Gallos De Pelea Claret

Claret Gamefowl

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John H. Madigin's Claret was by far the best perfected Claret fowl ever created. Two great fellow cockers have kept the bird what it should be. According to cocker lore, the original Clarets were bred by accident. Colonel Madigin was a racehorse person and he turned some hens loose to walk with the rooster at his horse barn so the first Madigin Clarets may have been yard bred. Some say there is Whitehackle blood in the original bloodline to give them their speed and power.

Claret Gamefowl

Juan Garza originated this fowl with his father from Mexico and from this cross they created a type of fowl that dominated Texas for over half a century. During this time they developed a gamecock which no other fowl could compete with in any derby which was a Roundhead, Claret, and Kelso called their 3-way.

The “old-timers” are dark red, some are spangled and come pearl legged and black spurred and they fit the profile of what Colonel Madigin established as his Claret gamefowl. Their legs are very wide a part from one another and because of this they do very good in any competition.

Both the Madigin Claret from Wallace and Garza are a perfect match of pure stains that have been vigorously culled and improved for several generations. The Clarets come from two breeders and have pearl legs and black spurs the two families both have won over 85% with these birds in major competition.

Clarets will improve any breeding program

Gamefowl breeders of the Old Guard are raised on the premise that if a rooster can't fight and win as pure stock, they can't fight even if they are crossed. Most breeder who keep the bloodline keep their clarets pure. Because of the philosophy that keeping a strain pure will let you know if they are still any good in the pit and as base for crosses.

After 60-odd years with fighting Clarets in the pit everywhere in the world, if they weren't winning gamefowl they wouldn't still be around.

Claret Hen


Clarets are mostly straight combs, black breasted and wine red in color. They also possess wings and tails that have white streaks and usually white legged. While having a broad back and compact built, their weight ranges from 1.9 to 2.3 kilos. Clarets are high stationed roosters, have heavy feathers that are dark red wine in color, are pearl legged and black spurred. These have big heads with white streamers in the tail with no other white anywhere.

Fighting Style

The big red rooster is popular for being one of the keenest cutting machines in the air and even better on the ground. As a single stroke attacking gamefowl they only hit once but that one kick is lethal most of the time because these roosters are fast gamefowl as well. Smart fighters, Clarets are known to break high, can last a long fight in the pit and are aggressive hitters. Aside from cutting skill, they have power too which makes their cutting as deadly as any single stroke gamefowl anywhere. Known high flying with aerial finishing moves, they are also offbeat fighters who can time their attacks for a sure hit. One of their downfalls is that they bite into a fake by wily opponents who are counter-kickers that cut well. Otherwise, even the swarming Sweater is more than a fair match for one of the best of the Reds.

Claret Stag

The Making of Claret

In a recent article in one of the magazines, the theory was presented that the White Dominique was infused into the Clarets.

The best way to check white fowl is to mate one with a strain that produces black females. If Dominique is in the blood, it will show quickly. In fact I have had fowl shipped me; the shipper stating he had Clarets which did not have the proper appearance for other than white color, it being not the regular color for a Claret, which is different from any other white. I have tested them in single matings and never found one of them to be a true Claret.

The first chicks to appear showed Dominique characteristics when crossed on a Shuffler hen. It is amusing to note how many think they have Clarets, conscientiously believing they have the real stuff, for they don’t know that they don’t know. Any one who knows the fowl can test, in a few moments’ sparring whether it is real or not. Clarets fight differently. They fly into a cock with no beak hold, their heels pointed as an expert swordsman points a rapier. They don’t want to bite their opponent, just want to measure the distance and kill him.

A Claret cannot be produced synthetically. Many honestly believe they have created the Madigin fowl by crossing darked-colored red fowl in some manner to get wine red chickens but they do not produce the true fighting qualities of the Claret at all. Clippers originally were 50 per cent Claret. Even Clippers, from true Clarets, will produce an occasional white.

White Claret GamefowlWhite Claret

In my opinion, there are few Clarets now extant and less than half a dozen breeders who own a pure Claret, unless they have recently procured them from one of the few breeders of the true stock.

An expert has almost the feel of the true fowl. As one prominent breeder used to say: “They go together like an accordion.” They down have hard bodies; have lot of feathers, are frail chickens except in leg and wing power; but have more kick than anything their weight; are intelligent, realizing their killing prowess is in that kick and that their beaks are primarily to feed themselves. They watch and feint to get their opponent out of position, then fly into him to tear him all to pieces without getting a scratch themselves, if possible.

There are extenuating circumstances often even caused by their handlers if they do not understand their handling. Their intelligence goes to the brood yard. They are aristocrats of the chicken specie. Rarely ever will you have one that will fight females. They chatter, talk and are perfect feathered gentlemen. If you have loose hens running around the coops, the outside hens will stay around the yard with a Claret cock in it. Some of the old fashioned strains are the bourgeois of the feathered tribe.

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For four generations the family of the writer of this article has owed and admired spirited horses, dogs, and fowl. As far as one hundred years back, one ancestor kept game fowl at his slave cabins on his plantation. We were a family of attorneys and politicians and law makers, but the obsession for spirited chickens seemed to be perpetuated traditionally.

From the deepest research, experience and association with this strain of aristocrats of all game fowl, in this writer’s opinion, which of course may have little value, the Clarets, while thought to have been produced accidentally, were amply prepared to produce the greatest of all modern fowl.

