America's Oldest Breed of Livestock

Critiquing the Schilling Standard Artwork

I have long defended the Standard description of the Dominique.   Not long ago I decided to ask for input on what issues breeders might have with the Standard pictures and what follows is a small subset of a very lengthy discussion.

But, before it begins I’m going to give you my summary – even though we have slightly different interpretations of the Standard there is no need to modify it.    Without further ado I give you a very interesting discussion by some of the best breeders we have.

Mark Fields: The Schilling interpretation of the Dominique was created at a time when there were many Dominiques in the country. Let’s discuss the pros and cons of the Schilling artwork as our “ideal Dominiques”. Oh, don’t hold back just because I am a huge fan of the artwork. I’d like to hear other’s thoughts on what might be discrepancies between the artwork and our Standard.

Wendell Knighton Smith

I have a large copy of the Cock and Hen each laminated and above the feed bins that I access each day. Those images are what I am working for, though I know I may not reach it.

Tico Vilorio I was told that the art work was a fake. Anyone else hear this?
** well I shoulda said I heard the bird was altered in the picture. The picture itself was not of an actual bird that looked like that.

Julie Groves Gupton LOL! You asked….. I do not feel the cock shows as much depth in the breast. I have always preferred the deeper, wider frame over what this picture shows (in the male). But I love that short back and the very “sexy” curves – starting from the back of the comb, all the way to the tip of the tail. In other words – love the “top line” but needs a deeper “bottom line” (IMHO). I would have loved to have seen a rear or front facing view of these birds. However, the stance of the legs does imply good width on both. As for the hen, her back seems ever-so-slightly flat, but there is enough curve over the shoulder and in front of the tail to soften that flatness. Otherwise, she is a beauty! As far as the artwork goes, I love them both and, as Wendell noted, I use them as my standard by which all other birds are judged in my mind’s eye.

Mark Fields Tico, you are correct A. O. Schilling took actual photographs of birds then adjusted them. I have searched for the originals for 3 decades now and I’m sure they are in some private collection somewhere but I’ve not found them yet. The picture was blown up to poster size then Schilling “painted” them.

Here are the birds that were the basis of the Schilling artwork in the Standard.  The hen was “Speckle”. You will immediately see how Schilling had to do significant work to make the bird match the Standard.

Mark Fields  I’m asking David Hyman to give me his written thoughts on this because of anyone he alone came closest to matching Schillings artwork. Just look at his males and you will see it.

Tracey Rodenbach Absolutely, Mark, he did. His line is probably the one I most aspire to in my birds, and I use his birds as my guide. I do not agree, Mark, as you know, with the new “bigger is better” ideal in the showrooms. Blocky Dominiques are not cool. The Dominique is a medium framed bird, with an upright, alert stature. I think in today’s birds we are losing the “Hamburgian” sprightly high-breasted look. I like to see them a little bit coarser like David’s birds were- a true, rugged homestead bird with a flowing tail, tighter shank feathers- just an overall more polished look to the feathering. Schilling’s work is the better representation of the standard, I think. Much better than those awful color ones that were done.

Tracey Rodenbach As far as the females, I think I’d like to see it represented more like Uber’s birds…more of a lacy pattern. I think much of the artwork produced of Dom females shows the barring a little too narrow and ringy. That’s just what I like to see in my girls- as well as that elusive sassy tail.

Calvin Walsh I am with Tracy on this one, I love the more upright, taller build on the roosters, as most of the older pics from when the Dominiques lived on whatever grains were most available and before the days of processed feed were not blocky looking roosters.

Melody Hobbs The caption says these are the original, un retouched photos that Sewell used: I don’t know who that is, but these look more like the Schilling Doms than the picture of the old rooster with the little girl. not that they couldn’t be the same bird, but this looks more like the “model”.

Melody Hobbs FWIW, although he’s not standing tall, I prefer the look of the old retired cock to even the Schilling picture; that flowing tail just makes my little heart go pitty pat.   As far as fine boned verses blocky, I’ve noticed that the birds that do the best here with 24/7/365 traditional free range are smaller. (coincidentally, standard weight, if not a tad lighter)

Mark Fields OK, let’s clarify. The picture of the old bird was “the male” later in life about 1915 or 16. He was photographed at the 1912 Boston show along with the female. Those pictures were used by Franklane Sewell to create the above artwork for the Standard. Many of Sewell’s pieces were rejected by the Standard committee and he was replaced by the up and coming artist A. O. Schilling. The Dominiques was one of the sets of several Standard pictures that was worked over by Schilling.
Vince Cooper The pros – I think it gives us a visual something to hold on to and compare. People are very visual in our communications, verbal descriptions are open to many relative interpretations. Just note how many people (myself included) have the Schilling arwork on hand as a comparitive guide for our breeding.

