History of Faverolles in Australia

The History of Faverolles in Australia - Researched and written by Club member Erik Berrevoets

The origins of Faverolles and their early history in France and Great Britain appears to be relatively well documented. However, information on the history of Faverolles in Australia is much more difficult to find. This article is intended as an attempt to fill this gap and is the first of, hopefully, a number of articles discussing the history of Faverolles in Australia. This attempt to document the history of Faverolles in Australia is very much a 'work in progress', and any additional information or corrections to the material presented here would be very much appreciated. This first article will cover the period up to the 1930s. It is intended that future articles will cover subsequent decades so we can eventually cover the history of Faverolles in Australia from the first importations up to the present day.

There has been a suggestion that the arrival of French poultry in Australia can be traced to the time of the exploration of the coastlines of mainland Australia and Tasmania in the early 19th century by the French explorer Nicolas Baudin (1754 - 1803). In 1800 Baudin set sail from the port of L'Havre in the region of Normandy and it is tempting to speculate that farmyard versions of Normandy fowl (a term later used to describe Houdans and Crevecoeurs) were part of his ship’s provisions.

At the time of Mr Baudin's explorations, the so called 'Asiatic breeds' which lay the basis of the Faverolles had not yet been introduced in Europe, nor had French poultry become standardised. However, some pre standardised forms of crested or bearded poultry may have been part of his voyage, or accompanied early French migrants to Australia. All this remains speculation however.

It is not until the early part of the 20th century that we can be a little more certain about the history of Faverolles in this country. Rick Kemp in his book Exhibition Poultry - Breeders Handbook (1986) mentions that the first official importation of Faverolles took place in the 1920s. This honour goes to Mme Masseran. Before coming to Australia Mme Masseran had spent some time working in the Eure et Loire district of France where the Faverolles originated and had become well known for their table and egg laying qualities.

Mme Masseran's husband was the chef at the Melbourne Club and most likely bemoaned the absence of a reliable supply of quality poultry meat for the Club’s patrons. Mme Masseran saw an opportunity to import Faverolles into Australia to meet this demand. Mme Masseran was well ahead of her time in her efforts to establish a niche table poultry industry in Australia as an article in the Australasian Poultry World magazine written approximately 20 years later indicates: "Breeding poultry for table purposes only is not a common industry in Australia, that is apart from Turkeys, Muscovy Ducks and geese. ... The time is fast approaching when hotel chefs in Australia will demand birds specifically bred for table purposes, which at five or six months old, will cut a good supply of tender slices (Australasian Poultry World, October 1941 - page 17)."

Not only was Mme Masseran ahead of her time by supplying poultry to meet the demands of a niche market. She was also very successful in doing so and supplied overseas orders from the British Royal Family and aristocracy. Perhaps the opportunity to establish these contacts arose during the Royal visit by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) in 1920 or that of the Duke and Duchess of York (future king George VI and Queen Elizabeth) in 1927. Mme Masseran's export achievements are even more remarkable when you realize that Faverolles were then well known and highly regarded in Great Britain for the quality of their meat (as well as egg laying abilities).

We do not know the secrets of Mme Masseran's success, though perhaps she adopted French poultry husbandry methods. Faverolles were developed with the objective in mind of producing young succulent 'petits poussins'. (These are chickens, 6 weeks old, of approximately 650 to 700g in weight, fattened on a special diet and regarded as a delicacy.) Maybe her export success lay in her ability to provide quality poultry during the Northern hemisphere's off season. Unfortunately we do not know. What is worth noting however is that these first Faverolles were imported because of their utility aspects rather than for ornamental and exhibition purposes.

