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It was doubtlessly the most widespread breed in all Central Italy. The breed's name is derived from the city, not so much because it has there its sole origins, but rather because it was from the city of Ancona that a numebr of specimens was sent to England, where they underwent a careful work of morphological selection which produced splendidly mottled liveries. It was in 1880 that Mr. M. Cobb succeeded in reaching his goals, and showed a superb flock of Anconas. Later on, in 1910, a new, rose-combed strain was shown in Birmingham (A.A.V.V., 1999; Arduin M., 1992).
The first specimens reached America no earlier than 1888; there the breed soon found very dedicated fanciers. There still remain several doubts on the true origin of the breed. Even though the size is the same as the Leghorn's, there are several differences, such as the quieter temper and the greenish-black variegated yellow shanks. Some of the breed's descriptions dated 1890 - 1900 do not mention any mottling on the legs, while other authors consider this a fault as it is derived by crossing with the Minorca breed, with the aim to increase the size (Giavarini I., 1983; Pozzi G., 1961; Ghigi A., 1968,1930; Taibel A., 1926; Vecchi A., 1944; Trevisani G., 1936).
The original Ancona was presumably a bird with a black greenish livery, irregularly mottled with white. It was only thanks to careful selection by foreign breeders that the mottling became so regularly distributed. If we carefully observe the livery, we'll see that on a shiny green-shaded black background some feathers - not all of them - end with a V-shaped white spot. Sickles, main tail feathers and wing coverts, on the other hand, must all display a white tip.
The comb is single, straight, with five well-developed points and the comb blade following the neck line without touching it; in the female it will be carried folded, without covering the eye. The rose-comb variety will display a kidney-shaped comb, well placed in the front part of the skull. The ear-lobes are white, of average size; a slightly creamy colour is admitted. Skin, yellow. Weight: male 2.0-2.5 kg; female 1.8-2.2 kg. The egg weighs minimum 50 grams, with a perfectly white shell (A.A.V.V., 1996).
As some authors report, Anconas were superbly bred in Italy by Prof. Ricci from Valmadrera and more recently by LLM Garagnani in his estate of Zola Predosa, near Bologna. Once these breeders, around 1950, were no more, the breed went into decline.
The current interest in local, original breeds has brought a general improvement, and Anconas are no more a rare appearance at poultry shows in Italy and abroad.
Unfortunately, Italian fanciers keep buying their breeding stock abroad rather than concentrate their efforts towards the selection of an authentic Italian strain.

Ancona cock
Ancona  hen
Ancona  1937
Ancona  1937
Ancona cock
Ancona hen
Ancona  foto F. Focardi
Ancona   foto F. Focardi
Ancona hen
chicks of Ancona breed
Ancona   foto F. Focardi
Ancona chicks   foto V. Masconni

It belongs to the breeds created around 1930 at the Experimental Poultry Station in Rovigo on initiative of its director Professor Ghigi with the aim of improving the production ability of local poultry (Arduin M.,1991). Professor Ghigi used Silver Dorkings, Light Sussex and Silver Leghorns. He first crossed Sussex and Dorking in order to fix the broiler type, and introduced later on the Leghorn to improve egg production and robustness.
Soon enough the breed characters were stabilized; these are: Silver livery, single comb, red ear-lobes with distinct white markings, shanks from light yellow to pinkish white and free from the Dorking's five-toed character.
Interesting was the use of the self-sexing factor obtained by crossing Argentata di Rovigo hens with Rhode Island Red cocks: the male chicks hatched with a different colour than female ones. This convenient characteristic contributed to the large diffusion of the breed before the modern white-livery "hybrids" appeared on the market.
Later on, the breed constantly decreased in the number of specimens, because of the creation of the new industrial broilers on one side, and the increasing inbreeding coefficient on the other. Shortly afterwards, the breeding of Rovigos was discontinued also by the experimental poultry studies centre in Bologna, which had been entrusted with the selection of the breed. It seems to have become extinct around 1950 (Ghigi A.,1968).

