Asils and Pure Breeds of Gamefowl
Although the purpose of this article is rather to familiarize our poultry fanciers who like to know a little more about this ancient breed, than to give an extensive historical research report, and evidently the history of this Rajah fowl is wrapped in the densest mystery. However, to understand the nature of this breed it is necessary to know at least some facts about their orgin.
Western breeders apply the term Asil to the specific small Indian game cock, sometimes also called Rajah fowl, but in India, Asil is the term applied to all true game fowl and is rather a very broad description of such fowl than a mere name of one particular strain. The Hindustan word Asil (sometimes also spelled Aseel or Azeel) means "high-born". But also the Haiderabad, Calcutta and Madras games are true Asils in the full meaning of the word. However, the average breeder is accustomed to apply that word only to small Rajah fowl or as it is called in India, the "Rajah Murgh"; Murgh being the term for cock.
In former centuries the Rajahs of Oudh kept superb studs of their cocks and had employed several professional cockers to attend to breeding operations and the training of cocks. The hens were selected with such care through their offsprings, that in spite of the high mark of quality of their breeding about 75% of the stags produced annually were culled or disposed of elsewhere. There is no doubt that some of these, which appeared to be too good to be killed, found their way to the yards of breeders who were less concerned with the purity of the birds and formed in this way a caste of second raters. Therefore, it is even today very difficult to find really pure strains, as the most cockers of today in this country prefer to use graded Orientals rather than being concerned about breeding pure stock. However, and experienced eye will notice the influence of a strange bloodline immediately. Although there are many strains of Asils and the differences between them is not great, there are some typical characteristics which all pure Asils show and which make them look so distinguished from other breeds.
According to early reports of outstanding breeders of past centuries, there were only two varieties ranking in the highest order. One is very blocky and broad across the shoulders; the other is a little longer in neck and leg and not as scarcely feathered. Some strains are originated mainly in the highland of India, while others were bred in the lowland, which are a little heavier and not as small.
Let us consider the best known species of this Indian game fowl.
The Amir Khan or Ghan
This strain is called in the hills of India "Lakhori" and is a blocky and fairly low stationed type. They are standing very upright in the front with straight necks and fairly large heads. However, the comb is small and hard. They have no wattles but a naked dewlap. The shoulders are very broad and prominent while the rump is short and compact. All feathers are short, hard but elastic and devoid of fluff. The red naked skin shows on thighs, wing butts, neck and vent. They weigh about 4 to 5 pounds.
The color of the Gahn Asil is usually dark red and because of this color, the Ghan cock is not seldom called "Lakhori". White feathers in wings and tail are not considered a fault. Very often they show small white feathers on top of the head, referred to as dew drops. This is a peculiarity to be noted on most Indian game fowl. Beak and shanks are white or yellow to orange. The eyes are pearl. If the legs are white, any red spots are a distinct fault. The Indian cocker would, however, only use such birds with white legs and consider those with yellow shanks as off-colored. The hens come from medium to very dark brown, with more or less heavy blcok lacings like our Cornish. Almost black hens are by no means seldom. This doublelacing is termed in India "Bahra". Hackle and tail are almost black with a beautiful green sheen. The neck hackles close on the back almost to a point and frequently are slightlt curned upwards.
These Ghan Asils are very rare today and many years ago only rich people could afford to search for pure birds. As most Asils, they mature slowly, taking full 18 months to two years, but last longer than any other breed.
The Indian breeder does not mate an Asil until he is 3 or 4 years old. Doubtless they are the most costly fowl in the wolrd.
Sonatawals or Sonatols
This is a different spelling for the same thing. "Sonatawal" is a very ancient name derived from a saying according to which a Rajah once paid for a winning cock his weight in gold. In the hills they are called "Lakha" which means lightreds.
