago no doubt. Now the Saipans and the Red Jungle Fowl are extremely hard to cross; out of three setting of 30 eggs, I got one chicken, so I would say their ancerstors branched apart before the cow and buffalo did. The Guinea fowl are more kin to the Saipan than the Red Jungle Fowl. I have an 8-month Saipan stag running with five Guinea hens and I saw the stag mating with them so I set 10 eggs and hatched five chicks; all were fertile but some died in the shell. I think if the stag had been older all would have hatched. They look like a turkey and a voice like a peacock. No comb and center wattle like the Saipan and are larger than either parent. I believe there were two strains of chickens; the Red Jungle fowl that took to trees and the Saipan that took to the plains. Finsterbusch and others thought there must be such a wild breed of fowl they called Gallus Gigantus but that don't quite fit the Saipans so I'll just call them Saipan because that's the last place on earth that they run wild. They do get some bigger when fed commercial feeds. No one knows where the Polynesian natives picked these fowl up - probably Samoa or some island on the way. It would have to be a place without trees and low grass as they developed their long legs from running and the long neck from looking over the grass, and if they ever had a comb, it would have got hung in the grass and got caught. The ones without a comb would have got away to breed more. They being a plain fowl, they won't roost in trees. Some will sit lenghtwise on a 2x4 roost, will not roost on damp ground if there is a log or shelf in the pen they will get on it. They can hear much better than other fowl. They wil recognize my step before they can see me, and if a stranger approaches they will hide. I would say all our domesticated chickens have some Saipan blood - some more, some less. I think the straight comb fowl would have more Red Jungle blood and the peacomb more Saipan blood. All game chickens will cross easily with the Saipan, so they would all have to have Saipan blood. Only the pure Red Jungle Fowl won't cross, or they are extremely hard to cross. The Japs had let losse thousands of chickens on the islands - all kinds, some games, white leghorns, etc. You name it they had it. These crossed the wild chicken out. When I left Saipan in 1945, I doubt there were more than a dozen pure wild ones left and one more year would have been the end of them. So what I have, I would say are the only pure wild ones on earth. I do not have any Saipans for sale and if and when I do, will advertise in The Gamecock. I have only sold three pair of these fowl. I sold Clarence Boles a pair in 1948 or 1949. I had several letters from him and he did quite well with the crosses. I lost everything in a fire, records, books, etc. But I think it was the latter part of 1948 that I sent these to Clarence in California. Another man got a pair but crossed them with Malay. W.M. Watson of Florida got a pair and kept them pure. When he died I got these back. Boles was the only one that fought any, other than myself. I have only fought a few. I think five pittings is the longest fight I've ever had, one or two pittings most times. The half-bloods are the only ones that have the wild instincts. A blind 1/2 breed will whip any cock because he knows exactly when he is within reach of his opponent and will get him everytime. I plan on taking some to Copper State within a few years but before I die I will sell some as I don't want the breed to die out.

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