Argentato di Rovigo cock
Argentata di Rovigo
Argentata di Rovigo
a flock of Argentata di Rovigo foto del 1960

Despite the lack of literature on this breed, local researchers have ascertained the Bianca di Saluzzo always existed in the countryside of the Cuneo County. The first specimens to be shown (1996) were gathered by a group of enthusiast fanciers of old, local breeds, and are currently being studied in order to establish whether the breed can be standardised. According to the standard proposed by the local fanciers, the Bianca di Saluzzo resembles the classic Mediterranean type that was widely spread on the whole Italian peninsula and often was named according to the place of origin.
It is a bird of rectangular shape, bred for egg as well as meat production, with single comb, erect in the male and folded in the hen while the eye remains free; ear lobes are yellowish-white, sometimes abundantly variegated of red, a fault due to the lack of selection and therefore of uniformity. Shanks and skin are yellow, the livery is white with yellow shades, thus revealing that the breed is far from being highly bred and still belongs to the primitive type. The male weighs around 1.9-2.4 kg; the female about 1.7-2.2 kg. The tail is rather erect, which according to the breed's fanciers is one of its main characteristics. The Bianca di Saluzzo currently counts a few hundreds specimens, bred by a few local agricultural high schools that took the initiative to revive and preserve the original type.

Bianca di Saluzzo
Bianca di Saluzzo
a flock of Bianca di Saluzzo - foto A. Manassero
Bianca di Saluzzo

BIONDA PIEMONTESE, i.e. Buff of Piedmont
The Bionda Piemontese is a currently still widespread breed that, in spite of repeated crossing with commercial broilers or hybrids, has managed to preserve its pure-bred traits to a certain extent thanks to the favour it enjoys among the inhabitants of its area of origin. The first studies on the local breeds of Piedmont in North West Italy were carried out by the Experimental Poultry Center in Turin, under the guidance of its director Mr Vittorino Vezzani, who took care of the breed's selection. The Piemontese breed, according to a study by Mr. Vezzani's dated 1938, constituted 69% of the poultry population in the area of Novara, 75% in the Aosta County, 85% in the area around Turin and nearly the whole of the poultry stocks in County Cuneo.
However drastically decreased in the number of specimens, the Piemontese breed is currently still to be found in its area of origin, and it is curious enough that only in recent times a few local breeders realised the breed is in need of support. It was particularly around 1996 that the Piemontese first made its appearance at local poultry shows. Yet, the breed has at present no standard yet, perhaps because of the short-sighted disagreement between fanciers of the Cuneo as well as of the Crivelle area; due to a difference in the colour of the earlobe, both cities claim to be the breed's place of origin. This is detrimental to the support and further development of a breed that, though lacking in uniformity under certain aspects, on the other hand it displays a noticeable number of fixed characters.
The Bionda Piemontese has a rather heavy Mediterranean build, with a strong, yellow beak, occasionally marked by a darker hue; the comb is single, red and well developed, standing in the male, folded on one side in the female; earlobes, of average size, white, often with red veining / streaking; the shanks are free from plumage, yellow, with red veining / streaking; skin, yellow; the livery is rather uniform in colouring, the type being "black-tailed buff"; the male weighs about 2.0-2.5 kg,, the female 1.6-2.0 kg. The weight at the age of four months is between 1.2 and 1.4 kg. The egg shell is white, with a slight grey or yellow hue, and a weight between 53 and 60 grams. The hen is still possessed with the clocking instinct, while the laying can continue also in the winter.
The Piemontese, as well as the other regional breed, is currently interested by a breed protection and support project aiming at increasing the number of breeding specimens. To this project take part hobby breeders as well as a small number of high schools of agricolture that have undertaken the task to breed and home young breeding flocks in the area of origin (A.A.V.V., 1999).
I myself have been able to provide some further insight in the breed by studying a large amount of specimens in the areas of Alessandria, Cuneo and Turin, the result of which can be summarized as follows:
Cuneo Type: it displays red earlobes and heavier build; the female can have a standing comb. It seems to have been originated by a crossing of local specimens with New Hampshire chickens, as documented by the aforementioned Mr. Vezzani, professor of animal sciences.
To this crossing we owe the color of the egg shell, often other than pure white.
Alessandria Type: it displays a more pronounced Mediterranean type and build, large white-yellowish earlobes, and a large comb which is carried folded in the female; beside the tail feathers, also the neck hackles can occasionally show a black pattern. Naked-neck specimens with identical livery and build have also been observed.
Turin Type: similar to the Alessandria type, with occasionally a standing comb in the female (Chieri area).

