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a few little chicks.”—H. H. Some of these are the very smallest of their genus, being not larger than Pigeons, and not so tall. They are now much out of fashion, and are rarely seen. They were well known, however, to the middle-age curiosity-collectors. “Quas verö Longolius pumilas vocat, et germanicë Kriel interpretatur, eae, ut paulo antè dixi, passim extant, per terram raptant, claudicando potius, quam incedendo, nos etiam nanas appellamus.”—Aldrovandi. “But the Hens which Longolius calls pigmy, and renders into German by “Kriel’ (no such word is to be found in Bailey's Dictionary) those, as I have just said, exist here and there, creep along the ground by limping rather than walking.” Again : “Quamvis communium Gallinarum aliam nos iconem exhibituros negawerimus, Pumilionis tamen, sive nanae, quam perperam multos pro Hadrianis habere diximus, etsi ex earum genere, exhibere placuit, quod minus frequentes sint. Erat autem haec Gallina tota nigra praeter alarum majores pennas, quae in extremitatibus candicabant, habebat pariter maculas in collo circumcirca candidas mediam lunam amulantes, atque oculos denique macula sublutescentis coloris rotunda ambiebat. Caput erat cirratum ; Paleae, et crista quae admodum erat exigua, intensius rubebant : pedes flavescebant: ungues parvi, coloris impense candidi.”—Idem. “Although we declared that we would not give another figure of common Hens, we have thought right, on account of their rarity, to exhibit one of the pigmy or dwarf sort, which we have said that many people unadvisably consider as the Hadrian Hen (of classical authors), although it belongs to the same kind. But this Hen was all black except the larger feathers of the wings, which were whitish at the tips; she had likewise white spots all round about her neck emulating the full moon, and lastly, a round spot of an ochrey colour encircled her eyes. Her head was top-knotted (I think it would now not be easy to produce a top-knotted Bantam). The wattles, and comb, which was very small, were of a rather intense Z
red : the feet were bright yellow : the claws small, exceedingly white.” Aldrovandi gives a rich collection of three-footed, fourfooted, double-headed, and double-bodied Fowls, that occurred to him in the course of his laborious researches. The English Edition of Buffon informs us that Jumpers are the same as Cambogia Hens; which, however, does not much add to our knowledge of the variety.
THE RUMPLESS FOWL, OR RUMKIN.
BLAINE, in his Encyclopædia of Rural Sports (London, 1840), says, “Of the feathered tribes of Ceylon, the most remarkable is the tailless Cock (Gallus ecaudatus, Tem. fig. 25), at present, we believe, only known in its wild state in the forests,” &c. It may appear too sceptical in us to question whether it be now to be found wild in the forests of Ceylon, but it certainly has been extant in Europe for the last two or three hundred years. This spring (1848) a pair of very good specimens, with brown and white plumage, were exhibited at the Surrey Zoological Gardens, and labelled as “from Persia.” Twenty or thirty years ago, when weavers and other artificers took more delight in tulip-beds, stages of auriculas, and fancy Fowls and Pigeons, than in the Physical v. Moral Force question, I have frequently seen grey-plumaged Rumkins, as well as Frizzled Fowls and other curiosities, walking about the streets, and “plains,” and churchyards of Norwich. Those sources of amusement are now much neglected. But if the Rumkin be really a remnant of the original Fauna of Ceylon, it will be a pity if it be suffered to become extinct, although it be one of Blumenbach's defective monsters (monstra per defectum). It is curious that another island under the British rule should furnish a quadruped similarly defective. Manx Cats are well known for the peculiarity of having no tail. They are still to be met with now and then ; but the native race or species of Pigs, which were wild in the mountains a hundred years ago, appear now to be quite exterminated from the Isle of Man. Insular tribes of animals have but little chance of survivorship, as human population increases. In New Zealand, the wingless bird—another defective monster — appears to be now a vanished apparition from the face of the earth.
I have found no mention of the Rumpless Fowl in classical authors, but Aldrovandi was aware of its existence :“Quem veró Persicum Gallum appellant, et quem hic depinximus, a nostratibus in eo potissimum differt, quðd caudā careat, caetera simillimus existit. Crista tamen veluti caudam obtinet. Erat autem totus niger lineis luteis conspersus: Alarum remigies principio albæ erant, catera atrae : pedes cinerei: Gallina quoad formam habitumve nostratibus erat similis: colore a mare diversissimo, unde tam in his, quâm in illis coloris diversitatem vilipendendam arbitror. Erat autem tota coloris ferruginei, tribus pennis remigium exceptis, quae nigra erant. Crista, si cristae maris compares longè erat quam in illo minor.”
“The Cock which they call the Persian, and which we have here figured, differs from our own sorts mainly in having no tail; in other respects, it is very like them. The comb, however, has a sort of tail. It was all black, sprinkled with yellow lines: the first quill-feathers were white, the rest black; the feet ashy: the Hen was like our own in respect to shape and carriage : of an extremely different colour to the male, whence I attach little weight to diversity of colour, in these as in them. She was all over of a ferrugineous colour, except the three quill-feathers, which were black. Her comb, if you compare it with the comb of the male, was much smaller.”
Aldrovandi's Rumpless Cock is represented with a large double comb, that is produced backwards, “ veluti caudam,” like a tail. I am without information as to their laying and sitting qualities. They are not small, being at least of the average size of Fowls.
THE SILKY AND THE NEGRO FOWLS,
ANOMALIES have been called “finger-posts that point the way to unsuspected truths.” This strange genus—for their claims to that title deserve to be investigated—ought to excite the curiosity of naturalists, though they have not much merited the favour of poultry-keepers. Even if it be found that they produce prolific offspring when cooped with our common Poultry, that circumstance cannot be allowed to weigh for much in our present most imperfect knowledge of the family. A great deal of confusion and uncertainty is current respecting the Silky and the Negro Fowls; and it cannot be expected that a country clergyman, who has, after all, but limited means of investigation at command, should be able, in a first endeavour, to throw much light on a most intricate and difficult subject, or to afford much final information on a class of creatures which have a more appropriate place in the museum than in the Poultry-yard. But they may safely be pronounced to be worthless, as stock : they are kept in existence in this country by importation from India, rather than by breeding. They may be had in London for about 10s. each ; for less, perhaps, occasionally ; and a collection of them, and a comparison of their differences, is desirable for scientific purposes. It may be presumed that in India several kinds are to be found, with which we are totally unacquainted. We have, however, quite enough to stimulate inquiry. There are, 1st, a Silky Fowl, with white plumage and skin, red comb, and bones coloured the same as in other Fowls; called sometimes the Nankin Silky Fowl.
2ndly, another Silky Fowl with white plumage, but with dark skin, and comb, and dark bones, called also, the Black-boned Fowl. Such as these are doubtless those in the possession of the Queen. “I saw a lot of ugly,