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The Fancy

The Chinese port of Canton was opened to foreign trade in 1834. Among the new wonders carried home by returning European ships were chickens the traders called Cochins and Brahmas. Large, fluffy, gentle, with feathered legs and colorful plumage, they were welcomed in England like royalty. “Hen Fever” struck; peers and shopkeepers alike were seized with the desire to possess, breed, and show fancy varieties of poultry. New breeds were imported from the Mediterranean, Indonesia, and other parts of Europe.

The United States was similarly smitten. The first American poultry show was held in 1849, in Boston. More than 10,000 people attended. Breed associations were formed; they held their own shows, and published journals and monographs. In 1874, the American Poultry Association published the first edition of The American Standard of Excellence, now called the Standard of Perfection; it described ideal specimens of 17 breeds of full-sized chickens, in 40 varieties, as well as six types of bantams, “rumpless,” and “frizzled” fowls.

From Shell to Showroom
Poultry for Prizes and Profit