The red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a tropical bird in the family Phasianidae. They are the primary progenitor of the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) (though genetic evidence strongly suggests some past hybridisation with the grey junglefowl, as well). The red junglefowls were first domesticated at least 5,000 years ago in India. Since then, their domestic form has spread around the world and is kept globally as a very productive food source of both meat and eggs.
|Scientific classification |
|Red junglefowl range|
Phasianus gallus Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomy and systematics
Numerous wild and domestic subspecies of Gallus gallus exist, including:
- G. g. gallus – from Southeast Asia
- G. g. bankiva – from Java
- G. g. jabouillei – from Vietnam
- G. g. murghi – from India and Bangladesh
- G. g. spadiceus – from Burma
- G. g. domesticus – domestic chicken
The true nominate race of red junglefowl has a mix of feather colours, with orange, brown, red, gold, grey, white, olive and even metallic green plumage. The tail of the male roosters can grow up to 28 centimetres (11 in), and the whole bird may be as long as 70 centimetres (28 in). There are 14 tail feathers. A moult in June changes the bird's plumage to an eclipse pattern, which lasts through October. The male eclipse pattern includes a black feather in the middle of the back, and small red-orange plumes spread across the body. Female eclipse plumage is generally indistinguishable from the plumage at other seasons, but the moulting schedule is the same as males.
Compared to the more familiar domestic chicken, the red junglefowl has a much smaller body mass (around 2¼ lbs (1 kg) in females and 3¼ lbs (1.5kg) in males) and is brighter in coloration. Junglefowl are also behaviourally different from domestic chickens, being naturally very shy of humans compared to the much tamer domesticated subspecies.
Male junglefowl are significantly larger than females, and have brightly coloured decorative feathers. The male's tail is composed of long, arching feathers that initially look black, but shimmer with blue, purple, and green in bright light. He also has long, golden hackle feathers on his neck and on his back. The female's plumage is typical of this family of birds in being cryptic and adapted for camouflage. She alone looks after the eggs and chicks. She also has a very small comb and wattles (fleshy ornaments on the head that signal good health to rivals and potential mates) compared to the males.
During their mating season, the male birds announce their presence with the well known "cock-a-doodle-doo" call or crowing. Male red junglefowl have a shorter crowing sound than domestic roosters; the call cuts off abruptly at the end. This serves both to attract potential mates and to make other male birds in the area aware of the risk of fighting a breeding competitor. A spur on the lower leg just behind and above the foot serves in such fighting. Their call structure is complex and they have distinctive alarm calls for aerial and ground predators to which others react appropriately.
Distribution and habitat
The range of the wild form stretches from India, eastwards across Indochina and southern China and into Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Junglefowl were one of three main animals (along with the domesticated pigs and dogs) carried by early Austronesian peoples from Island Southeast Asia in their voyages to the islands of Oceania in prehistory, starting at around 5,000 BP. Today their ancient descendants are found throughout Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia.
Behaviour and ecology
Red junglefowl regularly bathe in dust to keep just the right balance in their plumage. The dust absorbs extra oil and subsequently falls off.
Flight in these birds is almost purely confined to reaching their roosting areas at sunset in trees or any other high and relatively safe places free from ground predators, and for escape from immediate danger through the day.
Males make a food-related display called "tidbitting", performed upon finding food in the presence of a female. The display is composed of coaxing, cluck-like calls, and eye-catching bobbing and twitching motions of the head and neck. During the performance, the male repeatedly picks up and drops the food item with his beak. The display usually ends when the hen takes the food item either from the ground or directly from the male's beak. Mating then sometimes occurs.
The red junglefowl breeds spring through summer, with the bird laying an egg every day. Eggs take 21 days to develop. Chicks fledge in about 4 to 5 weeks, and at 12 weeks old are chased out of the group by their mother – at which point they start a new group or join an existing one. Sexual maturity is reached at 5 months, with females taking slightly longer than males to reach maturity. 
They are omnivorous and feed on insects, seeds, and fruits, including those that are cultivated such as those of the oil palm.
Relationship to humans
The red junglefowl was domesticated for human use well over 5,000 years ago as subspecies Gallus gallus domesticus. Known as chickens, they are a major source of food for humans. However, undomesticated red junglefowls still represent an important source of meat and eggs in their endemic range. The undomesticated form is sometimes used in cock-fighting.
Timeline of domestication
In 2012, a study examined mitochondrial DNA recovered from ancient bones from Europe, Thailand, the Pacific, and Chile, and from Spanish colonial sites in Florida and the Dominican Republic, in directly dated samples originating in Europe at 1,000 BP and in the Pacific at 3,000 BP. The study showed that chickens were most likely domesticated from wild red junglefowl, though some have suggested possible genetic contributions from other junglefowl species. Domestication occurred at least 7,400 years ago from a common ancestor flock in the bird's natural range, then proceeded in waves both east and west. The earliest undisputed domestic chicken remains are bones associated with a date around 7,400 BP from the Chishan site, in the Hebei province of China. In the Ganges region of India, red junglefowl were being used by humans as early as 7,000 years ago. No domestic chicken remains older than 4,000 years have been identified in the Indus Valley, and the antiquity of chickens recovered from excavations at Mohenjodaro is still debated.
|NCBI genome ID||111|
|Number of chromosomes||78|
|Year of completion||2012|
The other three members of the genus – Sri Lanka junglefowl (G. lafayetii), grey junglefowl (G. sonneratii), and the green junglefowl (G. varius) – do not usually produce fertile hybrids with the red junglefowl, suggesting that this is the domestic chicken's sole ancestor. However, supporting the hypothesis of a hybrid origin, research published in 2008 found that the gene responsible for the yellow skin of the domestic chicken most likely originated from the closely related grey junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii) and not from the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus). A culturally significant hybrid between the red junglefowl and the green junglefowl in Indonesia is known as the bekisar.
Purebred red junglefowl are thought to be facing a serious threat of extinction due to hybridisation at the edge of forests, where domesticated free-ranging chickens are common.
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- Storey, A.A.; et al. (2012). "Investigating the global dispersal of chickens in prehistory using ancient mitochondrial DNA signatures". PLoS ONE. 7 (7): e39171. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039171. PMC 3405094. PMID 22848352.
- Gautier, Zoe. "Gallus gallus (red junglefowl)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
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- Collias, N. E. (1987), "The vocal repertoire of the red junglefowl: A spectrographic classification and the code of communication", The Condor, 89 (3): 510–524, doi:10.2307/1368641, JSTOR 1368641
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- Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) page & links
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According to some scientists, truly wild populations of the red junglefowl Gallus gallus are either extinct or in grave danger of extinction due to introgression of genes from domestic or feral chickens
- "Red Junglefowl – Species factsheet: Gallus gallus", BirdLife Species Factsheet, BirdLife International, 2007, retrieved 20 September 2007
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|Wikispecies has information related to Gallus gallus|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gallus gallus.|
- Malaysian Red Junglefowl
- Red Junglefowl: Pure-bred v/s Cross-bred
- ARKive – images and movies of the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus)
- BirdLife Species Factsheet
- Red Junglefowl
- View the red junglefowl genome in Ensembl
- View the galGal4 genome assembly in the UCSC Genome Browser.
- Gallus bankiva (illustration) in Sir William Jardine, The natural history of gallinaceous birds: Vol. I., published by W. H. Lizars, and Stirling and Kenney, 1834; at Google Books.
- Reference guide to the four species of the genus Gallus, commonly known as junglefowl. Contains information and photographs of each of the species
- Ancestors of chickens studied for conservation; 7 August 2008; The Economic Times, Times of India