America's Oldest Breed of Livestock

Origin of the Dominiques

Many of the sources on the Internet that detail the origin of the American Dominique presents the information as fact, when it is actually conjecture and some are just plain whimsy.

On this page I will attempt to dispel some of the myths surrounding the Dominique

Pilgrims brought the first Dominiques to America

  • First and foremost, we have no idea if the Pilgrims brought the ancestors of Dominiques to America. This theory about the Pilgrims has popped up from time-to-time and has never had any documented basis in truth.

Dominiques originated in the Dominican Republic

  • The early scholars stated emphatically that the Dominique and the pit-games of Dominican decent differed in both body type and color. One goes as far as to state that there were no barred pit-games in that country.

Dominiques are just a 4-toed Cuckoo Dorking

  • This one is always humorous to me.  The earliest descriptions of the American Dominique and that of the Dorking are so very different that it is impossible to believe that one is a variety of the other.

There is a breed in some Russian communities that are very similar to Dominiques

  • You could replace “Russian” with almost any country and the statement would still have a ring of truth.  A passing glance at genetics books will show that the cuckoo and barred patterns show up in any breed left to breed indiscriminately.

Dominiques originated in New England

  • Years of research have given me a different outlook on this matter.   For many years Boston was the center of commerce for the new country.   The Boston area produced more papers and periodicals than any other region; therefore it is easy to understand why these many years later that one would find most references to particular items in “New England”.

The Dominique was originally known as Plymouth Rocks

  • Dominiques were developed much earlier than Plymouth Rocks, in fact I feel comfortable in stating an entire century earlier. However, some of the earliest Plymouth Rocks were actually single comb Dominiques, so they traveled and were shown under both breed names, allowing the owners to win premiums in both categories.  The creation of the Standard banished all single comb Dominiques to the realm of Plymouth Rocks and they disappeared.  From that point forward the American Dominique and Barred Plymouth Rocks have evolved independent of each other.

One type of reference material that eluded me for years were the early USDA reports, and in the quest to complete my collection of Yearbooks of Agriculture, I have had the great fortune to locate the first which was for the year 1862. To put this in perspective Isaac Newton was listed as Commissioner of Agriculture and the President was “His Excellency” Abraham Lincoln.

As part of his introduction to the chapter on poultry, D.S. Heffron of Utica, New York wrote: “In this article it is proposed to give a popular description of all the really good and distinct varieties of domestic fowls which are known in the United States.” Many breeds were listed; Games, Asiatics, Spanish, Creepers, etc. however only one breed was recognized as unique to America, and his description is as follows:

“The Dominique is the best fowl of common stock that we have, and is the only common fowl in the country that has enough distinct characteristics to entitle it to a name. These fowls are full medium in size, being but little less in weight than the Dorking, have full breasts, roundish plumb bodies, double or single combs, and yellow legs. Their main plumage has a light gray ground color, while each feather is barred crosswise with a darker shade. They are frequently known by the name of “hawk-colored fowls.” They are hardy, easily raised, retain their peculiarities with great tenacity, have yellow skins, a color preferred by many for a market fowl; and taking these fowls all in all, they are one of the best varieties for common use.”

John Robinson, writing in 1912 stated:

“Dominiques as developed, either by amalgamation of early barred types or by preference for the type which became fixed and dominant were small medium-sized fowls with rose combs.  In shape and carriage they resembled Hamburgs and Leghorns, though more substantially built.  They were rugged and hardy, good layers, fattened well, and made good table poultry.”

We will never know which of the many barred fowls imparted barring on the Dominique.  It could easily have been Hamburgs, French Cuckoos, Scots Gray or any of the many ancient breeds which carried the cuckoo pattern.  It is my opinion that our fore-fathers recognized superior qualities in a number of fowl and over time melded them into the American Dominique breed.  This was accomplished so long ago that there were no written records and now so many generations later it is futile to even attempt to determine their origin.