Chicken Tales

A week ago I was at a departmental Christmas party. During it they had a quiz, and one question was “Which animal has the longest tail?” The right answer was the giraffe, but one group suggested it was the chicken.

Guess what? The chicken might be correct. Thanks to Google1, I discovered the Japanese Onagadori breed of chicken. This beast has a tail that can grow to over 10m long:

Apparently this happens because the breed has a mutation that means its tail feathers don’t moult every year, plus a couple of others that make it grow feathers quickly2.
Their tails have to grow for 10 years before they attain a decent length (decent for an Onagadori cock, at any rate), during which time their tails have to be rolled up and suspended out of the way, so they don’t get dirty and worn. Quite what the chickens themselves think of this, I don’t know.

Well, it’s better than a penguin suit.

1 Not googol: what that is was another question in the quiz.

2 There’s more about the genetics in this paper. If someone has electronic access, could they send it to me? Thanks.

About rpg

Scientist, poet, gadfly
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