The first Sumatra been introduced to the West have been imported by a US breeder called J.Butters from Boston and were shipped from Angers Point in Sumatra (Indonesia). Some people see the Sumatra as a pure exhibition fowl but behind its elegant appearance a true piece of gamefowl is hidden. The first Sumatra imported into the States were crossed with local "American Game" strains. The offspring of these crosses were very succesful. They proved to be very accurate, quick and aggresive. The locals from Sumatra trapped these birds during mating season a time of extreme aggresion and fighting spirit. After the end off the season the birds were released. Some of these wild Sumatra specimins stalked some local "chicks". This breed shows features of a pheasant. Due the long tail, its character and the growth of double or triple spurs some scientists strongly believe that they are close relatives of the pheasant family. After the introduction of the first Sumatra's into England under the name of "Malay pheasants" the breed more and more was used for exhibition purpose. The Sumatra is a fairly good layer and sitter. They are very active and alert and make often use of their wingpower taking of vertically to avoid danger. Large pens are essential to keep and accomodate them. Typical physical features: a rather small head with dark eyes, small peacomb, a long tail well developed. The shanks are black allover or olivegreen with yellow under the foot. Sometimes the birds show a dark face. Today the Sumatra is only known being all black of colour with a beetle green glossy shine on the feathers. Their weight: male 5.5 Lbs (2.5 Kg), the hen 4.4 Lbs (2.0 Kg). Today the Sumatra is not being used anymore as active pitfowl. However in Northern France where the sport is legal, the Sumatra has been used again as cross fowl with fair results. It is not unthinkable that the game character completly has been lost during the years of extensive breeding for exhibition purposes. Proper breeding and selection must can give an answer to this question.
Sources: "The Field" magazine (UK), data from an article written by Capt.E.Duckworth (1906)
Be not afraid of the dark , be afraid of what hunts in the dark
Lol, Sorry I didn't see your post until just now. Predator's article is one that has been recirculated for some time. It's probably accurate up to the date in which it was first published, but a few things are more understood these days. The inferance in this article about the Sumatra's "pheasant" heritage isn't well founded unless we're just looking at phenotypic similarities. Genetically, they're all chicken and fall into the same catagory as the other Junglefowls. Chrissy Bush's research group found the Junglefowls tend to come up more as an "out group" of the pheasant family, so whatever their links, they must be ancient.
Anyhow moving on, lol. A few of the finer points to look for in our modern day sumatras would be those found in the show standards. The reason being, these were written back in 1883. It's the way they're being interpreted these days that gets things messed up, lol. Yellow soles on the feet, multiple spurs (that actually grow) and have a squared shape not rounded. Look for an 'archaic' leg scaling pattern like a bunch of turtle shells put together, not like most modern chickens with more organized overlapping scales that are rounded on the edges. You'll have to look hard, but minimal wattle growth and small earlobes, mulberry or gypsy faced coloration in both males and females, and very small pea combs. I'm working on shrinking the wattles and getting rid of the red faces of the males in my Black line. The legs should be medium in length, you don't want something that is 'cornish-like' or 'pitgame-like', a happy medium. I noticed that my Blakeslee-Schock cross Black line had a lot of variation in leg length between the two in the F2 generation so I'm having to select hard for proper leg length.
I think feather quality is where you'll see a lot of issues cropping up these days. There is a tendancy to make sumatras a 'fluffier' breed, lol. The correct feathering is harder, more like the other maloid fowls. The sheen is beetle green, but don't be surprised if you get a bronzy or purplish cast to some birds, especially in hot-dry climates. The only time I've seen purple barring in my birds is when I've been a dumb*ss and changed their feed during a molt. Subsequent molts fixed the problem. Try to select for birds whos feathers are broad and a bit more rounded at the ends, especially their tail feathers. You'll notice the difference if you put two birds next to eachother, one with 3/4" wide tail feathers that come to a point and the other with 1" wide feathers that are more rounded. The cushion feathers of the females should be a bit squared off, I'm not sure why, but my better males have come from hens with squared off cushion feathers.