The Leghorn is one of the best-known poultry breeds in the world because of its enormous egg production. Originating from the Mediterranean, the breed dates back about 3000 years. It is known that several Roman emperors kept Leghorn-type fowl. At the beginning of the 19th. century partridge coloured fowl was exported to America from Livorno in Italy. At the time, the impression prevailed that these were crossbreeds from partridge coloured game birds and white Minorcas. Research carried out later revealed that these birds represented a breed that was centuries old, but not very uniform and had been kept on a large scale in the Italian countryside. These birds looked totally different from present day Leghorns.
Their name is derived from the English name for the seaport of Livorno. In the middle of the 19th. century several colour varieties were developed in America after direct importation of white Leghorns from Italy in 1828 and 1829. In 1835, N.P. Ward from New York City imported the first brown Leghorns into America, which he bred with great success in partnership with J.C. Thompson of Staten Island. The black Leghorn was imported by Reed Watson from East Windsor Hill, Connecticut in 1871. Around 1850, the high egg production Leghorns were imported into Europe from America, especially into England and Denmark where they became very popular and productive! The desired uniformity had still not been achieved and even today poultry standards mention the American, English, German and Dutch type in Leghorns - all of which carry the main Leghorn characteristics, but are different from each other in minor details. This breed has had an enormous influence world wide on the development of utility breeds.


This description of the Leghorn is a general description without going into detail of minor differences between the Standards of certain countries. The Leghorn is an upright, very lively, active, graceful, strong and fast bird. The plumage is glossy, full and tight. It has a slender body, but is broad in shoulders and tapering towards the tail. The head is strong, broad and in good harmony with the comb.

There are two types of combs in this breed, namely the medium size, red, single comb with five or six spikes and the red rosecomb that tapers towards the back and ending in a well-developed leader. The white or cream coloured, almond shaped ear lobes are equally matched and of medium size. The long, thin, red wattles are equally symmetric. The beak is short, stout and curved at the point and yellow in colour, whereas the dark coloured varieties have a horn coloured beak. The face is red without any white. The moderate large eyes are orange-red. The long neck is slightly curved with plenty of neck hackles. The breast is full and broad, well rounded and carried forward. The back is long and straight.
The wings are large and well tucked up against the body. The legs are moderately long and yellow in colour as well as the toes. The tail is large, long, and carried at an angle of 45 degrees. The sickles are well developed and well curved.


A fast maturing, hardy, non-sitting, laying breed with yellow skin that is very lively and active. The egg production varies, but the average is above 225 white eggs per year. Their average weight is between 55 and 60 grams. Breeders describe Leghorns as slightly restless, nervous and flighty in comparison to other breeds. Whilst this may be true for the utility fowl, the show birds are much quieter. A gentle and quiet approach to the breed is essential though.


The weight of the average Leghorn is between 2250 and 3500 grams. English-type hens are a bit heavier, whereas German and American-type cocks and hens are much lighter.


There are more than 20 different varieties of which the White, Black, Brown, Partridge, Silver Partridge and Golden Ducking are the best known. Rarer colours include the Buff, Exchequer, Columbia, Cuckoo Partridge and Silver Spangled. The latter is a most beautiful colour deserving more interest from breeders. New colours appear on the scene from time to time.