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The Orpington in Australia


The Orpington Fowl has enjoyed a long and distinguished history since it first found it’s way to these shores in the years leading up to 1900. The first importations came from the original William Cook lines, with firstly Blacks followed by the newly developed Whites and Buffs. Interestingly enough, these three varieties were also seen with the Rose Comb and these too arrived here, mainly consigned to fanciers in and around Sydney (N.S.W.)


Blues, Cuckoos and Jubilees followed during the first decade of the new Century, but really only found favour with show fanciers. Such was not the case with the three original imported varieties however, with each gaining a strong foothold in the burgeoning poultry industry of the day. These early Orpingtons were as Cook intended, all being very good layers. In fact, the Black variety dominated the Egg Laying Competitions at Hawkesbury Agricultural College for years after the inception of that prestigious event.


However, the winds of change were about to take place, with the original “ Cook- Type” Black Orpingtons gradually evolving into what became the famous Australorp Fowl. In fact, the new development of these “ Australorps” saw them consistently break world laying records with stock

being exported back to Britain! The “ Cook- Type” Orpingtons also played a role in the development of the Australian Langshan, a breed which is now among the most popular in it’s Country of origin.


The Show Orpington. As the years rolled on till the 1930’s, the Buff and White Orpingtons remained popular as a show fowl, retaining most of the characteristics of the original importations. However, the huge success being experienced on the British show bench by the much heavier plumaged

“Partington- Type” Black Orpingtons had it’s perceived effect on the Australian show breeders.


This glamorous, fluffy type of Black Orpington became all the rage on the local show scene and they began to dominate the major awards. With the emphasis now being placed on extreme feather and size, this show type Orpington gradually lost it’s utility qualities, egg laying ability and fertility. Nevertheless, they were still an outstanding breed for the exhibitor, regularly taking out major awards at our leading shows right through till the early 1950’s, but their faithful band of followers started to diminish, and in many areas they could be classed as a rare breed. Despite this, each State could boast a nucleus of very fine Black Orpington breeders, though with few exceptions, very little competition.

The Whites virtually disappeared, the Buffs maintained their original “ Cook- Type” form in fairly good numbers, with the Cuckoos and Blues barely surviving. Due to the 1947 embargo on the importation of avian material, the Orpington gene pool became increasingly small , the obvious result being that the breed was teetering on the brink of extinction in this Country. The Black Orpingtons had degenerated into poor laying, mean headed specimens with useless thigh and lower body fluff dragging on the ground, quite different to the bird that William Cook created.

The Standard Buff Orpingtons became, as they did overseas, the most widely kept variety of Orpingtons, and very good numbers were maintained at all the leading shows in the Country. They were not be-devilled by the crazy fancier fads that were experienced by the Black variety, and consequently maintained their usefulness as a great utilitarian fowl for the back yard. Note - Today, the Australian Buffs are very much unlike the winners currently being seen in Europe. They have probably gravitated too much towards the “Old – Type” Orpingtons that used to be shown in Britain. Midway between the two types would be ideal, but until the ban on imports is lifted that dream is far away.

The Bantam Orpingtons were seen in Australia on very rare occasions since the 1930’s, almost exclusively limited to the Black variety, and of generally poor quality. Their very few supporters usually confined their show activities to the local rural areas and they never gained much favour at all. With the advent of the early 1980’s, the Orpington in Australia would have been regarded as a “Rare Breed” with the exception of a strong band of breeders in South Australia.

Thanks to a small number of breeders in Western N.S.W, in 1985, the Orpington Club of Australia was formed and the breed took it’s first steps on the way back.

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