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.
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.
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.