Uses: Utility – Eggs.
Origin: Italy. Eggs: 180 – 250 large white.
Weight: Cock: 3.4Kg.Hen: 2.5Kg.
Bantam Cock: 1.02Kg. Hen: 910g.
Colours: Black, Blue, Brown, Buff, Cuckoo, Golden Duckwing, Silver Duckwing, Exchequer, Black Mottled, Red Mottled, Partridge, Pile, White (Standardised UK).
Useful to Know: Can be prolific egg layers that rarely go broody. Early to mature, hardy birds. Light weight, can fly well.
Photo: White Leghorn owned by Ian Mills. Photo courtesy Rupert Stephenson.
Leghorn chickens originate from Italy, being sent to America around 1830. It is quite often thought of as an American bird since it was refined and perfected into a stable breed in the United States before being shipped back to Europe. It arrived in the UK in 1869. White Leghorns have been the main Egg producers in North America, as the American marketplace has demanded white eggs and has been used extensively in Battery cage systems over there.
Commercial strains of white Leghorns can be very good egg layers, laying around 250 or more eggs per year. Show strains will lay far less than this though. Even though Leghorns started off as the same birds in the US and UK back in the 1870’s, and there were many shipments to and from America of different colour varieties and gradually over time, they went in opposite directions according to the fashions of the time.
The British went for bigger birds, larger combs and lobes with tight tails and the Americans went for exactly the opposite. By the end of the first World War, the shipments stopped as they were of no use to one another. Leghorns effectively became two different breeds maintaining the same name. Today, the breeds still maintain these differences and it is clear to see the differences when looking at photos of the Leghorn in American and British written books.
In Germany, Leghorns are called Italieners and in Holland, they are called Leghorns. The standards are very similar there and are very close to the original birds that came from Italy with the exception of a few features. These European birds look far more like the Utility type Leghorns that you find in the UK.
Photo right: Head of a white Leghorn. Photo courtesy of Rupert Stephenson.
The following books are available. Links take you to the Amazon or other sellers’ pages for the books.
- Popular Poultry Breeds – D. Scrivener – P.107
- Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds – C. Ekarius P.58
- British Poultry Standards – P.161
- American Standard of Perfection – P.117
- Leghorn Fowls – Exhibition and Utility – C. A House
- UK: The Leghorn Club
- NL: The Dutch Leghorn Club – The Dutch Leghorn Club was founded in 1918 at the Avicoltura Show in The Hague. It intends to actively target as many people as possible and to awake their interest for both the standard and bantam Leghorn while preserving the breed’s characteristics. The website provides lots of good information. It is in Dutch, German and English languages.
- AUS: The Leghorn Club of Australia – The Leghorn Club of Australia Inc. was founded in 1947 and was originally known as “The Black Leghorn Club”
- AUS: The Leghorn Club of Australia (Queensland Branch)
- CZ: Klub chovatelů vlašek – The Czech Club for German Type Leghorns
- Please leave a comment below if you can provide further information or have a question about Leghorn chickens.