The White Java
by Jim Ward
On to this stage arrived the White Java. Thanks to the recent research efforts of Glenis Marsh we can piece together its brief history. The White Javas that eventually were accepted into the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection descended from the Black Java flock of Professor W. C. Tucker of Erie County, New York. The story of their origin is recounted in the New England Fancier (1887) volume II, number 6, and again with several added details in the American Agriculturalist (1889) page 431. In 1877 Professor Tucker hatched three white chicks, a cockerel and two pullets, from his Black Java flock. These Whites he kept strictly separated from his Blacks, eventually creating two separate carefully bred lines of Whites. Professor Tucker’s White Javas had yellow legs and white plumage, but in all other respects were comparable to the Black Javas of the day.
In 1888, four white breeds of chickens were admitted to the Standard of Perfection: White Rocks, White Javas, White Wyandottes, and White Dirigos (The American Breeds of Poultry, Frank Platt, 1921). There was considerable debate about the admission of so many white breeds and how to distinguish them. (I remind the modern poultry enthusiast that the type differences between Plymouth Rocks and Javas were not as large as they are today. Certainly, the Plymouth Rock wasn’t as refined as it is today and it had only been perhaps 20 years since it had descended from the Java.) Ultimately it was decided that the White java would be admitted with a requirement for willow (greenish) legs at least in part to distinguish it from the White Rocks.
For the Standard committee to require willow legs suggests that they were aware of White Javas that had them or at least leaned in that direction. However, since the vast majority of White Javas descended from Professor Tucker’s which had yellow legs it was deaths knell for the variety because they couldn’t be shown without being disqualified. The breeders of the day had no choice but to fold the White Java into the White Rock. In 1898 the White Java was dropped from the Standard and the variety gradually went extinct (The Book of Poultry, Thomas Fletcher McGrew, 1921). (The Dirigos were also dropped. They were basically a line of White Rocks even from the beginning.)
I am not aware of any published reports of the debate that led to the decision to drop the White Java from the Standard. For a long time, I suspected that it was purely a political decision to protect the White Rocks at the expensive of the White Javas because of the power exerted over the American Poultry Association by the early White Rock breeders. I thought it was blatantly unfair to require the White Javas to have willow legs. I thought the reason the White Rocks won out was because the hatcheries and breeders of the day made more money promoting new breeds riding on the coattails of the popular Barred Rock. Recently though I have changed my opinion. I now think that the decision wasn’t an ugly political decision made at the expense of the White Java but one that ultimately reflected a wise compromise that would save the Black Java from extinction.
article by Jim Ward
Jim Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org