Not only do we know little about Mme Masseran's life in Australia, we also know little about her Faverolles. How many did she import, and where did she import them from? In light of her background France would appear likely, but Great Britain is also a possibility. The breed existed and was standardised in both countries at the time. Last but not least, what did Faverolles look like in the 1920s? We don't have a description of Mme Masseran's Faverolles, but a description of British Faverolles by Mr JPW Marx from the first decade of the 20th century makes for interesting reading:

"In both sexes the comb is single, upright, medium in size, with neat serrations and free from coarseness. This is a difficult point, since of the breeds which were selected to make up the Faverolles, the Dorking alone has a single comb which falls over in the hen. The peculiar combs of the Brahma and Houdan are strongly hereditary, and thus all kinds of combs crop up in the Faverolles, and most careful selection is required to get and retain the correct type. The beard and muffling should be very abundant, the beard, thick and full rather than long and thin. These, again, being only found in one of the original breeds - the Houdans - are difficult to breed; indeed, the head of the Faverolles is one of its most characteristic and important features.

The head itself is broad and short, with small, thin wattles and stout, short beak. The head should be free from crest, which is nearly bred out; still there remain traces, particularly in the cocks, in the shape of a few short, upright feathers either side of the comb, which would only be noticed by a breeder who has had experience in eradicating crested blood. The short, stout neck is thickly covered with rather close- fitting hackles.

 

The body is broad, deep, and wide; the back very broad and flat; the breast is also broad, with the keel-bone deep and prominent; the whole giving a sturdy, massive look to the fowl. Greater length of keel and back is seen in the hen. The wings show boldly in front, yet are distinctly small. The thighs are short and set wide apart, with the knees quite straight. The shanks are of medium length. A dumpy, short legged fowl is not wanted, and excessive shortness of leg detracted very much from an otherwise capital hen which was most successfully shown in 1900.

The leg should be fairly stout in bone without being coarse, and be slightly feathered on the outside down to the end of the outer toe. The leg feather should be soft in texture, with no sign of vulture-hook too frequently met with. The toes are five in number, and the extra or fifth toe as in the Dorking, should be clear and distinct. The tail feathers and sickles are full and broad; the sickles incline, however, to be short in length, and are carried rather upright, as in the Brahma; a large tail with long sickles carried low or straight is not in keeping with the build of the bird.

 

The tail of the hen is fan shaped and carried rather high. Cocks should weigh 7lbs. to 81/2 lbs. hens 6lbs. to 7 lbs cockerels, 61/2 lbs. to 71/2 lbs. and pullets 5lbs. to 61/2lbs. These weights are not excessive and are often exceeded, though generally at the expense of quality (in Lewis Wright 'The Book of Poultry' 1913, pp467-469)."

At this time Faverolles already occurred in the standard colours of Salmon, Ermine, Black, Blue, Buff, and White.

As mentioned earlier, the information presented here gives us some insight into the early history of Faverolles in Australia, but much more information is needed. Some topics that are of particular interest are information on the dispersion or otherwise of the flock of Mme Masseran, the names and other details of other notable and known Faverolles breeders of that period, information on additional importations of Faverolles into Australia, their country of origin and, if possible names of breeders. Furthermore information about poultry husbandry methods of that period, such as feeding regimes and housing is also of interest.

The history of Faverolles is not only valuable for our understanding of what is still classified as a rare breed by the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia, but also for our understanding of the development of the Australian poultry industry and niche food production before large scale poultry production came in to dominate. These areas are becoming increasingly important as organisations such as the Slow Food Movement create a greater awareness and interest in the importance of high quality food.

Without wanting to labour the point, any additional information on the history of the Faverolles would be very much valued. I am happy to talk to anyone who might have even the smallest piece of information. Please contact me by email on hberrevoets@hotmail.com or by telephone on (07) 3217 3278.

I would like to express my appreciation for the encouragement and help received from Mrs Irene Hannan and Mr Jeff Reed in the preparation of this article, however sole responsibility for the content rests of course with myself.

 

The History of Faverolles in Australia - Part Two - By Eric Berrevoets

In the last issue of our Newsletter I gave a brief overview of the then available material on the history of Faverolles in Australia. Since then and thanks to research from our Club Secretary Irene Hannan some further information has come to light that puts the arrival of Faverolles in Australia at around the beginning of the last century.

