Greetings, AC Members!:>
Throughout the years, 'History of Game Strains' has been one of my most favored of 'reads'! Truly a 'Treasure-Chest' of gold nuggets, but I find the history of 'The Asil' by C.A. Finsterbusch to be the 'cream-of-the-crop'!!!! Hence, I've transposed his history into a rather lengthy 'cut & paste'...BUT hopefully, some enjoyment will be brought to those, willing to take the 'time-out' for a "GREAT READ"!
I've locked the thread, simply to maintain the integrity of the material, in its totality. However, with that being said...I've also started a thread titled:> "Thoughts on The Asil by C.A. Finsterbusch", where hopefully, a continuing discussion can take place for ALL of our AC members! ENJOY and best regards!:> CyberDave
The Asil BY C. A. FINSTERBUSH.
*Histories of Game Strains (History of Cockfighting Series) (Kindle Locations 1417-1419). Read Books Ltd.. Kindle Edition.
There is something strikingly particular about this fowl. The outstanding quality of this ancient breed being an abnormal deep gameness, in fact so marked deep,— that it cannot be expressed in words, using the standard measure of high class western cocks. The word “Asil” denoting not a mere name to identify a breed, but it is an idea summing up nobility, high breeding, courage and desperate gameness. British sportsmen have first used the word Asil to identify the breed of cocks that are found in the Central provinces from Patna along the Ganges, Benares, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpur, Agra and Gwalior. Travelers visiting these places find several breeds of poultry that are sometimes related to the Warrior tribe of high caste, but which obviously are graded. Now and then gamecocks are found cooped or kept in enclosures, and which may be readily bought for some Rupees. They are called game, and to a certain extent may be considered as such, as they are by no means bad. But from these offshoots, coming in all colours, up to the high caste Asil, there is a worldwide difference. What is termed Asil in those districts, is a distinct bird entirely. It is even difficult to see them as they are kept entirely out of harm’s way.Patna along the Ganges, Benares, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpur, Agra and Gwalior. Travelers visiting these places find several breeds of poultry that are sometimes related to the Warrior tribe of high caste, but which obviously are graded. Now and then gamecocks are found cooped or kept in enclosures, and which may be readily bought for some Rupees. They are called game, and to a certain extent may be considered as such, as they are by no means bad. But from these offshoots, coming in all colours, up to the high caste Asil, there is a worldwide difference. What is termed Asil in those districts, is a distinct bird entirely. It is even difficult to see them as they are kept entirely out of harm’s way.
*(The following and continuing text written by Finsterbush, is a most wonderful ‘narrative’ account of our most beloved Aseel/Asil)> Yes, it a rather ‘long-read’ BUT most worthy of your time and academic reflection! ENJOY, my friends!:> CyberDave
Abdul Vurma is a native cocker from Lucknow, trainer to Mr. C. D. Camper, who keeps some of the pure strains, for nothing more than fighting. He does not breed all the numbers he can, but only that quantity that can be fought and conditioned in the highest imaginable form. I merely reproduce here what I have been able to learn in long years of correspondence and incessant investigation. Abdul Vurma keeps every hen, with enviable records, separately. They have each a fairly good amount of garden to roam about. They like to dig deep holes around the soft and sandy soil that forms near the bamboo plants. These are high and thickly set. The leaves that fall constantly form a deep bed, where it is a delight to scratch in search of little bugs that are abundant. In a shadowy, cool corner a nest has been arranged with bricks. When the night comes, Abdul goes into every pen and smilingly picks up one hen, takes her into the house and after a short examination she is cooped under a basket-like crate, shaped like a beehive, though twice as large. The same operation is done with each and every hen. Only the young stock is allowed to roam in a flock in another walk. But they are constantly observed and sleep in a special room. Provisions are made to avoid the entrance of robbers, both human or animal. The cocks are constantly kept cooped and are liberated during the day for a few hours exercise. When not in moult, they are trained constantly. Abdul keeps a record of the eggs that are now beginning to come. He noticed time ago the arrival of the season and has made his choice of cocks. Three hens that are exactly alike in blood are accustomed to each other keeping them in coops and accompanied by a cock, whose value as breeder has been ascertained in about three years of closest observation. It is a cock of the Ghan strain. This cock