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The red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is a tropical member of the family Phasianidae. It is the primary progenitor of the domestic chicken (though genetic evidence strongly suggests some past hybridisation with the grey junglefowl as well).[2] The red junglefowl was first domesticated at least five thousand years ago in Asia. Since then it has spread around the world, and the domestic form is kept globally as a very productive food source of both meat and eggs.[3]

Red junglefowl
Male red junglefowl walking across forest floor
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Galliformes
Family: Phasianidae
Genus: Gallus
Species: G. gallus
Binomial name
Gallus gallus
(Linnaeus, 1758)
World map showing range confined to Southeast Asia
Red junglefowl range



The range of the wild form stretches from Tamil Nadu, India, eastwards across Indochina and southern China and into Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Indonesia. Junglefowl are established on several of the Hawaiian Islands, including Kauai, but these are feral descendants of domestic chickens. They can also be found on Christmas Island, Vanuatu, and the Mariana Islands.

Each of these various regions had its own subspecies of Gallus gallus, including:

Sexual dimorphismEdit

The male's tail is composed of long, arching feathers that initially look black but shimmer with blue, purple and green in good light. 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 no fleshy wattles, and a very small comb on the head.

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.[4] 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.[5][6]


Female red junglefowl
Male red junglefowl

Males make a food-related display called "tidbitting", performed upon finding food in the presence of a female.[7] 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. Breeding then occurs.[8] Males that produce anti-predator alarm calls[9] appear to be preferred by females.[10]

They are omnivorous and feed on insects, seeds and fruits, including those that are cultivated such as those of the oil palm.[11]

Red junglefowl regularly bathe in dust to keep just the right balance in their plumage. The dust absorbs extra oil and subsequently falls off.[12]

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.

Illustration of male and female red junglefowl


In 2012, a study was published that 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 B.P. and in the Pacific at 3,000 B.P. 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 paper also states that the earliest undisputed domestic chicken remains are bones associated with a date of approximately 5,400 BC 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.[3]


The other three members of the genus — Sri Lanka junglefowl (Gallus lafayetii), grey junglefowl (Gallus sonneratii), and the green junglefowl (Gallus varius) — do not usually produce fertile hybrids with the red junglefowl, suggesting that it is the sole ancestor of the domestic chicken. However, recent research has revealed the absence of the yellow skin gene in the wild red junglefowl found in domestic birds, which suggests hybridisation with the grey junglefowl during the domestication of the species.[2] A culturally significant hybrid between the red junglefowl and the green junglefowl in Indonesia is known as the bekisar.

Male red junglefowl crowing on a tree branch

Purebred red junglefowl are thought to be facing a serious threat of extinction because of hybridisation at the edge of forests where domesticated free ranging chickens are common.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Gallus gallus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Eriksson, Jonas; Larson, Greger; Gunnarsson, Ulrika; Bed'hom, Bertrand; Tixier-Boichard, Michele; Strömstedt, Lina; Wright, Dominic; Jungerius, Annemieke; et al. (23 January 2008), "Identification of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the Domestic Chicken", PLoS Genetics, PLoS Genet, preprint (2008): e10, doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000010.eor, archived from the original on 25 May 2012, retrieved 7 November 2016 
  3. ^ a b 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. 
  4. ^ Wild Singapore: Red Junglefowl, updated 9 October, accessed 1 January 2014.
  5. ^ 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 
  6. ^ Evans, C. S.; Macedonia, J. M.; Marler, P. (1993), "Effects of apparent size and speed on the response of chickens, Gallus gallus, to computer-generated simulations of aerial predators", Animal Behaviour, 46 (1): 1–11, doi:10.1006/anbe.1993.1156 
  7. ^ Animal Behaviour Lab Dr Chris Evans,, 15 November 2006, retrieved 22 April 2009 
  8. ^ Home,, retrieved 22 April 2009 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Macquarie University – Centre for the Integrative Study of Animal Behaviour,, 15 August 2008, retrieved 22 April 2009 
  11. ^ Arshad MI; M Zakaria; AS Sajap; A Ismail (2000), "Food and feeding habits of Red Junglefowl" (PDF), Pakistan J. Bio. Sci., 3 (6): 1024–1026, doi:10.3923/pjbs.2000.1024.1026 
  12. ^ Brinkley, Edward S., and Jane Beatson. "Fascinating Feathers ." Birds. Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Children's Books, 2000. 15. Print.
  13. ^ I. Lehr Brisbin Jr., Concerns for the genetic integrity and conservation status of the red junglefowl, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802 (with permission from SPPA Bulletin, 1997, 2(3):1-2): FeatherSite, retrieved 19 September 2007 
  14. ^ Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities 
  15. ^ Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) page & links 
  16. ^ Tomas P. Condon, Morphological and Behavioral Characteristics of Genetically Pure Indian Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus murghi, retrieved 19 September 2007 
  17. ^ Hawkins, W.P. (n.d.). Carolinas/Virginia Pheasant & Waterfowl Society. Red Junglefowl – Pure Strain,, retrieved 19 September 2007 
  18. ^ Gautier, Z. 2002. Gallus gallus (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed 19 September 2007,, retrieved 22 April 2009 
  19. ^ Genetic invasion threatens red jungle fowl, Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, 9 January 2006, retrieved 19 September 2007 
  20. ^ "Red Junglefowl genetically swamped", Tragopan No. 12, p. 10, World Birdwatch 22 (2), 1 June 2000, retrieved 19 September 2007, 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 
  21. ^ "Red Junglefowl – Species factsheet: Gallus gallus", BirdLife Species Factsheet, BirdLife International, 2007, retrieved 20 September 2007 
  22. ^ Peterson, A.T. & Brisbin, I. L. Jr. (1999), "Genetic endangerment of wild red junglefowl (Gallus gallus)", Bird Conservation International, 9: 387–394, doi:10.1017/s0959270900002148 
  23. ^ Brisbin, I. L. Jr. (1969), "Behavioral differentiation of wildness in two strains of Red Junglefowl (abstract)", Am. Zool., 9: 1072 

External linksEdit