In ‘The Otago Witness’ (NZ) of 27 March 1907 a Mr J T Travers from Warragul (Vic) is mentioned as the only breeder of Faverolles in Australia. Mr Travers is quoted as saying that he brought a pen of Faverolles out with him and subsequently imported another cock. Unfortunately the article doesn’t say when Mr Travers’ Faverolles arrived in Australia, but this could have been a year earlier in 1906 - one hundred years before the establishment of our Club, and about a decade before Mme Masseran’s imports.

We can reasonably assume that Mr Travers arrived in Australia from the UK and therefore his Faverolles were also from the UK, as they had been bred there since 1895. Based on this information Mme Masseran was not the first to import Faverolles into Australia; this honour now goes to Mr Travers. His imports may not make as romantic a story but little by little the mystery surrounding the introduction of Faverolles into Australia is being solved.

At the time of Mr Travers imports, Faverolles had only been in existence as a breed for about 20 odd years and his birds would have probably looked not dissimilar to the descriptions of the early 20th Century. In 1902 Harrison Weir in his book “Our Poultry” discusses Faverolles of that period. His comments on four and five toed Faverolles are still of interest today.

The Faverolles is a very excellent composite fowl . The birds bear about them the direct influence of the Brahma with either the Houdan or Hamburgh Polish. They do not convey that both Shanghai & Dorking were used originally. The chicks when in their fluff state also much resemble Houdans, through with far less, or no crest.

They can scarcely be said to have exhibition points, though such is claimed. The cocks resemble early imported Brahmas, some being muffed or bearded, The hens resemble the Houdans of the 1850s, minus the crest and now feathered shanks.

The director of the French school at Gambois says, “To obtain a true explanation of the breed it is necessary to go back about 40 years (1860s). This was when Cochins, Brahmas & Dorkings first appeared in France & the poultry keepers crossed them with the common fowl & country bred Houdans & evolved a bird which on the market superseded all others.” All those that have come under my immediate notice far more resemble the Brahma of the 1853 that the Shanghai and also the cocks have a greater similitude to the Asiatic than the hens. The yellow plumage may be accounted for by the original colours of the French breeds.

Already the breed is being crossed with the Dorking & are called Dorking Faverolles, but this is decidedly not an improvement on the former. Again a club has been formed in which a certain colour is said to be insisted on & other points are to be bred to. Doubtless we shall see the beard & mufflers enlarged even to an ungainly size, the slightly feathered shanks to be clothed with quilty feathers and falcon hocks. Yes now a club has been formed for its uniformity and betterment– like the original Brahma and Houdan – what it was will be blotted out by the making of it”.

M Rouiller records: “French Favs as bred by practical men, are by no means true to colour nor have they any other fixed characteristics. That Faverolles contain all the foregoing breeds plus blood of the Coucou de Malines and later Langshan, there can be little doubt. A few French breeders classify them according to colour & advertise variete hermine, saumon, noir, etc.” Having examined a large number of Faverolles at the Dead Poultry Show, I found that some of the very best were but four-toed.

This being so perhaps it would be better to formulate the breed as one with only 4 toes; though my experience has told me that the most cloddy thick made dunghill fowls have been those with 5 toes. Again most of the best framed meaty fowls were those with clean legs & very white. This being so I would suggest that if the Faverolles is to become a farmyard breed it would be far more valuable with clean clear featherless shanks.

Mr FJ Wood of Newton-le-Willows imported the 1st prize cock at the Palaise de L’Industrie at Paris in 1896 (43 entries) plus 2 of the hens that were the premier of 40, plus later on the 2nd rize pen. Besides which he had the pick of the cocks from the French school of Aviculture.”