Bionda Piemontese (Alessandria type)
Bionda Piemontese (Alessandria type)
Bionda Piemontese (Cuneo type)
Bionda Piemontese (Cuneo type)
Bionda Piemontese (Cuneo type)
Bionda Piemontese (Alessandria type)
Bionda Piemontese  (Alessandria type)

This valued breed was first mentioned in 1887 in the Italian poultry magazine "Guida del Pollicoltore" (The Poultry Breeder's Guide), edited by the poultry expert Mr. Italo Mazzon. At the time, according to the magazine, the Boffa was rather common in the whole Padua area; the origin, however, was not known. The breed's characters were a beautiful, standing single comb, regularly pointed in the male, while the beard ended up with a large collar which hid the white earlobes and the wattles. The bootless shanks varied in colour from white to grey and black, green and yellow, the last colour being generally preferred. The female displayed identical characters, apart from a rather low-set comb, which was carried folded once the laying had begun. The body was rather compact, with soft plumage and livery that had no traits in common to those of other local poultry (Mazzon I., 1934).
The Padua County Poultry Pen managed to gather together a few specimens in the dark Havana colour, from which flocks were put together. Specimens from some of these flocks were exported to England around 1930. Common was also a white variety, successfully shown at the National Exhibition 'del Levante' in Bari, South East Italy.
The Boffa was in fact valued as a layer of white-shelled eggs with an average of over 160 a year and a weight of around 70 g. The female could reach a weight of 2.5 kg, the male 3 kg. Its quiet nature made her apt to be kept in rather small spaces, a quality sometimes appreciable. A few flocks were kept at the County's Poultry Pen, a facility that
in 1937 was turned into a Poultry Studies Centre with a governmental decree.
The Padua Poultry Study Centre was born, a facility entrusted to the direction of the expert in animal sciences Mr. Giuseppe Squadroni, who had faculty to determine the policy concerning the live stock. Based on the poor results in terms of productivity, Mr. Squadroni decided to abandon the Boffa and the other local breeds kept at the Study Centre, which doomed the Boffa to become extinct. A very similar breed for type and build is apparently the Thuringer bearded. Should we want to suggest a link between the Boffa and other breeds from the Padua area, we might suppose it is derived by crossings between bearded and crested breeds (Padua, Polverara) with common chickens of Mediterranean type. The Boffa is currently extinct; bearded chickens, however, are not uncommon in the countryside of Veneto.

white Boffa (with chicks) 1948

This particularly appreciated breed is mentioned by the poultry expert Mr. C. A. Gonin in a letter included in his essay "Pagine sparse di Avicoltura" (Collected Works on Poultry Keeping)( Pascal T., 1925). Mr. Gonin reports a rather valued breed to be present in Lombardy, and more precisely in the area called Brianza, to such an extent that the chickens from Brianza were sold for a substantially higher price than other productions on the same Milan market.
Mr. Gonin describes it as very similar to a Belgian breed in its two varieties called Braekel and Campine, characteristics of which are single comb, white earlobe, dark shanks and a densely barred livery all over the body except on the head and neck, which are silver white. He states furthermore to be experienced in the keeping of this breed, since he was able to buy some specimens in Merate and kept such flocks in his pens at Chiaravalle Milanese.
A breeder from the Como area is reported by Mr. Gonin to have valued the Brianzola breed to such extent as to place adverts in Belgium, praising the production qualities and great robustness of his animals.
The Brianzola, although no other bibliographic source can be found to support the theory, can be considered as related to the Romagnola strain and in its morphology it resembles breeds such as the grey Bresse and the French Herginies (Périquet J. C., 1994).

Having its origins in the Padua County area, the Cappellona seems to have resulted from the crossing of the Common (crestless) Paduan type with crested breeds like the Padua and the Polverara. The name "cappellona" (hat-headed) is derived from a small crest hanging from the base of the comb down on the nape. The comb itself was buttercup-shaped, although single and very small combs were not uncommon. This group is genetically interesting because it displays quite a few similarities with the French breeds Caumont and Pavilly, thus corroborating the theory by which the crested breeds were producing - in the areas where they occurred - several phenotypes corresponding to genetic mutations that affected certain characters singularly and not as a whole. For instance, there could be observed bearded types, or crested but beardless types, etc. These phenotypes were subsequently fixed according to the local breeders' own preferences.
This could explain the existence of very similar breeds in different areas, geographically separated by a considerable distance. The Cappellona was never selected according to any particular criteria or standard; it seems to have had a predominantly black livery, white earlobes and dark shanks. It never enjoyed great esteem among Italian poultry keepers. It is reported as still existing around 1940, but disappeared completely in the course of the following years.

