Good duck choice
PUBLISHED: 08:11 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:41 28 March 2014
Dec 11, 2013: Tim Tyne features the Welsh Harlequin duck in his Best Breeds series
After some years of keeping a random selection of crossbred ducks (together with a Magpie drake) on their smallholding in Essex, my parents decided to invest in a pure breed of waterfowl – and chose Welsh Harlequins. I don’t know that there was any particular reason for this choice, other than the fact that they’d recently featured in a magazine article by Katie Thear, and there was a breeder locally, although it’s interesting to note that the breed originates from the Llyn peninsular – an area that we knew well, and where I now live!
Our new birds were a mixed batch of males and females, and not yet fully feathered. As their plumage developed we noticed considerable variation in the colour of the ducks, ranging from quite a dark brown, mallard-like appearance, through to an almost yellow feathering. In fact there seemed to be two distinct types – the light and the dark. The drakes, on the other hand, were consistently similar in colour to the male mallard. It wasn’t ‘til we got them home that we saw that one of the drakes had a slight deformity of the beak. Of course, we should have returned it to the breeder or knocked it on the head, but it bore such an uncanny resemblance to my then headmaster that we kept it out of curiosity. (And referred to the headmaster as 'Squiffybeak' for evermore!)
The breed was developed by one Leslie Bonnet at Criccieth in the 1940s, from some colour mutations he observed amongst his flock of Khaki Campbells. Aylesbury bloodlines were introduced to increase the weight, producing a dual purpose hybrid which was eventually stabilised into a pure breed. For a while the breed was quite popular, with hatching eggs being exported to America, but subsequently the original strain all but disappeared. However, a breeder from Lancashire who had purchased birds from Mr Bonnet in the 1960s managed to keep them going. There was renewed interest in the breed during the 1980s, which is when my parents bought theirs.
More recently, at the 2013 RWAS Spring Festival, a new breed society was launched for the promotion of these delightful Welsh ducks.
* One of only two Welsh breeds of duck. (The other is the Magpie).
* Developed in North Wales in the 1940s.
* Variable colouring, although the paler form is preferred in the females.
* Lays approximately 250 white eggs per year.
* A new breed society, complete with bi-lingual website, was formed in 2013.
* Visit www.welshharlequinducksociety.wordpress.com