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Blosls Rhode Island Reds

History of the Mohawk Rhode Island Reds
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History of the Mohawk Large Fowl I I Red

By Robert Blosl   

I just received a email from a fellow who belongs to a group of Heritage Poultry Fowl Enthusiasts asking the question how the Mohawk line of Single Comb Rhode Island Red Large Fowl got started. It began in Canada by a breeder whose name was Maurice Wallace of Iroquois Canada. He crossed many strains of large fowl Reds on to his line in the early 1900s and started a line called 6 Nation Reds. The names of the Six Nations that Mr. Wallace used where from Indianan tribes like the Mohawks, Oneida, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Tuscarora Indian nations. In the process of picking great looking Rhode Island Red Large Fowl he started to develop a strain of fantastic type and colored Rhode Island Reds as good as anyone in North America.

 In or about 1928 Mr. Wallace showed a Rhode Island Red Cockerel named Mohawk V. at the Poultry Show in Ottawa Canada. The great Poultry Artist and Judge Arthur Schilling judged this great male and made him Champion American Class and of course best Rhode Island Red in the show. Later that night in a hotel room Judge Schilling was rooming with senior judge a Mr. Johnson and he said I guess that Rhode Island Red Cockerel will be the Grand Champion of the show and Mr. Johnson fired back the Hell he will be the Light Brahma Cockerel is going to be Champion of the show. Schilling was shocked to be hearing this in his ears. He has never seen or Photographed such a Rhode Island Red in his life and the bird is not worthy of being champion of a show and will lose to a light Brahma.  Latter the next day the Light Brahma was crowned by Judge Johnson and Schilling Grand Champion of the show and Mohawk V. was Reserve Champion of the show. The famous Mohawk V. was of course second runner up, but the most interesting thing I can tell you about this story is that it’s a dream of a life time for a breeder to raise and breed one great bird, but at this show the Light Brahma which was the finest specimen Judge Johnson ever saw in his life was breed by Maurice Wallace. Imagine raising two magnificent large fowl in one year and showing them in impeccable condition at one of Canada’s major Poultry Shows.

Mohawk V. Sold: Later about a year later I am sure after Mr. Wallace used this great bird on many of his females he sold this Mohawk VS. Red Male to Mrs. Donaldson of Decatur Georgia for $150.. Mrs. Donaldson was one of the great breeders who started with her Rhode Island Reds in 1912 with a start from Owen Farms of Massachusetts.  She later had two lines of her Reds and she called on line her lines the Mohawk line even in breed pamphlets in the 1940s. I thought the line came from the Mohawk country of New York from a famous Red Breeder who had a high egg production line but it was this male from Mr. Wallace sold to Mrs. Donaldson.

I. WE. Reese Jr.: Mrs. Donaldson died in the late 1960s and Mr. Reese along with a friend Buddy Day purchased all of her large fowl. Thought the years both breeders produced outstanding Rhode Island Reds and Mr. Reese shared most of his large fowl each year by selling 25 baby chicks and sending them to his customers. One such breeder was Dennis Meyers who was from Ohio and breed them and won so many shows with his large fowl. I don’t know of any one else who got their start from Mr. Reese other than Dennis who had such success and kept the strain going for so many years.

My visit to Mr. Reese’s Farm: I went to see Mr. Reese in March of 1989 when I attended the spring show in Thompson Georgia . We went to this show and to  visited many Rhode Island Red breeders from the south and we  became good friends with the owners of Dry Creek Farms of Fairhope Alabama who have been buying Single Comb Rhode Island Reds from Mr. Reese for at least five years. At the farm Mr. Reese showed me all of his large fowl and his mating then he took me to a pen where one fantastic pullet was matted to a unbelievable male. I told Mr. Reese that this is the best Rhode Island Red Cockerel I ever saw. I reached down and picked him up and he said Robert that’s a six year old cock bird. I said there is no way this bird is that old. Mr. Reese said look at his spurs?  Man the spurs on this male where at least six inches long. I said how did you get such a great male? Mr. Reese told me about six years ago I raised six wonderful pullets from one of my mating and I got this one great cockerel and that’s the only one but he was special. This great cockerel   has looked wonderful every year since. I asked Mr. Reese do you have any of these old hens left sisters to this male. He replied, I sold all of them over the years I have no idea where they are now.

