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For other uses, see Fowl (disambiguation). Distinguish from foul.
Fossil range: Campanian - Recent
Chickens are a well-known member of this ancient clade
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Subclass: Neornithes
Infraclass: Neognathae
Superorder: Galloanserae
Sibley, Ahlquist & Monroe, 1988

Gastornithiformes Extinct



Fowl is a word for birds in general but usually refers to birds belonging to one of two biological orders, namely the gamefowl or landfowl (Galliformes) and the waterfowl (Anseriformes). Studies of anatomical and molecular similarities suggest these two groups were close evolutionary relatives; together, they form the fowl clade which is scientifically known as Galloanserae (initially termed Galloanseri)[1]. This clade is also supported by morphological and DNA sequence data[2] as well as retrotransposon presence/absence data[3].



As opposed to "fowl", "poultry" is a term for any kind of domesticated bird or bird captive-raised for meat or eggs; ostriches for example are sometimes kept as poultry, but are neither gamefowl nor waterfowl. In colloquial speech, the term "fowl" is however often used near-synonymously with "poultry" or even "bird", and many languages do not distinguish between "poultry" and "fowl". Nonetheless, the fact that Galliformes and Anseriformes most likely form a monophyletic group makes a distinction between "fowl" and "poultry" warranted.

The historic difference is due to the Germanic/Latin split word pairs characteristic of Middle English; the word 'fowl' is of Germanic origin (cf. Old English "Fugol", German Vogel, Danish Fugl), whilst poultry is of Latin via Norman French origin.

Many birds that are eaten by humans are fowl, including poultry such as chickens or turkeys, game birds such as pheasants or partridges, other wildfowl like guineafowl or peafowl, and waterfowl such as ducks or geese.


Domestic fowl x Guineafowl hybrid (left) and guineafowl x peafowl hybrid (right), Rothschild Museum (Tring)

While they are extremely diverse ecologically and consequently, in an adaptation to their different lifestyles, also morphologically and ethologically, there are still some features which unite water- and landfowl. Many of these, however, are plesiomorphic for Neornithes as a whole, and are also shared with paleognaths.

  • Galloanserae are very prolific; they regularly produce clutches of more than 5 or even more than 10 eggs, which is a lot for such sizeable birds. For example birds of prey and pigeons rarely lay more than two eggs.
  • While most living birds are monogamous, at least for a breeding season, many Galloanserae are notoriously polygynous or polygamous. To ornithologists, this is particularly well-known in dabbling ducks, where the males literally band together occasionally to "gang rape" unwilling females. The general public is probably most familiar with the polygynous habits of domestic chicken, where usually one or two roosters are kept with a whole flock of females.
  • Hybridization is extremely frequent in Galloanserae, and genera, not usually known to produce viable hybrids in birds, can be brought to interbreed with comparative ease. Guineafowl have successfully produced hybrids with domestic fowl and Blue Peafowl, to which are not particularly closely related as Galliformes go. This is an important factor complicating mtDNA sequence-based research on their relationships. The Mallards of North America, for example, are apparently mostly derived from some males which arrived from Siberia, settled down, and mated with American Black Duck ancestors[4]. See also Gamebird hybrids.
  • Galloanserae young are remarkably precocious. Anseriform young are able to swim and dive a few hours after hatching, and the hatchlings of mound-builders are fully feathered and even able to fly for prolonged distances as soon as they emerge from the nest mound.

Systematics and evolution

Fowl were the first neognath lineages to evolve. From the limited fossils that have to date been recovered, the conclusion that they were already widespread - indeed the predominant group of modern birds - by end of the Cretaceous is generally accepted nowadays. Fossils such as Vegavis indicate that essentially modern waterfowl - albeit belonging to a nowadays extinct lineage - were contemporaries of the (non-avian) dinosaurs. As opposed to the morphologically fairly conservative Galliformes, the Anseriformes have adapted to filter-feeding and are characterized by a large number of autapomorphies related to this lifestyle. The extremely advanced feeding systems of the Anseriformes, together with similarities of the early anseriform Presbyornis to shorebirds, had formerly prompted some scientists to ally Anseriformes with Charadriiformes instead[5][6]. However, as strong support for the Galloanserae has emerged in subsequent studies, the fowl clade continues to be accepted as a genuine evolutionary lineage by the vast majority of scientists.

