Araucana Breed Type
The All Important Silhouette
By Ann Charles
The APA Standard of Perfection defines ‘type’ for any breed, as "the general shape and form common to all members of a breed resulting from breeding to an ideal shape and size as set forth in the Standard of Perfection". This definition applies to Araucana just as it does to all other recognized breeds. With the Araucana the key word in looking at the correct type for the breed may be the word "medium".
This word, medium, or moderate, is used eighteen times in the brief descriptions describing shape of the male and female Araucana. The Araucana breed is best known for it’s blue eggs, and for it’s unique characteristics of having no tail and having tufts of feathers on the sides of it’s head. Yet ‘type’ goes way beyond these three key breed characteristics.
According to the well known author Brian Reeder, "The silhouette is the outline. It is what defines all breeds and most landraces. It is, at it’s most simple, the design of the skeleton, and the way the feathers lay upon the muscle that are placed on the skeleton. Three things thus interact to make the outline of the bird: skeleton, muscling, and feathering."
As Cathy Brunson wrote in her book, "Araucanas - Rings On Their Ears", "The proper style (type) for Araucanas is intermediate between the two classes of chickens . . .every part blends together and forms a harmonious appearance. The birds are smooth sleek and balanced. Yet they have the strength, muscular development, and large wing, that you would expect on a semidomesticated jungle bird."
Key to the ideal silhouette of the Araucana’s profile is the back of "medium length with a posterior slope", a breast which is "full, round, deep," a body of ":moderate length, broad and deep", and "medium" fluff. The neck also should be of medium length and slightly arched and the head of the Araucana should be "moderately large, short, broad". These descriptions of the breed are from the APA Standard of Perfection. Putting them all together, you can see that the Araucana is a dual purpose meaty breed but should not have the size of the heavier breeds like American, English, and Asiatics, or the lean and more angular build of the Mediterranean breeds.
Standard weights for Araucana large fowl range from 3.5 pounds for pullets up to 5 pounds for a mature Araucana cock. Except for size (24 oz. pullet -28 oz. cock) everything stated here should also apply to the bantam Araucana. As written in the SOP, "Shape and color descriptions the same as for the corresponding variety of large Araucanas."
There are a number of things that can throw off the sleek, balanced look of the Araucana and these undesirable traits will still be commonly seen where Araucana are exhibited due to the rarity of the breed and the difficulty of working with so complex a package of traits in one breed. Araucana with overly fluffy plumage, and smaller wings will lack smoothly blending lines. Usually due to having too much blood from the heavier breeds of poultry. If an Araucana’s wing carriage is too low, or if they stand too upright, or if they are not as muscled as they should be they may be exhibiting a bit too much Game or Continental breeding mixed in. Even the fluff of an Araucana should be medium, which contributes to the over all shape when viewed from the side. Fluff that is too full not only contributes to breaking up the smooth oblong profile of the breed it also causes problems in the breeding pen in relation to fertility. A well built Araucana that is true to breed type will have no problems actually breeding. The tail is not necessary for balance for either breeding or flying. My Araucana can usually fly further and out-run any of my tailed chickens.
Although the Araucana is grouped in the All-Other-Standard-Breeds class. It should not have the upright stance of the Oriental breeds that it so often is shown against, nor their hard feathering. As stated earlier almost everything on the Araucana is "medium", except when we get closer to the face and head. You will often see Araucana with too much wattle, oversized earlobes, generally too much excess skin around the face and this is a fault. The Standard states that the face should be smooth in texture, the wattles, and earlobes, should be very small or absent. Those traits combined with a nice tidy pea comb (not beefy) should be perfectly framed by two balanced tufts of good length, that evenly set on the head and are the same shape and size. That is our ideal bird.
As mentioned earlier - this is a very tough breed to work with. Just the tufts alone may involve (in my opinion) up to four sets of modifying genes that control size, shape, location, and length of the actual tuft feathers.
Since I have described the perfect Araucana according to the Standard I would like to state that I have never seen one (a perfect Araucana). I have bred and shown some that were very close to what I would consider ideal and I know of other breeders who have done the same. But the truly exceptional bird is still rare. When I started with his breed many years ago many judges and exhibitors told me that they had never before seen an Araucana at a show. At the time, this could be because some of the older breeders had passed on, or just lost interest . When I started out with this breed finding any Araucana stock at all was almost impossible. However, that situation has changed drastically in the last few years and it seems there may be 20-30 or more people seriously trying to work with this breed and many more than that are enthusiastic and learning.
Most people do not know that the Araucana was admitted into the APA as a recognized breed without fulfilling all of the normal requirements necessary for other breeds. The breed was admitted by the APA as a recognized breed in 1976 and assigned 5 varieties: Black, White, Black Breasted Red (Cubalaya type color), Golden Duckwing and Silver Duckwing. The latter two varieties are to match the description for the same variety in Modern Games (large fowl).
As far as which varieties of Araucana are currently closest to the Standard of Perfection on type, my opinion is that the blacks have many more breeders working on them and are currently the best representatives of our breed at this time. The best whites are very close if not equal to the better blacks. There are a few good examples of Black Breasted Red Araucana around the country and there are some good Golden Duckwings. The variety that still needs the most work in both type and color are the Silver Duckwings. I have never seen, in person (or even in a picture) a really good Silver Duckwing Araucana male. Or a good female in the large fowl. The Silver Duckwings may be our last and biggest hurdle to get across as a breed.
With Araucana now regularly placing high at sanctioned shows nationwide the proof is there that dedicated breeders are making headway in improving the overall quality of the breed. As long as we remember how important correct breed type is - along with the more noticeable traits like, rumplessness, tufting, and blue eggs - This breed should continue to make a positive impact in the show halls nationwide.
1) American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection, 2010 Edition.
2) Araucanas - Rings On Their Ears, by Cathy Brunson.
3) An Introduction to Form and Feathering of the Domestic Fowl:, by Brian Reeder, 2011 Edition.