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Shamo Chickens: Japanese Fighting Game Fowl

If you’re looking for something different that packs plenty of attitude and a bold and quirky appearance, then the Shamo chicken may be for you. These birds are not well known for their docile and tolerant natures because they are lean, mean, fighting machines. Let’s find out more about this fascinating breed, Shamo chickens, Japanese fighting game. 

Key Takeaway

  • Ancient Oriental fighting breed
  • Ornamental show birds
  • Aggressive 
  • Very hardy
  • Heat tolerant

Background and History of the Shamo breed

The Shamo chicken arrived on Japanese shores from Thailand, or Siam as it was then known, in the early 1600s during the Edo period. 

Between 1600 and 1632, Ieyasu Tokugawa, a shogun ruler, permitted traders and seafarers to venture out and trade with other countries in Asia.

A network of trading posts was developed, including Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Manila, and more. 

Various poultry breeds were imported into Japan during this time, but one of the most popular breeds to come from it was the Shamo.

There are various Shamo breeds in Japan, which are a range sizes but all maintain the same body shape and characteristics. These include:

  • O-Shamo
  • Chu Shamo
  • Yakido
  • Nankin Shamo
  • Yamato Gunkei
  • Kinpa
  • Ko Shamo

The principal use for the birds was as fighting stock, and the roosters were bred with fighting in their blood. Even young male chicks are known to fight from a very young age.

Their combination of power, speed, strength, stamina, endurance, weight, and size made them perfect for the job. They competed in battles of naked heel boxing, the type of cockfighting popular in the orient at that time.

The Shamo is the basis for two other breeds of domestic fowl, the Phoenix and the Yokohama. 

According to Bruno Duringen, a German poultry author, the first documented Shamo chickens found outside Japan were a breeding pair that arrived in Germany in March of 1884. Their new owner was Countess of Ulm Erbach. The second importation in 1953 arrived at the Hagenback Zoo in Germany, having come from the Tokyo Zoo. 

The Japanese government placed the Shamo breed under protection in 1941 to prevent its possible extinction. They are currently on the American Livestock Conservancy Organizations “Watch” list. 

American Shamo’s are thought to have arrived as eggs in G.I’s pockets on their return home after WWII.

In the United States, there is only one Shamo breed with four recognized color varieties. They were first accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1981.

Today, the majority of Shamo chickens in the US can be found in the southern states. 

The Shamo name is believed to have come from the Japanese word Sham, which means Siam, the old name for Thailand where the birds are believed to have originated. 

Temperament and Behavior of Shamo Chickens

Shamo chickens are an active, hardy breed. When well handled as chicks, Shamos are generally relatively easy to tame and friendly towards people. 

It is necessary to remember that they were created to be fighting birds. This means they aren’t suitable for mixing with other chicken breeds, and you can only keep one rooster in a flock. Males are highly territorial and will fight other rosters to the death. It isn’t unusual for even the hens to be aggressive towards one another.

Baby chicks are no exception to this aggressive trait and will start to spar at a very young age. To prevent injury, males must be separated.

Some people have reported their Shamo’s attacking other animals and livestock. It is also best to keep them away from younger children.

Although the hens are not prolific egg layers, they do go broody easily and make great mothers. 

They are excellent foragers and like to be free-range, as they don’t do well when confined. 

Despite their aggressive natures, they are no match for a hungry fox or other determined predators, so they will require protection. They are unable to fly, so they can be easily contained. 

Shamo Breed Specifics and Traits

The Shamo breed was kept as fighting birds in ancient Japan. Today in America, they are kept as ornamental or show birds. 

They are of a large size and can produce a good quantity of meat. Unfortunately, the meat is tough and chewy due to the active nature and strong musculature of the birds, which doesn’t make them ideal for eating.  

Weight – The average size of a large fowl Shamo rooster is 11 lbs. a hen will be around 7 lbs. There are also bantam Shamo chickens that weigh a little over 2 lbs. 

Shamos are a very hardy breed and are heat tolerant. When kept well, they can live up to 12 years, although an average life expectancy of around 8 to 10 is more likely. 

Japanese Shamo

In Japan, there are various varieties and colors of Shamo chicken. Different Japanese regions like fowl of different sizes. 

O-Shamo chickens are large birds. Roosters weigh around 12 lbs. while hens are 7 ½ lbs. Chu Shamos are of medium size, with roosters weighing 8 lbs. and hens 6 lbs. The Ko Shamo is much smaller. The roosters weigh 4 lbs. while hens are 3 lbs.


The Shamo has a distinctive game bird appearance. It is a tall bird, second only in height after the Malay chicken. They are very game-like with a vertical upright stance, well-muscled thighs, and a broad, muscular body. 

Feathers – Their feathers are hard and close to the body, with no down on their underside or around the vent. Often there are bald patches completely without feathers. The tail is short and held sloped down towards the ground.

Head – They have a pea comb that is bright red, small earlobes, and wattles that, if present, are also bright red, although they sometimes seem to be missing entirely. The beak is yellow, and the eyes are a pale yellow, described as pearl. 

Body – The body is lean and large, with broad shoulders and a narrow breast.

Legs and Feet – The legs are yellow and robust, with more bone than most other chicken breeds. They have four toes.

Colors – The American Poultry Association recognizes Shamo chickens in four color varieties; Black, Wheaten, Black Breasted Red, and Dark. Bantams are recognized in Black, Wheaten, and Black Breasted Red. They were admitted into the American standard of perfection in 1981.

Chicks – The chicks are quite large and appear to have long necks, which is in part due to their upright stance. Their color depends on the variety. Male chicks will start to fight from a young age and will need to be separated. 

Health and Disease

Shamo chickens are known for their hardiness and ability to cope well in hot climates. They don’t suffer from any specific diseases, although standard care must be taken, including the provision of well-ventilated housing, fresh, clean water, correct feeding practices, dust baths, lice and mite treatments, and a worming regimen.

The most significant problem with the Shamo is their aggressive nature and the necessity to intervene should fighting become a problem. This makes them unsuitable for living with other chicken breeds.


They have low egg productivity, laying between 70 and 80 eggs a year on average. Although hens go broody easily and make excellent mothers, they can be very clumsy and often break eggs while brooding them. For this reason, using additional bedding and a larger than normal roosting box is advisable.

The eggs themselves are pale brown and of medium size. 

Shamo pullets typically begin laying eggs in spring, the year after they were hatched.

Where to buy 

Finding purebred Shamo chickens can be pretty tricky. They are not available from the majority of hatcheries, presumably due to their fighting tendencies and because they are more ornamental than practical.

Most Shamo chickens are found in the southern United States, and the best way to get them is to search for specialist breeders or talk to breeders at shows.


It’s true to say that the Shamo breed definitely isn’t for everyone. With their samurai looks and fighting tendencies, they are often restricted to the domain of the dedicated show breeder. 

Their intolerance for other chickens, small animals, and even occasionally children doesn’t make them particularly endearing. They do, however, have a strong following of enthusiasts because they are quite striking in appearance.

We hope you’ve found this article informative. There are many more on various breeds of different chickens, ducks, and other birds available to read on our website.

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Monday 12th of February 2024

Hello, I feel happy and interested in what you wrote. If allowed, from which sources did you get information about the history of shamo chickens from Japan to Europe? I think I found almost the same writing as yours. Thank You.

Debra Miller

Friday 17th of November 2023

I have raised Oshamo chickens for 5 years now and I absolutely love the breed. They are gorgeous birds.

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