Vince Cooper The cons – I believe there are two downsides to the Schilling work, the first has nothing to do with Schilling, it is just the fact that it is a photo. If you think of it in today’s standards, it is like two models male and female who are good specimens in their own right, but are captured in a pose. It is easy to get caught up in the pose itself, and not look at body type, muscle, proportions, and other elements that make up the model. The second issue that I have is with Schillings interpretations for good or bad it is just his interpretation. Going back to the supermodel example, now take those two perfectly posed models, and photoshop them to what your ideal model should look like. You still have all the original issues of dealing with a specific pose and snapshot, but now you add the potential of aspects that cannot or will not be genetically realized such as specific proportions, relative structure, and some ideal perfections that are just that… “ideal”.

Julie Groves Gupton If you look at the back of the hen in the photo that Nana posted and compare with Schilling’s art, the photo shows a better “top line” for the hen (IMHO) as well as better pattern. And if you compare the cocks, the photo shows more depth to the cock’s breast than Schilling’s art, but Schilling “enhanced” the top line of the cock to give it smoother transitions from head to back to tail. Notice also that Schilling gave both birds a wider stance with the legs to give that impression of greater width. I would be very pleased to have both pairs as part of my breeding line-up. Perfection is “unattainable”

Calvin Walsh We all have different expectations, and prejudices, for our chickens. Over half my life I raised game chickens. These were the hardiest, healthiest, best foragers, most beautiful birds ever. They would keep every bug out of the garden, and do no damage. The downside was very agressive behavior. Having to separate all roosters at 6-7 months of age, having to keep all mature roosters separated, and the fighting between mother hens are all problems. So I was looking for a bird with these foraging, beauty, and hardiness traits in a bird that did not have the extreme aggressive behavior, that was good eating, a good layer, and with narrow enough neck and saddle feathers for fly tying. I narrowed the search to leghorns, and Dominiques. I chose the Doms because they go broody and are more calm. So It is easy to see why I prefer the taller, athletic roosters, to the blocky plymouth rock type, that are so common today. My roost,s are 6 1/2 ft off the ground and I have leg inguries from these blocky birds landing hard. Tracy has publshed pics of roosters (Ezra) with this tall, athletic build, and some of mine came from her, so I am still looking for an Ezra in my program. These tall specimens are not yet too common though. The judges seem to love the Doms I have, but I still think most of them look too much like a plymouth rock with hawk feathering and a rose comb. I wish I lived close enough to visit more of the other breeders. As I get the opportunity, I will. I make Hog hunting trips to Texas, and ocassionally Denver Colorado, so may be able to see a few. It was Tracy’s pic of Ezra, that was the deciding factor, in me choosing the Dominique, for my future poultry breeding adventure. Best of luck to you all.

Tracey Rodenbach, the beauty of the Dom is he’s a little of both. To me, they are elegant birds- with the proper red eye, medium athletic build, and guts enough to take on a hawk. Calvin Walsh, thanks for the compliment on Ezra. He was one of my favorites to come out of Jed’s line. Doms may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve been around them nearly all my life. As a breeder, I find them challenging. There are so many factors at work to accomplish the genetic soup we call a Dom. You have to remember that our breed has been subject to fashion trends- like cleaner barring, better tails and folks wanting a bigger Dom. As a result, most of us are “cleaning up” those fashion Faux pas of the past to get back to the bird he once was. Mark will tell you that there have been numerous spirited discussions about the standard and what a Dom should be throughout its history. I find it interesting in looking at very old etchings of Doms, the tail looked almost Leghorny. Cassell’s print, for example…

Julie Groves Gupton What I LOVE about this discussion has been the fact that there has been almost no mention of the comb! That seems to be the method by which the general population separates the Dominique from the Barred Rock! Even though we all may have a slightly different ideal body type, we all know that it IS the body type that makes the Dom “unique” as a breed.