has no defect that could be detected. His comb has been trimmed years ago, when fought for the first time. Other hens, of the same and other strains, are equally matched to choice cocks. Some hens accept the marriage proposition with visible joy. Others less so, but that black hen, “Gohra” by name, is inclined to fight the cock. She is the worst layer, but her sons are so high quality fighters. that no egg from her is spared or dare go lost. For Abdul it was always a matter of speculation, in former years, to choose a proper mate for her, as she was from the black strain, and no cock available round Lucknow. They got a famous cock of the same blood in Cawnpur, 66 kilometers from Lucknow, and the offspring showed such remarkable quality that she was subsequently bred to her first son, the same that won a three days’ fight in Gwalior against a noted winner. Although she is 7 years old, she is bred from, and will be in coming years. The Blacks are highly reputed for their outstanding beauty and staying powers. Quicker than the “Ghan” strain, they indulge in sudden attacks of bestial fury, that not seldom wrecks the antagonist. They do not seem to worry about how offensive the other cocks are, they fight and fight with an amazing consistency, clever and savage. Some noted cockers do not fancy the Blacks, stating that they are a new tribe, but Abdul sticks to them, knowing there are no better in the whole region of Oudh, formerly Ayodhya. “Gohra,” the black hen, came from the United Provinces, where she was the last hen of a noted strain reared almost on the embankments of the Kosila river. Her caste is so high, and her sons so deadly good, that they are spared for very seldom occasions, when Mr. Camper will back them heavily. They are specially good when fought unbandaged. The trouble with this strain, confesses Abdul, is that they throw about 50% whites among the females. These are killed off early, and only occasionally are sold to traders coming all the way by rail from Calcutta. The clever Hindu trainer remembers this incident and the fact that some of the offspring come rather leggy. “It is the Kulm blood, no doubt.” At least they are not bad off, as the other pure strains sometimes also throw off-type specimens. Thus, the Sonatawals have been produced from selecting off-shoots of the Ghan strain. They are immensely game too, not quite as reliable as the Ghan, but evidently of greater speed. These Sonatawals are sometimes a bit weak in the tail, come with longer wings, and their spurs being slightly upcurved are of elliptical section, so as if they were produced by a double spur grown together. Reversion to Southern blood, which is said to have been used to produce the Asil cocks, several thousands of years ago. There are two other black hens, which are kept in the bamboo railed tree garden. They roam at ease here,— both sisters,— from the same dam and sire. They are so much alike that if it was not for a scar on “Sita’s” comb, even Abdul would find it difficult to identify them. Both are of the Rampur strain and reared in the garden they now occupy by themselves since their mother was found dead— evidently killed by a cobra. Abdul never found the snake alive, but one day he found “Sita” and “Rada,” both sisters, devouring the presumable killer of their mother. As the cobra was found to be female with all indications of having laid her eggs only a short time before, a mungo was procured, and since then kept in the garden, making perfect friends to both hens.
They were then named the “cobrakillers” and as such are their offspring known, and— reputed. KAPTANS— A highly reputed strain, reported to be dangerous as cobras, the astute, venomous Indian snake. Three of them have killed their respective adversaries, early in the battle— too early for Indian likes. But they have shown later on that it was not mere accident, but the enormous power these birds develop when warmed up in full action. Abdul has procured some very quick cocks from Birmah, to be used as sparrers, and as expected, noted that the somewhat slow action of these cocks, usually displayed with their near kin antagonists, changed to such dashing activity that it is well believed that they have a mighty chance against a full grown cobra. Thus they have earned their name. Abdul can write too. Not sufficiently for a white man to read and understand his notes, but good enough for him and his work. You see,— since a boy, as his son is doing now, he started to help his brown father to care for cocks and hens, (chicks are never entrusted to boys), and so he learnt only what the white lady, who taught the Sahib’s sons could teach him in her spare hours. And that was quite a lot after all. Abdul learnt to use the drawing pencil, and though his cocks come rather stout, and his snakes far too long, everybody will recognize his elephants, which are invariably white, and wear two eyes. I have one of these elephants drawn on dark paper. There is not one bristle missing.
