A Polverara hen
|Country of origin||Italy|
|Distribution||Province of Padova|
|Weight||Male: 2.5–2.8 kg|
|Female: 1.8–2.1 kg|
Gallus gallus domesticus
The Polverara chicken takes its name from Polverara, a small town in the rural Saccisica area of the province of Padova. The early history of the Polverara breed is unclear, as is its relationship to the Padovana. The Polverara is a larger breed, with a smaller crest and beard. It has been suggested both that it derives from the Padovana, and that the Padovana derives from it.
Two sources provide evidence of crested chickens in Europe in Roman times: the two marble statuettes of crested chickens noticed in the Sala degli Animali ("animal hall") of the Vatican Museums in 1927 by Alessandro Ghigi date from the 1st or 2nd century AD; a chicken skull excavated at West Hill, Uley, Gloucestershire in England shows the typical cerebral hernia of the crested breeds and dates from the 4th century.
The first reference to the chickens of Polverara is from Bernardino Scardeone (1478–1554), who writes of the Saccisica: "this area is ... famous for the abundance of chickens of remarkable size, particularly in the village of Polverara". Alessandro Tassoni (1565–1635), in his mock-heroic poem La Secchia Rapita ("The Stolen Bucket", 1622) speaks of "... Polverara, which is the kingdom of cocks".
A painting by Giovanni Agostino Cassana (1658–1720) in the Musei Civici degli Eremitani, the city museums of Padova, shows a woman spinning thread in a rural landscape, surrounded by a number of domestic animals, including a crested white hen that closely resembles the Polverara breed.
By the late 19th century a decline in the breed, attributed to inter-breeding with other chickens, was already apparent. Despite various attempts by breeders to preserve it, and the institution by the comune of Polverara in 1925 of an annual prize of 300 lire to be awarded to the best breeder, the Polverara chicken declined through most of the 20th century. A rustic breed that adapted poorly to intensive farming, its numbers fell until only seven remained. From the 1980s, new efforts were made to recover and reconstitute it. It was included in the 1996 official standard of the Federazione Italiana Associazioni Avicole, the federation of Italian poultry associations, which is the authority governing poultry breeding in Italy. It is under the protection of the European Community.
Breed numbers remain low. A study published in 2007 used a figure of approximately 1200 for the total breeding stock, of which approximately 300 were cocks.
Two colours are recognised for the Polverara, black and white. The black variety is deep black with strong dark green lights; the legs are a greenish slate colour, and the beak dark with black lines. The white variety is pure white, with willow-green legs and pinkish yellow beak. The skin is white. The crest is small and upward-facing, the comb small and V-shaped. The wattles are small, the ear-lobes of medium size and pure white. Average weight is 2.5–2.8 kg (5.5–6.2 lb) for cocks, 1.8–2.1 kg (4.0–4.6 lb) for hens. The eggs are whitish and weigh at least 50 g. Ring size is 18 mm for cocks, 16 mm for hens.
The Polverara is a dual-purpose breed. It is kept in the open as it adapts poorly to captivity, and may roost in trees where available. Cocks easily reach 3 kg in weight. Hens lay at least 150 eggs a year. The meat is darker than in some other breeds, and is delicate and well-flavoured.
- Atlante delle razze di Polli - Razze italiane: Polverara (in Italian) Accessed January 2012. "Atlas of chicken breeds - Italian breeds: Polverara".
- Ghigi, Alessandro (1942) Genetica e morfologia dell'ernia cerebrale di alcune razze di polli (in Italian) in Commentationes Vol.6, part 1:-383. In Civitate Vaticana: Pontificia Accademia delle scienze. "Genetics and morphology of the cerebral hernia in some breeds of chicken".
- Brothwell, Don (1979) Roman evidence of a crested form of domestic fowl, as indicated by a skull showing associated cerebral hernia Journal of Archaeological Science 6:3, September 1979, pp.291–293 (subscription required for full access)
- Scardeone, Bernardino (1560) Bernardini Scardeonii, canonici Patavini, De antiqvitate vrbis Patavii, & claris ciuibus Patauinis, libri tres, in quindecim classes distincti. Eivsdem appendix De sepvlchris insignibvs exterorvm Patavii iacentivm ... (in Latin) Baseleae, apvd Nicolaum Episcopium iuniorem. p.17. "Hujus territorium frumento et lino est exuberantissimum, et gallinarum mirae magnitudinis copia supra modum nobilitatum: praesertim in pulverario pago ipsi oppido propinquo"
- Tassoni, Alessandro (1622) La secchia: Poema eroicomico d'Androvinci Melisone. Con gli argomenti del can. Alber. Baris. Aggiuntoui in ultimo il primo canto de l'oceano del medesimo autore Parigi. (1830 edition, p.136) "... Polverara, dov'è il regno de' galli e la sementa famosa in ogni parte".
- La gallina Polverara ai Musei Civici Eremitani (in Italian) Polverara: Notiziario dell’Amministrazione Comunale, no. 15, July 2007. Accessed January 2012. "The Polverara chicken in the Musei Civici Eremitani".
- Gloria, Andrea (1862) Il territorio padovano illustrato, vol. III (in Italian) Padova. "The territory of Padova illustrated".
- Municipio di Polverara: Verbale di deliberazione comunale, 20 Novembre 1925, page 1, page 2 (in Italian) Accessed January 2012. "Town council of Polverara: minutes of debate, 25 November 1925".
- Ferasin, M.; Candian, A.; Sisto, S.; Scudeller, A.; Causin, L.; Ormenese, N.; Burigana, E. and Zuanetto, S. (2006) Carni e frattaglie fresche e loro preparazione (in Italian) in Atlante dei prodotti tradizionali agroalimentari del Veneto, pp.29-104. Veneto Agricoltura. p.54. Accessed January 2012. "Fresh meat and offal, and their preparation".
- Zanon, Alessio Polverara (in Italian) Il Pollaio del Re. Accessed January 2012. "The Polverara"
- FIAV (1996) Standard Italiano delle razze avicole.(in Italian) Casatenovo, Lecco: Tipografia Artigiana. "Italian standard of avian breeds".
- Spalona, A.; H. Ranvig, K. Cywa-Benko, A. Zanon, A. Sabbioni, I. Szalay, J. Benková, J. Baumgartner and T. Szwaczkowski (2007) Population size in conservation of local chicken breeds in chosen European countries – Populationsgrößen in Erhaltungszuchtprogrammen für einheimische Hühnerrassen in ausgewählten Ländern Europas Archiv für Geflügelkunde 71 (2). pp.49–55. Stuttgart: Eugen Ulmer. ISSN 0003-9098
- La gallina razza Polverara (in Italian) Comune di Polverara. Accessed January 2012. "The Polverara chicken breed".
- La "nobile" gallina di Polverara (Italian), by Paolo Zatta and Gabriele Baldan. Detailed history with comprehensive bibliography.