The Sonatols are about 6 ounces lighter than the sturdy Ghans, and as their name implies, lighter in color. They are also a trifle higher in station, slightly flatter in breast and seem to be livelier in their movements. Taking Ghans and Sonatols, as a whole, there is not much to choose between them and if you can lay your hands on either, do not hesitate. In the Lakha or Sonatawal hens are distinctly different from Ghans in their color pattern, being from light wheaten with darker necks and tails to cinnamon. Their feathers are a bit softer and seem to be also a little richer. The Sonatols, being higher stationed, longer in wing, very often grow, quite naturally, larger combs and some breeders dub them.
This famous strain are mainly found around Rampur. They are a pure black variety and the people of India prize them as of equal quality.
These black Rampurs are more slenderly built, with longer necks and legs than either of the preceeding, a feature especially remarkable in extreme youth. They round up to a blockier type when maturing and some specimens attain the classical beauty of all Asil fowl.
It is known that black specimens are likewise to be found on the Malaysian peninsula and seem fairly frequent in the Deccan also. The same applies to the small Shamo of Japan, which go under the name of "Tuzo". It would be a bold statement to have them all classified as one breed or variety, but they are closely related, there can be no doubt about it. One of the most remarkable features of the Rampur Asils is their solid black color in both sexes, with black or very dark eyes, mostly larger sickles and hackles. They occasionally produce white offspring through mutation, and furthermore, in accordance with Mendel's Law, some mottled or spangled ones. From this strain are the black Kulang supposed to be originated, and varying in size and carriage, they are sometimes confounded with one another. The gamecock in Indai is also termed Kulang, though it is applied generally to large breeds, but it certainly means a fine thoroughbred Asil.
This strain, sometimes also called Kalkatiyah, is a native of Singapur. Strictly speaking both are considered different breeds, although one hardly can see any difference at all. The Kaptans have evidently the longest necks and highest station of all Asils proportionally, and this makes them slender.
As all Asils thye are strong and tough and are very pugnacious. Both sexes are alike in color, or at least in their peculiar white spots, which come irregular. None will be found without none white feathers in wings and tail. The Kaptans have always been very rare and probably is now the most difficult strain to be found anywhere.
Their main color is dark red, but sometimes are also found nearly black with a purple sheen. They are extremely hard in feather. They are not so much of that angular shape and their comb is thinner and longer than in any other Asil breed. The Kaptans are the lightest of all Asils too, coming sledom heavier then 4 pounds 4 ounces.
One of the popular strains, also considered as one of the lesser ones are the Jawas. They come mostly in gray or silver and golden duckwing. When occasionally white cocks are saved and bred to black or red hens, the offspring are Jawas. They produce sometimes very good birds in type and station, but are not considered as Rajah fowl by the cockers. The whites are generally finer in constitution than the dark ones, the Jawa apparently come large and beefy.
We have learned now that all true game fowl in India is called Asil, which is not mere identification of their strain or variety but more perfectly applying to their game quality.
The Haiderabad as in the true sense of the word Asils.
From a racial standpoint, they are strictly related to the small Rajah Murgh, but show more than the latter their Malay orgin, being many points similar to the Shamo Japanese games.
The Haiderabad grow easily 8 pounds and more. They are typical Asils, high stationed, wide breast and low tail. However, they have little chance to enthuse Western cockers who prefer gaff and slasher fighting and in crossbreeding, while improving gameness, buscles and stamina of any breed, produce calm and slow offspring that exasperates fans who like to see steel flashing in the air, rapid action and high wing work. This also why Orientals have been crossed and crossed, and their blood tells in many strains otherwise believed to be pure caucasian fowl.
The Calcuttas are a Asil variety similar to the Haiderabad and grow about 1 1/2 or 2 pounds lighter than the massive Haiderabad, from which they derived by crossing with the Jawas. This variety is fairly poular all over the wrold, but especially in South America. Mostly they come spangled or pure white. In itself they are big Klangs and very pugnacious.
One of the rarer but also of the most attractive Asils are the Madras. They are a little bit lower in station than the preceeding strains, but also very broad in breast and shoulders and look very powerful. Their average weight is about 6 to 7 pounds. They too are related to the Malayoid Kulangs, but also the Rajah Murgh. It is very little known about this variety, although they are mentioned in older literature but not described in detail