Scots Dumpy

Ark of taste
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The Scots Dumpy is one of two native domestic fowl in Scotland. Historical and archaeological evidence suggest that it is an ancient landrace breed, existing over 700 years ago. The bird has a large, low heavy body, which is longer in the back than most other breeds. There is no set colour for the Scots Dumpy, although black with glossy green, or cuckoo (dark grey fuzzy bands over light grey) feathering is the most common. The breed also has a bantam form.

The Dumpy is best known for its short legs, which produce a waddling gait. The British Poultry Breed Standard stipulates a leg length of no more than 3.75cms. This unusual characteristic is produced by a dwarfing or ‘creeper’ gene, which is dominant to the normal leg length, so that those birds with a single dose appear with short legs and wings. For example, if two short-legged birds are mated, 50% will result in short legs, 25% will hatch with longer legs, and 25% will fail to develop as viable embryos, or will die on hatching. Breeders tend to breed a long-legged bird with a short-legged bird resulting usually in 50% birds being long-legged and the other half short-legged. The challenge for breeders is to produce the short-legged waddling bird that attracts them to the breed. The long-legged variety is not affected by the gene.

Dumpies were seen at poultry shows throughout the latter half of the 19th century, but their general appearance and plumage is not as striking as many other breeds and a steep decline began to take place. The Dumpies have been known by many different names such as Crawlers, Creepies, Krupers, Bakies or Balkies, Golaights and Daidies. The Dumpy almost disappeared as a breed but thanks to a dedicated group of Scottish breeders in the 1970s, it was brought back from near extinction. However, it remains an endangered breed.

The Scots Dumpy is a dual-purpose utility breed. It is docile by nature and suited to being kept on a smallholding or a back garden. Its short legs means that it won’t wander too far away or scratch up the garden. The cock is an early riser and is more likely to crow as dawn breaks, compared to other breeds. The hen is a good layer yielding up to 180 white or tinted eggs per year. She has excellent broodiness qualities and is a good mother. The short legs limit activity and exercise so that the bird gains weight well and requires less food to maintain weight. This also produces a softer and less lean muscle, which enhances the flavour and texture of the meat, even as the bird matures.

The Scots Dumpy is one of only two remaining breeds of native domestic chicken in Scotland. Many breeds of poultry have been lost over past decades, thus the gene pool has shrunk. Maintaining a hardy, dual-purpose breed such as the Scots Dumpy would preserve the gene pool in the event of disease affecting the current monoculture varieties. In addition, a dual-purpose bird may be more sustainable again in the future compared to current mass production methods for layers and broilers.

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Breeds and animal husbandry

Nominated by:Mara Paracchino, Graeme Dickson