Fife Canary
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History of the Fife Canary


The Fife as an Individual Breed

Self Green Buff Canary


The wild canary, a species of the Serin finch genus, was found only on the islands off the West Coast of Africa: the canary Islands, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde Islands.

 According to old drawings the original canary was self buff green in colour with dark brown shading, but it had the markings found in all the serin/siskin type finches.

 Many wild canaries were caught and taken back to Spain where their song quickly established them as popular pets.

There are many other romantic stories telling how the canary arrived in Europe. One of the most famous is that, when a ship was wrecked off the coast of Elba, some canaries escaped from it. They were then transported to Italy where they became popular, spreading from there across Europe. However, it is more likely that the canaries arrived by a variety of routes, as seamen calling at Madeira and other islands would take them aboard as pets. Ships from France, Spain and Portugal visited those islands regularly, to trade as well as to occupy and rule.

Development of Varieties

  • The early German fanciers developed the canary’s song to the level it is today.

  • The earliest recorded domesticated canary was probably the Lizard in the early 18th Century. Then the Norwich (which is now extinct) was also produced in the 18th Century. Other were produced in the early 1800s like the Belgium, Scottish, Frilled, Lancashire and Old Dutch.

  • The Yorkshire canary was produced towards the end of the last century.

  • However the newer varieties are the most popular now and these include:
                The Border
                The Gloster
                The Fife

The Development of the Fife Canary

  • Half a century ago the Border and the Fife were one breed.

  • The Border Fancy Canary was formed in the middle of the 19th century in the county of Cumberland while the Yorkshire was being developed a couple of hundred miles further south. After the quarrel between fanciers in the counties of Cumberland, Dumfries, Roxburgh and Selkirk the Borders grew in popularity in Scotland for over 15 years but made no progress in England and Wales.

  • The bird of that period bore no resemblance to the present day Border and very little to the present day Fife.

  • Today’s Borders are far larger than the birds of yesterday. Even winning Borders of the 1970s and 1980s appear smaller and much slimmer than the show winners of today.

Fifes as an Individual Breed

  • It was the increase in size of the Border that led to the creation of the Fife. Yet virtually unheard of 35 years ago the Fife is the most popular canary today.

  • The Fife was relatively slow to catch on outside Fife initially, but people who saw it were impressed with its jauntiness, type and feather texture.

  • Fifes were given their own classes in 1975 when 50 birds took part.

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(c) Terry Kelly & SL