Mark Fields Tracey is right. There have been some down-right vicious fights over the Standard of the Dominique. Hmm, I guess we need to consider a separate article on the history of the Dominique Standard.
John Hrycek Jr I feel the cons for the Shilling interpretations for today are these birds of old are of a fine bone and much closer feathering than what the standard calls for in feather quality for the American class. If we breed for these qualities the standard weight would fall right into line and give us a broad,full and compact body as desired not only by the breeder but by the standard as well. (I seemed to have been using that phrase a lot this past weekend)

Mark Fields I was surprised the first time I handled the old Hyman hen when she arrived from Colonial Williamsburg. She had a fine bone, tight tight feathers and weighed like a brick! I wish I’d weighed her.

Tracey Rodenbach John Hrycek Jr, I think some has to do with what we have learned scientifically about the birds’ diet. Most folks years ago, fed table scraps, corn and they foraged. Today, they get more of a variety of grains and such on many farms. Chick starters build stronger birds too. The Doms I remember as a child had a finer bone than many examples I see today, but then everyone remembers the Dom of their childhood differently, depending in where in the country you’re from.
Tracey Rodenbach That’s exactly it, Mark Fields- that’s what I remember about those birds. They didn’t look large, but when you picked them up, they were heavier than you thought.

Mark Fields Do you notice any physical difference on birds that range at will?
Melody Hobbs I find the most successful birds of any breed (using longevity and good reproduction as a gauge of success) are smaller and very lively. I have several breeds and mixes, all raised the same way, so I get to observe what “works” without automatically assuming that it’s some special trait of the breed. For example, Buckeyes are another lively American class bird, so they’re just as happy as the Doms to go out foraging. However, their larger frame and heavier bodies means they are not as agile at staying out of trouble. (not just predators, but things like bumblefoot and leg damage as well.) The hens are wonderful Mothers, but the cocks are outmaneuvered by the smaller, faster males so they are least likely to have their own harem. They’re also the most likely to roost in the barns, sheds and even the coop. (the trade off is that the Buckeyes are crazy friendly) I have many, many male line Ancona or Dominique crosses, but only a few out of a Buckeye male.

Tico Vilorio For one the birds that stay penned up usually have a rougher appearance. Feathers take a lot more damage. Favorite hens are easier targets for dominant roosters and feather picking on roosters by some hens is less likely on free range birds. I guess this also depends on the size of pen/cage and how many birds are housed together.

Also there’s a much higher nutritional value for birds that free range in comparison to birds that are constantly kept in pens. Not to mention stress, illness, disease, etc are more common in penned up birds in comparison to free range birds.
I myself have noticed these differences when comparing them. (Penned vs Free Range)

I’ve also noticed that weight isn’t a problem. Free range birds seem to balance out well, over weight or under weight birds are usually not a problem.

On the other hand when birds are kept penned there’s always the dominant birds that pick at the more submissive birds.

This in my opinion makes it easier for over weight and under weight birds to exist.

Julie Groves Gupton Tico – you are exactly right on all accounts. I have kept my birds penned to the chicken tractors for the past several years and have not been any happier about it than the birds. The ability of the birds to free range makes a huge difference in the overall condition of the flock. Luckily, the Doms manage to do well (but not the best) in open floored chicken tractors, but my Dorkings just have not adjusted to them. Ideally, free-range is the best way to raise Doms, but I just do not have the “deterrents” here to protect them from all the miserable threats that keep showing up here. It is going to take some doing, but I REALLY want to get a charged fence up so I can go back to allowing my birds to roam, like they used to do.

Tracey Rodenbach I agree with Little Nana- open foraging produces a smaller, healthier, more alert bird. You don’t live long by being a slovenly chicken. I do believe that picking in the soil provides trace minerals and goodies that are missing in store diets, as well as providing resistance to disease. Tico’s birds have the run of a great patch of woods, and interestingly, when he got the first set of eggs from me, those chicks had problems with cocci, where eggs I hatched from the same birds here did not. I think soil is the magic bullet. Foraging makes a tougher, heartier bird- and that’s exactly what the Dom is. My uncle’s birds snapped up any grains they could steal from the other animals- we gave very little prepared food- they lived on what they found and our leftovers.