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The Origin of Marans
 
What did this landrace hen, which originated in the swampy farm country near Marans & La Rochelle; look like before being crossed with non-local fowl? We will probably never know. These farmyard fowl had very little selection, and this ‘swamp’ hen didn't really receive any particular care.


The first out crosses

In the 12th century, with her marriage to Henri of Plantagenet, Duke of Anjou, who became Henri II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine brought to England a dowry consisting of a part of South-west France: Poitou, Paintonge, Aunis, Perigord and Limousin.

This English domination lasted two centuries. English ships often stopped over at La Rochelle (near Marans) and unloaded gamecocks, which had survived the cockfight, at that time highly prized by sailors to cheer up their sea isolation. In return, poultry, which furnished fresh food and eggs, were taken on board the ships.

The gamecocks were naturally crossed with local landrace hens. The products born of these crossings had a more stocky figure and laid darker colored eggs. The fighting cocks, of many varied colors, are the origin of various present Marans varieties and are responsible for the proud bearing, heavy figure and of the sometimes quarrelsome character of the cocks, they would have more game characteristics if it were not for the original hens.



Old English Game

Other French breeds that played a part in the development of the Marans included the feather legged Cocou de Malines including the pea combed ‘turkey head’, the clean legged Cocou de Rennes, & the Gatinese.

Introduction of the Asian breeds

The second half of the 19th century was a decisive time for the evolution of the French Marans breed often linked to the introduction of the Brahma and Langhans.


Mr Geoffrey Saint Hilaire and Mr Foucault imported some Croad Langshans.

Mr Louis Rouille, famous amateur breeder, was fascinated by an Asian breed that didn't possess yellow feet, whose fleshing qualities weren't negligible, and laid nice highly colored eggs. Louis Rouille farmed a lot of Langhans hens in Fouras, situated at 12.43 miles south from La Rochelle. These birds spread in the area and it was by this way that the second crossing processes of the Marans took place.

From that moment on, the main characteristic of the breed was set: big red egg.

It was not the same however for the totally heterogenous plumage colors dating back from the ancestral origins of very numerous game varieties.
 
 

The First Marans Presentations

 

In 1914, at the national exhibition in La Rochelle, took place the first presentation of this poultry under the name of "a country hen".

In 1921, Mrs Rouse from Ille d'Elbe seriously selected the future Marans for the size and the colour of its egg.

 In order to make its plumage a little bit uniform, in 1928, Mrs Rousseau showed in La Rochelle a pen of homogenous Cuckoo variety hens and their big extra reddish-brown eggs.

Fortunately for the future of Marans, the editor of the "Aviculteur Français" ("French poultry farmer"), Mr Paul Waroquiez, visited this exhibition and was very interested in the unknown producers of such nice eggs. He published, in this respect, some articles in this magazine notably on July 1st 1929 on the "Maransdaise" breed origin.

In 1929, in order to protect the breed qualities, a "Marans" section was created within the Aunis Saintonge poultry farmer society, and the Marans hen was accepted at the local poultry exhibitions.

Mr Waroquiez suggested the creation of a club. The Marans Club Français presided over by Mr Bouyer, and it was created in September 1929.

In 1930, the Marans was presented at the exhibition in Liege, Paris, Lyon and Lille. During this same year, the standard commission made up of Professor Sebileau,  Mr Waroquiez, Mr Sangalli and Mr Mace, visited about hundred farms that raised Marans fowl.

From these observations a standard, which called for a feathered shanked bird, was produced. A committee gathered at the Aulnoie Manor studied this at the end of 1930. The Standard was defined by the commission of April 2nd 1931, & was published in various poultry farming magazines, the Général Assembly ratified it on November 22nd 1931 and it was noted down in the SCAF catalogue.

From that moment on, the Marans breed spread almost over France and especially in the Nord Pas de Calais department, which sent eggs in England, and in the Seine, & Oise regions.

 

Here are some facts concerning the Marans representation at this time during the Paris exhibition:

In 1931:16 trios, 16 class entries, 8 exhibitors,

3 varieties: Silver Cuckoo, White and Black Copper-neck.

In 1932: 10 trios, 43 class entries, 9 exhibitors,

6 varieties: White, Ermine, Golden Cuckoo, Silver Cuckoo, Red, and Black Copper-neck.

In 1933: 9 trios, 51 class enteries, all the varieties were exhibited.

The decline of the Marans in France

From 1934, the Marans were in decline.

In 1936, in the Paris exhibition there were only 2 trios, 11 class entries, and 2 exhibitors.

