Game Bird Breeders, Aviculturists, Zoologists and Conservationists Gazette 22: 8-11. (Feb 1973)
Characteristics and Behavior of a Peafowl-Guinea Hybrid
By Professor Earl L. Hanebrink
Division of Biological Science, State University, Arkansas

INTRODUCTION. The consequences of one or more large number of isolating mechanisms are that birds of different species or genera either do not mate or mate only rarely (Dobzhansky, 1951; Riley, 1952). Ecological and zoogeographical isolation has kept the Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) and Common Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) apart in the wild as the guinea is native to the Ethopian Zoogeographical Realm and the peafowl to the Oriental Realm. However, under domestication these two species have been brought together by man. Both the Common Guinea and Peafowl belong to the order Galliformes, but are classified as members of different families. The peafowl belongs to the family Phasianidae while the guinea belongs to the family Numididae (Wetmore, 1960; Storer, 1971). Mainardi (1959) in his paper on immunological distances among Gallinaceous birds recommends grouping of all species of the families Numididae, Meleagrididae, Tetraonidae and Phasianidae into one family, namely Phasianidae. This is in agreement with Yamashina's (1952) cytological studies and Sibley's (1960) electrophoretic analysis of egg-white proteins. Storer's (1971) classification includes the grouse, quail, pheasants, turkeys in the Phasianidae but retains the family Numididae for the guineafowl. Wetmore (1960) has retained four families in the super family Phasianoidea. These are Tetraonidae, Phasianidae, Numididae and Meleagrididae.

Only between domesticated chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) and the Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) have many natural hybrids been recorded (Wheeler, 1910; Cutler, 1918, Serebrowsky, 1929; Yamashina, 1942; Shaklee and Knox, 1954; and Asmundson and Lorenz, 1957). Through artificial insemination a number of hybrids have been produced. Chicken-quail hybrids (Coturnix coturnix japonica) were successfully produced by Mitsumoto and Nishida (1958) and by Wilcox and Clark (1961). Several attempted crosses have been made between domesticated turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo) and chickens (Warren and Scott, 1935). Gray lists 12 such studies (1958) and notes that in all controlled experiments there has not been a single reported instance for a hybrid having hatched.

Published reports of earlier workers indicated that only a limited number of fertile eggs were obtained with few advanced embryos (Ogorodii, 1935; Quinn et al. 1937; and Asmundson and Lorenz, 1957). Olsen (1960) has published on successful hatching of chicken-turkey hybrids. He reported a total of 302 embryos (14.2%)were encountered among 2,132 eggs incubated. One hundred-twenty of these embryos attained an age at which down color established hybridization. Twenty-three hybrids hatched and a photograph is included (p. 72) of such a cross at 20 weeks of age. It is evident from Olsen's study that under certain conditions, spermatozoa from Dark Cornish and Rhode Island Red males are capable of fertilizing turkey eggs. Edwards (1761) published an account of a bird supposed to be bred between a turkey and pheasant.

Published accounts of crosses between a peafowl and guineafowl have been reported previously by Poll (1910), Serebrovsky (1929), Ghigi (1936) and at least two accounts have been published in the Game Bird Breeders, Aviculturists, Zoologists and Conservationists' GAZETTE during the last 20 years (George Allen, editor; personal communication). Poll (1910) described hybrid crosses in the Berlin Zoological Museum and these are mentioned by Serebrovsky (1929) and included such crosses as Turkey-Guineafowl, Peafowl-Guineafowl, Common fowl-Guineafowl, Common fowl-Pheasant, plus various crosses among pheasants of different species.


Fig. 1. A Peafowl-Guineafowl Hybrid.

From the crosses of turkey-chicken, Olson (1960) reported all males. Wilcox and Clark (1961) gave no sex ratios among their artificially inseminated crosses of the Coturnix Quail and domesticated chickens. Haldane (1922) concluded that when in the F1 offspring of a cross between two animal species or races one sex is absent, rare, or sterile, that sex is always the heterozygous sex. In birds the heterogametic sex is the female whereas in mammals the male is the heterogametic sex. An increased percentage of males have been found in the F1 generation in interhybrid crosses among gallinaceous birds. Ghigi (1936) reported only male hybrids in crosses between domestic fowl and guineafowl and guineafowl and peafowl.

Sandnes and Landauer (1938) reported both sexes among hybrids of pheasants and chickens. Miller (1962) states from his fish studies that some hybrid combinations occur more abundantly, but generally are also randomly scattered and have either abnormal sex ratios as found in many sunfish hybrids, or abnormal gamete development.

