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Historical Russian Orloff old photo Russian Orloff

Russian Orloff hen at Darwin Museum dated 1889

Feather fromRussian Orloff hen at Darwin Museum dated 1889. Gifted to ROUSCA by Alexander Korolev at National in UK 2016.

Russian Orloff

The breed is said to have been created in the late 18th century by Count Alexei Orloff by crossing chickens from Gilan, a providence in Iran, with local cold-hardy breeds in Russia.   Count Orloff made a breed that he named after himself, the Russian Orloff. 


Not seen in exhibition until 1881 in Moscow, Honorary member of the Russian Poultry Breeders Society S.N. Khudepov wrote in 1901, “The Orloff has only been bred here, in Russia for a long time. We, Russians, are familiarizing Europe and America with the beautiful breed for the first time”. And famous breeder I.I. Abozin in his book “Poultry Yard” wrote, “A height of good specimens is quite big. At the exhibition in 1881, the weighting showed that some cocks weighted eleven pounds and hens – 7-8 pounds”. By our standards, it is 4.4 kg and 2.8-3.2 kg respectively.  While by the 20'th century the Russian Orloff had almost disappeared from farmyards in their motherland, they had reached the hands of enthusiasts in Western Europe and became quite popular in Austria, Germany and England.  By 1915 the number of breeders in England became so large that a club was developed and the productivity of the Orloff eggs were increased to 200 a year.  (Average remains 160-180)


While it was thought that the Russian Orloff was once accepted by the APA and simply fell out of favor, it has been found to be something quite different.  In November of 1872, Volume I, No. 11 of Poultry World, the month's featured breed was the Black Russian Fowl.  The name later was changed to just Russians, to further add to the confusion.  At the time of being dropped from the APA, by both written and illustrated description, it is obvious that the Russian was a different breed entirely from the true Russian Orloff.


This would mean that the Russian Orloff of today has never been an accepted breed with the American Poultry Association, and that such an old breed is far overdue for the privilege.


With such a long history and diligent work of breeders across the globe to preserve these birds, the Russian Orloff has not faded away to be a breed only for the history books.  This regal breed is on the cusp of something wonderful, the return of the Russian Orloff.

This is a bearded, muffed, raspberry combed breed. Its present name is taken from Count Orloff-Techesmensky, at one time a well-known Russian horse breeder and livestock enthusiast. Germany was the land of the Orloff's perfection--not the land of its origin. And while Russia made the breed known to Western Europe and America, Persia (Iran) was the probable site of its development.


The breed was not known in England and western Europe until 1899; but some lots of them must have come to America very much earlier, as a breed of this description of characteristic Russian type was learned of by John H. Robinson as mentioned in his book "Popular Breeds of Domestic Poultry American and Foreign, 1924". At the time the Mahogany was the only variety that had come to this country.


Despite popular belief, the Russian Orloff was never a recognized breed by the APA. There is an article in the Poultry World magazine's first Volume in 1872. In the November 1872 Volume 1 No 11 the breed for the month is the Black Russian Fowls, as they where called then. This is the recognized breed "Russians" that was dropped from the APA and  the  Russian breed known as "Russian Black Bearded" (view video) in Russia. 


Currently the only variety found in numbers in the USA is the Spangled. There are only two breeders with Mahogany and a few others with either a cock or a hen. Several people are working on projects to bring around some of the other recognized varieties.


There are a few articles that were written in 1921 in the American Poultry Advocate, Poultry Tribune, and American Poultry Journal about the Orloff.

Russian Orloff historical old photo spangled russian orloff
Mahogany Russian Orloff chicken old photo historical Russian Orloff

Orloff Bantam

The following history of the Bantam can be found in the German Journal "Poultry Market"


Only after Dr. Ranft from Upper Helmsdorf Dresden in 1910 again organized a new import from Russia, the breakthrough in Germany. 1912 Special club was established, chaired by Dr. Ranft took over. From this time we took the race steeply, despite the war, because the breeder hatching eggs and breeding animals continuously offered and made a lot of advertising in the journals for this breed. 1919 was Dr. Ranft to an active fellow, Rudolf Barth from Schmölln in Saxony, resigned as chairman from. Barth was the one who already started in the early 20s with the dwarfing the Orloff, which he would not come quite so advanced as he gathered enough cobreeders around. Even at that time the demand for dwarfs not as great as later after the 2nd World War. In addition, the farms had disappeared from before the 2nd World War to the end. After Wandelts "Handbook of Bantams races", in 1998, it should have been a single tap, with the Otto Squarr 1947 breeding resumed and crossed with different breeds. 


In East Germany, there was again Rudolf Barth, who began with the dwarfing, and one can only marvel at what has been created in 50 years. Barth was also often the breeding evidence were in various magazines, so breeders were based on the somewhat difficult breeding work under. One-layer, they ennoble in the form and in the head to a dwarf of the future. In 1961 Barth advised in an article that one should never Lock other breeds, but go via numerous offspring and breed equitable selection. Only by strengthening the features you could create lasting a race. Ongoing crossbreeding bring at some point nothing - they only bring trouble.

The dwarf-Orloff actually represent a successful breeding combination of militant robustness and yet quite tame and affectionate creatures to their owners, what this breed very sufficient for the benefit. 


Orloff Bantam are recognized in the USA by the American Bantam Association (ABA). There are two varieties in the USA, Spangled and White. They are even more rare than the Large Fowl counterpart with only less than 10 breeders with the Spangled variety and a few breeders with the white variety . The orloff Bantam is on the rise in popularity among Orloff keepers and inclusive a few more breeders working on increasing the numbers of the White variety. 

Bantam Orloff Russian Orloff Bantam Spangled Orloff Bantam
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