The Lincolnshire Buff was a dual purpose utility breed found mainly in it’s native Lincolnshire. During the 19th and early 20th Century, it was supplied in vast numbers to the London markets as a white fleshed table bird and was widely sold as a good winter layer. Standardisation of the Buff Orpington, which many at the time considered to be a refined Lincolnshire Buff, lead to it’s demise in many by the 1920’s, although it’s genetic material lived on in the Orpington albeit in a much modified form.
In the 1980’s the breed was re-developed in Lincolnshire using this genetic material, with the addition of the Cochin and Dorking. This in turn produced an ideal fowl for the modern smallholder.
Lincolnshire is probably unique among the English Counties in so much as it had four distinct breeds of livestock which originated within the County boundaries. We still have Lincoln Longwool sheep and Lincoln Red cattle but sadly the Lincolnshire Buff chicken had faded away by the 1920’s. As recently as 1972 the Lincolnshire Curly Coat pig was declared extinct.
It is thought that the Lincolnshire Buff appeared in the 1850’s, not long after the introduction of the Asiatic breeds such as the Shanghai, Cochin and Brahma. These new massive fowl were crossed with the old faithful local fowl in many districts to improve size, vigour and egg colour. The Buff Cochin of the time bore no resemblance to that of the present day, being only slightly feathered on the legs, rather tall and with a distinct colour pattern including chestnut shoulders and black pigment in the tail. This bird was apparently combined with the Dorking and the inevitable “common fowl of the countryside” to produce the prototype Lincolnshire fowl which had legs and feet which were either white or yellow and sometimes feathered.
The Lincolnshire Buff and Buff Orpington Link
When William Cook’s Buff Orpington was introduced in 1894, there was much argument among the poultry experts of the time, many of whom were convinced that it was merely a selected Lincolnshire Buff with four toes and clean legs. Harrison Weir, a famous poultry illustrator and writer wrote extensively about this controversy in his 1902 book, “Our Poultry”. He was of the opinion that Cooks original confection would never breed true because of its constituents. The Lincolnshire Buff was thought to be easier to stabilize and probably took over Cooks original genetic material by sheer weight of numbers. The breed was however eventually standardized as the Orpington and the Lincolnshire name faded away by the 1920’s to re-appear in the 1980’s. After much work to re-create the breed by a Lincolnshire Agricultural College and local breeders, it was granted a Standard by the Poultry Club of Great Britain in 1997, nearly 150 years after its original creation.