Description of a Peafowl-Guinea Hybrid. This cross (Fig. 1) was hatched from a guinea egg under natural barnyard conditions. The specimen is three years old and from its general characteristics apparently is a female. Mayhall (1961) gave an account observing a peacock mating with one of his guineas. He set six eggs from this guinea and two hybrids hatched and remained in a healthy condition. The hybrid described in this paper was raised at Fredricktown, Missouri, and is owned by Roney Priday. John Priday loaned the live specimen to the writer's home for observations of its behavior and for morphological measurements. This peafowl-guinea hybrid (Table 1) has intermediate morphological characters. The head does not have the horny helmet of the guinea nor the crest of feathers of the peafowl. The gape waddles are vestigial and the face is partly bare of feathers with some blue characteristics of guineafowl showing. Bill length is intermediate. Body shape is more nearly that of the peahen with peahen tail and wing characteristics. The coloring of the contour feathers is spangled pearl like the guinea with some of the brown characteristics of the peahen intermingled. The belly region is light like the peahen. Tarsus length, although intermediate is guinea-like in color and scales. Middle-toe length is also intermediate. Apparently this hybrid cross is a female but there has been no attempt of it to lay eggs even though it has gone through three breeding seasons. Haldane (1922) has published on the sterility encountered among hybrid animals and found that a large percent are sterile.

Social Behavior. Interspecific social behavior of both species plus the hybrid have been observed by the writer under natural barnyard conditions. The hybrid appears to be more acceptable to the peafowl than to the guineas if given a choice. Its voice is neither like that of the peafowl or the guinea. The writer's peacock likes very much being in the company of guineas. The male guinea's reaction to the peacock is rather hostile as it will dart quickly at it and then run away for a short distance. This behavior continues as the peacock follows. The peacock is not alarmed at this aggressive behavior and continues to follow along behind although not seemingly wanted by the guineas. The peacock has been observed pecking at the head of the female guinea and after a time the female guinea positions itself in a pre-copulatory manner but actual copulation was not observed. Apparently the female guinea was inviting copulation.

In habits both the peafowl and guinea are gregarious in their natural setting and continue to be so under domestication, the peafowl less so. Both species have the habit of running from danger with occasional short flights into trees or on buildings. Equally both species are very curious and cautious creatures and are well aware of any unusual sounds, commotions or stray animals in the area. Guineas are more nervous in their behavior. The hybrid cross seems to be more like the guinea in temperament.

Summary. Several crosses between peafowl and guineafowl have been previously published as well as a large number of crosses among other members of the superfamily Phasianoidea Most of these published accounts however mention the hybrid with little description of the behavior and morphological characters. This paper describes the behavior and morphological characters of such a cross. Game breeders do not advocate interhybrid crosses, nevertheless these do occur under both natural and artificial conditions. Sarvella (1969) mentions that these crosses often times may be used as valuable research tools. Cytological studies of intergeneric crosses between chickens, pheasants, quail, turkeys, guineas and peafowl help us to advance our understanding of evolutionary trends which lead to our classification systems. Also, they enable us to devise techniques to transfer genes from wild birds to domestic ones. Electrophoresis studies of plasma proteins and egg albumins may show some light to phylogenetic relationships as well as chromosome studies among these hybrids.

The ease at which peafowl-guinea crosses occur seems to support a closer relationship of these two species than most taxonomists suggest. Possibly the guinea should also be placed in the same family as Mainardi, Yamashina and Sibley suggest.

Acknowledgements: The writer wishes to express his appreciation to George A. Allen, Jr., editor of the Game Bird Breeders, Aviculturists, Zoologists, and Conservationists' GAZETTE and to Carl Naether, well known authority and author of doves, pigeons and game bird publications for help in locating accounts of hybrids of peafawl and guinea crosses. Appreciation is also expressed to Mr. Roney and John Priday for loaning the hybrid cross for study of its morphological and behavioral characteristics.

Table 1. Comparison of morphological characters of the guinea-peafowl cross with male and female peafowl and guinea.

Characters Peafowl Peafowl Guinea-Peafowl Cross Guinea
Culmen 5 cm 4.8 cm 3.5 cm 2.0 cm
Middle Toe Length 9.0 cm 7.5 cm 7.0 cm 6.5 cm
Tarsus length 10.0 cm 9.5 cm 9.0 cm 7.0 cm
Total wing length 57.15 cm 47.09 cm 40.64 cm 28.94 cm

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