A History Of Peacocks


Indian (Blue) Peafowl - Pavo cristatus
Green Peafowl - Pavo muticus

There are but two naturally occuring peafowl species, the Indian peafowl Pavo cristatus from India, often called Blue peafowl, and the Green peafowl Pavo muticus which lives farther east in Burma, Thailand, Indo China, Malaya and Java however, it is curiously absent from Sumatra and Borneo. The latter peafowl (Pavo muticus) has three subspecies:

  • Spicifer - found in Western Burma, a duller, bluer species
  • Imperator - found in Eastern Burma, Thailand and Indo China, much brighter with greener shades.
  • Muticus - found in Java, which is the slightly most brilliant then the Imperator.

Peacocks has long been popular outside of their native countries of Southern Asia and Malaysia. The Indian Peafowl is probably the oldest known ornamental bird where people from China were the first people to import and domesticate these beautiful creatures. It was first introduced into the Mesopotamian cultures more than 4,000 years ago. Later, more than three thousand years ago, Phoenicians brought the peacock to Egypt and later they were brought into the Mediterranean area. Historical records also indicate that Solomon kept several peafowl and pheasants species, with the India Blue male being his favorite peacock. Unfortuately, peafowl were also considered a delicacy in these cultures for centuries.

Peafowl were extensively raised by the Romans for both the table as well as for ornamental purposes. Medieval Europe carried on the barberous act of eating peafowl and it was only after the 1600th Century, when turkeys were imported from Mexico, that the peacock was discarded as a table bird for the more fleshy American birds. Fortunately, few of the peacock species are used for food today, except in some of the more remote and less civilized places where they are found in nature.

For the most part the Imperator and the Muticus subspecies of the Green Peafowl are very simulare in appearence with the differences being noticeable only on close examination. These two subspecies as well and the Indian Blue are the most common peafowl found in North America. Today there are many different colors and breeds have been produced by man, including mottled, white, and a black-winged variety. Peafowl, particularly the brightly colored peacock, are one of our favorite captive birds, well suited for parks, zoos, and other domestic situations.