This is why I was interested to learn more about them and hopefully anyone reading this will enjoy finding out about them too.
The information I have found comes from various internet sources (including Wikipedia) and it is apparent that there is a lot of copying going on. Often details are worded exactly the same from site to site but occasionally some specific facts vary. I have however tried to pick out the details I find interesting.
It seems the exact origin of Runner Ducks is unknown although apparently there are Hieroglyphs of them in a Javan Temple that are 2000 years old. It is thought that in the IndoChinese regions of Java, Lombok and Malaya they were trained to go into paddy fields to eat such things as slugs, snails, weeds and flies. They have been described there as a traditional herding duck.
They became popular in Europe and America towards the end of the nineteenth century and some were even imported into the United Kingdom as early as 1830. This was because they were recognized as good egg layers.
Although over time their stance has become more upright, with many more colour variations, they are still known as a good egg laying breed. Females can lay an average of 250 eggs a year!. Trigger would obviously love there to be more egg laying Runner Ducks at the farm, especially since they have a poor maternal instinct, rarely make a nest, and usually drop their eggs wherever they happen to be. Commercially, Runner Ducks are also still valued as an effective organic pest control method being described as excellent forragers. I'm sure a lot of gardeners would love to have their own slug and snail eating duck. Although labelled as a breed of domestic duck they are not bred for meat, I presume because they are not fat enough.
I discovered quite a lot of information about what Runner Ducks are supposed to look like and what does and does not conform to the breed standard. The British Waterfowl Association and the American Poultry Association both publish their own Standards of Perfection. There are many specified acceptable colours but quite strict rules about correct shape of such things as head, body and eye position. Personally I love all the variation amongst Chris's collection but one comment from an American Poultry Association judge did however make me laugh. He apparently said; 'They should not have heavy shoulders where the lower neck and body do not blend smoothly – they should not look like a head and neck stuck on the end of a shoe box.'
Although their appearance is unique there does seem to be consensus about certain facts. Their height from the crown of their head to the tip of their tail is 50cm (20 in) in a small female, whereas a tall male is about 76cm (30 in). Females weigh between 1.4 – 2.3 kg (3.1 – 5.1 lb) and males 1.6 – 2.3kg (3.5 – 5 lb). It is initially difficult to tell their sex but once mature the drakes (males) have a small curl at the base of their tail but the ducks (females) tails are flat.
They have an upright carriage as their legs are set quite far back. As a result they also tend to quick step rather than walk. When I saw the films of Smile when 'he' was very young I did wonder if 'he' would ever learn to balance well. His big feet probably helped!
Runner Duck eggs are usually white, or greenish white, and weigh 65-80g. The eggs usually take 28 days to hatch but have been known to take 33 days.
Runner Ducks cannot fly. They have small wings which are close to their body and they overlap at the rear. Although they can swim they apparently do not need a lot of water and some of the sites that advertise them for sale suggest that all is needed is a tub of water so they can dunk their head. Just providing that seems a bit sad to me so I am glad that all the Caenhill ducks have Caseys Pond as well as several others to choose from if they fancy a swim.
Apparently only the females quack whereas the males have a hoarse whisper. Although described as 'social with an urge to flock together' the Caenhill Runner Ducks seem to like to keep in their own little groups. For example Emerson, Lake and Palmer like to go on tour together and The Bumblebees also seem to keep in their own group of six. Bean on the other hand seems to be happy to just stick with his lady friends.
Out of all the Runner Ducks I think Bean is my favorite. When I first started watching Rush Hour he was the one I could always identify (apart from Cuthbert, obviously). Although he rarely seems to stick around it is always a delight to spot him. Chris tells me he came from a place called Froome which is in the County of Somerset. He was the only survivor from a group of five Runner Ducks following a fox attack. Chris named him Bean as it was an easy name to remember and runner beans were growing on the farm at the time. Yet another inspired name for a popular member of the team!