When selecting stock choose: “the neatest grouse or downy shanks, tendency to quilling must be studiously avoided, otherwise their fate will be like the Brahma with their excellent qualities disappearing under fluff & feather. Faverolles should be judged not alive in its feathers but on the poulterers’ bench featherless.”

The first references to Faverolles in Australia I have found so far are from ‘The Australasian Poultry Word’ magazine which gives a description of Faverolles of the early 1940s. The article states that:

The Faverolle [sic] is the heaviest and most compact of French breeds. This variety early in the century seemed to be in fair way to universal popularity, but for some unaccountable reason there has been a great falling off in its vogue during the past decade [1930s], possibly due to the leg feathers, which are not liked by Australians. In this country feather-legged birds are looked on with suspicion, for they carry dirt and are more likely to develop Elephantiasis (Scaly Legs). The Faverolle [sic] is made up of Brahma, Dorking and Houdan – getting its feather legs from the Brahma, its fifth toe from the Dorking, and its muff from Houdan.

In appearance the Faverolle [sic] is a cloddy fowl, with well muffed head points and slightly feathered legs, low on leg and broad and deep. There are several colors, but the best and generally known is the "Salmon." The cock is all black in muffling, breast, thighs and tail. Hackles straw colour, back, shoulders and wing bows mahogany, with tendency to go white with age, having black wing bars and black primaries and white in secondaries.

 

The color of hens - beard and muffling creamy white, head and neck hackles brown wheaten, stripped with darker shade, back and shoulders also brown wheaten, wings to match back, tail to match back, breast and thighs an even cream. It is well to note that the dark parts must be as stated and not cream colored, for many excellent in type fail in this important point. Nevertheless, type is all important in the exhibition pen, as well as for the butcher, for both purposes they must be solid.

The article continues: Faverolles are wonderfully quick growers, maturing earlier than any other heavy breeds. They also cross well with Indian Game or Malay males. The chicks are most hardy and give little trouble in rearing. As exhibition birds they require no shading; the sun improves the straw colour hackles of the cocks. Both sexes have grey eyes red small single comb, face, wattles and ear lobes, feet and legs white with five toes on each foot (here is the Dorking showing up again).

In conclusion the article points out the value of Faverolles in a free range situation: On account of short wings and legs (the latter wide apart), it is an ideal farmers' fowl for although it is very active in search of food, it does not fly or jump much, therefore, unlike many other breeds does not spoil the hay or wheat stacks.

Australasian Poultry Magazine December 1941 (p16-17)

As I mentioned before, any additional information or stories on the history of Faverolles are much appreciated. I am happy to talk to people and write this down, or alternatively I can be contacted by telephone on (07) 3217 3278 or email on hberrevoets@hotmail.com. Alternatively our irreplaceable Club Secretary Irene is willing to help.

MORE FAVEROLLES IN AUSTRALIA - EARLY BREED HISTORY - By Megg Miller (March 2011)

Erik Berrevoet’s research on the history of Faverolles in Australia in previous Newsletters was very interesting and I’m sure, most appreciated. I can add to his finds, courtesy of two Australian texts from my book collection.

The first is George Woodward’s ‘Australasian Poultry Book’, printed in Ballarat, around 1905. This book was the precursor to The International Poultry Book, published first in 1910, then 1914, 1920, 1930 and 1936. Faverolles are mentioned on several pages. The first inclusion is in a section on choosing stock, where in one paragraph, breeds suitable for export purposes were listed. ‘Use Faverolles, Buff, Black Jubilee or White Orpington, or any white legged variety, to suit the English taste’.

In the section, “As a Hobby for Ladies”, among the list of successful breeders is Mrs Travers of Warragul, a specialist in her breed, Faverolles. Further in the book, under “Breeding for Export”, Faverolles are again mentioned as one of the best breeds. The idea of exporting was still in its infancy in Victoria apparently and few breeders were making any pretence to breed for this market.

