America's Oldest Breed of Livestock

Pure Dominiques

Periodically I receive inquiries about sources of Dominique stock. What I’ve found amusing is that more than one individual has asked for the “original, real” Dominique, not the “exhibition” Dominique.

To put it bluntly, the exhibition Dominique is as close as you can get to the original. The perceived problems of fertility and low production in the exhibition strains are a result of intensive inbreeding to maintain the purity of the breed without judicious selection for production traits. The problems may be overcome with selective breeding and careful record keeping, but left to their own the problems will worsen with each passing generation.

Throughout history, going back into the early 1800’s, the Dominique has been maintained in its purest state by exhibition breeders such as Darlington, Weygandt, Henderson, Uber, etc.

Much of the confusion over the true “type” of the Dominique comes from those Dominiques or “Dominikers” sold during the Depression Era. With the high production qualities of the Plymouth Rock, the hatcheries began adding Barred Plymouth Rocks to their Dominique breeding pens, resulting in a hybrid that looked reasonably close to a Dominique but with higher egg production and greater body weight. As these were continually bred both on a local and national level, the true Dominique type began to fade from the homeowner’s flock.

During the low point in the Dominique’s history (1900-1970s) all commercial Dominique flocks were disbanded due to economic pressures on the hatchery industry. Once interest was revived in the breed, hatcheries began to rebuilt flocks based on the few old lines still in the hands of exhibition breeders. At the hands of hatchery owners these flocks received infusions of other breeds to boost production, increase egg & body size, and even to change their appearance. The question of whether or not these chickens are really Dominiques is a matter of academic and philosophical debate.

The question remains, Are there any “pure” Dominiques? There are two lines that can probably lay claim to that title. First, consider the Voter line. While Roger and Carol Voter were unsure of the parentage of two male birds used extensively in establishing their flock, they were at least Dominique-like birds. Even if these males were of mongrel stock, the use of other pure stock certainly diluted any foreign blood.

The second line and quite possibly the purest is still maintained by a few dedicated breeders. These Dominiques are descended from birds obtained from David Hyman, with their ancestry being traced back to the Darlington flock. We hope to see more of this stock spread around the country to revitalize the sagging quality of Dominiques generally available.

Regardless of the availability of a particular stock, we should the best Dominiques available and begin applying the Dominique standard to our breeding programs. If we are diligent and work long enough we can have Dominiques with quality akin to those raised by the past masters.