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New Zealand: Rare
Importation: 1860s

Guinea Fowl

A Rare Breed of African Origin

Guinea Fowl   (Photo by Cilla Taylor)

      The domesticated Guinea Fowl originated from one of several wild species on what used to be called the Guinea Coast (hence the name) of West Africa. Although some sort of Guinea Fowl are said to have been held in domestication by the ancient Egyptians (about 1475 BC), Greeks (about 400 BC), and Romans (by AD 72), these later died out in Europe.

      The ancestors of the domesticated Guinea Fowl we know today were introduced into Europe during the late fifteenth century, and from there, particularly from Great Britain, the breed was taken by colonists to many other parts of the world including North America.

      They are also known as Guineafowl (one word), Tufted Guinea Fowl, and Helmeted Guinea Gowl. Several colour variants are recognized.

      The 1912 Standard Cyclopedia of Modern Agriculture noted that the number of Guinea Fowl kept (in Great Britain) was comparatively small due to the demand for their meat being restricted to a few weeks very early in the year “between the game and chicken seasons” and because they had the reputation of being amongst the most ill-tempered of all poultry breeds, making them difficult to keep with other birds.

      Present-day breeders, however, often keep them with other poultry and do not appear to experience any such difficulties, and there does now seem to be a steady demand for their meat – which has more flavour than “chicken” meat – in a niche market.

Guinea Fowl   (Photo by Cilla Taylor)

      There is a report that missionaries introduced Guinea Fowl into New Zealand at the Bay of Islands – this would have been in the first half of the nineteenth century – but better substantiated is a number of these birds being imported from India in the early 1860s by the Canterbury Acclimatization Society, some of which were sent on to Nelson in 1864. Other introductions followed, and although most Guinea Fowl are kept under domestication, feral flocks have been reported in the North Island. In the North Island too, comes an account of Guinea Fowl “attacking and beating off” hawks from taking their young.

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