During the Second World War, the Germans occupied the Marans area and, due to restrictions on movements, farming was almost reduced to nothing, marketing was impossible.

In 1946, just after the war, the situation of the Marans in its birthplace was the same as it had been in 1929.

In 1950, a cooperative poultry-farming centre for the Marans breed was created in Lagord, in order to try to remedy the situation. (Faubourg of La Rochelle) with the Marans club, the SCAF and the regional poultry farming organizations.

This centre was then moved to Dompierre sur Mer (commune of Belle Croix) near La Rochelle.

It functioned under the direction of the Departmental of Agricultural Services.

It practised selection by a hatched-nest system, birth records by individual pedigree, & the systematic study of the genetic factors. It furnished eggs for settings, and chicks to the agricultual cooperative members.

In the first year of selection, the egg average was of 168 eggs per hen.

In 1952, it nearly reached 200 eggs.

In 1953, the centre possessed 150 Silver-cuckoo Marans and 150 White Marans hens.

In 1954, the projects to have between 500 & 1000 birds but this target never come into being. The centre, which was at the time managed by a person who found more advantages in farming ordinary commercial chicks than in Marans, collapsed.

Chronicles of 1960 – 1970...

In spite of the setbacks met the 50’s and the 60’s, the research and the selection of the Marans were continued thanks to the MCF president, Mr Bachelier. So he took on Mr Priouzeau, in Marans, who selectedion and setting activities went on the two following decades.

With an impeccable constitution, a good conformation and laying more than 200 eggs a year, the Silver-Cuckoo Marans had already started to lose the darker eggs that were characteristic of its ancestors.

… a decline aspect

This period foreshadowed the Silver-Cuckoo Marans decline.

The productivity was going to destroy the unquestionable qualities of the Marans on the one hand, because there is a certain negative relationship between the produced egg quality by a given age flock and the shell colour, (as Bernard Sauveur from the NIRA said), and on the other hand, because the natural possibility of the Marans to lay very big eggs represents a certain handicap for an excellent hatching.

It was also at this time that in France a lot of industrialists widely used the Marans hens to produce foundation birds for sex linked crossbreds, tending to make people forget this bird as a pure bred hen.

About 1970, a supply of Russian hens having a phenotype close to the Black Copper-neck Marans contributed to improve size in this variety but unfortunately it was at the expense of the egg, and shank color. The birds, which were born of these crossings, had to be eliminated.

Fortunately, some amateurs carried on, in obscurity, taking an interest in the Marans and especially of the Black Copper-neck Marans, which has already had the reputation of laying the darker eggs.

The fancy that was born for the Black Copper-neck Marans went on but the vagueness of the Standard, notably in the description of the plumage, represented quite a handicap.                                         
Some farmers even specialized in the production of exhibition subjects, developing both separate cockerel and pullet breeding lines.
Others accepted the extreme heterogeneousness of the types and plumage as a fatality. They solely dedicated themselves to the extra reddish-brown egg production, and thus ignoring all the improvements of the type characteristics of the Marans.

We have to wait until the 1990s that the breed, supported by a hundred or so of selector farmers spread all over France and Belgium, guided by the work of a renewed practice of the MCF. In 2000, the MCF was made up of more than 400 members and delivered more than 12000 official rings to its farmers.
 
 
The livestock of the Marans hen, Philippe Denis Ciney, raising Sovet, 

THE HISTORY OF THE FRENCH MARANS.

The following story about the origin of the Marans came from France and in my humble opinion the most with facts builds. This variety bears the name of a port town in the department of Charente Maritime. The port of Marans has always had a commercial destination. Especially much grain was transported. The monks from monasteries were often lying to fasting, than if they did not eat meat. The eating of eggs was not prohibited. So that this region had all the assets held to a flourishing culture to get poultry. In addition, the habit of shipping food in the form of live birds and eggs in store. The same ships brought from Africa, Asia and England grouse other species which were unknown in this region. What varieties were told that history had perhaps not this a bit more clarity given.

In the twelfth century with her marriage to Henry Plantagenet the Duke of Anjou, who later became Henry II of England. Bracht Eleonore d 'Aquitaine as part of a dowry in southwest France and Poitou, Saint Regardless, AUNIS, Perigord and Limousin. This Henry and Eleonore were the father and mother of Richard the Lionheart, who has a reputation in some more history.

