Malaysian Serama - A Perspective
by: Albert Tan 2001 - Serama Importer for Jerry Schexnayder
I am about to share with you my personal views and the views of some Americans whom I have met and discussed the issue of color in bantam breeding in the US, with the aim to popularise the keeping of bantams. The views expressed may be counter to what some of you hold dear, but please hear me out.
In Malaysia, we have always wondered why the US has come out with a color standard and seems to be fixated by color to the extent of segregating bantams by color. I have asked around while in the US but no one is able to give me the reason why color became a "segregation" catagory in bantam keeping which is not found in other pets such as dogs, cats and horses where color is treated as a marking, as is done in Sereama. Color control is not practiced unless there are congenital defects that comes with the color. In nature, color is a constant new possibility and we, mere mortals, should not and cannot restrict the colors dedicated by nature.
The Junglefowl ancestry in Seramas have introduced 2000+ shades of colors. As the jungle fowl is a native wild specimen and was used to provide vigor in Serama ancestry, the diversity of color is native to chickens and Seramas have inherited this wonderful diversity. To color lock (ie to insure true breeding to color) a breed is estimated to take 10 generations of intensive inbreeding and does not pose any problems to commerical chicken breeds as they were intensively inbreed in the first place as meat chickens. For bantams, such close inbreeding will result in lost vigor (the offsprings are weaker and have higher mortality) and if observed closely, a growth in size (or stable size) over the next generations.
Serams, being so small, will have a huge problem, as chicks may not survive the intense inbreeding loss of vigor. Secondly, the downsizing of Seramas is still on going with a few latest specimens in Malaysia coming in at 270 grams for roosters and 160 grams for hens as current breeding methods continue. That will not happen if inbreeding is carried out extensively.
Too much emphasis on technical merit over artistic merit has always caused the popularity of any human endeavor to plummet as the public just simply cannot understand arcane rules that tells them that what they intuitively see as the most beautiful or worthy is not so. Technical merit has been used many times in human history to control human endeavors such as sports and education but have always been reversed when wise men see the folly of such control. Serama is a living art form and just like art, how can you explain (and prevent) the use of color by Vincent van Gogh or Rembrandt as they strove to use the colors provided by nature in their paintings. Such human control would have killed off art in the first place if we ever tried to do so. This could be the primary cause of the continued alarming decline in the appreciation and membership of the ABA and the APA despite 4-H involvement and inculation from the young. Why do you think this to be so? Please share your thoughts.
As for judging and recognition by the ABA/APA, the road to recognition is a long one as directed by the ABA/APA in their bylaws. It starts with a sizable presence in the community and then a series of participation in ABA/APA sanctioned events. As Serama are so new, being that Jerry Schexnayder of Louisiana has only recently introduced his show quality Serama to the American public, there is an opportunity to try something different.
In Malaysia, we have single breed Serama speciality shows that have almost 800 entries, 300-400 entries average, while the most popular breed in America, the Old English, probably have a maximum of 150 entries with most shows recording 50-80 entries. We can win motor cycles and cash prize of $1000 at Serama shows with lots of other prizes such as fridges, fans and other household items.
I think that the way to go is to start with a few Serama speciality shows in the US before the US Serama Council (formed by the likes of Jerry and his prioneer breeders) decide whether to keep the breed as an exotic speciality or be part of the bantam mindstream. Factors such as economic value (I am always amused and saddened when I see $5 Old English and Japanese Bantams for sale at shows, they are cheaper than a Guppy Fish!!!) and community recognition, ie where the Serama community sees themselves, upstream with the likes of the horse/dog world or downstream with the chicken folks. As the Serama can be kept in an apartment in town, a whole new community can be formed from the urban areas, even younger kids as compared to the current older folks trend in bantam/chicken circles. I believe that the US Serama community can be as lively, prestigious and festive as the dog/hjorse people and we should work towards that.
The idea is for the first US Speciality show to be chiefly judged by an experienced Malaysian Judge who will also provide training for (10 or so) Americans in Serama judging. The trained American judges will then judge the exhibits, with the Malaysian judge overseeing and guiding the judging. The trained judges can then judge Serama shows in the future.