INDIAN RUNNER DUCK COLOURS
We’ve bred Indian Runner ducks for over thirty years, and are
still amazed each year at the variety of colours and temperaments.
Ducklings vary from the scatty to the bomb-proof, but our earliest
hatches, which get the most attention, are invariably the tamest and
best as pets.
Behaviour does vary with the strain, but Whites and Fawn&Whites are
generally the best. Food and housing are similar to other ducks, but
these birds like space to forage. They also need a secure garden
area to start them off – otherwise they can run off in unfamiliar
Indian Runners don’t waddle like other ducks – they live up to their name and run. They were selected as ‘walking ducks’ in the Far East and evolved a slim, upright body and elongated thigh bone. When foraging or relaxed their posture is flat, but they stand upright to move quickly. In the show pen (for exhibition) they are judged on their pure colour, overall stance and shape (type). They must have a keen Runner head, slim shoulders and the typical ‘hock bottle’ shape. They are a light-weight breed of duck at 1.6-2.3kg (3.5-5lb) for drakes and 1.4-2 kg (3-4.5lb) for ducks. Drakes stand around 58-70cm (23-28 in) in height and need a tall show pen. Ducks are 60-70 cm (20-24 in.) (British Waterfowl Standards).
The breed originated in present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. There are old references to the birds in Sumatra, Java and Lombok. After foraging in the paddy fields, the birds were corralled at night so that they were protected, and their eggs could be collected in the morning. Flocks were walked to ports and urban centres where the birds and their eggs were sold. Ducks and eggs were also preserved by salting, and these items were recorded as food stored on the sailing ships trading with the Dutch East Indies in the 1600s – hence the name ‘Indian’ Runner. They are not native to India. Ducks resembling Indian Runners in colour pattern and shape can be seen in paintings by the Dutch masters of the 1600s. Articles in the IRDA newsletters illustrate the evidence from Holland.
Imports to the UK
Accounts do say that a ship's captain took Fawn&white ducks from Malaya to Cumbria and Dumfries (Scotland). However, the first located UK reference to Runners was in 1837-38 where they were referred to as ‘penguin ducks’ – the same name of course attributed by the Dutch to their Runner from Java and Bali. Harrison Weir’s 1902 reference leaves no doubt that these were Indian Runners: ‘ . . . these were a light and dark fawn colour, the ordinary blue bars on the wing being the dull slate tint. The ducklings were extremely odd-looking little things and frequently fell in their attempt to walk fast or run [which is typical of Runner ducklings].’ Further research has determined that they actually arrived at the London Zoo in 1835.
Fawn Runner ducklings
The term ‘India Runner’ was largely coined by John Donald in
about 1890, when he described birds imported some time in the 1830s.
These included all-fawns, whites and pied pattern ducks, the latter
being the basis of the Poultry Club Standard publication of 1901.
The 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.
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'.
Runners vary in lifespan from 4 – 12 years. Drakes live longer than ducks, because
they do not lay eggs. They live longest if given plenty of space to free-range to find some of their own food. The females need a ration of layers pellets. Whole wheat should also be offered - put a few handfuls in their bucket of water ( NOT THE PELLETS). Total food is 120 -180 grams per day depending on the weather/age/etc.
Ducks should be wormed, the frequency depending on the conditions (stocking density, risk). They can also suffer from external parasites.