Continental Birds – Backyard Poultry

By Stuart Sutton, England

Our series on the Preserved Breeds of Lille Museum, part 3, concentrates on a few Continental birds. They are:


The origin of the Hamburg, is like many other Breeds, very cloudy. It is, however, widely known that spangled poultry were bred in Yorkshire and Lancashire, possibly up to 300 years ago, when they were called Pheasants and Mooneys.

At its peak, the Hamburg was renowned as a very good layer. Today, however, some would say it has become more of an exhibition bird. Its egg size, and in some strains, its egg numbers, have coincidentally reduced.

In their favor is the fact that they remain light eaters and are inexpensive to keep. They are also alert, bold and graceful with fine bold eyes and have an elegant rose comb. The exhibition Silver Penciled hen shows similar markings to today’s animals, although the male Gold Spangled shown does not exhibit well-defined and distinct markings or spangles.

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Hamburg Male
Hamburg male gold 1911 type.


The Herve is one of the oldest and certainly one of the rarest breeds in Belgium. It is believed to be related to the Ardenner and Gaulouise, and is sometimes thought to be an Ardenner without pigmentation although this is not the case. A normal Herve has a more rounded form than the Ardenner; however, the specimen shown seems to be svelte. In the Herve, the back is also much less sloping and the tail is carried more open. The face, wattles and comb are always bright red. They are also thought to provide a good amount of delicious meat.

Herve Male
Herve black male type 1903, a very rare Belgian breed.

In Belgium these are also known as “Mauheid” and “Cotte de Fer.” According to the latest research by the Walloon Agricultural Research Centre (CRAW), there are less than 30 breeders in Belgium, and apparently it is a breed also being supported by Friends of the Earth.


Large fowl Ardenners have existed for centuries, and are considered to be Belgium’s oldest breed of poultry. As is often the case with ancient breeds, very little is known regarding its exact origin, although it is thought to have descended directly from the ancient Gallic breed, the Gauloise.

The Ardenner is classed as a light breed. They, like their miniature version, are good looking and svelte with attractive feathering. A strong dark pigmentation is present on the face, the head and skin, but its intensity does depend on the color variety of the bird. The pigmentation ranges from very dark in silver or gold/black to red in silver/duckwing.

Ardenner Male
Ardenner male black red type 1907.
Ardenner Hen
Ardenner hen black red type 1907.

Some hens, like from the strain developed by top Belgian breeder Frans Smets lay 2-ounce eggs. They are a “doer” breed and are certainly worth keeping. The breed is rare, even in parts of Belgium.


A Belgian breed sharing a close history with the Brakel, with some eminent poultry experts observing the two breeds only differ due to climatic conditions in the Flanders region of Belgium and northern France. They are an elegant bird with gold or silver barring; however, this is unfortunately somewhat lacking in the 1901 exhibit.

Campine Male
Campine male silver type 1901.


Stuart Sutton is long-time contributor to Backyard Poultry. He is a writer and photographer based in England.

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