A Hmong Village in Golden Triangle, Thailand (1987). Photographed by Hans Petter Wille.
A Hmong village photographed by Matt Reichel.
A Hmong woman and her child walking the family horse.
Hmong women in Laos making the daily hike to the rice patties.
Red Junglefowls to the Hmong
The Hmong, an indigenous tribe of Southeast Asia, regard the red junglefowl as a symbol of peace, harmony, and freedom. It represents their tradition of living in the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia and surviving off the fat of the land. Similarly to the Hmong, red junglefowls live freely and roam effortlessly through the jungles of Southeast Asia. During late winter, spring, and early summer months, the crow of the red junglefowl could be heard echoing through the jungle and thick bamboo groves while the Hmong carried about their daily lives.
Red Jungle Fowls As Song Birds
Now torn away from their homelands due to war and famine, many Hmong are drawn to the red junglefowl for its unique sound characteristics. The crow of red junglefowls are reminiscent of the old times and are a nostalgic reminder of how and where they once lived. Many Hmong take to the crows as it brings back memories of past family members that were unable to escape the war burdened countries.
Red Junglefowls As Companions
Analogous to the dog being the Western man's best friend, in Southeast Asia, a red junglefowl is a Hmong man's best friend. Legions of Hmong men identify with these birds as virtually all Hmong males of appropriate age hunted wild red junglefowls with domesticated junglefowl decoys called "qaib dib" or "call chicken." These chosen qaib dib were hand-picked for their crowing abilities based on their rhythm, pitch, and note lengths (click on this link, How to Evaluate a Red Junglefowl Crow, for more information). Qaib dib were tamed via countless hours of hand held attention, being carried in cylindrical carriers woven from bamboo, and conditioned to stay on on branches via leg cords. They were also trained to crow on their owner's cue with the aid of a hen flute. Once trained, qaib dib were carried into the jungles and used to lure territorial wild red junglefowls out during breeding seasons. In addition, the crows of the qaib dib were used to entice large game animals out of hiding as the crow of a wild red junglefowl is seen as a signal that the jungle was free of dangers.
The art of training one's bird was and is still passed down from generation to generation in the Hmong culture. Children as young as toddlers are still seen carrying their qaib dib and practicing to one day be a master red junglefowl hunter. To the Hmong, red junglefowls served as a valuable source of much needed protein when the times were tough and as a companion as their calls were literally and figuratively viewed as a sign of tranquility.
“The beauty of a red junglefowl lies within its crow... No matter how physically beautiful a bird is, if it has an average crow, it will only be regarded as an average bird; likewise, if you have an average looking bird with a magnificent crow, that bird will be viewed as an exceptional specimen and will be admired by all.”
-Yee Vang of
describing how red junglefowls are viewed by Hmong elders Fresno
"The most important aspect of a red junglefowl is that its crow has to be able to charm and seduce the elders' hearts."
-Franklin Ha Yang of Fresno describing how the red junglefowl is viewed by Hmong elders and how accurate crows provide pleasant remembrances.
Red Junglefowls in Laos
A Hmong man in Laos with his "qaib dib" or "call rooster." These birds are selected based on the quality of their crow and are trained to lure wild red junglefowls from the the jungles (photographed by Daniel Scott and Daniel Noll).
This is a carrier used by hunters to transport "qaib dib" into the jungles. The males are trained to sit in it as they are carried around the shoulders of the hunters. Qaib dib may sit in these carriers for several hours at a time before having an opportunity to stretch their wings.
A "qaib dib" ready to go off into the jungle.
An elder man in the forest getting ready to deploy his "qaib dib" (photographed by Leah Lulu).
Hmong men hunting red jungle fowls. Many Hmong elders have said that if red jungle fowl crowed good enough, even tigers would approach.
A Hmong clan in Laos using a domesticated red junglefowl as a sacrifice to appease their ancestors in an annual Shaman ceremony (also commonly referred to as "lwm qaib").
This is a video of the Hmong in Laos and their culture involving red junglefowls. These are clips I have collected over the years and were not recorded by me.
The Significance of the Red Jungle Fowl to the World
The red junglefowl may be the most important bird in human history. It is commonly believed that the red junglefowl is the ancestor to one of the most important food sources, the domestic chicken. Domestication of the red junglefowl began in India in 3200 BC and in China in 1400BC. The popularity of the domestic red junglefowl quickly spread across Europe due to the prominence of cockfighting and the use of red junglefowls in religious rituals. After many years being used for sporting purposes, the red junglefowl was later bred to be used for meat and egg production.
Unlike domesticated chickens, pure red junglefowls have great flight capabilities. They can fly for hundreds of yards, over lakes and rivers, and are actually more related to a pheasant as opposed a chicken (photographs shot by Ria in Thailand).
World-Wide Status of the Red Jungle Fowl
Pure red junglefowls, in its natural habitat stretching from India to Southeast Asian and bordering islands, are considered to be nearly extinct. These birds interbreed freely with the domestic chickens and this has been the primary contributor of their demise.
In captivity, pure red junglefowls are extremely rare. There are an abundance of birds that are claimed to be red junglefowls, but there are few that have no contamination from domestic chickens.
To find out more about red junglefowls, visit the MSN Red JungleFowl Group.
The shaded red areas represent the natural habitats of the red junglefowl.