The final reference regarding Faverolles is an advertisement for Mrs Travers. She describes the Faverolles as ‘the popular English table bird, flesh absolutely white and of excellent flavour’. Correspondence was invited regarding this‘grand utility breed-eggs all winter’.

As illulminately as all this is, the fact that no other advertiser in the book kept Faverolles should ring alarm bells as should the fact that breed standards were supplied for all the popular breeds of the day but there was not one for Faverolles. Either the author was unfamiliar with the breed, could not obtain such information or the breed was still relatively new and in few hands in Victoria.

“Farmers Fowls”,by George Bradshaw was published in 1907 and showed a strong NSW bias. This is probably because Woodward had been in the employ of the Department of Agriculture, NSW for a decade or more and had written extensively for the ‘Agricultural Gazette of NSW’. This book appears to include information previously published in the Gazette. There is a section, Faverolles in England and another Faverolles as Table Birds, which includes details of breeding experiments. It is not until the section, Faverolles as Layers, is reached, that the text takes on an Australian context.

Bradshaw would have written (or rewritten) his chapters for the book in the years prior to printing, so it would be fair to assume between 1904 and 1906. By that time he had amassed a small flock of Faverolles: ‘in my own yards there is an English and New Zealand and a Victorian strain’. He does go on to say, ‘the breed is still in few hands here, and has not had time to deteriorate, consequently there cannot be any bad laying strains. My own stock are the result of crossing some Victorian birds with New Zealand and English’.

Bradshaw goes on to say that he obtained his birds from Mr H May of New Zealand, two years previously and that they had been excellent layers. His initial stock had come from Mrs Travers, which he said was late of Gippsland. She apparently had championed her birds as the best winter layers she ever had. The English side of Bradshaw’s birds came from a Mr Walsh of Arcadia, NSW. Walsh imported prize winning birds in 1904, bred from them and entered the progeny in the Hawkesbury Colleges egg laying competition of 1905.

‘The six Faverolles, owned by Mr Walsh, were too young at the commencement of the competition in April, 1905, and at the end of two months had not laid an egg, thus commencing with a handicap of one sixth duration of the test. In the entire 100 pens there were only five other lots with such leeway to make up, and, one expected, all finished away far down in the program. Not so with the Faverolles’.

‘Commencing in June with their first eggs, they crept up month by month, ultimately finishing in the 34th place amongst the 100, beating a number of pens which had a start 150 eggs. The Faverolles were laying strong at the finish, and the owner believes, that had the test continued a further two months, thus enabling the Faverolles to have an actual year’s laying period, they would have been amongst the top few’.

In the chapter “Faverolles in Australia”Bradshaw stated that although the breed had become prominent in NSW in the past year or two, the breed had been known in Australia for half a dozen years or more. He suggested the first arrivals may have been those of well known English breeder and judge, Mr Hawker, who had a property in SA.

‘This gentleman, on a visit here (NSW) three years ago, when interviewed at the Royal Agricultural Show, spoke highly of the Faverolles, stating that he had forwarded a number of them to his station property a few years previously’.

We must not assume these early birds were perfect specimens. Bradshaw acknowledges that Mrs Travers introduced the breed to Victoria and that her stock was well advertised and exhibited. However, he raises the issue of quality. ‘As with most other new breeds, serious defects existed in a number of the stock, much of which has now been overcome. The principle trouble with the early importations was the want of the fifth toe.

Mrs Travers exhibited a number of her birds in Sydney three years ago, and disposed of them to breeders here, but so many of the progeny came with but four toes that people tired of the strain. Prior to the above, a medical gentleman of Sydney, now deceased, received some English importations and although of better colour and larger that the Victorian birds, had not the extra foot embellishment’.

Then came some New Zealand birds from the yards of Mr H May, and these being the progeny of more recently imported English stock were of the correct colour and more in accordance with standard requirements. These and some later English importations, and a further New Zealand consignment to a Mr H M Hamilton constituted the bulk of the breeding stock of this state’, wrote Bradshaw.