The Scots Dumpy is widely acknowleged as Scotlands original “gang-aboot” hen , possessing unique characteristics which present a challenge to the breeder to achieve and maintain. However, as poultry keeping developed from a presence on the farm, and a seasonal harvest, into a specialised industry, sadly the dumpies, as did many other breeds, gaveway to more suited breeds for that purpose. Nowadays, with the ever increasing interest in organic produce, especially free range poultry it is surely a benefit to observe a revival in all our forgotten, rare and free range poultry breeds
Scots Dumpies were first exhibited at the Metropolitan Exhibition in London in 1852 and were popular around the turn of the century, but as with many pure breeds, had suffered serious decline by the 1950s/60s. Even in the early 1900s the then Dumpy Club records indicated some concern as to the breeds future, although by 1920 various colours appeared, in addition to the traditional barred, black and cockoo, most likely, by crossing with other breeds, and indeed likely progeny sacrificing true type. More recently, in the late 1970’s some birds were imported from Africa to enhance the the native bloodlines, this particular flock travelled to Africa from Scotland as part of a wedding gift, in 1912.
The original Scots Dumpy Club was certainly established and running about 1900, but there is no date relating to its end. However the current Club was re-established in 1993, and is enjoying popular support nationally with over 100 members and member groups.
The Dumpies as a breed has an interesting history, whether it be the Romans, or Robert the Bruce, they are mentioned. Popular tradition has it that in one night encounter with the “Scots” the Romans got themselves into the thistles and alerted the chooks, no quarter asked or given. (to the Romans – not the Dumpies) The thistle is now the national emblem of Scotland!!! A romantic tale no doubt, but there is no doubt that the breed would not have lasted so long if it could not have earned its keep; as a utility breed, it would not have survived in such a demanding environment. Known localy as, Dadlie, Hoodie, GaeLaigs, Laighies, Creepie or Bakie, also “coileachchime,” and “coileach degh sheinneadair”, (a real mouthfull! and so early in the day), its origins in Scotland are uncertain, however it is accepted by some authorities to be descended from birds arrived here with traders, possibly Phoenician as early as 300B.C. while other theories lean more toward the Roman occupation, whichever, the breed is ancient, and indeed Aristotle and his contemporaries argued the merits and pedigree of many shortlegged poultry breeds. Skeletal remains found in York, fairly recently, dating from from the eleventh century belonged to Dumpies, and specific reference to the breed goes back as far as the 1670s.
The type should have a square and deep body, with a broad, flat and long back, also should display a deep and pronounced chest, moderate length neck, a small head with a strong short curved beak and a bright red face carrying a generous wattle, together with a long flowing hackle. The maximum leg length, one to one and one half inches with four toes. These characteristics make the Dumpie a low set bird within a somewhat ungainly, but solid frame, displaying the distingtive waddling gait in a good specimen, however the battleship breastbone is something not often evident these days.
The colour carries the same sex-linked barring gene as in many other breeds, including our other native, the Scots Grey, it was the first sex-linked gene to be discovered in any species, in 1908. Extremely prolific layer, producing reasonably sized eggs brown through to “whitish” depending on the strain and the plumage colour; Cock should weigh 7lbs hen around 6lbs, however, original birds are said to have carried another two lbs.
The birds do not breed 100% true as regards leg length. The short-leg condition is due to one of the many well documented examples of lethal genes present in poultry, this particular gene is known as the Creeper Gene (Cp), which shortens the bone length in the limbs, a chaticteristic most noticeable in the new hatched chicks where the legs are much shorter, and stronger than those of the normal leg length chick. Cp is dominant to cp and causes the legs to be shorter when present in a single dose, (Cpcp) whereas when it is present in a double double dose, (CpCp), it is lethal and the embryo dies on or about the twenty-first day of incubation. The creeper gene is incompletely dominant so, when two short-legged birds (Cpcp cock x Cpcp hen) are bred, resulting progeny in: —-
F1;—25% CpCp lethal; 50% Cpcp short leg; 25% cpcp long leg
If short leg (Cpcp) is bred with normal leg (cpcp), F1; 50% short leg–50% normal leg length ,and two normal leg length (cpcp) birds, are bred, 100% normal leg length would result. Important to note that, since CpCp is lethal, then the progeny will give a 2:1 surviving ratio, two creepers to one normal length bird, instead of the usual 3:1 ratio, (Mendal Rules) although these ratios can only be approxamate as they must be averaged over large flock numbers, and also, breeding strain and strength must be taken into account. The same gene is present in the German Kruper hen, French Courtes Pattes, Japanese Jitoko and Chabo, also the Manx cat and Dexter cattle.