jungle fowl, common name for small, terrestrial wild fowl comprising four species in the genus Gallus. Most important of these is the red jungle fowl, which Charles Darwin determined to be the ancestor of all domesticated fowl. It is the only wild fowl that can crossbreed fertilely with domesticated species. It is yellow-headed with a red comb and wattles, and its multicolored plumage resembles a jester's costume. The female is slightly smaller and less brightly colored than its mate. Jungle fowl are found in large numbers from India through S China and the Malayan archipelago, where they inhabit thickly wooded areas. They feed on a diet of seeds, buds, fruit, and insects. The polygamous males are highly aggressive (the modern game cock is thought to be the domestic form closest to the ancestral species) and they take no part in nest building, incubation, or the care of the young. From archaeological evidence, it would seem that the jungle fowl was first domesticated in India as much as 5,200 years ago and that by the 6th cent. B.C. it had entered Europe. The jungle fowl is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Phasianidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.