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By Julia Keeling
The Shamo is a naked heel game bird from Japan. The breed was originally brought into Japan from Thailand in the seventeenth century – the name referring to Siam, the old name for Thailand. In Japan it was developed into a distinctive fighting bird of courage and ferocity.
Its posture is very upright, with prominent shoulders, powerful bone structure, muscular athletic build and sparse hard feather, which all together make it an impressive and striking bird.
The term ‘Shamo’ covers all examples of the large fowl, but they can be further divided by weight into Chu Shamo (adult male weight above 3kg/6.6lbs) and O Shamo (adult male weight 4kg/8.8lbs and above). There is a huge weight range in this breed – from a little hen of 4.9lbs to a huge cock of 12lbs or more.
Breeders in Japan name their own lines after themselves or their areas, but names such as ‘Makino’, ‘Osaka’, ‘Teramoto’ etc, often used in Europe, have no relevance once the line has left Japan. Different conditions, breeding choices and breeders mean that they should not continue to carry such names. All are Shamo.
The breed can be found throughout Japan and although occasionally shown they are kept there primarily as fighting birds, with character and attitude being the vital attributes. Cockfighting is legal in Japan, although betting on the outcome is not.
Colour is of no importance in this breed, although the plumage colour most commonly seen is black/red (bbr) and variations; beak – yellow or horn; legs and feet – yellow (with blackish over-colour being normal in some dark coloured birds); face – red; and eyes silver or gold.
The main thing to remember when keeping Shamo is that they should mature slowly. A bird of either sex is not adult until about two years old. The stag of ten months will look a different bird after another year. The problems this can bring are:
• The bones can develop slower than the body mass, so if the bird is fed too much protein and/or does not have enough fresh air and exercise as he grows, his body will get too heavy for his legs and result in serious leg problems.
• For the same reason, the breastbone can become bent if a young bird rests on too narrow a perch, and the legs and feet can become damaged from jumping down from too high a perch. Adult birds continue to need wide perches to accommodate long legs and bodies.
• Stags and pullets can run happily together when young, but as soon as they start to mature, maybe as late as seven or eight months old in bigger birds, they can turn on each other. Stags and pullets can quickly kill each other.
So – low protein food and lots of fresh air and exercise; wide, low perches, or none at all; and vigilance at all times re separating birds as soon as necessary.
Despite the aggressive, arrogant bearing, they should be calm and confident with their keepers and easy to handle. The aggression should only be towards other birds. Birds may well occasionally greet their keeper with a ‘friendly’ peck, but this is certainly not man-fighting!
Shamo take so long to mature that it doesn’t really matter what time of year they are hatched. They will eventually reach their potential, even if they develop slowly over the winter.
Shamo are a broody breed, but as hens are heavy and bony they can be clumsy with eggs. Usually better to remove eggs and let another hen hatch them.
Running loose, a hen and cock can have their own space and live in harmony. However, if confined, they may fight. More than one hen with a cock may well fight each other, as well as it then being impossible to maintain accurate breeding records if not breeding one to one. Even if they live in apparent harmony, a heavy cock may seriously damage a hen with his spurs/claws. She should be examined regularly under her wings as she will show no signs of being hurt until wounds are really serious or become badly infected.
This is a breed developed to fight and it is the most important characteristic of the breed, and this is what they will do!