Trip to Dry Creek Farms: Latter the following fall I took a job working in Mobile Alabama and lived in a small city called Silverhill Alabama which was about 15 miles from Dry Creek Farm. Nancy Fitz Morris and Anna Pearson owners of Dry Creek from told me they would give me a pair of Large Fowl as a gift to help me get started. Where do you want to start first looking bob? I said show me your old hens. I was taken to some pens that where only about four feet tall off the ground and looked into the pens and saw a female that really caught my eye. I crawled on my belly and caught her and came out and I told Nancy this is the best looking pullet I have seen in years. Nancy said Bob that’s a old six year old hen. I said Nancy there is no way this is a old hen she looks like a pullet. Then I said did you buy this hen from Mr. Reese.? She said about five years ago. She has won us a lot of awards over the years. She is the mother of the male you liked that you called War Eagle. So we put her in a box and  went looking for War Eagle. I found War Eagle out in the field with a couple of Red Females I named him War Eagle because he could see hawks and buzzards high up in the air and yell out a scream to tell the other birds in the yards to run for cover he was like a leader and fit the law that I believed in called the Fit of the Fittest Principle . Then Anna came with a female and said Bob this will make a good breeder she has the best type you ever saw but we can show her as she lost her eye to fowl pox and a mosquito bite. I said to myself she looked a lot like the pullet Mr. Reese had in that breeding pen with that six year old cock bird. I said I will take her. Then I needed another male. I saw a male that caught my eye and I said to the girls who are that male bird. OF that’s whodunit. Why did you call him that? He always finds a way to get out of a pen. You cannot keep in a cage. Then I said he sounds like he has a great sense to survive and has great Red Type. So he was my second free male to start my strain with. I latter found out the two males where related and came out of a mating were the six year old hen was in. So I said to myself, maybe the two males where the old hens son that’s exciting thing to hope for down the road as I breed my new strain.

Finding the lost genes:    As I mated the two females to the two males I realized I had a feather quality problem, My new I WE Reese strain with the young off spring after my first year of hatching showed the feather quality from one female was very poor and stringy.  The one eye pullet had the poor feather quietly as a pullet, but great type and worth breeding from. I also saw her sisters in a pen one day that I helped take care of when the two girls went to a chicken show. I noticed when I was feeding these pen sisters there tops of their backs where shredded feathers no tight webs could be found just nice dark feathers on these Red Pullets. This latter proved to me that many who breed Rhode Island Reds put too much emphasis on color instead of type and feather quality.  So over the period of five years I picked chicks that feathered the fastest and would carry the fast feathering egg laying gene. This method of choosing fast feathering gene was a method founded by Walter Hogan in a book I read called The Call of the Hen that he wrote in 1914. As I did this I started seeing my pullets with tighter feathering on their backs like you see in hens and as I did this I started to see type on my birds that you dream of having. Then one year I raised a cockerel named number 68. I sent him to the 1998 Ohio National Show and he did not place. Matt Lamont kept him one more month and showed him at the Connersville Indiana show and he would best Rhode Island Red. Matt sent him back to me and from this male I developed what I called the Mohawk line of my Rhode Island Red Large Fowl.

Greg Calmness Line:  The only person I know who has my old strain of Mohawk large fowl and breed them pure is Greg Calmness from Knoxville Illinois. Greg got 10 Started chicks from me and bought 8 birds I sold to a fellow from Kentucky who I sold as chicks about 10 years ago. Also, he purchased two males I sold a 4-H youth from Texarkana Texas and at about five years of age crossed these old males onto some of my old hens that where 7 to 9 years old. Greg had great results with this cross. Today Greg has the only pure line that he has line breed for over ten years in the County.

Sharing the Line:   Greg has been sharing this Mohawk line of large fowl with others and it is my hope and dream that these people will breed them pure as this line of Rhode Island Reds go back to 1912 with the original Owens Farms Cross as well as the Mohawk V. male Mrs. Donaldson crossed into her line in the 1920s. To my knowledge this is the oldest line of Rhode Island Red large fowl alive in the world. May this story help others get this stain of large fowl Reds and try to search for the lost gene of the famous Mohawk V.

 Long live the majestic Rhode Island Red Large Fowl.

 

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