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Brown horse chicken – the rarest bird in China

Once considered a “national treasure” of ancient China, the brown horse has an unusual position in the imperial court. This is the race bird belonging to the Pheasant family, it cannot be found anywhere other than in some areas of China. In fact, it also has the same structure as the other familiar chickens, but this bird was once in danger of extinction simply because… too many plucked!

Brown horse - bird breed

Brown horse – one of the four prized birds favored in Chinese history.

“Miss” in the golden palace, jade palace

Legend has it that there are 4 unique bird species in China, but the name chicken is exactly the same as fowl. These are the brown horse, white horse, blue horse and Tibetan horse – of which the brown horse is the rarest breed due to its rather special habitat. The appearance of these 4 birds is very similar, only the color of the feathers is different.

Brown horse - bird breed

The brown horse has been equated with the “flying horse”, the most prominent of the four related birds.

True to its name, brown horse very brave and good at fighting, with beautiful long tail feathers like a peacock’s tail, so it is also called the brown pheasant. Since the time of the Warring States, this bird’s feather has been used by emperors and shoguns as decoration on hats under the name “Heguan”. During the Qing Dynasty, officials decorated their hats according to their rank and used peacock feathers or brown horsehair to pin them.

Each brown horse has about 22 tails of hair, when spread out it looks like a ponytail, so it has such an impressive name. Don’t forget they are birds, so their ability to fly is pretty cool too!

The majestic brown horse’s flying stance was like that of an eagle.

The most distinguishing feature of brown horse chickens from native chickens is that in their eyes, they are blessed with a pair of white feathers that wrap around the head from the chin up, which looks like an upturned beard. Their bright red cheeks, mighty orange irises full of aggressiveness, sharp claws, galloping like horses, so that they are likened to “gods of war” who encouraged soldiers on the battlefield in ancient times. Every time the rooster spreads its wings, hundreds of blue-purple feathers shine brightly, emitting an aura that is not inferior to that of a king.

The brown horse appears in a number of ancient books and plays an important role in traditional Chinese culture. They appear in paintings, stamps and are the inspiration for many other works of art that make China proud.

Brown horse - bird breed

Thanks to its white “collar”, the brown horse looks even more “noble” than the free-range chicken!

It is only because of this tuft of tail hair that the brown horse is mercilessly hunted.

Image of a brown horse printed on a set of very rare old postage stamps and decorative paintings at a very low price.

For centuries, it was the striking tail feathers that led to brown horses being hunted and killed for decoration. Pride and majesty have made them symbols of courage, strength and great character.

Save the world’s most “gypsy” bird

Not only a noble background, this endemic bird of China also lives in a quite “luxury” place. It is a forest with cool air, rich vegetation such as spruce, birch, oak, pine, etc. If taken elsewhere, the brown horses wouldn’t survive, so they were rare!

Brown horse - bird breed

A flock of brown chickens looking for food.

Brown horses have a habit of perching on trees, prefer cleanliness and like to bathe in the sand. Even for nesting, they also choose beautiful, cool, hidden slopes to avoid predators such as foxes and eagles.

Regardless of male or female, brown horses are birds with a very aggressive nature. They were ready to fight to the death, not afraid of anything in the world. Even when mating in late spring and early summer, they don’t regret jumping into fights for a mate!

The diet of the brown horse is quite rich, both “vegetarian” and “salty” such as leaves, mollusks, young shoots, flower buds, fruit, seeds, shrubs, herbaceous plants, worms, snails, ants, bees…

Brown horse chickens usually look for a mate around March to April every year.

After hundreds of years of being picked and used for food, now this precious bird only lives in 35 counties and districts of 4 provinces and cities in China, namely Shanxi, Shaanxi, Hebei and Beijing in small numbers. Of which, Dongling mountain in Beijing, Laishui in Hebei and Huanglong forest in Shaanxi are the 3 distribution points that have been discovered since the 90s.

According to records, in the 1860s, someone killed more than 300 brown horse chickens in a month. A survey in 1987 found that there are only a few hundred brown chickens left alive in the wild, as a result, they are listed as one of the top 10 endangered animals, protected by the nation’s critical interests. It wasn’t until 1988, when China enacted the Wildlife Protection Act, that the massive hunting of brown horses was stopped. An artificial conservation campaign was deployed, helping this endemic bird to survive and nurture its offspring.

Brown horse - bird breed

Lucky brown horses have not disappeared from nature.

After more than 20 years of conservation, the number of unique birds in China has grown from a few hundred to nearly 18,000. Having tail feathers is not as easy as it used to be, because brown horses are already considered a rare animal!

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