When the hens lay their eggs, day by day, Abdul makes his notes on a book, which is truly a pedigree record for Mr. Camper. If in doubt, the latter asks Abdul, who knows the whole story, of every cock from the shell to the final day of his career. Abdul’s book can talk, and there is no mistake in what he says. In former days, Abdul used to record eggs with funny little white stones set in rows on a sort of table. The stones being heaped as soon as the hen went broody. When the chicks came out, they were replaced by red, yellow and black seed corns, and the whole system worked fine until the little brown Rama,— his only son,— thought they were a fine toy for him. This was his first mischief and for that he got the first severe licking in his life. Seldom that the trainer leaves the yards and house. He has three assistants with him, and besides Mr. Camper, the Sahib, employs two more trainers in the season. When it is time, they do nothing else than training the cocks that are to be fought. The Sahib does not like to keep too many games, it is not quantity, but quality that he is after. That is why he got rid of the whole strain of Kaptans. They were exceedingly beautiful, slender and high. Dark-reds in colour with orange-red beak and legs. A few white specks on the body, and some white feathers in wing and tail. They too, threw some white specimens, and some of the progeny came nearly grey, “Jauxi,” as it is called, and perfectly abhorred by the real cocker. They are not good enough for any of the Asil fowl, and though they can whip most any cock of the lower castes matched in natural spurs, they are not granted a place where the pure, the true, the immaculate birds of unsullied decent grace the coops. A cocker in India does not go openly to some probable adversary of the next fight, but he will employ scouts to hear and see what others are doing for the season. Abdul never learnt anything new by this method, but whatever determination he took after months of thoughtful consideration, it proved to be right. The more so, as he never dared to go outside the way, very far from what he learned from his beloved father. When the hens are broody they sit on their own eggs. Abdul never touches them. Other cockers do so liberally, and that is why so many are spoiled, he says. He allows the chicks to come out all by themselves, never rendering the slightest assistance. Only strong ones come out, and everybody is sure that the small lots that run along in their walks, are truly strong and healthy. Some are found dead here and there, and the wise trainer knows immediately if they died poisoned or bitten by some vermin. One of the Mungos developed a taste for chicken, and since the old hen run him down, he has not attempted the trick again, till he was found dead under a bucket. As the chicks grow, disaster grows evenly. The mother’s yolk in them has too much of the fighting spirit to be overseen. When the weather becomes warm, and atmospherical depressions influences the mind, the yolkings start fights that are bloody, nay, mortal. No use to separate them. Loosened again, they start it anew, chewing at each other, biting and hitting. This infantile gameness and fighting spirit is distressing for the feelings of the Sahib. He urges to separate the chickens and to keep them so until the fury vanishes But Abdul knows that it is not a momentary fury that causes the youngsters to fight. As he explains, it is the mother’s blood that is making first aparition in the offspring. Chicks that are weaker, that cannot stand that amount of biting, die. It is in the hard test that the good ones show their superiority, and this acid test kills, otherwise apparently sound chickens, before they got a chance to show up disgracefully. The survival of the fittest, that in game fowl, is carried on at such an early state induced by the maternal yolk. A game mother would jump furiously at any assailant menacing her brood, yet she tolerates with perfect indifference when two of her brood are tearing themselves to pieces. A cock interferes whenever two youngsters running under him start a fight.
