Bird’s ID – Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck (America)


The Pekin or White Pekin is an American breed of domestic duck, raised primarily for meat. It derives from birds brought to the United States from China in the nineteenth century and is now bred in many countries, and on all continents. It is a distinct and separate breed from the German Pekin, which derives from the same Chinese stock but has different breeding, and so is often known as the American Pekin. Many of these ducks were reared on Long Island, New York, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

The American Pekin is large and solidly built. The body is rectangular as seen from the side and is held at about 40º to the horizontal; the tail projects above the line of the back. The breast is smooth and broad and does not show a pronounced  The head is large and rounded, and the neck is thick. The plumage is creamy white, the legs and feet are yellowish orange. The beak is yellow, fairly short, and almost straight.

The mallard was domesticated in China some 3000 years ago, and possibly much earlier. Force-feeding of ducks is documented from the tenth century, under the Five Dynasties. The Chinese were sophisticated breeders of ducks; among several breeds they created was one named shi-chin-ya-tze, which roughly translates to “ten-pound duck”, from which the American Pekin derives.

In 1872, James E. Palmer of Stonington, Connecticut, loaded fifteen white ducks of this type for shipment to a businessman named McGrath in the United States. The birds were loaded in Shanghai but had been hatched in Peking (now called Beijing). Nine of them – six hens and three drakes – survived the voyage, which took 124 days and reached New York City on 13 March 1873. Five of the surviving birds were dispatched to McGrath but were eaten before they reached him. Palmer’s four birds became the foundation stock of the American Pekin; by July 1873, his three hens had laid more than three hundred eggs.

In 1874, the Pekin was included in the first edition of the Standard of Perfection published by the new American Poultry Association. It was soon in widespread production for slaughter. Until that time, a popular breed raised for meat had been the Cayuga, which had the disadvantage of dark feathering, so that any fluff remaining on the carcass was easily seen; the white-feathered Pekin was preferable.

Other birds of the same type were imported to the United Kingdom in 1872 and from there soon reached Germany, where they gave rise to the German Pekin, a distinct and separate breed. In Germany, the Chinese ducks were cross-bred with upright white ducks brought from Japan by Dutch ships, resulting in birds with a steep body angle; those taken to the United States were crossed with birds of the British Aylesbury breed, which led to birds with a more horizontal stance. The Pekin in the United Kingdom derives from birds imported from Germany from about 1970.


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© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

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