[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
THIS bird, which is called also the Guinea-Hen, or Pearled-Hen, was originally brought from Africa, where the breed is common, and seems to have been well known to the Romans who used to esteem the flesh of this fowl as a delicacy, and to admit it at their banquets. She went then by the name of Numidian Hen, or Meleagris, a compound Greek word which implies somewhat of the principal characteristics of the bird; namely, stolidity and rusticity. In fact, although they are now domesticated with us, they retain yet a great deal of their original freedom, and have a stupid look. Their noise is very disagreeable; it is a creaking note, which, incessantly repeated, grates upon the ear and becomes very teasing and unpleasant. They belong to the class of birds called pulveratores, as they scrape the ground and roll themselves in the dust like common hens, in order to get rid of small insects which lodge in their feathers.
The Pintado is somewhat larger than the common hen; her head is bare of feathers and covered with a naked skin of a bluish colour; on the top is a callous protuberance of a conical form. At the base of the bill on each side, hangs a loose wattle, red in the female and bluish in the male. The general colour of the plumage is a dark bluish grey, sprinkled with round white spots of different sizes, resembling pearls, from which circumstance the epithet of pearled has been applied to this bird, who, at first sight, appears as if he had been pelted by a strong shower of hail. These spots, which we find of a larger dimension upon some of the feathers of the pheasant, and bigger still on the tail of the peacock, are convincing proofs of a near relationship between these fowls.
This bird has, of late years considerably pullulated in this country, and is often seen hanging at the poultry shops and in the markets; the great abundance of them has considerably reduced their value, and they sell now, proportionally, like other fowls. The eggs are smaller than those of the common hen and rounder. They are reckoned a most delicate food.