The creation of this breed with its varieties is owed to the talent and scientific accuracy of Professor Alessandro Ghigi. During the decade 1920 - 1930 in his capacity of Director of the Stazione Sperimentale di Pollicoltura in Rovigo, Professor Ghigi decided to research the hereditary behaviour of certain opposite characters such as the cerebral or cranial hernia in Padua's - which implies the growth of a large crest - in concomitance with the peculiar shape of comb and nostrils. The hereditary behaviour of these features was researched and compared to the transmission of the corresponding characters in common chicken breeds. Professor Ghigi was furthermore interested in the genetic information concerning weight and size in such specimens (Arduin M., 1991).
The first variety he created was the black one, by means of crossing Bantams with crested Paduas and subsequently selecting small-sized specimens with a large crest. The selection brought forth a variety with beard and muffling, and one without these characters. Both sexes were green-shaded black, with primitive comb, well visible white earlobes, slate-blue shanks and weight between 500 and 550 grams, with a strong tendency to hatch and raise their offspring. These strongly resembled the Bantam type.

black Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
white Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
black Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
white Ciuffina Ghigi 1930

The next step was the creation of the white variety by means of white Paduas, to be followed by the Ancona variety by crossing the white and black ones, and finally the Gold and Silver types by means of crossing with Sebrights (Brunoli A., 1972).
Today, the Ciuffina Ghigi has become totally extinct (see the pages Frauds and News). Besides, the existence of Paduas in a bantam version makes it unnecessary to retrieve the Ciuffina, since the two breeds would objectively display several similarities.
However, the Ciuffina Ghigi is still a noticeable example of an ornamental poultry breed, and repeatedly conferred Professor Ghigi international recognition / appreciation.





Java Bantam x Padua

500-550 g


Padua x Silkie x Ciuffina (1922–30)

700-950 g


Black x White Ciuffina (1940)

450 g


Padua x Golden Sebright

600-800 g


Golden Ciuffina x Silver Sebright

600-800 g



ancona Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
silver Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
golden Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
ancona Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
silver Ciuffina Ghigi 1930
golden Ciuffina Ghigi 1930

As a breed, the Italian Naked Neck is not unanimously recognised. Very common until World War II, its popularity decreased later on. It occurs nowadays very scarcely in Italy. It seems to be derived from crossings between the Transylvania Nude Neck and an Italian local breed. Mr. Mazzon lists this breed among the ones that are common in the Padua County area, and describes it as a good layer of large eggs, while the meet is tender and tasty.
Its main characteristics was obviously the featherless neck, embellished by a thick cravat in the front; other features were the single comb, with irregular points, and a small crest of feathers falling down to cover the nape. According to Mr. Mazzon, the Italian Naked Neck distinguished itself from other nude-neck breeds by the white earlobe, a clear sign that the breed belongs to the Mediterranean type. Other peculiarities to be stressed were: extremely thin skin, feathers that could be easily plucked, and the ability of the comb to endure frosty weather even in the coldest winters (1889-90). Mr. Mazzon also reports that the decrease in pure-bred specimens was due to the habit of using cross-bred cocks. In spite of this, thanks to the nude-neck factor being genetically dominant, the offspring was composed by a steadily recurring number of naked-neck specimens (Mazzon I., 1934).
Around 1980, the Conservatorio Razze Avicole (Institute for the Conservation of Poultry Breeds) in Rovigo successfully selected a few flocks of white Italian Collo Nudo. These chickens were very similar to Leghorns, except for the nude-neck factor. The latter was punctually inherited also by the offspring, although some specimens were evidently purebred nude-necks, while others were not. The breeding of naked necks was subsequently abandoned due to the necessity to reduce the poultry population.
There are currently a few traditional farms, especially in Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia Romagna where naked neck chickens can occasionally be observed, especially in the colours black and gold.
It is important to point out that these chickens have nothing in common with the nude-neck broilers that have also been marketed for the last few years in Italy. The following is a synthetic comparison between the two types:




General Appearance

Mediterranean Type

Type of  medium proportions, intense growth


Single, open, standing in the male, folded in the female

Single, average development


White, with slight red veining / streaking


Shanks and skin




Male: 2.8-3.2 kg; female: 1.9-2.1 kg; at 4 months: 1.4-1.6 kg

over 4 kg in both sexes


Gold, black, white

Gold partridge, mahogany red, barred, white, white columbia

a flock of white Collo Nuda Italiana foto M.Arduin
a flock of golden Collo Nuda Italiana - foto C.L. Fracanzani
a flock of broilers type
commercial Nude-Neck hybrid

A breed that became extinct in the early stages. According to Mr. Gonin there existed a Piacenza and a Treviso type; both types' peculiarity was to undergo a sudden moult, after which there could be observed an exceptional growth and extreme precociousness. Mr. Mazzon only briefly mentions the breed, adding that it had already become extinct in 1934.
He compares it to the Grota breed, and expresses his doubts concerning the genetic characters of these poultry specimens (Mazzon I., 1934). It seems to have existed in white and black.

