It's a story that sounds like it's straight out of a movie: the accidental origins of one of the greatest gamefowl strains in history. But the tale of the Clarets is a true one, and it all began with a pair of birds who were never meant to be bred together.
The man behind the Clarets was John H. Madigin, a poultry breeder who was known for his skills in creating new strains of chickens. But the story of the Clarets begins with a happy accident. One day, two birds that Madigin had no intention of breeding together ended up mating, and their offspring became the foundation of what would become one of the most sought-after strains of chickens in the world.
Despite their accidental origins, the Clarets quickly gained a reputation for their beauty and show prowess. Madigin continued to refine the breed, carefully selecting birds with the best traits and breeding them together to create a superior line of gamefowls. And his efforts paid off: the Clarets became renowned for their speed, strength, and endurance, and they soon became a fixture in gamefowl circles around the world.
It all started when Mr. Madigin received a Duyrea White hackle hen from a friend in Houston, Texas. He shipped her all the way to Fort Erie Michigan, where she was placed in a yard at the local race track.
Madigin decided to breed the hen with a strong cock from Hank Dean, one that was known for having a mix of Mahoney, McCarthy and other breeds from the Buffalo, N.Y. area. Together, they produced nine deep red stags, which had a striking color that resembled the shade of claret wine. It was from these stags that the breed got its name - the "Clarets."
As luck would have it, these stags turned out to be not only good-looking, but also excellent performers. Madigin continued breeding them in the same way until around 1930 when he introduced a cock from Phil Marsh's White-leg family into the mix.
The result was a breed of gamefowls that mostly had white legs and deep red feathers, but some were pure white. It's an interesting story of how a chance encounter and a mix of different breeds can result in something truly special. And to this day, the Claret remains a popular breed among gamefowl enthusiasts.
Madigin-Deans Claret Fowl
The cock called "The Daddy of Clarets" was the foundation cock of all Madigin-Deans Claret Fowl, be they red, white or grey in color. His sire was a silver-grey, white legged cock that fought and defeated Mr. Madigin in Monroe, Lousiana Tournament in 1909. He was fought by Mr. Andrew P. O'Conor of Maryland, who presented the grey cock to Madigin after the battle. This cock contained both Mansell Pyle White Blood and Joe Gilman Grey blood in his pedigree.
In 1909 Mr. O'Conor had an entry with Tobe Hester, of Hester, S.C., in one of
Col. McCall's tournaments, at Monroe, LA. Mr. O'Conor had 3 of the Mansell Pyle (Whitecocks) - Joe Gilman Greys which were fought the first 3 weights, which were 4-10, 4-12 and 4-14, one of them whipped Allen and Shelton, one whipped Col. Madigin and the other one whipped Col. W. C. Sherrod of Wichita Falls, Texas.
They were the sensation of the tournament and all wanted to buy them. Mr. O'Conor presented Madigin the silver-grey, white-legged cock that had defeated him in the Tournament.
George Robinson was then feeding for J. H. Madigin, and when he returned home to Buffalo, N.Y., he brought back the Grey cock that Mr. O'Conor had given his boss Madigin.
Madigin had instructed him to get a hen from Deans to breed to the cock, which
Deans refused, with the remark, "Andy O'Connor never bred any grey fowl and he probably picked this one up down South" so, Tom McCarthy offered Robertson a hen, which he accepted.
The McCarthy hen was descended from a pair he had obtained from the family of Mr. Beard, of Toronto, Canada, who had died. Mr. Beard was the breeder from whom Dennis Mahoney obtained his best cocks.
They were a light-red strain of yellow-legged fowl, which cut out white, in the hackles, and were of English origin. It is said to be the purest Earl Derbys ever to come to America.
Along in the Autumn, Robinson offered Deans the brood of chicks which he had from the O'Conor Grey cock and McCarthy's hen, which Deans refused to accept, saying he had no room for them. Robinson then returned the McCarthy's hen and offered him the chicks which he had bred out of her.
McCarthy went to Robinson's home on Saint Catherine Island, to see the chickens, which he said were too small. Robinson then offered them to Ralph Pierce, a millionaire, who knew of the great Mansell Pyle-Joe Gilman Greys that Mr. O'Conor had brought from England. Pierce bought the fowl for $30.00. The pullets were eaten.
Pierce had a German boy in his employ, who looked after his fowl. Under his care, the stags continued to improve and by late spring, they were developed, and were beautifully feathered, and were READY for the pit towards the close of the stag fighting season.
There were five colored stags and one red stag in the lot. The red stag was the largest and fought at 4:06 and defeated Deans 6 times. Deans became interested and asked for their breeding.
He was shocked to learn their breeding, but he was able to obtain the red stag that had defeated him 6 times. This red stag, out of a grey colored cock carrying white blood became the daddy of the Claret strain when bred to the daughter of the 19 times winning Duryea cock, out of his mother.
The first Clarets won two mains, as stags, at Troy, New York, then later, as
cocks, they fought in a main in San Antonio, Texas against Allen, Shelton, Barland and Lundy, and their Roundheads. Allen was then the champion of the south and had defeated all the leading strains that had contested him, with the exception of the main against the Duryea gamefowls, fed by Michael Kearney.
Paul Rainey, of Cleveland, Ohio fought the Allen cocks against Duryea for $40,000 on the odd and $5000 per contest. The score was Allen's Roundheads 5 and Duryea cocks 6. In the San Antonio, Texas main, Madigin bet $65,000 before a gamefowl was set down. Allen won only one out of nine gamefowls shown in the main.
Those 9 cocks were the color of Claret Wine--hence, their name Claret. This defeat ruined both Allen and Shelton as Breeders and Cockers.