The English domination lasted two centuries. The English ships often put in the port of La Rochelle and fighting cocks them names. Often the surviving cocks were that the fighting cocks on board their ships. From that moment has been bred with English fights cockfights and other birds from the AUNIS and Vendee. The English fights cockfights had this many colors explained the many variations that occur in the Marans. Products from these hybrids have a more compact stature and impose very dark colored eggs.

Further in the time we come back against English domination. Countries in 1627 English troops in La Rochelle residents unite with the English troops. After a 15-month siege, the city by Louis in the thirteenth taken. So at that time also regularly birds come over from England and mixes with local varieties. The combination chicken farmers bastard times as a fighter pilot is done here in Holland. As a result very brown hens laid eggs.

If we continue the history of the Marans, we still follow the following facts against. In 1876 by fanatical breeders from Fouras only about 20 km from La Rochelle Hans Lang imported. Around 1892 ticked Sir Hans Lang Rouillé with birds from the region as a result of a hen with feathered legs with a brown egg explains. With Hans Lang is probably Croad-Langshan intended. This old race from Asia has voetbevedering explains brown eggs and is present in the colors black and white. In 1914, the first Marans under the name of the region geshowd birds on the national show in La Rochelle.

Madame Rousseau on the island Elle [Vendée] at about 10 KM NO. of Marans. Since 1921 has strictly selected on the large and the color of the eggs. For this we may Madam Marans breeders have a statue up for all the pioneering work it has done for the Marans. You should know that it was still no official race was. Although they are geshowd exhibitions in the near Marans and La Rochelle.
 
24 September, 1929 is a historic date. Marans there, the club founded in France. The first president was a certain Mr. A Bouyer and the case is in a kind of rivers. In 1930, the Marans present at major exhibitions in Liege, Paris, Lille and Lyon. On January 15, 1931, the standard of the Marans published in various journals for the small animal sport. On April 2, he was adopted on November 22, 1931 and officially included in the standard of the SCAF The official French poultry association.

Then begins the second world war. Also to the Marans not intact passes. And the breeding sheds back to the level of 1929. Fortunately, after the 1946 reconstruction very well, but that is normal with a strong and fruitful race as the Marans.

The Lord Bougrain-Dubourg from the island Re, the Marans a great ambassador. This ex-soldier who also speaks very good English. What our Dutch and the English still is easier than French. He has in many countries promoted the Marans. With the Netherlands, he has a special bond since he in 1945 at the end of the second world war still has work to the liberation of Breda. Breda is a beautiful city in the south of Holland

The Lord Bougrain-Dubourg always points to the importance of eikleur and oogkleur which he linked to each other. In all his travels he also has his box with four Marans almost chocolate-colored eggs with him. After years of the presidency Mara Club in France in 1992, he made a step back. From 1991 to 2007 was the Lord President Serge Ohis from Deprez. This is a small town in northern France he was a worthy successor. Under his inspiring leadership, the membership and earned the club more and more respect. From 2007, Mr. Albert Roguet Press from Jussy Chairman, this village is situated in the Alps. The Marans club in France in 1994 has about 150 members who mainly breed in large Marans cuckoo, black copper and wheat. The number of breeders in France is growing steadily.

The special color of the egg is certainly not forgotten. The results of the focus on the breeding egg color are already visible everywhere in France. Would people in France in the spring type and color even though once a close eye upon the very strict, they eikleur. In the championship Marans eggs is also a test series held Marans eggs.

The Marans club in France sends a few times a year a club magazine to its members. Here in current state information, there is also the possibility of ads to continue. Across France, there are 13 divided region where one member can rightly ask. The Marans plenty of life in France viva la France viva la Marans.
IJsselstein 2008 Dirk de Jong

My name is Dirk de Jong from the Netherlands born 11-02-1948 and already more than 30 years Marans breeder. Already 40 years married and father of 2 sons and grand father 1 granddaughter of almost 7 years. I work no longer and can helmet eel aim at my hobbies with bird. Thus write and photograph I much, make ceramics sculptures, give readings, inspect eggs. In the Netherlands I am the secretary of French of the club, where the following races are brought under Marans, Faverolles, Bresse, Houdan, Crèvecoeur and the La Flèche. In these races, which I have all bred and their eggs am I specialist. Be also member of the Maransclub in France and in Belgium and inspect there regularly the eggs. Pride I that I have the Marans bantams to the standard of the mainland has been made. With what aid of the English Marans bantam has maker Ken Bosley, whom I grind 1 have been possible meet. What does not have tell I more, talks concerning you yourself is not nice. On the Internet site www.aviculture-europe.nl You can read work of me and photograph to see.

 
Friendly Greetings
Dirk