It is a matter of common knowledge that a pair of fowl were casually thrown into a barn, the female stole her nest, raised nine stags and three pullets, they coming very regular, all deep claret-wine color, hence the name.

It was not entirely accidental that they were endowed with superior fighting ability, for on both sides, particularly on the female side, a pedigree of superior fowl existed. Her blood came from the best on both sides of the globe, carefully and intelligently produced by men who were past masters. The mother was a Herman B. Duryea Whitehackle whose sire won 19 battles, 14 of them in hands of Michael Kearney and 5 in England and Ireland for the Earl of Cromwell.

The sire of the Clarets, according to this writer’s research, was produced from a gray cock that fought at about 4.02. This particular cock belonged to a comparatively unknown boy at that time (in cocking circles) who I understand brought the cock to Mr. Deans to fight for him. Deans fought the cocks in good company several times. He won in such a creditable manner that Mr. Deans procured the cock for his own and then bred him to one of his good red hens, heavy in Mahoney blood. Mahoney lived with Mr. Deans for some time and died at his home. This produced the red cock that became the “daddy of the Clarets.”

Any of you have bred a light gray cock on fowl with white undercolor such as Whitehackle may have had the same experience as I; that a gray crossed on that sort of fowl might produce white birds, the gray being so near the white in color.

White Claret Gamefowl

The father of the sire of the Clarets was a gray cock, the daddy of the Clarets being the only red out of a clutch containing six stags, the remaining five being gray. The white did not present itself immediately. The wine color was first, then gray, then some whites. The gray, I understand were among the first grays that Mr. Madigin ever owned. The grays fought like Clarets, which of course they were. Then came the whites which went back to the combination of Whitehackle blood and the blood of the Deans gray cock, which cock contained blood of Gilman Grey-Mansell pyle with other combinations.

Mr. Madigin liked the white color which was a beautiful, magnolia or pinkish white. The stags invariably showed a buff brass back, which never occurs in any other color of white fowl. In fact, some of the chicks when hatched come almost pink.

In later years, I have heard that Mr. Madigin crosses some other white blood into his Clarets as the pure ones were getting small and inbred. If he did so it was entirely his own business as he was obligated to no one to perpetuate any fowl or color. He wanted a winner and liked those that looked well.

So far as runners were concerned, the Claret is one of the most sensitive and high-strung fowl. Coming from a long line of sensitive ancestry, particularly on the mother’s side they have definite characteristics. Just as a peacock, when he losses his feathers, will hide from his own females because he is so completely distressed, so will a game cock. The higher-strung the more sensitive and rightly so. It is sex and pride that makes him fight and he is at a disadvantage. Some of the gamest of bull dogs will carry their tails between their legs a good part of the time. A fight for them is serious for it means victory or death; a situation of which they are constantly aware. One who does not recognize the high spirit of the Claret fowl should never own one.

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There is a story in circulation that Mr. Madigin bred a yard of fowl intentionally “dunghilled.” He trusted most of his friends with whom he was associated in horse breeding and let them have some of his good fowl as they were not competitors in cockfighting. On the other hand, he felt that some of his chicken friends were not as loyal as they could have been in keeping his fowl as his property and origination. It is told that he distributed some of his synthetic fowl to certain individuals to cure them of the practice of bothering him for cocks, breeding them back and selling them later as “pure Clarets.”

To scatter his best fowl promiscuously to those who would breed them back would have destroyed his opportunity to win as he would have been in competition with his own ability as a breeder. Although the general opinion, is that the hen produced the greater percentage of fighting prowess, it depends on the stamina of bother parents. As unusually strong cock on a weak female with predominantly produce more of the male progeny’s qualifications.

My theory is that the white fowl were first produced naturally from the blood of the gray cock owned by Mr. Deans and that the mother of the Clarets with the white under color of the Duryea Whitehackle.

To this day, in breeding straight white Clarets, (which cannot be continued long as the feathers get too brittle and they get somewhat weakened; it is better to breed back to the dark colors) one will get an occasional gray feather and the first Clarets were bred 40 years ago. In my opinion, no outside blood was put in the Clarets except from two cocks from Mr. Marsh, strong in Lowman Whitehackle blood until 1935. The original white Clarets were a natural production.

The Origin of the Clarets
by J. H. Madigan
The Gamecock Magazine, November 1936

In the year 1907 I received from my friend, Andrew P. O’Conor, of Maryland, two pullets — one a black-red with pea comb, the other a wheaten with single comb. I lost the pea comb pullet. I put the single comb pullet at the race track where I was walking a stag for Henry Deans — a pure black-red with white legs.

Early the following spring the O’Conor hen stole her nest in the bush and brought out a large clutch of chicks, of which nine were stags — all black-reds with white and yellow legs and of very deep wine color; hence the name Claret.

We walked and fought them, and they proved to be very successful. Upon breeding them further, one in every eight or ten came white, and they are still doing so. In fact, this year we have many whites and a few spangles.

I have tried to keep the same blood, as nearly as possible. All crosses have been a failure, with few exceptions.

I notice that certain people in Houston, Texas and Hendersonville, North Carolina, and also in Michigan, are advertising Clarets for sale. They are not my blood unless they were stolen, which I doubt.

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