Old English Game: Oldest Game Fowl Breed in Great Britain

The Old English Game is the oldest breed of game fowl in Great Britain. It is a direct descendant of the ancient fighting roosters brought in by the Roman invaders.

Some historians credit Julius Caesar, a huge enthusiast of cockfighting, with the introduction into Britain of not only cockfighting, but also the lineage of the fighting birds that would become the ancestors of the Old English Game.  These birds were apparently sourced from within the Roman and Gaul empires.

The history of the Old English Game corresponds to the history of cockfighting in Britain.

The raising of cockfighting birds has been recorded in numerous documents referring to kings, queens and princes of Britain, in particular the Scottish Royal House of Stuart and the English Tudors.  In the 16th century, cockfighting was hugely popular in Britain; even the clergy got into the act.  Church yards and churches themselves were used as arenas. During the reign of King Henry VIII, cockfights were held at Whitehall Palace and it was decreed a national sport.

During this period, cockfighting schools were established to teach the finer points of the breeding and conditioning of the gamecock.   As the British Empire expanded, so too did the popularity of the British Game fowl as sailors, soldiers and traders took fighting cocks with them wherever they went.

During the reign of Queen Victoria in the 17th century, cockfighting and breeding of fighting birds declined when she banned cockfighting with a royal decree. Never completely disappearing from the landscape, cockfighting became an underground sport until the end of Queen Victoria’s reign.

It was at this time that the first real changes occurred to the cockfighting birds. Some of the top fowl breeders of the time began to worry about what they saw was a lack of vigor in the birds. To increase their strength and size, they decided to breed their game fowl to various Oriental breeds. It is said that the Asil (a.k.a. Aseel) played a large part in the infusion of new bloodlines. It is also thought that Shamo and Malay blood were introduced around the same time period. Unfortunately, historical records of exact crosses no longer exist, or if they do, are not privy to public record. However, what should be noted is that these new crosses with the Oriental birds were to provide the foundation stock of what is now known as Old English Game.

1 Comment

  1. Douglas Underwood says:

    Actually, Caesar mentions that chickens existed in the British Isles when he arrived. They were probably brought by the Phoenecians around 750 b.c.

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