DORA DIRZA— The real test for gameness, wind and endurance. The cocks are taped over spur stubs to avoid fatal accidents before their bottom quality shows up. Young Asils are carefully hand-fed from the very start to get them accustomed to the master’s hand. Later on they are almost invariably fed from the hand, the system being an aid to make them grow straight and reachy. At 7 months of age, after Abdul records, the stock is reviewed day by day, the faulty ones having been disposed of as soon as they show up. Combs are trimmed wherever necessary. With skilled hands the birds are handled and once more a few notices go on record. Four months later the stags commence their life seriously. They are specially fed and trained, until they reach a mature state. They are worked by hand, tossed, pressed and run. Carefully massaged, fomented and finally sparred. Wind and endurance are developed to the highest degree, their action and punch observed minutely, while their style and mental capacity are tried, teaching them tricks that are repeated with truly oriental patience. In this stage of his profession, Abdul is a master, and when a cock does not show sterling qualities he is looking for, is dispopsed of immediately. And so comes the day, when the Sahib tells Abdul that he has agreed with a party to fight five cocks and as he managed to wager heavily on his cocks, he must win. About twenty cocks are selected. The additional trainers appear and serious, secret work starts at once. The best weight for each cock is found out, and once the preliminary work has been settled the cocks are conditioned to the highest degree. Nobody counts or hopes for a quick fight. The spurs are shortened and tape is wound round the stumps, ninefold. The fights for the “Dora Dirza” have been described elsewhere. About five long and longer rounds per day, with pauses between each, called the “Parni.” Cocks are refreshed, cooled and dampened. The handlers are the most skillful men known the cocking world. They replace or remove broken feathers. They operate quickly wounds produced by smashing blows. Swollen parts are treated with efficacy, etc. The cocks fought did not show marked advantage, the first day, so Abdul puts them to sleep as soon as he can, caring to cover them with a hood, so long as other cocks are present. As the night falls, there is silence in Abdul’s cock house, and each one is sleeping almost at once. In a corner the man sets silently listening to each noise about the cocks. Then he hears the black one producing a slight rattling sound as he breathes. A moment waiting, to ascertain the fact, and then the cock is taken to the next room, where in the light he can examine the bird’s throat. He had got several hard blows on the windpipe, and the crab is to get the thing alright for tomorrow. He gets his basket from whence he produces a few small onions that grow wild in the near jungles. He cuts some slices which are placed round the swollen part and held in place with a soft bandage. The cock goes back to his coop and after a few hours the rattling has ceased completely. Knowing that all is well, Abdul joins his company in the next room where some eats are laid out. Chatting and eating they pass the time, until at about midnight a motor car stops at the place. The Sahib comes to see about the cocks,— being satisfied and naturally tired he soon leaves again. The men round the light inquire about that cock Abdul was nursing a few hours. “Oh, nothing so far” says Abdul, “he will start early tomorrow afternoon, and he will soon recover. That cock fights better the second day, and at best when he has got a thorough lot of punishment.” The expectation grows, as the one or the other calculates the chances the white Sahib has. Then they start chicken talk and reminiscences, and as usual they come to agree that the old-time birds were better than the modern ones. This is so the whole world through. It is only Abdul who keeps still at this, he estimates that the lot he had in preparation was the grandest he ever observed. Otherwise it would be a discredit to his skill, and this is his most vulnerable spot. Finally they fall asleep, and our man dreams of that dreadful black-red cock that the Rajah has pitted against his best. If he fears something, it is from his antagonist, that could swing both his shanks in a terrible fashion, and which had fairly shown superiority at the earlier rounds. Yet his Ghan Murgha, with a white eye, had evened with him late in the afternoon. And so came next day and found the lot quite silent but extremely busy as the fight started again. No news that day beyond that Abdul’s Murgha was thrown twice backwards over his back. But the third day brought some of the expected surprise. The first that Abdul’s Ghan cock got his neck broken. Another of his cocks broke a wing, and the Black Rampur killed his antagonist in a sudden rush that startled the audience in unusual fashion. The fourth day saw the fights draw, one antagonist being killed. This evened the count, and the match was decided the fifth day— the
Rajah’s fowl being so seriously disabled that he lost. But the hero of the fight was the Black Rampur that was so badly beaten the first day. He won in the grand fashion that was peculiar to all the birds of his strain. Abdul’s confidence in his “Snake-killer” strain was fully justified, as the young cock showed the traits that were peculiar of this family ever since. There was another thing that Abdul made out. He knew now that the young Rajah, the last adversary, had better Ghan cocks than his own, and that it was a task for him to get under any circumstances a hen or two from his yard. This is an extremely difficult task, but his lifelong experience will teach him the way to procure those highly valued specimens. No first class professional could afford to be without some of the highly esteemed cocks of the Ghan strain.
