of the Fife Canary
Fife as an Individual Breed
The wild canary, a species of the Serin finch genus, was found only on the islands off the West Coast
of Africa: the canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde Islands.
According to old drawings the original canary
was self buff green in colour with dark brown shading, but it had the
markings found in all the serin/siskin type finches.
Many wild canaries were caught and taken back
to Spain where their song quickly established them as popular pets.
There are many other romantic stories telling how the
canary arrived in Europe. One of the most famous is that, when a ship was
wrecked off the coast of Elba, some canaries escaped from it. They were
then transported to Italy where they became popular, spreading from there
across Europe. However, it is more likely that the canaries arrived by a
variety of routes, as seamen calling at Madeira and other islands would
take them aboard as pets. Ships from France, Spain and Portugal visited
those islands regularly, to trade as well as to occupy and rule.
The early German fanciers developed the
canary’s song to the level it is today.
The earliest recorded domesticated canary was
probably the Lizard in the early 18th Century. Then the
Norwich (which is now extinct) was also produced in the 18th
Century. Other were produced in the early 1800s like the Belgium,
Scottish, Frilled, Lancashire and Old Dutch.
The Yorkshire canary was produced towards the
end of the last century.
However the newer varieties are the most
popular now and these include:
The Development of the Fife Canary
Half a century ago the Border and the Fife were
The Border Fancy Canary was formed in the
middle of the 19th century in the county of Cumberland
while the Yorkshire was being developed a couple of hundred miles
further south. After the quarrel between fanciers in the counties of
Cumberland, Dumfries, Roxburgh and Selkirk the Borders grew in
popularity in Scotland for over 15 years but made no progress in
England and Wales.
The bird of that period bore no resemblance to
the present day Border and very little to the present day Fife.
Today’s Borders are far larger than the birds
of yesterday. Even winning Borders of the 1970s and 1980s appear
smaller and much slimmer than the show winners of today.
Fifes as an Individual
It was the increase in size of the Border that
led to the creation of the Fife. Yet virtually unheard of 35 years
ago the Fife is the most popular canary today.
The Fife was relatively slow to catch on
outside Fife initially, but people who saw it were impressed with
its jauntiness, type and feather texture.
Fifes were given their own classes in 1975 when
50 birds took part.
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