The Welsh Harlequin Duck is a recent breed of domestic duck native to Wales. Today, the Welsh Harlequin is a breed of light duck known for its lively plumage and egg-laying ability. Over the years, the breed’s color and make-up have changed, indicating that new blood from another breed has likely been introduced.
In 1949, at Criccieth, Group Captain Leslie Bonnet discovered a color mutation among his herd of Khaki Campbells and began selectively breeding for this trait. In 1968, the hatching eggs were exported to the United States, followed by the importation of live birds in 1981.
History and Origin of the Welsh Harlequin Duck
It was in 1949 that Captain Leslie Bonnet (1902-1985) discovered on his farm in Criccieth (on the shores of Cardigan Bay) a color change in his flock of khaki-Campbell ducks and began a strict selection to maintain and fix this feature. The breed was saved by a breeder, Eddie Grayson, of Lancashire, in the early 1960s2. The eggs were exported to the United States around 1968, followed by the importation of several specimens in 1981. The Welsh Harlequin contributed an Aylesbury Cross to Whalesbury Duck Creation, again by Captain Bonnet.
Characteristics of Welsh Harlequin Duck
Today the breed is fixed as a light duck with a bright clear plumage, whose duck is known for its laying qualities. The colors and makeup of the breed have evolved, suggesting a new blood supply. The Welsh harlequin weighs between 2 and 2.5 kilograms. Females have black beaks, brown legs, and their plumage is similar to that of the mallard, but evolving towards a honey-cream color with a contribution of white feathers, and without the dark line that extends to both sides of the eye.
Bronze-headed males are similar to mallards; they show a white neck ring, with slightly spotted plumage and a greenish-yellow bill and orange legs. The shoulders and chest are mahogany, the belly white. Young males have a darker bill than females. There is also a “golden” variety, highly appreciated in Great Britain, which replaces the black pigments in the feathers with a golden brown color.
This breed is calm and docile. Duck makes an excellent coat (generally 150 to 190 eggs per year averaging 65 grams5). The Welsh Harlequin is one of the breeds recognized by the British Poultry Standard. The Welsh Harlequin was admitted to the American Poultry Association’s standard of perfection in 2001. But due to its small size in North America, it is considered endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
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