Thus a cocker in India has always a task before him, always something better to strive for, always some perfection to aim at. Just as it is elsewhere in the world too.
General Remarks About Asil.
No two Asil cocks are alike. If the one has a terrible power, the other may be a trifle quicker. But taken as a whole they are a marvelous, uniform breed. They must be so, as their breeding is recorded several thousand years ago. They possess one paramount and fundamental quality: Gameness! No other cock, besides the near related Shamos and some Malay strains possess that stupendous power, that give them the mortal punch, unknown in Caucassian breeds. Some early authors have stated that Asils are somewhat slow, and that their mental resources are limited. This is obviously wrong. Ask the breeders that have handled the genuine article what they think about their speed, and doubtless you will get the information that though not a match for the high speed developed naturally by steel or slasher fighters, they are extremely shifty and that they adapt their fighting style to any other cock. Their lack of wing, of course makes them unable for fighting advantageously armed with long heels. Their observation and general cleverness, their unerring eye, together with accurate cutting compounded with their general physical vigour, makes them outstanding intelligent and extremely dangerous adversaries for any cock alive. They can stand an unusual amount of punishment and even deadly cutting. However distressed, there is hope in him as long as his staunch heart beats, and he will try and try again, with tenacious bitterness, so that only an extremely game cock will stand him. Type and colour are remarkably fixed, although the average Asil breeder looks for an untainted pedigree and time “proof” consistency in first line. No specimen is kept for fancy points, in fact such a thing would cause an Asil breeder to smile, were he taught of. It has been a source of speculation whence the different strains came from, or how they derived. In the course of investigation I did not learn much more than what Mr. Herbert Atkinson published some years ago. These facts apply to the four high caste strains. Indian cockers differ somewhat in the names accorded to each, so that I stick to Mr. Atkinson’s nomenclature, well knowing that his long career as breeder, cocker, game judge, and finally president of the greatest game club, are sufficient titles to enforce his authority definitely.
These are the heaviest, staunchest birds. Their repute for gameness is high, while the marvelous punch for which they are famous has given them the name Ghan, that means sledge-hammer. They come dark-red in colour. Sometimes nearly black. The hens dark-brown with lustrous black lacing. Sometimes they appear almost black. Neck generally black. Ghans are the deepest game fowl on earth. Nothing causes them to quit but death, and even dying they seem to be able to strike with such vicious power that they are at any instance fatally dangerous. There is no cock that can stand more heavy punishing than a Ghan cock. As such they are quiet, cool fighters. Never appear to be in a hurry, fighting constantly and shifting cleverly, to land blows that are as their name implies, as struck with a sledge hammer. They may fight for days and days without slackening. Dead game, their wind and endurance is truly abnormal. They are, as all Asils, very difficult to procure, and are the rarest of all high caste strains.
No great difference between these and the foregoing, beyond the colour. The cocks coming any shade of light-red to orange-red. Breast black or striped with brown. They appear to be just a shade thinner than the Ghan, higher stationed and lighter. Their wings are also larger, and accordingly they are speedier than the Ghan. On the other side they are less steady in their fight, and not unfrequently they resort to fighting traits that remotely remind of some other breed. It is supposed that they are graded Ghans, or otherwise a sport from the old trunk. As the Ghan, the Sonatawals are highly reputed, and some Anglo-Indian Anglo-Indian cockers prefer them to all others. Within the strain noted families have been recorded forming sub-strains with some peculiar traits, and more peculiar names still. The hens are lighter than Ghans. Some very light in colour indeed, wheaten, reds, cinnamon. White feathers in wings and tail, frequent in most Asils, are current appearance. Though, generally speaking, these Sonatawals are very near akin to the Ghan, they must be recorded as a distinct variety.
