Friday, 24 February 2012

Why we’re all quackers about ducks

Magical pictures from a new book that proves the humble duck really can top the bill…

Hunted by our ancestors for food,then living semi-feral on ponds,ducks have gone from being wild creatures to colourful pets and prized show-stoppers. Looking at some of the glamorous specimens here, it is difficult to believe that all domestic ducks, with the exception of the Muscovy, are descended from the plain old Mallard.

Yet they have a truly global history, from the very English Aylesbury to the Indian Runner. Some of them even make it to the silver screen – think of the antics of Donald or Daffy. In fact, psychologists at the University of Hertfordshire have found that of all animals, ducks attract the most humour and silliness: ‘If you’re going to tell an animal joke, make it a duck.’ But as these portraits show, they also take a very pretty picture.

Miniature Crested


Details A designer duck, bred in the late 1980s with exhibition in mind, the fairytale Miniature Crested is still an
active bird that enjoys ranging. A winner in the show pen, its spectacular crest is a continual challenge for breeders to perfect.
Use An ornamental exhibition duck, it has to be kept away from anything that might damage its crest – and that
includes mating – and housed in clean conditions to retain its topknot in tip-top condition.



Details An ornamental for most of the 20th century. With its large eyes and round face, the cute Call is the quintessential bathtime rubber duck and a winner in the show pen. Its appealing looks make it popular with pet owners.
Use A popular pet, content with a small, man-made pond and good with children, if well handled.



Details The Cayuga is said to have been bred from a pair of wild black ducks, in New York in the early 1800s. Given standardised status in Britain in 1901, it takes its name from the Native American Cayuga people.
Use Produces dark-coloured meat. Not a great egg-layer, the first eggs have a sooty layer over the white shell.



Details The original Campbells were bred in Gloucestershire in 1901. The White Campbell was produced for a market that preferred a white table bird and was standardised in 1954.
Use A prolific layer – 300-plus eggs a year. Mrs Campbell, its creator, originally bred it for roast duckling.



Details The archetypal farmyard duck, the Aylesbury was one of the first birds to have its own class in poultry shows, where weight was valued as highly as type.
Use With its pale skin and large body, it is a meat bird through and through, but its feathers are used in quilts and pillows.



Details The Bali was first seen 2,000 years ago on the Indonesian Island. It looks like an Indian Runner (below) with a crest. The modern British Bali was re-created using Indian Runners.
Use In Bali, it will clear pests in rice fields; here, it snaps up pests in the garden. Producing a perfect crest for
exhibition is not easy

Indian Runner


Details Known for its distinctive carriage – the slim neck comprises at least a third of its length. Today the Runner is a stalwart of the shows.
Use Kept for eggs, showing, and as a gardener’s friend for its foraging abilities to help clear the land of pests.



Details Breeder William Cook developed the Orpington at his Kent farm. Advertised in 1910 as a breed that combined beauty with table qualities and profitable egg-laying. 

Use Once a general-purpose bird for the table and egg production, today it is kept for show.


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