This page is devoted to a short visual and written history - as far as I have been able to gather (more to come) - of the beginnings of the European longtail breeds Yokohama and Phoenix. The first imported animals were reported as being of very weak consititution and sickly. Outcrosses were made immediately in desperate efforts to keep the genepool of the extreme long tail feathers alive. Mr. Hug du Roi is the most noted figure in historical content that I have been able to discover, but I feel certain that if the British breeders would come out of secrecy and hiding, that other, namely UK figures would be added to this historical list.
We are very fortunate to have these historical photographs from Hugo du Roi's breeding programme. Mr. du Roi was the first president of the National Poultry Association of Germany and, as a fancier of the newly imported longtail (probably a proto Onagadori), he promoted the "Phoenix" breed as the bird of fables and legends. His diligent husbandry created the basis from which all mainland Europe's longtails. The extreme lenghts of tails, which comes from the non-moulting gene of the breed Onagadori "gt", was seemingly maintained for a number of decades of breeding. The non-moulting gene was lost after the World Wars, and it is a small miracle that this breed wasn't extinguished with the practically-minded regime of that day.
The birds illustrated in these two photographs below from around the turn of last century show triple pea combs, very full and long saddle feathers, mutant sickles (see breeding longtails for more on this aspect)
Two more historical photographs of birds from or descendant from Mr du Roi' breeding programmes. These are fine examples of the high quality longtails that were present around the turn of the last century. The colour of the Black Breasted Reds look darker than what judges ask for in shows on mainland Europe today. The silver cock below show the hackle without black midstripe, a characteristic of today's Onagadori. Gamefowl Phoenix in Europe almost all have some midstripe.
Quite a stir occured when the first Phoenix / Yokohamas were displayed at shows in Germany and across Europe. The illustration below left shows the tail of a cock with mutant sickles, long couverts and saddle hackle. The illustration below and the photographs above are very similar phenotypes.
n England the breeding of Longtails followed fairly similar routes as in Europe, except that the birds were not typed as strictly according to colour, comb type or lef colour as in Europe. These two photograph below right shows an extremely fine Gamefowl-coloured Silver Duckwing and a pea-combed bird with strong asiatic gamefowl influence (as in the Red-Shouldered Yokohama). Historically speaking from a European perspective, the British phenotype for the "Yokohama" is perhaps closer to the original imports than the exclusively single-combed, white ear-lobed Phoenix.
These illustrations below show the phenotype of the Gamefowl-coloured Yokohama / Phoenix as we've know them up until the late 1970's when Onagadori was crossed into diverse lines in Germany, and further crosses made with Leghorn, Malayan, Krueper, Modern English Game, Old English Game and Bantam Phoenix. I have no idea what the giant, ostrich-sized egg is supposed to illustrate. Surely the artist did not think that such an egg would belong to these birds!?
Interesting here, again, is the absence of the long saddles and trailing coverts. These illustrations below are from Belgium, and are from approximately the same period as the photographs from England and those from du Roi breeding lines. These difference, however, between these two sets of illustrations is great genetically speaking.
This antique magazine cover below that I got at auction in San Marco shows what would have been a true Onagadori at the period of time when Europe was crossing with gamefowl to make their longtails of Japanese descent hardier.
I would like to link here an extremely interesting letter, published in the spring of 1997, sent to me by Julia Keeling of the Isle of Man, BRITISH ISLES, the Yokohama Registrar. See The Yokohamas of Britain.