MOST people call all large white ducks, Aylesbury ducks. But in fact most large white ducks are a hybrid duck or cross breed which originally were a cross between the Aylesbury and the Pekin duck, both of which are now in relatively few hands only being kept by the hobbyist.
It’s the latter of these two breeds, the Pekin duck, that we are looking at in depth this week.
The Pekin duck can be described as the more upright heavy breed duck with the yellow bill.
To complicate matters further, the Pekin duck can be further divided into two distinct breeds, the American Pekin and the German Pekin. Both varieties originated from China with birds being exported to the USA and England in the 1870s and then from England to Europe.
The birds that went to the USA were developed into a strain that became the most popular commercial table duck breed. They almost caused the demise of the pure-bred Aylesbury because when they returned to England, where the Aylesbury dominated the duck meat trade, they were found to be faster growing and better egg layers than the Aylesbury and were soon crossed with the Aylesbury for table fowl.
In Europe the Pekin duck were kept as an exhibition breed and in the 1970s this variety was imported into Britain where they were known as the German Pekin. Up until this stage the Pekin duck that was exhibited was the American type Pekin but soon the exhibition scene changed and the German Pekin became the more popular exhibition strain and the more popular variety that exists here today.
The German Pekin is characterised by their upright stance, thick bodies, plump faces, dark yellow bill, upturned tail and thick creamy feathering. They always remind me of the illustration of Jemima puddleduck from the Beatrix Potter books.
The shorter the duck’s bill the rounder they look in the face. They are very appealing to anyone who sees the breed.
The American variety has somewhat disappeared here and it’s a good few years since I saw them exhibited locally.
In the early 1990s I exhibited the American Pekin type ducks at the Ballymena club and it was there I first saw the German variety. I was certainly taken by this variety and a few years later I also started breeding German Pekins, a strain that I still have today.
Like all breeds, the German Pekin goes in and out of popularity but thankfully the breed currently is kept by a number of waterfowl enthusiasts locally. A few years ago other colour varieties were created, some of the colours created are Buff and Mallard, but there are probably a lot more coloured varieties.
The German Pekin, for me, is a great duck breed that does well as long as it has regular access to clean water. They are very easily reared and a super show breed, often being found on championship row.
They are a priority breed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust’s Watch list and as such they require a good number of waterfowl keepers to maintain them to secure their continued survival.
n If you have an interest in the breed please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning on 07752 020831.