Janice Houghton-Wallace looks at this iconic Scottish breed.

The Scots Dumpy, as the name implies, is noted for its very short legs, giving it a squat appearance and resulting in a waddle rather than a walk. Dumpies have also been called Bakies, Stumpies, Dadlies, Hoodlies and Creepies. The origin of the breed goes back well into BC times and it is thought that the birds were introduced into Britain by the Phoenicians, ancient inhabitants of Lebanon, who were very successful manufacturers and traders. For a period of time they occupied parts of Britain and later fought against the invading Romans.

Where the Phoenicians acquired the birds in the first place is shrouded in history but it has been recorded that birds with identical dumpy legs have been known to exist as early as AD900. On the Continent both Germany and France have short legged breeds. The German Creeper exists in a wide range of colours and the French breed Courtes Pattes, which was originally only in black.

The history of the breed in Scotland is recorded in folklore tales. Such a story is that the Scots Dumpy is known as the ‘Time Clock Bird’ as they are able to waken at the same time daily, regardless of whether it is daylight or not. They have very acute hearing and it has even been stated that they are ‘ahead of the Collie dog’s ability’. Carrying on from this alertness, the birds are said to have been taken into battle with the soldiers as they fought with the invading Romans. The Romans in turn hated them, knowing that they could not approach a camp without a Dumpy cock crowing.

One particular story states that in an attempt to defeat this annoying bird, the Romans decided to approach a camp barefoot and in the dark. This they did but then found themselves in a patch of thistles. As the Romans were soon making their presence felt and wincing in pain through the thistles sticking into the soles of their feet, the Scots Dumpy was soon crowing madly. This immediately alerted the Scots and Pict soldiers who went on to win the battle.

Ever since, the thistle has been the emblem of Scotland but many feel it should have been the Dumpy.

The breed has been seen in poultry exhibitions since 1852 but almost a hundred years later it was near to extinction. Eggs imported in 1973 from a Mrs. Violet Carnegie in Kenya, who had emigrated from Britain, greatly helped in restoring the breed’s future.

The Scots Dumpy has a large, low, heavy body, which is broad and flat. The comb, face, wattles and ear-lobes are bright red. Plumage of both sexes is black, cuckoo or white but other colours have recently been standardised. The beak, legs and feet are white in the white; mottled in the cuckoo and in the black variety they should be black or dark slate.

The legs are very short, the shanks not exceeding 3.75cm (1½in), with four well spread toes.

As well as the large fowl there is a Scots Dumpy bantam which imitates the larger version in all aspects.

Weights of the large fowl:

Male 3.20kg (7lb)

Female 2.70kg (6lb)

Weights of the bantam:

Male 800g (1¾lb)

Female 675g (1½lb)

The Scots Dumpy is not only a very beautiful bird it also has a docile nature. Along with those attributes they are excellent broodies and very good mothers. However, Scots Dumpy genetics carry a semi-lethal ‘Creeper’ gene that shortens its legs in a single dose (Heterozygous) or causes the embryo to die during incubation in a double dose (Homozygous).

To steer clear of the lethal gene a long-legged male can be mated with a short-legged female. This will result in 50% short-legged and 50% long-legged chicks. Also worth noting is that if cuckoo and black colours are crossed mated, the male chicks will be cuckoo and the females black.

Although the Scots Dumpy standard requires the short legs, this breed is ideal for smallholders, for the long-legged birds can still be useful. The females lay reasonably well and the males can be bred on for acceptable meat birds.

Mathew Roynon is the Secretary of The Scots Dumpy Club and was asked what appealed to him about the breed to make him want to keep it?

“Initially, the uniqueness of the breed, coupled with the fact that they are now acknowledged as native to the UK. Then, having kept and bred them, their nature and character further endeared them to me; they are a non-aggressive gentle breed that is easily tamed and their boat shaped bodies with a waddling gait is a joy to watch!

“I have found them to be a hardy breed (as you would expect from a Scottish breed) that does well in a free range environment. They can be susceptible to external parasites in particular scaly leg mite, so need to be checked for this regularly. Although the females are not prolific at laying, they do tend to make excellent broodies and mothers”.

As the author of this article I would second this, for I kept the breed for many years and only present circumstances prevent me from keeping it again. I think it is a beautiful breed of fowl and would be an asset to any smallholding because the eggs they do lay are ideal for kitchen use and their docile temperament means they are easy for poultry minders and children to look after. Their squat legs result in them not being troublesome in the garden as short legged birds tend not to scratch much.

Thanks to: Mathew Roynon, Secretary, The Scots Dumpy Club, Ty-Richard Jones Farm, Cefn-y-Crib, Hafodyrynys, Newbridge, Gwent, NP11 5BN. Tel: 07873 261515 scotsdumpyclub.org.uk


This article by Janice Houghton-Wallace was written for Smallholder magazine. Each month Ms Houghton-Wallace focuses on a different poultry breed.