There is much debate surrounding the true origin of this glorious breed, and the historical facts vary according to the source of reference. Upon researching the history of the Cayuga, it is also apparent that some of the early dates are a little sketchy.
However, that said, the broad consensus is as follows….
Local lore states that the Cayuga duck originally developed from a pair of wild ducks that were captured whilst on a millers duck pond in Duchess County, New York State in 1809. However, this tale seems to be somewhat inaccurate, and there has never been any actual supporting evidence to its authenticity.
Another more credible account was offered by one Mr R Teebury of Fulwood, Preston, Lancashire. England in an 1885 publication. He believed that the Cayuga resembled an English Black Duck, that was commonly found in Lancashire in the 1860’s.
This was endorsed by an unnamed acquaintance of Teebury, whom was a hunter/trapper in the region, and he also believed that this was the true origin this duck.
The Ducks were introduced to Cayuga County, in the state of New York around 1840. They were given their name at this time after Lake Cayuga, the longest of the central New York glacial Finger Lakes.
The Cayuga was included in The American Poultry Standard of Perfection in 1874, and subsequently raised on New York duck farms in very large numbers. This continued until the 1890’s when the Pekin duck began to dominate the trend.
As a recognized breed, the Cayuga officially arrived in Britain when they were first shown on public display in 1851 at The Great Exhibition, held at The Crystal Palace. Much later in 1901 they were finally admitted into the British Poultry Standard.
Noticeable attributes of the breed are that it is exceptionally hardy, able to withstand the harshest of winters, and sustain itself mostly through foraging alone when in the right environment.
As a table bird it is reputed to be of exquisite flavour and quality, but can be difficult to prepare due to its dark feathering. Skinning rather than plucking was one solution to this problem.
They are of a docile nature, and easy to tame if hand reared.
The Cayuga is of upright appearance with a long neck.
Black bill, Black legs and feet.
Dark brown eyes.
Black plumage with an iridescent beetle green gloss.
(This is most evident in strong bright light).
Classed as a ‘heavy’ duck, drakes weigh up to 3.5kg average.
Females develop white feathering and mottling in their second and subsequent years, which become more pronounced with age. On the other hand, drakes should not have white feathers, as this is considered a fault.
Females typically lay between 100-150 eggs per year. The eggs at the start of the laying season are pigmented black/dark grey or olive and fade through shades of grey and green, and are frequently white by the end of the season.
They are poor flyers, good sitters, and not particularly noisy birds.
This is a summary of characteristics, but the full and exact breed
standard can be found in the “British Poultry Standard” book.