Contributed by Marc King

The ONAGADORI means, roughly translated "Honourable Fowl" and is a phenonema of animal breeding. A combination of genes, but one in particular called "nm", causes the extravagantly long growth of the tail feathers. An Onagadori's key trademark is the non-molting tail feathers that, if kept in the best of conditions with high levels of animal husbandry, grow for the life of the roosters. A portion of the tail does partially molt their sickle feathers each year, although individual feathers may be shed only every second or third year.The hens molt normally, as do the feathers that cover the other parts of the body: head, breast, back and legs. Colours are Black Breasted Red, Black Breasted Silver, Goishi (a pale Black Breasted Golden) and White. The leg colour is willow in the Black Breasted variations and yellow in the whites. No blue leg is accepted in the Onagadori in Japan. There are many tales of the Onagadori's origins and its development but here is an excerpt from the 75th Anniversary Issue of the German Phoenix and Onagadori Association: In Japanese literature nothing exact has been reported as to the origins of the breed called the Onagadori. The Japanese believe, however, that this breed came about by mutations of the breed Shokoku in the middle of the Edo Period (1600 - 1868). Oral history has delivered us the story that the territorial Prince (Shogun?) Yamanouchi in the Kochi Prefecture on the southern peninsula of Shikoku had the helmets and spears of his soldiers adorned with long rooster feathers for special occasions in order to honour the Emperor Tenno. The serfs and those subjected to the Prince, the farmers, who kept chickens of this type and delivered feathers for this important ornamental purpose were exempt from taxes. From this period, ca. 1655, onwards the (growth of longer feathers) steady lengthening of the feathers was to have had its beginnings. Helmets and spears of this period which are adorned with long rooster feathers can be seen today in Japanese museums. A Mr. Tekeichi Riuemon from Shinohara in the Prefecture of Kochi on the island of Shikoku was supposed to have had a major breakthrough in breeding for the longtails. For this reason the Onagadori's from this period were called "Shinoharato". After a period of time these birds were called "Nagaodori". Later one referred to them simply as "Tosa" in reference to the province in which the were mainly bred. In the vicinity of the city of Kochi, on the street heading for the city of Nangoku, a monument was erect to honour Takeichi, a stone memorial that is still extant to this day. The Japanese botanist Koyu Nishimura published a book in the year Ansei 4 (1857) with the title "Sketches and Thoughts" in which he described the phenomena of the continuous growth of the tail feathers of the Onagadori. >From this point onwards the Onagadori was well know even among the common people of Japan. The Onagadori became fully distinct and "thoroughbred" in the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926). From this point in time the tail feathers reached the incredible lengths of 6 metres and more. It is also in this period of time in which we find the explanations for the diverse comb and colour variations in the birds first imported to Europe.

Festschrift©German Phoenix and Onagadori Association
Translated by Marc King - used with permission

Back to the Other Standard Breeds Page

Copyright 1995-2004 by Dennis Hawkins, All Rights Reserved.