Association of Hungarian Small Animal Breeders for Gene Conservation (MGE)
Isaszegi út 208. 2100 Gödöllő, Hungary
Telefon/fax: +36 28 511 359
Transylvanian Naked Neck Chicken
Hungarian Landrace Guinea Fowl
Hungarian Goose and its frizzled variant
Old Hungarian Chicken breeds
The origin of Hungarian and Transylvanian chicken breeds is not known exactly. Winkler (1921) and Bakoss (1931) presume that progenitors of these birds were brought into the Carpathian basin from Asia by the Hungarian conquerors at the end of the ninth century. This ”ancient Hungarian” chicken later must have mixed with other breeds (mostly Oriental and Mediterranean types), which formed the different Hungarian chicken breeds as they are known today. During the centuries of their formation these breeds have been well adapted to the special climatic conditions and farming systems of the country, which made them very precious in this part of Europe.
Until the beginning of commercial chicken breeding in Hungary these breeds of chickens of different colours (white and partridge in the Great Hungarian Plain, yellow and speckled in Transdanubia, mostly white, black and speckled naked neck breeds in Transylvania) were bred. They were preferred here not only for their relatively good egg production
but mostly for their excellent meat quality coming from the ”seeking habit” of these birds, scratching for food regardless of hot or cold weather. They became strong, resistant to diseases and the costs of keeping them were very low.
In order to keep up with other European and overseas chicken breeds a major breeding program was started at the predecessor of the Institute for Small Animal Research in Godollo in the early 1930s. Breeding work of Bálint Báldy and his colleagues was aimed at making the breeds uniform in colour and body shape, improving egg production together with body weight to a level that does not affect meat quality. This work resulted in good dual-purpose (meat and egg) Hungarian chicken breeds, which were propagated all over the country and abroad.
During the Second World War the majority of these birds were killed. Nevertheless, thanks to systematic breeding work of Bálint Báldy, Béla Lacza, Alfréd Suschka and others in Godollo, and Ferenc Biszkup,, László Beke
and their colleagues in Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungarian indigenous chicken breeds were not only preserved, but propagated again in great quantities by the 1950s (Biszkup and Beke, 1951; Báldy, 1954).
Beginning in the early 1960s, together with the expansion of commercial poultry breeding, Hungarian breeds were replaced by foreign hybrids of both layer and meat type chickens even on small-scale farms. Since then it has been the task of the Institute of Agricultural Quality Control (and its predecessors) to maintain Hungarian and Transylvanian breeds as a gene reserve. In close co-operation with that institute, the following institutions are presently involved in this important programme in Hungary: West-Hungarian University, Mosonmagyaróvár (Hungarian Yellow breed), Szeged University, Hódmezővásárhely (Hungarian Speckled and Transylvanian Naked Neck Speckled breeds) and the Institute for Small Animal Research (ATK-KATKI), Department of Gene Conservation, Godollo (all, up to now, maintained Hungarian and
Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken breeds).
Old Hungarian Turkey breeds
There are different opinions about the time of introduction of turkeys to Hungary. Some authors accept the opinion that turkeys had been introduced to Hungary before Columbus brought this very precious poultry species to Europe as the Vikings might have done it some 1000 years ago. It is a fact however that turkey breeding has been existing in the Carpathian basin for many centuries. In Hungary, two colour variants of turkey were known and bred in the 1800s: white and black Hungarian turkey. They were popular mostly in the middle part of the Great Hungarian Plain. Later the black variety almost disappeared after crossing with Bronze and other imported black turkey breeds at the beginning of the 20th century. As the result of those crossings, however, the Bronze turkey became adapted to the local conditions and it is considered now as a traditional Hungarian poultry breed.
Copper turkey, also known as Bosnian turkey, used to be popular in the southern part of Hungary. Body weight of the breed is
somewhat lower than that of other turkey breeds, however, it is considered as a very strong, resistant to diseases and well adapted local breed.
