This review is a first attempt to give a comprehensive historical account on the evolution of the Maltese Black chicken breed. The initiative consolidates available information to propose hypothesis on the origins of the breed, and to develop a comprehensive breed standard in conformity with the format of the American Breed Standard. The Maltese Black was established in 1950 as a rustic, dual purpose breed capable of producing adequate egg and chicken for consumption. In the 1960's, it was replaced with commercially available stock, marginalising the breed and restricting its existence to small dispersed populations. An initial attempt to have an in-situ conservation of the Maltese Black started in 1998 with a small flock of about 400 chickens that were later relocated to the Agricultural Research and Development Centre in Malta with the intention of maintaining a nucleus flock as a measure for a long term ex-situ conservation strategy. A recent survey highlights that the present population has drifted significantly away from standards first published in 1950. In efforts to consolidate the breed standard definition of the Maltese Black, the breed standards of related Mediterranean breeds, as confirmed by molecular markers, were consulted to translate and address the missing gaps in the previous breed standards. The updated breed standard presented will act as the bench mark against which all future breeding and selection programs are compared.
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