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Line Breeding: Why Inbreeding Beats Other Breeding Methods For FIXING Gamefowl Traits

February 8, 2014       Gamefowl Circuit

Why Use Line Breeding to Keep Your Stock's Traits Fixed?

Old school cockfighters have preserved several different breeds of chickens for a long time. During that time they maintained type and vigor toan unparalleled degree. The methods of breeding to maintain a champion breed actually involve INBREEIDING to understand how to preserve a bloodline's traits.

A famous cocker, Tan Bark once said that “Good breeding is only a matter of intelligent selection of brood fowl…” (Tan Bark, Game Chickens and How to Breed Them, 1964, p. 27). The gamefowl breeder must ALWAYS select for vigor and type regardless of the breeding system in use. Old cockers always strove for prepotency. The goal of any system is to predict with reasonable accuracy the outcome of any particular mating.

For this reason, no gamefowl breeder worth his salt will consistently USE crossbreeding. Cross breeding is only a choice when the cocker has maxed out the potential of his Bloodline's traits and needs to infuse new traits that cannot be accessed except by cross breeding. Old records from breeders consistently indicate that when they do cross breed they do so using the same strain of fowl they were hoping to improve.

Gameness is always the top choice of traits. One method utilized by William Morgan, of Morgan Whitehackle fame, and some of the English cockers is called “3 times in and once out.”

This is actually a way of inbreeding to produce a “pure strain.”

The following chart will explain how the system works.
  1. First Generation Hen Cock ½ hen ½ cock

  2. Second Generation Hen to son Cock to daughter ¾ hen ¾ cock

  3. Third Generation Hen to grandson Cock to granddaughter 7/8 hen 7/8 cock

  4. Fourth Generation Hen to grandson Cock to granddaughter 15/16 hen 15/16 cock

  5. Now in the 5th generation you breed the 15/16 hen to the 15/16 cock.

Then, choosing the best hen(s) and cock(s) you start over again from the top.

If the cocker chooses to continue line breeding these fowl were what they termed “seed stock” or broodfowl.  Seed stock was never used as fighting gamefowl or battle fowl. Instead, they were crossed to a different strain to produce their “battle cocks.”  Battle fowl are never used in breeding pens if this system were employed.

In this particular system of 'seed stock' line breeding you choose the three to five best hens and begin the clan mating system. You line bred your best pullets to one cock. Line breeding for experienced game cockers produce excellent offspring with no loss of vigor or gameness.

Old school Gamefowl cockers were able to beat the system so to speak by loading the dice for the inbreeding process—all textbooks on poultry genetics will tell you that inferior results will result from an inbreeding system.

Several key answers can be pinpointed for the success of the inbreeding system.

  • First, A cocker must inbreed only from his most vigorous specimens

  • Second, weak or substandard offspring are culled ruthlessly.

  • Third, in any form of line breeding the youthfulness of the stock used is crucial.

  • Fourth, the same mating is maintained (One cock to one hen) for four or five years. Therefore in 20 years it is possible to have only produced four or five distinct generations. If cockers chance upon a cock and hen mating that produces winners in the pit, then they are mated year after year.

  • Fifth, keep accurate records of every mating and practice just single matings.

  • Sixth, only attempt close inbreeding on free range coops. Give the birds every advantage of producing constitutional soundness and vitality

Many cockers practice variations of the line breeding systems. When practicing the rolling-mating, cockers often include side matings of line breeding. When using the clan system the large breeders often kept five to seven clans. (called “yards”).  With clan matings, a matriarchal system is used. “New” clans are created or yards of full sisters when a particular hen within the clan produces exceptional sons. That one hen becomes prepotent in the new yard with her daughters.

Of course there will be ridicule and dismissal of these methods by modern experts. But for serious preservationists and small flock owners, gamefowl line breeding methods are tried and true as well as the surest ways to turn simple matings into serious breeding and systematic flock improvement. Traits of winning birds are FIXED or maintained over generations despite the books telling you that the traits will lose gas.

The most awesome thing about raising gamefowl is that the breeder can choose his own system of breeding to create your “own strain” which is a finely tuned mix of inbred fowl with the best traits of that line as the system will permit. And you can even experiment!


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