Part of our Breed Profiles series, the Shamo Chicken is also known as a “gamefowl.”
The Shamo chicken’s origins are a bit unclear, but the breed probably originated in Thailand (previously known as Siam), and imported into Japan early during the Edo period (1603-1867). Originally bred as a fighting bird, the Shamo was prized for its endurance and accurate “strike,” as well as naked-heel boxing. These gamefowl were so selectively bred that they’re now quite distinct from their Thailand ancestors, but are now mostly bred as ornamental birds.
There are seven distinct recognized breeds in Japan, based on weight categories. The O-Shamo and Chu-Shamo are full-sized birds, while the Nankin-Shamo is a bantam variety. Ehigo-Nankin-Shamo, Kinpa, Takido, and Yamato-Shamo are the other breeds, all recognized as “Natural Monuments of Japan.”
Outside of Japan, Shamo were first documented by Bruno Duringen, a German poultry breeder and writer. A breeding pair were imported into Germany in March 1884 by the Countess of Ulm-Erbach. But the birds weren’t terribly popular, and didn’t really show up in Europe again until the 1950s, imported from the Tokyo zoo.
Shamo birds had become so rare by the 1940s that the Japanese government created laws to protect the breed. Somewhat illegally, American G.I.s brought birds and eggs back to the U.S. after World War II to crossbreed with fighting cocks in the South. Most Shamo in the U.S. are still found in the South today, and were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in 1981.
Primary Use: Ornamental Birds, delicacy meat birds
Temperament: Feisty, combative, spunky (They’re pretty friendly with humans, but aggressive with each other.)
Size: Shamo have been bred in large, medium, and bantam sizes
Egg production annually: 90 or less
Egg Color: light brown
Large birds: males-12.4 lbs, females-7.4 lbs
Medium birds: males-8 lbs, females-6 lbs
Bantams: males-4 lbs, females-3 lbs
Shamo birds come in a variety of colors: white, white with brown speckled feathers, black, black-breasted red (also known as “wheaten”), and reddish-brown.
Generally quite tall chickens, they stand upright, nearly vertical. They have well-muscled thighs and wide, muscular bodies. The feathers grow very close together and compact, but don’t cover their whole bodies, leaving the legs, neck, and a patch on the chest bare. Their tails are generally small, curving downward toward their hocks. Shamos have a pea-shaped red comb; small, bright red earlobes; and light, pearl-colored eyes. Beaks and legs are both yellow.
Even though Shamo hens don’t lay very many eggs, they’re good, devoted mothers who take good care of their chicks.