The Araucana was officially named in the 1930s. The origins of the British Araucana go back at least a hundred years and mentions of blue egg laying chickens appear in the 1700s. When the Spanish arrived in South America, bringing with them their poultry, they found that the Incas had their own ancient breeds which soon crossed with the imported stock. However in the High Andes there were many areas where the terrain made conquest impossible. Subsequently, the Arauca Indians of Old Northern Chile were never conquered so their poultry remained pure and led to the name Araucana.
Pockets of wild Araucana can still be seen in the Amazon Basin and in isolated areas in the high fincas of the Andes Range. The expansion of the old Colonial British Empire during the formation of the commonwealth led to the Araucana taking up residence in many countries around the world. Indeed, to this day, the British Tailed Araucana can be found in over 60 countries.
The precise historical moment of introduction to the British Isles is not known however it is reported that a Chilean nitrate ship floundered off the coast of Scotland in the 1930’s and the descendants of bearded, muffed, tailed Araucanas that were aboard were scattered among the Inner Hebrides. There has been a huge amount of cross breeding with more modern varieties in the twentieth century. George Malcom of East Lothian, Scotland created the modern standard that now exists, which maintains the unique blue egg along with the beard, muff and crest.
On the 17th October 1972 a committee meeting of the Rare Breed Society was held during the Malpas Young Stock Show. Mr Sheppy, the R.B.S. Secretary reported to the committee saying that the newly formed British Araucana Club had more than sufficient members to warrant a separate breed club and with the persistence of Mrs Dorian Roxburgh, its acting Secretary, the Araucana Breed was allowed to go it alone, classes had been arranged at the Poultry Club Championship Show to be held in Nottingham on February 3rd the following year (1973) and A J Sheppy had been invited to judge. The Araucana was removed from the list as a rare breed.
With Araucanas entered at Nottingham and the help of older established breeders, including Mr Malcom and Mr Smith, a standard was drawn up for the British Araucana and it was published in the 1974 Poultry Club Year Book.
The British Araucana Club, though was not the first club in the British Isels to cater for the breeds interests. 1956 saw the formation of the Araucana Society of Great Britain – which was actually based in Scotland – for many years its Secretary was Mrs E Main and its Chariman was Captain Hay of Hayfield. 1985 saw its demise and in all those years it never created a breed standard and would have nothing to do with the newly formed club.
E W Smith was made President of The British Aracucana Club and remained there until his death at 89 following a road accident on 15th May 1994. Mr Smith, who was a noted ornamental pheasant and budgie breeder, first acquired a sitting of Araucana eggs in 1935 from a Mr George Beaver, a rag-rug maker from Huddersfield, who travelled the world selling his wares. The offspring of this hatch produced nearly all males which were black red in colour, willow legged with a pea type comb falling to one side. Desperate for more females, a Mr G Edwards came to the rescue, having also had eggs from Mr George Beaver. Goerge Malcolm also had stock from Mr Edwards when he produced the Lavender using the auto-sexing Cream (Crested) Legbar.
Dorian Roxburgh remained in power for ten years and in that time promoted the Araucana with informative news around the world. In her time as Secretary the Rumpless Araucana (Collonca de Aretes) appeared on the scene. Regarded as a freak by older British type breeders it was, and still is, the true typed Araucana with its distinctive ear tufts. It is the only type seen in Europe and its country of origin, Chile. Only when the breed moved into the Americas did all the variations take place. Jackie Williams became the next Secretary followed by her mother Rosemary. Between them they pushed the Araucana by creating classes at many shows for both Large fowl and Bantam and of course eggs. Kath Simpkin then became Secretary and continued to push the breed forward amassing a membership of 340 members in 2004.
The egg and its colour is the main reason the breed is still with us. There have been many problems and the egg colour is to blame. For a long time before and after a standard was produced the attitude of many was ‘oh well it must be an Araucana because it lays a blue egg’ with total disregard for type, colour etc. Moving forwards the club is dedicated to the preservation of the Araucana in its purest form with birds conforming to breed standards as set out in the British Poultry Standards.