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Sebright History

What follows is one of two contrasting accounts of the origin of the Sebright Bantam.

One point of interest is that John Sebright is also the originator of the Pygmy Pouter, a small-size version of the English Pouter pigeon.

Reference: In: Golden and Silver Sebright Bantams, Bill Holland, pp. 2-3, American Bantam Association, 1980.

It was about the year 1800 that the late Sir John Sebright first began to fashion the Sebright Bantam. The cross was between some common bantam and the Polish fowl. These were bred in and in until the required marking and size were secured. Sir John then accidentally found a short-tailed bantam cock in the country when he was travelling. This short-tailed bird he inbred with his newly manufactured bantams, thereby giving their progeny the present form of the short tail.

In the "Poultry Chronicle" it is stated that Sir John obtained a buff-coloured bantam hen at Norwich: she was very small indeed, with clear slate-coloured legs. On the same journey he purchased a cockerel rather inclined to red in colour, destitute of sickle feathers, with a hen-like hackle; and also, at Watford, a small hen resembling a Golden Hamburg. He afterwards, had a white cockerel from the Zoological Gardens, by which he made his Silvers. This description of the origin refers back before the laced marking was achieved. They were known as Pheasant Bantams.

Sir John also established a club for fostering the improvement of his pets. It is thus mentioned in the "Poultry Chronicle" of 1855: - "The Sebright Bantam Club was formed some forty years ago by the late Sir John S. Sebright and several other fanciers, who endeavored, if possible, to obtain the beautiful plumage of the Polish fowl on as small specimens as could be. They (the late Sir John, the late Mr. Stevens, the late Mr. Hollingworth, Mr. Garle, and others) began their labours by selecting the best kinds for their purpose of the Polish, and by judiciously crossing them with bantams, gradually obtained their end. They had to work out the topknots, get rid of the hackles and long tail feathers, and reduce the size, retaining as much as possible the truly impertinent carriage of the bantam. This has been most successfully accomplished, but not without the occasional re-crossing with the Black Bantam, for the constant breeding in and in has often brought the birds to a standstill. The Club thus formed met annually, on the second Tuesday in February, in Brick Lane, but has of late years been transferred to the Gray's Inn Coffeehouse, Holborn, when it has always been the custom to admit strangers, on application, after the award of the Judges. The Club is essentially private, and all members must be proposed and seconded by a member, and afterwards balloted for. The annual subscription for the Golden is two guineas, and the same for the Silvers, which forms the amount of prizes. All the birds must be the bona fide property of the exhibitor, bred by him, and under a year old. The cocks are allowed 22 ozs., the hens 18 ozs. The cocks must have no long hackles, no saddle feathers, no streamers in the tail; they must have rose combs, short backs, heads and tails approximating; their ground colour, whether Gold or Silver, must be clear, and every feather delicately laced (never spotted) with pure black. The tail feathers should form no exception in their lacing (but this will be very seldom seen), and the bars on the wings should be black and distinct. The same applies to the hens."


This is the second account of the origin of the Sebright Bantam. Included is the more recent development of the breed.

Reference: Gary, Frank L., Sebright History, In: Golden and Silver Sebright Bantams, Bill Holland, pp. 24-25, American Bantam Association, 1980.

Moubray's Treatise on Domestic and Ornamental Poultry included the following commentary on the Sebright Bantam.

"Although it is generally assumed that Sir John S. Sebright, formerly member of Parliament for Herfordshire, England, was the originator of the Sebright Bantam, and that by long and careful crossing and breeding of various other known breeds of bantams, and by some mythical craftsmanship that no individual ever endeavored to explain, brought about such an upheaval in creations as had never been done before, producing a totally new, clear-cut and enduring breed of bantams. Sir John never elected to let it be known from whence he obtained the laced bantams, nor did he ever lay claim to be the originator of them. Published notices at the time this breed made its emergence made no claims that Sir John was the originator, but on the contrary an early edition published shortly after the Sebright Bantams were first brought out, the author spoke of the breed as having been lately obtained, and of Sir John himself as 'one of the chief amateurs' of that breed, leading to the conclusion that they were originally from an eastern region and probably imported by Sir John and unquestionably successfully propagated by him in the greatest perfection."

At that time the Sebright Bantams were extremely small, weights being fixed at two pounds for the pair and as much under thirty ounces as possible.

The first American Standard of Excellence published in 1874 described them as Golden Laced and Silver Laced Sebrights. The Golden was stated to be a rich golden yellow and the Silver as silvery white. Ear-lobes were called deaf-ears and were white. The head was depicted as being red, which apparently had to do with comb for subsequent descriptions describe the head feathers. The male wing feathers were delineated as "the points carried very low, almost touching the ground". No weights were set but disqualifications contained a provision that cocks over 26 ounces and hens over 22 ounces shall be disqualified, with no weights for cockerels and pullets.

1875 - Name changed to Golden and Silver Sebrights. No color was given for the comb. Cocks over 28 ounces and hens over 24 ounces to be disqualified. No other weights listed. Treated as two separate breeds.

1879 - The first appearance of standard weights are set forth as cock 26 ounces, hen 24 ounces and pullet 22 ounces.

1883 - Wattles were first described as "bright red". Male wings changed to "carried low, but not so low as to touch the ground."

1888 - Weights changed to cocks 26 ounces, hens 22 ounces, cockerels 22 ounces and pullets 20 ounces. Cocks over 30 ounces and hens over 26 ounces to be disqualified.

1889 - Changed to one breed with two varieties, Golden and Silver. Shape and color descriptions defined separately for the first time.

1893 - Ear-lobes changed from white to "color immaterial in both varieties".

1905 - First appearance of line drawing illustration of the Silver Sebright male and female by Franklane L. Sewell (1905).

1910 - Plumage of Golden changed to golden yellow, droppings the word "rich". New illustration of the Silver Sebright male and female by Arthur O. Schilling (1910). Overall appearance of a much lighter colored bird due mainly to a reduced number of feathers and very fine lacing on each bird. First time that the male and female tail is required to be carried at an angle of seventy degrees above the horizontal. Specimens exceeding 4 ounces over standard weight to be disqualified. Eye color of Golden male and female changed from bright bay to brown, Silver male , female comb and face changed from bright red to reddish purple.

1915 - Ear-lobes of both varieties and both sexes changed to "reddish purple preferred". Golden plumage changed from golden yellow to golden bay. New illustration of Silver Sebright male and female by Arthur O. Schilling (1914). In this illustration the lacing appears to be slightly heavier than previous illustration.

1920 - Shape and back changed from short to very short.

1952 - New illustration by Arthur O. Schilling (1952).

1965 - The American Bantam Association Standard first published. This is the first time that a complete description was ever made of the Sebright Bantam in both varieties, both as to shape and color pattern. All of the sections of the nomenclature are separately set forth for the first time. Several sections of the nomenclature had never been before delineated in any standard, including the A.P.A., English, Dutch, German and French standards. Inasmuch as a complete terminology had been established for all other breeds and varieties of bantams, it was considered important that no exception should be made for the Sebright Bantam.