There is some contradiction in what I learnt about this strain. While some correspondents state that they are simply grades, others report that they are an old, distinct, and highly reputed strain. They are dark-reds and brown with several white spots and white feathers in wings and tails. The white does not dominate however. Those cockers that have bred them long enough to study their traits assure that they are a most dangerous strain. Game and active to a degree, they seem to be of superior intelligence, and with their aggressivity and unusual audacity,— goes hand in hand a style full of tricks. Now stepping back they seem to lose ground, duck and dodge, when suddenly, like a flash they strike deadly blows. A family of these having been dubbed “Cobras” for their dangerous behaviour. If we realize that the Cobra’s bite is mortal, and that a great percentage of 20,000 fatalities caused by snakes in India are accounted to them, we can imagine in which esteem these “Cobra” Kaptans are held. They are more slended than Ghans and Sonatawals, more active than both, and generally reported as bloody heeled. Mr. Atkinson says they are noted as good spurrers. They do not, however, display the massive muscle of the Ghan, neither possess they the staying power, wind and endurance that are inborn to the former strains. My informant writes: “This is the strain to be used in Europe for crossing with steel fighters, as they are the quickest and most surprising fowls I have seen.”
The Rumpus Blacks.
Blacks are not at all unfrequent. They may be found even among second rate fighters, and that is why many sports do not care to breed them. But of course, there are superior families, some of which are highly prized, as is the case with the “Snakekillers.” Blacks are found in a vast district, and even fairly down South In the United Provinces. They are about the handsomest of Asils, both in type and colour. Generally smaller, from 4 to 5 pounds, game as one could wish, full of tricks, savage in their attack, and particularly accurate cutters. They are great finishers which cannot be said of all Asils, and their work on a down cock is worth seeing. When bred near the coast they generally grow larger and coarser. Huderabad games are said to be derived from this strain. Though they are easier to procure than the coloured strains afore mentioned, very few may have been exported yet. No Asil is good alone to look at, but this strain, besides being of high pit quality, is of outstanding beauty. The black on the whole body flashing in a blue reflection that is not seen in other fowl. The Samatra is green, some coast games are purple, but these Blacks have a prussian blue sheen that is a delight to behold.
Beyond these four, Mr. Atkinson states, there are no more to be classed as of high caste. Some Anglo-Indian cockers differ, but it may be taken as a rule, that how good some greys, mottled, reds, spangles and duckwings may appear, they have no place in the selected yards of highest repute. They are, though, excellent naked heelers, that will whip and smash western cocks of flying type in natural spurs, but their gameness is not always reliable. Such cocks have founded several local breeds of Indian game that have been reputed as good, but evidently are not Asil. It will be noticed that it is even difficult for Indian cockers to procure Asils. How hopeless for a foreigner to simply order a couple, and how clearly it is to understand that most birds that are advertised as Asils, are, in the best case second raters. However they can be procured. Anglo-Indian breeders issue a certificate to go with each bird, while Native Gentlemen, usually give the pedigree with tablets numbered by generations, when asked to do so. This is not the case, usually, with birds presented to a friend and therefore, nothing but the reputation of a man can stand for the bird’s origin. As the years go on, cocking is decidedly losing ground in India. Modern amusements have invaded the mysterious Orient, and the new generation of Rajahs are rapidly yielding to European fashions and habits. So the Dora Dirza, or tape fighting, is not today what it still was some decades ago, a sporting event of highest magnitude. How many years more, and it will belong to the past? Yet, still, the sporting spirit of the Britons have honored the sport there. Something is always going on. There is the old excitement, thousands of years old, when defiantly standing on his coop, the Asil cock, self-confident, broad breasted, a picture of power and masculine arrogance, sounds the trumpet of war. There still are dead black eyes that gleam with pride, and brown, skilled hands that stroke with unending love the broad backs of the most perfect warrior, the most deadly puncher, the gamest bird on earth— The Asil.
*So concludes… my ‘cut and paste’, of what I consider one of the BEST reads available, to the avid fan of our beloved Aseel/Asil!
I sincerely hope, you enjoyed the ‘read’ and would give the “credit do” to our Indian- (friends and Asil Club members) that have historically given us, the ‘very best’ that anyone can imagine! Thank You, Kind Sirs!:> CyberDave
**Please note:> I have locked this thread, to simply maintain the integrity of the information, in its totality.
*** I have started a thread, titled: Thoughts on ‘The Asil BY C. A. FINSTERBUSCH’. In so doing, it is my hope that a continuing discussion will arise that will benefit ALL of our Asil Club members!:>
My warmest regards, to ALL