Inside Malaysia's Bizarre Beauty Contests For Chickens [PHOTOS]

Singaporean photographer Ernest Goh was travelling to a farm in rural Malaysia for a photo expedition when he stumbled across a local and little-documented culture: chicken beauty pageants. The pageants feature the Ayam Serama breed of chicken, which is bred purely for ornamental purposes and is the smallest chicken in the world.

Goh began travelling to the pageants, which occur once a week in different rural Malaysian villages, and he photographed many of the chickens on display. Goh shared some photos from the project here, and you can check out the rest in his new book, “Cocks.”

The Serama breed of chicken originated from the crossbreeding of Japanese and Malaysian bantams or small chickens. The name Serama comes from “Rama,” which means king in Thailand. Some origin stories of the Serama say the chicken comes from a Thai king who gave them to a Malaysian sultan.

Ernest Goh

Serama breeding has become more popular over the last decade. While the pageants and breeder clubs are most popular in Malaysia, there are now clubs emerging in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, Britain, and France.

At the beauty pageants in Malaysia, breeders present their chickens one by one to a panel of judges. The judges inspect the chicken based on the chicken’s wings, feathers, tail, colour, and comb.

One of the most important factors in determining a champion is the chicken’s “stance” or “spirit.” How the chicken walks, puffs out its chest, and struts is very important to the judges.

Seramas are very particular in that they tend to stand with their heads lifted toward the sky, their wings downward, and then strut. Goh says that many of the breeders describe them as “warriors” or “soldiers ready for battle.”

Birds that have the potential to be champions can sell for as much as $US10,000. Thirty years ago, birds were valued for the beauty of their breasts and their ability to stand still. Today, athletic chickens with S-shaped bodies are highly prized.

Ernest Goh

After meeting several enthusiasts, Goh was introduced to Tuan Hassan, an expert breeder who has bred many chickens that have gone on to become “Grand Champions.” In the video below, Goh talks about the origins of the project and his experience meeting Hassan.

Ernest Goh – COCKS, Chicken Beauty Pageants from anotherbeautifulstory on Vimeo.

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