Key Characteristics

The breed is not an ideal first time choice for a beginner. This hard feathered bird is active, needs space, loves to forage and tends to be noisy. A hardy breed they do not like being confined. They tend to be aggressive and self-contained and they are not suited to living in mixed flocks. The hens make protective mothers.


  • Ancestors of the Old English Game kept by the Britons were referred to by Julius Caesar in the 1st century B.C.
  • They weren’t kept particularly for meat of eggs, but were instead likely bred for cockfighting.
  • Cockfighting was a very popular pastime for many centuries until it was banned in 1849.
  • Show exhibitors gradually started changing the breed after this to produce a taller bird with tighter plumage.
  • Many Game breeders did not approve of these changes, so established the original type under the name Old English Game in the 1880s.
  • Two clubs were formed, one in the north, [Carlisle], the other in the south  [Oxford], initially with the same type of birds.
  • However, different preferences gradually crept in between the two, eventually leading to the two very different ‘Carlisle type OEG’ and ‘Oxford type OEG’ we see today.
  • The differences became more pronounced after 1936, when leading expert Herbert Atkinson died.  Atkinson’s influence had limited the change to two types.  He was primarily an ‘Oxford man’, but respected by many Carlisle people as well.


  • They have a slender carriage but powerfully built strong legs.
  • The comb (single) and wattle are small.
  • Carlisle birds are broader and have a horizontal back. Oxford birds are more slender and more typical of the original game fowl.
  • Both types come in a wide variety of colours: 13 for the Carlisle, 30 for the Oxford.


Depending on the strain the birds lay about 40 small tinted eggs in a year.

Did you know?

Males can sometimes adopt the brood and assist in rearing the chicks - a habit virtually unseen in other poultry breeds.

Breed Societies

Old English Game Bantam Club