Two institutions are involved in the conservation programme of Hungarian turkey in Hungary: Debrecen University (bronze, copper and black) and the Research Institute of Animal Breeding and Nutrition, Department for Small Animal Research, Godollo (ATK-KATKI) (bronze and copper).
Hungarian Landrace Guinea Fowl
Guinea fowl is considered as an adapted Hungarian poultry species. Landrace varieties include bluish-grey (the most popular colour variety), white, grey and spotted. First reports about its breeding in Hungary were published at the beginning of the 20th century, however, Guinea fowl must have been introduced into this country much earlier and was kept as a game bird or a semi-domesticated one around the houses. Its excellent meat quality, very good ability to adapt to different conditions, resistance, wild and seeking habit and low costs of keeping make Guinea fowl one of the best poultry species for natural production.
Conservation work of Guinea fowl is completed by two organisations: Hortobágy Nature Protection and Gene Conservation Ltd., and the Institute for Small Animal Research (ATK-KATKI).
The original Hungarian duck considered as an indigenous breed in the Carpathian basin used to be found mostly in white and wild, rarely in spotted, brown or black colour varieties. Because of its juicy, delicious meat, Hungarian duck was bred all over the country and was much more important for domestic consumption than goose, as the latter was mostly produced for market. Nevertheless, starting with the early sixties, the Hungarian duck gradually disappeared as the result of crossing with imported duck breeds.
Until recently, no registered Hungarian duck conservation programme had been started in the country and Hungarian duck was considered extinct. Institute for Small Animal Research (ATK-KATKI) however managed to collect some individuals of white and wild colour variety of that breed in Transylvania and now has an only conserved Hungarian duck population in its poultry conservation programme (Szalay, 1999). Another breeding programme of the wild colour variety of Hungarian duck, collected in East
Hungary, was started recently by Szarvasi Kacsafarm Ltd.
Hungarian goose and its frizzled variant
The origin of the Hungarian goose is dated back to the Roman era, when domestication of the greylag goose took place in the wet marshes of the Hungarian Great Plain of the Carpathian basin. During the centuries of its formation the breed became well adapted to the special climatic conditions and farming systems of the country, which made it very precious in this part of Europe.
Until the beginning of commercial goose breeding in Hungary these breeds of different colours (white, greyish or spotted) were preferred here not only for their excellent fatty liver quality, approved by all markets, but for their meat quality coming from their ”seeking habit”, and for high quality feather production too. The birds were scratching for food regardless of hot or cold weather. They became strong, resistant to diseases and their keeping costs were very low.
A unique variety of that goose – now called the frizzled Hungarian goose – used to be frequent in the valley of the river Danube
and around the coastline of the Black Sea. This variety is considered now as a typical poultry breed for Hungary, just like the Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken as they used to be found nowhere in the world but in the Carpathian basin.
Beginning in the early 1960s, together with the expansion of commercial poultry breeding, Hungarian goose breeds were partly replaced by foreign breeds or crosses of both meat and fatty liver type. White colour frizzled variety of the Hungarian goose however has been maintained in its original form by the Debrecen University. A new gene conservation programme of the Frizzled Hungarian goose has been started recently by the Institute for Small Animal Research (Godollo), where growing populations of white, greyish and spotted colour variants of frizzled goose collected from Transylvanian villages are maintained.
MGE has been studying landrace varieties of old Hungarian poultry still existing in the Carpathian basin. Photographic materials of field studies of different regions can be found below.
Transylvania, 2003; Photos: Kisné Do thi Dong Xuan; Photos: Istvan Szalay
Transylvania, 2004; Photos: Kisné Do thi Dong Xuan; Photos: Istvan Szalay
Transylvania, 2005; Photos: Kisné Do thi Dong Xuan; Photos: Istvan Szalay
Voivodina, 2007; Photos: Kisné Do thi Dong Xuan; Photos: Istvan Szalay