I have long admired the mottled pattern that we see today in many breeds such as Ancona, d'Uccle, Japanese, Cochin and others. This variety, to my surprise, is not available in the Old English. In 1987 I discussed the subject with Fred Jeffrey who felt that the variety could be created within the breed by crossing Spangled with Black. The objective of the experiment was to create a strain of Mottled Old English Game bantams without going out of the breed - this way, type and size could easily be maintained.
The first cross was Black O.K. cock, from my line, on two Spangled O.K. hens obtained from a neighbor, Harry Barbour. All birds had excellent type and the Spangles had a nice pattern with not too much white. This article is organized so that results are given from all the crosses and then at the end there will be a bit of genetic theorizing. The first generation (F1) was hatched in the spring of 1988 and a description follows:

Chick down - black with brownish red underbelly. True Blacks have grayish underbelly.
Leg color - dark (blackish).
Juvenile feathers - black with red speckling.
Adult plumage - Two males had black bodies with red hackle and saddle.
Two females were totally black.

Two crosses were made - first generation male with first generation females, and first generation male back to Spangled. Offspring were classified into groups:

Type A - Down color, black with white underbelly and white wing edges. Slate legs; dark eyes; black beak. Juvenile plumage was black with red speckling. Adult plumage like first generation.

Type B - Down color like Spangled; white legs; light horn beak; light eyes. Juvenile plumage was spangled and adult plumage mottled with light hackle and saddle.

Type C and D - Down color, black with white belly, wing tips and white spot on head and white around eyes. Legs were white with pinkish bottom and light slate tops. Pinkish white beak; dark red eyes. Juvenile plumage was mottled, some red in males but no red in females. Adult plumage: females were mottled. Males were mottled with red in hackle and saddle.

Mottled female crossed with brother gave mottled females with no red and mottled males with red in hackle and saddle.

The fact that after 3 generations mottled males still had considerable red in hackle and saddle is good proof that we are not dealing with a simple inheritance of black. Red in hackle of black males is very common following cross breeding and this experiment is no different than many others which have been reported. That mottling (mo mo) is a simple recessive is confirmed in these crosses. It is also confirmed that the mottling gene is responsible for the spangling in the Spangled O.E. It is likely that the Spangled O.E. carries a gene for dark red which possibly is mahogany (mh). Geneticists are just beginning to realize how complicated is the inheritance of black. Until we know more on what the E gene (extended black) looks like, it will not be possible to know how other genes interact to cover up red. Two such genes for black, M1 (melanotic) and sg (recessive black) have been identified but there are probably more.

The development of the Mottled Old English is no longer postulation. The remaining function is to improve the color pattern to meet the A.B.A. standardized description without major defect. Selection of standard eye, shank and beak color remains open at this time. Achieving the standard pattern is no mystery, however it does require proper selection of parental stock for continued breeding. The initial cross to the Spangled parent is necessary to obtain the desired genetic imprint for mottling on a black background. Once the initial cross is made, the breeder should never go back to the Spangled parent because it will prolong the existence of the red factor. Selection of black offspring for future crosses is desired for successful accomplishment of the proper color and pattern. The phenotype of the offspring need not be mottled, as the (mo) gene is recessive.
Crossing of the offspring will result in the desired phenotype in the F2 and F3 generations. Selection of breeding stock should be based on the following: no solid white feathers, dark shanks, dark beak, O.E. type and vigor. It is preferable to use a solid black parent with the (ma) factor, then one with solid white plumage, light shanks and beak.
Selection of the Mottled pattern can be made at hatching. Chicks with black down, white around wing tips, eyes and breast result in the best adult plumage. Beaks and shanks will also be dark. Chicks of mostly white down with some black peppering, light shanks and beaks, will mature with solid white feathers in plumage. The lighter chicks should be separated and saved, as I believe they are the precursor to another variety, which will be discussed later. Remember, the ideal Mottled Old English is basically a black bird with white feather tips. The bird should be dark with even mottling and good Old English type. Recommended standard color to achieve the perfect mottled pattern as described in the A.B.A. Standard of Perfection, shank and beak color must be dark.
I suggest the following standard for the Mottled Old English: Comb, face and wattles-red, Beak-mottled, Shanks-mottled black (lighter in later years), Toes-white or mottled, Eyes-red, Defect-solid white feathers(except: male primaries 2 allowed.)

By Robert Padula

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Updated JAN 20, 2012

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