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“Shear elegance,” there are no better words to describe one’s first impression of the Yokohama chicken: brilliant, pure white with plumage; with red across the shoulders and back, red breast with white flecks in the Red Shouldered variety; long flowing type; long saddle feathers; and sickle feathers dragging the ground. In type they much resemble the Sumatra chicken, but with much longer saddle, sickle and tail feathers. They have a walnut-shaped comb, small or missing wattles, orange red eyes, and yellow legs.
Like the Phoenix chicken, the Yokohama chicken is a German creation from long-tailed fowls of Japanese descent. The first importation of long-tailed fowls came from Japan to the Jardin d’Acclimatation (Acclimatization Gardens) in Paris in 1864. Instead of displaying the fowls as Japanese Long-tails or Jitori, or by the breed name Minohiki, as they were called in Japan, they were named after the port city, Yokohama, and called Race de Yokohama.
In 1869, a Mr. Prosche from Dresden, Germany, was able to obtain a trio of these birds from Paris. Mr. Prosche twice tried to import more of these beautiful Japanese chickens, and on both occasions only males survived the sea voyage. Concerned with the small genetic base of the breed, in 1902 the famous German author, Bruno Duringen, also imported some of these birds from Japan. Again, only males survived the voyage. Thus, of necessity, breeders out-crossed to Malay, Phoenix, common Game fowl, and later Sumatra chickens to reinvigorate the breed.
Tails of three and four feet in length have been produced on Yokohama chickens. In Japan, the Yokohama’s ancestors are said to have produced tails up to 27 feet in length. Up until 1922, a red-shouldered variety of Minohikis also existed in Japan. Today they are gone and the Yokohama are all that are left to represent this unique color variety.
Both White Yokohama and Red Shouldered Yokohama chickens have a purity and luster to the white feathering. This is a result of genes for dominant white. The color pattern on the Red Shouldered variety is result of incomplete dominance of white to red genes.
The Yokohama chicken is an alert breed with a game-like appearance. They are indifferent layers and are said to go broody after laying only 12-14 eggs. The chicks are hardy, but require extra protein when their tails are growing. The breed is well-suited to estates where it can roam at large, thriving best when given a good deal of freedom.
It is unclear when Yokohama chickens arrived in America. However, Yokohamas were recognized by the American Poultry Association as a standard breed in 1981 in two varieties: White; and Red Shouldered. Males are 4.5 lbs and females are 3.5 lbs.