It seems to have been a breed of primitive type, cuckoo-coloured, common in the area around Padua, in particular between Piove di Sacco, Monselice and Brugine.
It could bear various names, according to the location, among which were Cucca (cuckoo) or Cenere (ash-coloured).
Rather low set and heavily built, wide and deep in breast, it could reach a weight of 2 to 2.5 kg. The comb was single, earlobes white, shanks yellow; the livery was exclusively cuckoo, (Mazzon I.,1932)
Thanks to its good egg production and the noticeable size reached by the capons - often exceeding 3 kg -, the Cuccola seems to have been quite common in its area of origin. Around 1940, after the Padua Poultry Study Centre discontinued the breeding of local breeds in favour of more productive types, the Cuccola became extinct.

Shown in 1934 by the Itinerant Lonigo (Padua) Centre for Agricoltural Research at the 16th trade fair in Padua, its main characteristic was the golden livery, combined to white earlobes, yellow skin and shanks, white shelled eggs. This type can be associated to the Megiarola, about which more information is available below.
There still are several doubts as to whether the Lonigo Golden can be identified with the Vicentina, as proposed by some authors.

This Columbia-coloured breed was created by means of selection by Doctor Alfredo Bianchi, Director of the County Lucca Research Poultry Pen. According to Doctor Bianchi himself, his selection began with a group of Mediterranean chickens to which Brahma blood was added, as proved by the Columbia livery and the occasionally booted shanks. The breed was officially recognised in occasion of a laying contest organised by the Department of Forrestry and Agriculture.
During a nine-month observation period, the nine Lucca hens laid 1,119 eggs for a total weight of 62.294 kg, with an average of 55.5 g per egg (Trevisani G., 1936).
As Doctor Bianchi himself reported, his Columbia breed was far from being pure-bred: the specimens lacked uniformity in livery as well as in size; the generally yellow shanks could occasionally be slate-coloured. This data and a still existing original picture allow us to suppose the valuable laying qualities of the Ermellinata di Lucca are to be attributed to the typical vigour of hybrids, in this case from the crossing of local chickens with Brahma, rather than to consistent selection of certain characters.







Cock: silver, with white-mottled breast

Hen: columbia

Single; folded in the hen

White, heavily streaked with red

Yellow, occasionally slate-coloured

1.8 – 2 kg

 1.5 – 1.8 kg

Opaque white
55 g

old competition
Ermellinata di Lucca cock
Ermellinata di Lucca hen
Ermellinata di Lucca 1937
Ermellinata di Lucca
Ermellinata di Lucca 

The Ermellinata di Rovigo belongs to the more recently created group of breeds. The selection work started at the Experimental Poultry Station in Rovigo - a city in Northern Italy - with the aim to obtain a new double-purpose breed, apt to be kept outdoors, with yellow skin and shanks as requested by the consumer, the hens of which were to lay dark-shelled eggs. . The Sussex and Rhode Island Red were the foundation breeds chosen to begin the selection in 1959.
The F1 was subsequently selected by paying attention to precocity, rapid growth of feathers, egg production and resistance to diseases. The selection favoured the Columbia-coloured specimens of the Sussex type, with single comb, carried erect and of average size in both sexes; earlobes, red; shanks and skin, yellow.
At 3 months, cockerels and pullets reach the weight of 1.7 - 1.8 kg. The male weighs about 3.5 - 3.7 kg, the female up to 2.4 - 2.5 kg. The hens lay about 170-190 red-shelled eggs a year, weighing between 55 and 60 g. The chicks are born yellow, but display the Columbia pattern with the very first feathers.
The Ermellinata of Rovigo is also employable for the production of self-sexing chicks when using a New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red rooster. The breed is currently well represented at a local level, even though not in large amounts; it is particularly indicated for extensive poultry production thanks to its typical robustness.

Ermellinata di Rovigo
hens of Ermellinata di Rovigo
a couple of  E. di Rovigo foto M.Arduin
a flock of Ermellinata di Rovigo 
 foto C.L.Fracanzani
pulcino di poche ore di Ermellinata di Rovigo          
Ermellinata di Rovigo (chicks)
a flock of  Ermellinata di Rovigo

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