Apart from the living members, the Gastornithiformes are probably a prehistoric member of the Galloanserae.


  1. ^ Sibley, C, Ahlquist, J. & Monroe, B. (1988)
  2. ^ Chubb, A. (2004)
  3. ^ Kriegs et al. (2007)
  4. ^ Kulikova, I. et al. (2005)
  5. ^ Benson, D. (1999)
  6. ^ Feduccia, A. (1999)


  • Benson, D. (1999): Presbyornis isoni and other late Paleocene birds from North Dakota. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 89: 253-266.
  • Chubb, A. (2004): New nuclear evidence for the oldest divergence among neognath birds: the phylogenetic utility of ZENK(i). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 30: 140-151
  • Feduccia, A. (1999): The Origin and Evolution of Birds, Second Edition. Yale University Press, New Haven.
  • Kriegs, Jan Ole; Matzke, Andreas; Churakov, Gennady; Kuritzin, Andrej; Mayr, Gerald; Brosius, Jürgen & Schmitz, Jürgen (2007): Waves of genomic hitchhikers shed light on the evolution of gamebirds (Aves: Galliformes). BMC Evolutionary Biology 7: 190 (Fulltext).
  • Kulikova, Irina V.; Drovetski, S.V.; Gibson, D.D.; Harrigan, R.J.; Rohwer, S.; Sorenson, Michael D.; Winker, K.; Zhuravlev, Yury N. & McCracken, Kevin G. (2005): Phylogeography of the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): Hybridization, dispersal, and lineage sorting contribute to complex geographic structure. Auk 122 (3): 949-965. [English with Russian abstract] DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0949:POTMAP]2.0.CO;2 PDF fulltext. Erratum: Auk 122 (4): 1309. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122[0949:POTMAP]2.0.CO;2
  • Sibley, C.G.; Ahlquist, J.E. & Monroe, B.L. (1988): A classification of the living birds of the world based on DNA-DNA hybridization studies. Auk 105: 409-423.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

FOWL (Dan. Fugl, Ger. Vogel), a term originally used in the sense that bird' now is, but, except in composition, - as sea-fowl, wild-fowl and the like, - practically almost confined 2 at present to designate the otherwise nameless species which struts on our dunghills, gathers round our barn-doors, or stocks our poultry yards - the type of the genus Gallus of ornithologists, of which four well-marked species are known. The first of these is the red jungle-fowl of the greater part of India, G. ferrugineus,- called by many writers G. bankiva, - which is undoubtedly the parent stock of all the domestic races (cf. Darwin, Animals and Plants under Domestication, i. pp. 233-246). It inhabits northern India from Sind to Burma and Cochin China, as well as the Malay Peninsula and many of the islands as far as Timor, besides the Philippines. It occurs on the Himalayas up to the height of 4000 ft., and its southern limits in the west of India proper are, according to Jerdon, found on the Raj-peepla hills to the south of the Nerbudda, and in the east near the left bank of the Godavery, or perhaps even farther, as he had heard of its being killed at Cummum. This species resembles in plumage what is commonly known among poultry-fanciers as the "Black-breasted game" breed, and this is said to be especially the case with examples from the Malay countries, between which and examples from India some differences are observable - the latter having the plumage less red, the ear-lappets almost invariably white, and slate-coloured legs, while in the former the ear-lappets are crimson, like the comb and wattles, and the legs yellowish. If the Malayan birds be considered distinct, it is to them that the name G. bankiva properly applies. This species is said to be found in lofty forests and in dense thickets, as well as in ordinary bamboo-jungles, and when cultivated land is near its haunts, it may be seen in the fields after the crops are cut in straggling parties of from 10 to 20. The crow to which the cock gives utterance morning and evening is just like that of a bantam, never prolonged as in most domestic birds. The hen breeds from January to July, according to the locality; and lays from 8 to 12 creamy-white eggs, occasionally scraping together a few leaves or a little dry grass by way of a nest. The so-called G. giganteus, formerly taken by some ornithologists for a distinct species, is now regarded as a. tame breed of G. ferrugineus or bankiva. The second good species is the grey jungle-fowl, G. sonnerati, whose range begins a little to the northward of the limits of the preceding, and it occupies the southern part of the Indian peninsula, without being found elsewhere. The cock has the end of the shaft of the neck-hackles dilated, forming a horny plate, like a drop of yellow sealing-wax. His call is very peculiar, being a broken and imperfect kind of crow, quite unlike that of G. ferrugineus and more like a cackle. The two species where their respective ranges overlap, occasionally interbreed in a wild state, and the present readily crosses in confinement with domestic poultry, but the hybrids are nearly always sterile. The third species is the Sinhalese jungle-fowl, G. stanleyi (the G. lafayettii of some authors), peculiar to Ceylon. This also greatly resembles in plumage some domestic birds, but the cock is red beneath, and has a yellow comb with a red edge and purplish-red cheeks and wattles. He has also a singularly different voice, his crow being dissyllabic. This bird crosses readily with tame hens, but the hybrids are believed to be infertile. The fourth species, G. varius (the G. furcatus of some authors), inhabits Java and the islands eastwards as far as Flores. This differs remarkably from the others in not possessing hackles, and 1 Bird (cognate with breed and brood) was originally the young of any animal, and an early Act of the Scottish parliament speaks of "Wolf-birdis," i.e. Wolf-cubs.