For a few years the Clarets remained regular and true to color and then suddenly
some Greys began to appear in them. It was then easy to breed them together and keep the color. John Madigin never had any grey fowl, until they suddenly appeared in his Claret strain.
Of course, the grey blood courses through the veins of all living Madigin-Deans Claret fowl, as does the Mansell Pyle white blood. In the early days, some brown-reds would appear from time to time, which was from the Herrisford Brown Red blood in the Duryeas strain.
This is the only color from which mahogany color can come.
In 1917 Henry Deans was present when Mr. O'Conor defeated Dr. Robinson and
Frank Heiland 11 straights in a main after Frank had won a string of 16 straight mains for the Doctor. The Doctor had another main on for that same night and Mr. O'Conor took that main over and won it also.
Deans had to have one of the Great New Hope cocks that won both mains and Mr. O'Conor gave him a cock called "Black Spur" from the fact that he had white legs and black spurs. Full Brothers' Black Spur defeated Hatch-Woodbine Co. main 7 to 2. Deans fought Black Spur 7 times making him 9-time winner, as he had won twice in the two mains mentioned.
Black Spur was bred as follows--a pure Snow White Mansell Pyle cock bred to a Picket hen. Then a cock bred by Kearney, a Ginger Pumpkin cock, mated to an Earl of Clonmell Kearney - Duryea hen (1904)--- Ten years later, a cock from the Kearney-Clonmell Kearney-Duryea line was mated to a hen from the Picket-White Mansell Pyle line, to complete the New Hope strain.
This is the breeding of Black Spur. To help clear up this breeding of the Pickets, they were bred as follows--the Pickets are a combination of the Black and Tans and the last living hen of John Hunter's strain, which were Black Brassbacks with yellow legs, red eyes and white feathers in wings and tail and their hackles when cut out, were snow-white underneath.
The Pickets are light Red yellow and white legged Whitehackles in appearance. Now then the Black and Tans, which help make up the Pickets, were descended from the same Herrisford Brown RED cock that founded the Duryea strain. This 11-time winning Herrisford brown Red cock was bred to the last living Eslin RED QUILL hen in 1885.
Mr. Eslin died in 1886. His fowl were unbeaten since he founded them in about 1842 and they were known as Eslin Brown Reds, until about 1865, when they were called Red Quills. Mr. Eslin NEVER lost a main in his lifetime with his cocks.
When Mr. Eslin gave Mr. O'Conor the last living hen of his Eslin Red Quill strain,
he stated that the last cock had died several years before. He was the sire of the hen and had fought the Bottom weight in the Claiborne main in 1876. He had died in 1884.
Mr. O'Conor bred the Eslin hen to the 11 times winning Herrisford Brown Red cock, the same cock that founded the unbeaten Duryea strain, and from the produce of brother and sister matings, he proceeded to win 32 consecutive mains.
The blood of that Herrisford Brown Red cock courses through the veins of Madigin's Clarets through the Duryea hen mother of the Claret strain and through the New Hope cock called Black Spur, 1917, who won 9 times; also "Belle Aurore" Duryea cock bred to Claret hens in 1928 and through the "Brown Butterfly" hen in 1922.
After breeding Black Spur, both Madigin and Deans were astonished to get many white chickens in their Clarets. They did not know where to place the blame. They got a throwback to the white blood in the Daddy of the Clarets, which blended with the white blood in Black Spur and Whites appeared for the first time.
In 1927, a pure Duryea hen, bred in France by Mr. Duryea, produced a fine son out of an Earl of Clonmell, Kildaire, Ireland Duryea cock. Madigin obtained his cock from Mr. O'Conor and bred him, after fighting him in Orlando Tournament in 1928, to Claret hens out of Black Spur New Hope-Duryea line.
This cock was out of Duryea's "Belle Aurore" hen. This cock was the grandsire of the old 8-time winning Black Spur Blinker fowl that sired Madigin's Orlando Tournament winners in 1935 and the same year beat Thommy Murphy $5,000 at Troy, N.Y.
H.B Durea Letter
January 7th, 1914
Dear Major Carson:
Mr. Bird is right in a way - about 30 years ago, I got the original hens I now have from Charles Coolidge, and after I fought my first big main with John Hunter, I crossed one of them with a brown-red cock I got from Kearney that fought in that main. That must be 28 years ago, and from that day to this, there has been no outcross - simply a matter of the most minute selection. Nothing that we didn't think was absolutely first class ever stayed on a walk or breeding farm, and consequently, hundreds got the ax, both males and females.
Herman Duryea, a millionaire, and a student at Harvard University had secured
some Yellow Birchen fowl from an Englishman COLERIDGE, (to whom Mr. Duryea referred as "Coolidge") After Coleridge defeated him in a main at Frank Coolidge's pit, Watertown, Massachusetts.
Duryea was able to secure a few specimens of the Yellow Birchen strain for the SUM OF $5,000 and after he crossed them with a Brown Red cock that Kearney's uncle Quinn Bobby had brought to America he fought and won way over 100 mains and losing only one main, and that to John Hoy, when Kearney wanted to pay forfeiture due to sick cocks. Duryea fought his mains for, $5,000 to $50,000 on the odd.
The Kearney Slip Spur Herrisford Brown Red cock that Duryea referred to in his letter to Major Carson had won 11 times, 6 of them in mains vs the Eslins. This same cock was the foundation cock that Andrew P. O'Conor used to found his Black and Tan strain with which he won 32 consecutive mains. John Madigin's Clarets contain three infusions of this Brown Red Herrisford cock.