This breed, formerly classified under light ducks, is unique. However, crossed with other breeds of domestic waterfowl, the runner produced nearly all the light duck breeds, which have a lower carriage than the runner. There are now fourteen standard colours in the UK, and several more in Australia and Germany. The Bali is a crested runner but is judged separately from the runners themselves because the crest is an important additional criterion in judging.
Conventionally known as the ‘Indian’ Runner, its origin was finally pinned down by Walton (1909) to the East Indies, though the Dutch probably knew this much earlier because of the connection of the Dutch East India Company with Batavia (Jakata) in Java.
Runners have a fascinating and controversial history. First imported into Britain in about 1835, and existing in the Earl of Derby’s collection, they became more famous in Cumbria and Dumfries. The Cumbrian Runners were described, imported, bred and exhibited by a succession of enthusiasts such as Donald, Digby, Walton and Smith.
The purists fought hard to champion their pure breed against the utility brigade, who labelled the pure runner the ‘penguin monstrosity’. Aided also by Reginald Appleyard, the Misses Davidson and Chisholm and Dr Coutts, the true runner survived and is still a popular show bird today.
Many enthusiasts are happy to keep these ducks as pets and slug-consumers par excellence. Runner ducks are used on organic farms and vinyards for pest control; content in a large flock and not much given to flying, they are easy to manage. There is however, a huge following both in Europe and North America for showing Indian Runner Ducks.
The Fawn, the White and the Fawn & White were standardised by 1913, several others were added in the inter-war years.
Recently, several new colours have been introduced from Germany, and some also made in Britain. The Germans have standards for their Silber-wildfarbig, and Erbsgelb and Blaugelb ‘Saxony’ Runners. In the UK, the dusky fawn runner colour has been used to create the Blue Dusky and Apricot Dusky Runner.
The colours represented in Indian Runner Ducks are derived from the same colour genotypes as their other Mallard-derived relatives. For a colour to be standardised, it must breed true to type and colour. With a basic understanding of colour genotypes, this can be achieved predictably.
To reach perfection in any standard, understanding and rigorous segregation is imperative. A mishap in the drake department can undo many generations of patient breeding.
In published ‘Standards’, the colour names and descriptions match those traditionally used and recognised across the waterfowl breeds, in both BWA and PCGB standards publications.
The following Indian Runner colours are standardised by the BWA and PCGB:
- Blue Dusky
- Apricot Dusky
- Blue Trout
- Apricot Trout
- Fawn & White
- American Fawn & White
- Cuberland Blue