Scots Dumpys are one of two traditional fowl of Scotland - with the Scots Grey. However they are now one of the rarest breeds in the UK - there may only be a very few good birds left. There are plenty of birds that are called Dumpies but sadly now bred by people who have either been duped when getting their bloodstock or those who were breeding without discrimination to fulfill a demand. So many birds now do not meet any good standards.
It seems that the birds outside of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland are descended from a couple of birds hatched out of a Dorking hen in the 1970's when the breed was supposedly extinct. It is said that the some breeding stock came from eggs imported from flocks out in Zimbabwe. Stock from these birds have created lines of a number of different colours; bantams and large fowl and, from some reports, now have almost removed the lethal gene.
We concentrated on finding old original lines from the Highlands and Islands and still interested in hearing of any original stock with an ancestry of more than 20 years. As in exhibition breeding it seems to be fine to use other breeds to recreate colours or create new ones, it is our view that in the long term we would be much better with dilute original stocks which over generations we can purify.
Something I have found from friends on line is that in Germany at least there are some gorgeous birds and the Rare Breeds Survival equivalent organisation are much more active and aware of what is needed to protect poultry than in this country. Click here to see their Kreupers [Creepers] page. I would have loved to get some of these birds. Click here to see more information about the German birds - with grateful thanks to Nuele for translating for me
The most distinctive feature of the Scots Dumpy is its shape:
The body should be massive - boat shaped with a long back and a low, heavy appearance;
Eyes and ear lobes red
Beak, legs and feet : Black or slate in blacks : Mottled in cuckoos : otherwise white
Eggs are commonly white although other colours have been reported
The type of bird that is aimed for is as follows:
whether or not this is due to outcrossing with other breeds I have not ascertained. - this outcrossing seems to have happened quite a bit in the regeneration for colours and sizes.
Once upon a time they were good layers laying up to 180 eggs a year
A wide variety of colours have been known in Dumpy's for a long time; these days cuckoo and black are the most common but white; red/orange; buff and other sports are accepted by most.
Their gait should be a waddle from side to side - like "sailing across the ground"
It is a four toed breed and has a single comb
The short legged type should have legs no longer than 1.5 inches long
- and generally these are thicker than the long legged. More commonly these days there is a lee way up to 2 inches long.
Long legs should be more than 2.5 - 3 inches in length but still robust in diameter.
Unfortunately there are a number of birds around which have rather spiddly legs of intermediate legs - these are to be avoided.
Both Bantam and Large Fowl birds are accepted in the breed standard but this is problaby a relative recent trend.
They have a lethal gene which when short legged are bred to shortlegged the embryos carrying the lethal factor will die between the fourth and the fifth day after incubation started. This is account for around 25% of chicks. If this phenotype [appearance] breeding does not produce around 25% dead in shell it strongly suggests to me that the birds are not very pure even though they may look like pictures of dumpies.
The breed is possibly one of the most ancient in the United Kingdom - with reports going back before Roman times - the Picts are meant to have carried them to battle camps where they were used to warn of approaching strangers. Tradition has it that they were brought to Scotland by the Phoenician traders [333.B.C.]. From piecing together some ofthe German history it seems possible that the Viking traders; raiders and residents of the Hebrides may have taken them back to Northern Europe during their many many years of interaction. OR it may be the other way around -
Similar birds with dumpy characteristics are known about dating back to AD900 - in Saxon Times
There are a number of names that have been used to describe the breed : Creepies ; Bakies; Daidies and Hoodies. In Germany they are Kruepers and the long legged are Schlotterkämme.
Certainly in more modern times they have been known to be bred - a Mr Cluny MacPherson wrote in the Feathered World of 1919 that he had kept them for forty years - his mother for forty before that and she had got hers from her mother. The first Dumpy shown was in 1852 in London.
Other records suggest that they were kept in duns or keeps. It would be fascinating if anyone who visits this site has access to old records of historic houses and life in Scotland could find any reference to poultry - whether or not it is Dumpy's. I would be very interested to hear - (the rest of the UK too, of course)
There was a time in the middle of the last century when they were all but extinct in this country certainly within the poultry people who are in touch with each other a lot. Fowl pest hit breeders of this like many other breeds in the 1950's.
I suspect that there have been small flocks that have been around throughout isolated in the Highlands but were not known by the likes of the Scots Dumpy Club - breeders and exhibitors. If you think your parents or grandparents had then I would love to hear about it.
The birds have a lethal gene related to the short leggedness (the Creeper gene). This is similar to that of the Dexter cattle. Certain allele combinations of this gene causes chicks to die before hatching (dead in shell) and death soon after hatching.
When breeding it is possible to get long legged; short legged; intermediate and there are reports of even longer legged birds which are poorly formed but shows that the genetics is pretty complicated.
CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE ABOUT THE GENETICS OF DUMPY'S
Because of the problems with breeding the short legged dumpy's and getting decent breed stock we only have a small number for sale each year and they are not the cheapest of the birds. We will wait till the birds are well developed before selling them to be able to select the type / colour of birds we need for ourselves to improve the diversity of our breeding flock. We wish to establish a significant Scots Dumpy flock with a wide gene pool if we can. This does not mean we will be selling "cast offs" - each breeder will have different requirements to compliment their existing stocks - we hope in time to be able to accommodate these.
The Dumpy is no longer a particularly good layer in comparison to the likes of the Wyandotte or Rhode island but better than many other fancies.
Long legged stock is probably, from what I can gather, more robust and vigorous than the short.
If you are not breeding then the medium / intermediate legged is also a good bird with vigour and good laying ability, it is reported. As we are palying with genetics over the next few years - it may be possible that these willl appear for sale. As all our birds are tagged we would not want these sold to any one who is breeding but they would make great pets..
If you have short legged hens a long legged cockerel will reduce the number of losses at hatching as it avoids the double dose of lethal gene. In Germany where it seems they have some wonderful Dumpies - called Kreupers - breeders are not allowed to breed short to short as their animal welfare rules do not allow a breeding that has a certain death rate.
If you have long legged hens then to avoid the lethal gene you need a long legged cockerel but will get no short legged birds. A short legged cockerel with result in some short leggeds but expect a loss of chicks.
The main attraction is in the history of the breed - their quaint waddling action and quiet nature. We have not had many of the breed for long enough to be experts but I am working hard to find out more and will add it here as I find it.
Unusually for a bird with red earlobes they lay a white egg. These are a good size and many hens are good broodies. It is also said that the breed is a good table bird - one of its characteristics being a big bodied bird and a white skin. The boys used to get up to 7 lbs, and the hens 6lbs, in weight although it seems that this is less common now.
One of the references I have, mentions specifically that the hens were easy to pick up having only short legs. It may be that folk then bred only from long legged cockerels (references say they were kept in low roofed houses at night to quiet their regular crowing that earnt them the name : the time cocks) and kept only the short legged hens - these being allowed to roam freely.
The spare long and short legged cockerels and the long legged hens were probably used for the table as it is renowned for being a good soft white fleshed bird and in its correct for being a massive bodied bird. This would be a good way to avoid the dead in shell - see genetics page.
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Pictures from the Scottish National Show 2002