2 Like Deer (Dan. Dyr. Ger. Tier). Beast, too, with some men has almost attained as much specialization.

in having a large unserrated comb of red and blue and only a single chin wattle. The predominance of green in its plumage is another easy mark of distinction. Hybrids between this species and domestic birds are often produced, but they are most commonly sterile. Some of them have been mistaken for distinct species, as those which have received the names of G. aeneus and G. temmincki. Several circumstances seem to render likely that fowls were first domesticated in Burma or the countries adjacent thereto, and it is the tradition of the Chinese that they received their poultry from the West about the year 1400 B.C. By the Institutes of Manu, the tame fowl is forbidden, though the wild is allowed to be eaten - showing that its domestication was accomplished when they were written. The bird is not mentioned in the Old Testament nor by Homer, though he has 'AMKTWp (cock) as the name of a man, nor is it figured on ancient Egyptian monuments. Pindar mentions it, and Aristophanes calls it the Persian bird, thus indicating it to have been introduced to Greece through Persia, and it is figured on Babylonian cylinders between the 6th and 7th centuries B.C. It is sculptured on the Lycian marbles in the British Museum (c. 600 B.C.), and E. Blyth remarks (Ibis, 1867, p. 157) that it is there represented with the appearance of a true jungle-fowl, for none of the wild Galli have the upright bearing of the tame breed, but carry their tail in a drooping position. For further particulars of these breeds see POULTRY. (A. N.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Poultry article)

From BibleWiki


—Biblical Data:

The rearing of domestic fowl for various uses became a part of Palestinian husbandry only after the return from Babylon (see Cock; Hen); but from Isa 60:8 it appears that at the time when that passage was written the dove was to a certain degree domesticated (see Dove). The "fowls" ("ẓipporim") served on the table of Nehemiah (Neh 5:18) probably included pigeons and other small birds. Besides there are mentioned as having been used for food the quail (Ex 16:13 and parallels) and "fatted fowl" ("barburim abusim"; 1 Kg 5:3 [A. V. iv. 23]).

Fowling and Hunting.

