BRIEF DESCRIPTION: The Bekisar chicken is an interesting chicken breed with a long history of travel and adventure on the high seas. The breed is only created by hybridizing Green Jungle Fowl Gallus Varius and Red Jungle Fowl Gallus Bankiva.
This first generation hybrid is the true Bekisar. Green and Red Jungle Fowl come from different parts of the world, so this breeding was man-made. Man’s fascination with hybridizing species is almost as ancient as this unusual breed.
This first generation creates multi colored roosters of striking feathering including blackish green iridescence and loud crowing. The females have typical Jungle Fowl hen plumage that allows them to nest on the ground well camouflaged, but this hybridization produces infertile hens.
Since Green Jungle Fowl appear more pheasant-like than Red Jungle Fowl, this may explain the infertility of the Bekisar hen and some males. This lack of fertility made the Bekisar chicken uncommonly precious and mysterious.
This first generation Bekisar chicken is mainly of historic interest, but on Java its descendants produced a breed with several local varieties, known as Ayam Bekisar. BREED NAME, The Facts:
Class: Interspecies Hybrid
Color: Varied, no standard
Place of Origin: Malaysia
Conservation Status: Rare
Special Qualities: Bekisars were held in high regard by the inhabitants of the Sunda Islands; treating the breed as spiritual mascots. Seafaring Malaysians carried Bekisar roosters on their outrigger canoes widely spreading the genetics to different islands as they traveled.
Bekisar chicken ancestry can be found in a number of landrace Pacific island chickens, owing their survival to Green Jungle Fowl influence.
Green Jungle Fowl have adapted to mangrove swamp life being native to the islands of: Komodo, Java, Bali, Flores, Rinca, Lombok, and a few little islands that link Java and Flores, Indonesia. This coastal island life means most water supplies are more salt or brackish. Fresh water supplies can be limited to dew and rainfall on some islands.
Their long history in this habitat allows Green Jungle Fowl and Bekisars to forage ocean shores. They search for washed up sea life and at low tide for small crabs and other sea life in the sand, marshes and tide pools. This trait of the Green Jungle Fowl allowed the Bekisar chicken to adapt to varied island conditions. Red Jungle Fowl cannot as easily survive this environment lacking the adaptation to salt.
The Green Jungle Fowl is the only wild Gallus variety that carries the blue egg gene, making it an ancestor of Aracaunas and Ameracaunas, that also carry the gene. Bekisar hens lay a tinted egg, too. Bekisar chicken progeny have layed blue, green, grey and violet eggs.
A very creative use for the Bekisar rooster was that of aiding sea voyaging islanders to communicate their locations with other outriggers. Roosters would be selected for a loud and unique call enabling ease of identification across 2 miles of open-ocean.
A rooster would be raised up the mast of the canoe in a special basket from where he would call out announcing his presence. As roosters usually do, when one calls out, another or others will answer. It was traditional in many of these early seafaring cultures to carry multiple Bekisar roosters on all their voyages. Different roosters were likely used to communicate different messages.
Early natives of Java and Sunda Islands traveled and settled Oceania and further. Records indicate they carried coconuts, yams, pigs, dogs, and chickens. Every journey included semi-domestic game fowl, descendants of Red Jungle Fowl, as still seen today in many tropical Asian settlements.
Bekisar roosters that escaped or were released and survived influenced each island’s feral fowl genetics. Released or escaped, Bekisar roosters were well equipped, only one generation from their feral state, to adapt to mangrove forested islands of the South Pacific and Oceania without need for human care.
Early European naturalists traveled to remote islands of minimal or no human populations and found thriving groups of jungle fowl. In these isolated places they documented “Violaceous Jungle Fowl”, (meaning violet).
These violet naturalized wild fowl were considered a new species, but may in fact be descendants of early Bekisar. Many islands were visited by Polynesians carrying domestic fowl that interbred with the violet fowl diluting the violet gene. A few populations survived on the most isolated islands.
Research tells us it takes many generations of the Bekisar back crossing with domesticated game hens to consistently produce fertile female offspring.