The Malaysian Serama Bantam is the smallest and lightest bantam chicken in the world and often described as a living work of art.
The complete ancestry is uncertain and there are many claims and myths regarding the origin of the Serama Bantam. Some claims dating as far back to the 1600s and to the Thai King Sri Rama, although there is no documented evidence to prove this.
The modern day Malaysian Serama Bantam is said to be due to the many years work by Wee Yean Een from Kelantan Malaysia, who had a fascination with chickens since his early childhood days.
In 1971 Wee Yean Een obtained some Ayam Kapans weighing 22 oz/ 650 grams, which were similar in type to Game Bantams. However, they did not conform to any written bantam standard. At first Wee Yean Een intended to cross breed the Kapans with Silkie Bantams with the hope of producing Kapan sized Silkies. From the first breeding and to his surprise he only bred normal feathered offspring. As the offspring had the desirable compact bone and body structure of the Silkie, Wee decided to continue with them and tried to breed out the undesirable traits of the Silkie. For example, the leg feathering and five toes. Although he never managed to completely breed out all these traits as occasional throwbacks of silkie feathering still occurs even to this day.
In 1985 Wee Yean Een introduced the Japanese Bantam into his breeding program for their colour and erect tail carriage. His plan was to try to produce a chesty bantam with a confident and regal style. With a vertical wing carriage that was close to or lightly touching the ground and a compact body.
The Japanese outcross was successful so he inbred the offspring to lock in these features. To his surprise, the resulting offspring were smaller in size so he continued with the breeding program.
By 1988, the inbred offspring were breeding truer and weighing less than 500 grams. Wee Yean Een decided to name the breed Serama after Raja Sri Rama a mythical character from shadow puppet plays, which Wee Yean Een loved to watch as a child. Wee Yean Een thought that Raja Sri Rama who is famous for his beauty, majestic and regal bearing an ideal role model for the Seramas.
To popularize the Serama and to help fund his breeding program, Wee Yean Een started selling off excess breeding stock to the public.
In 1990 with sufficient Serama in public circulation, the first Serama show was held in the district of Bukit Batu Pahat in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis. It was held in conjunction with a state government organized event featuring songbirds and fighting cocks.
Above Left:Wee Yean Een Juding Serama in one of he earliest Malaysian Serama Competitions. Above Right: Tuan Ghazali Bin Cha and Wee Yean Een taken on 22 July 2000 during MAHA 2000 event just before the visit of the honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohammad, to the Serama exhibition
As Wee Yean Een was now considered by most to be the founder, expert and pioneer of the Serama breeding program, he was the obvious choice to be the judge. Tuan Ghazali Bin Cha, a judge in the Criminal Court of Kedah, was also in attendance. Since that first show (beauty contest) the popularity of the Malaysian Serama Bantam has grown making Serama the most popular pet in Malaysia. Today Seramas even out number cats and dogs as domestic pets. In Malaysia it is not usual to have three or four shows held in the same week, shows have also been held in Thailand and Singapore.
Pictured above is believed to be the earliest drawing by Wee Yean Een of a Serama. This drawing pre-dates 12/2001 and was drawn well before any other standard developed outside Malaysia.
In Malaysia and other eastern countries the popularity of the Malaysian Serama Bantam is mostly due to its physical beauty and the small size making them suitable for keeping even in urban areas.
Breeding still progresses to perfect them even further and improve their small size, temperaments, physical structure and over-all physical beauty.
The honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohammad, handling a champion Serama rooster accompanied by Tuan Ghazali Bin Cha (in blue batik behind the rooster) and Wee Yean Een. This photo was front-paged on 23 July 2000 in Mingguan Malaysia, the Sunday edition of Utusan Malaysia, the leading Malay newspaper in Malaysia.