As all birds not named in the catalogues of Lev. xi. and Deut. xiv. were clean, they and their eggs no doubt largely entered into the diet of the Hebrews from early times, and the requisite supply must have been obtained by fowling. The numerous terms for the instruments of fowling and hunting, and the various metaphors derived from them, testify, in fact, to the vogue of these practises in ancient Israel. There were the net ("reshet"; Prov 1:17; Hos 7:12, etc.), and the trap and snare ("paḥ" and "moḳesh"; Amos 3:5, etc.). Besides there are mentioned "ḥebel" (Ps 1406; properly "rope" or "cord"; A. V. "snare"; R. V. "noose"); "Ẓammim" (Job 18:8-10; A. V. "robbers"; R. V. "snare"); and "sebakah" (ib.; A. V. "snare"; R. V. "toils"). The bow and sling ("ḳela'") were possibly also employed to bring down birds. The use of a decoy is perhaps alluded to in Jer 5:26 (comp. Ecclus. [Sirach] xi. 30; see Partridge). For modern methods of fowling in Palestine see Tristram, "Nat. Hist." p. 163.

The use of eggs is perhaps indicated in Isa 10:14 and Job 6:6 (comp. Jer 17:11). The law of Deut 22:6, in order to forestall blunting of the tender feelings as well as the extermination of certain species of birds, prohibits the taking of the mother and young from the nest at one and the same time (known in later rabbinical literature as the ordinance of "shilluaḥ ha-ḳan").

—In the Talmud:

The Talmud gives the number of unclean birds after the Pentateuch lists as twenty-four, and then adds: "the clean birds are without number" (Ḥul. 63b). The characteristics of the clean birds are given (ib. 65a) as follows: (1) they do not kill or eat other birds; (2) they have a super-numerary toe ("eẓba' yeterah"), which is interpreted to mean either an additional toe behind the others, or an elongation of the middle toe; (3) they are supplied with a crop; (4) their stomachs have two skins, which can be easily separated; (5) they catch food thrown to them in the air, but bring it to the ground, when they divide it with their bills before eating it, while the unclean birds devour it in the air, or press it with one foot to the ground and tear it with their bills. Many birds are declared to be doubtful (ib. 62a, b). A distinction is made (ib. 42a) between large fowl ("'of ha-gas," geese, hens) and small ("'of ha-daḳ," doves, sparrows). "Ẓippor," denoting in the Old Testament the sparrow and other small birds, occurs in the Talmud as a general name for any clean bird (ib. 139b).

Domesticated Fowl.

The fowl mentioned as domesticated are the dove, the goose, the hen (see the special articles thereon), and the duck ("bar aweza"; Beẓah 32b; B. Ḳ. 92b; Ḥul. 62b). The flesh of fowl was especially the food of the aged and feeble (Yer. Peah viii. 21a); otherwise it was considered inferior to the meat of cattle, so that after blood-letting the latter was preferred (Me'i. 20b). City residents, being wealthy, consumed much poultry (Bek. 10a). The art of fattening fowl is described in Shab. 155b. The rearing of poultry in Jerusalem, and by priests throughout Palestine, was forbidden on account of the possible pollution of holy things (B. Ḳ. 79b).

Fowling is often referred to in the Talmud (comp. Pes. 23a; Beẓah 24a), metaphorically in Ab. iii. 20. In addition to the weapons of the fowler (and hunter) mentioned in the Old Testament there are enumerated, in Kelim xxiii. 4, the "maddaf" (sloping board), "palẓur," "agon," "raṭub," and "kelub" (basket). The "nesheb" was especially used for catching pigeons (B. Ḳ. 89b). Birdlime ("debeḳ") and the rod ("shafshef") on which it was smeared are mentioned (Shab. 78b), and the art of falconry is referred to (ib. 94a). The ordinance of "shilluaḥ ha-ḳan" is confined by the Talmud to clean birds (Ḥul. 138b). See, also, Eggs.

Bibliography: Tristram, Nat. Hist. p. 162; Lewysohn, Z. T. pp. 4, 7, 11, 15, 45, 160.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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Simple English

File:Scheuerer Hü
Scheuerer´s oil on canvas

Fowl are birds that are good to be hunted. This term is also used for poultry (for example, a chicken or duck).


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