Domestic duck

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Domestic duck
Taiwanese duck farm.jpg
Farm in Taiwan
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Anas
A. p. domesticus
Trinomial name
Anas platyrhynchos domesticus

The domestic duck or domestic mallard (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus) is a subspecies of mallard that has been domesticated by humans and raised for meat, eggs, and down feathers. A few are also kept for show, as pets, or for their ornamental value. Almost all varieties of domesticated ducks, apart from the domestic Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata), are descended from the mallard.[1][2]


Whole-genome sequencing indicate that domestic ducks originate from a single domestication event of mallards during the Neolithic, followed by rapid selection for lineages favoring meat or egg production. They were likely domesticated in Southeast Asia (most likely Southern China) by the rice paddy-farming ancestors of modern Southeast Asians. The date of domestication is unknown due to the scarcity of archaeological records. They spread outwards from the region, first being mentioned in Han Chinese written records in central China by around 500 BC. Duck farming for both meat and eggs is a widespread and ancient industry in Southeast Asia.[3]

Wild ducks were hunted extensively in Ancient Egypt and other parts of the world in ancient times. But they were not domesticated. Ducks are also mentioned to be present in Ancient Rome since at least the 2nd century BC. But based on descriptions (most notably by Columella), ducks in Roman agriculture were only tamed, not domesticated. Duck breeding did not exist in the Roman period, requiring the harvesting of eggs from wild ducks to start duck farms.[4]

Almost all varieties of domestic duck except the muscovy have been derived from the mallard.[5] Domestication has greatly altered their characteristics. Domestic ducks are mostly promiscuous, where wild mallards are monogamous. Domestic ducks have lost the mallard's territorial behaviour, and are less aggressive than mallards.[6][7] Despite these differences, domestic ducks frequently mate with wild mallards, producing fully fertile hybrid offspring.[8]

Domestic ducks as a nuisance species in Florida[edit]

Domestic ducks, or domestic mallards, are considered a serious threat to Florida's ecology and wild water fowl. This is due to their increased risk for outbreaks of diseases such as fowl cholera and duck plague. They also pose a serious risk of introgression into the population of mottled ducks in Florida. With all of these factors in consideration: "If mallards are obvious hybrids with [...] domestic ducks [...], then no federal or state wildlife laws protect them from capture or direct population control."[9]


1821 painting by José Honorato Lozano of native duck farms along the Pasig River in the Philippines

Ducks have been farmed for thousands of years.[10] Approximately 3 billion ducks are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide.[11] In the Western world, they are not as popular as the chicken, because chickens have much more white lean meat and are easier to keep confined, making the total price much lower for chicken meat, whereas duck is comparatively expensive. While popular in haute cuisine, duck appears less frequently in the mass-market food industry and restaurants in the lower price range. However, ducks are more popular in China, and there they are raised extensively.[citation needed]

Ducks are farmed for their meat, eggs, and down. A minority of ducks are also kept for foie gras production. The blood of ducks slaughtered for meat is also collected in some regions and is used as an ingredient in many cultures' dishes. Their eggs are blue-green to white, depending on the breed.[citation needed]

American Pekins are almost exclusively raised for their meat.

Ducks can be kept free range, in cages, in barns, or in batteries. Ducks enjoy access to swimming water, but do not require it to survive. They should be fed a grain and insect diet. It is a popular misconception that ducks should be fed bread; bread has limited nutritional value and can be deadly when fed to developing ducklings. Ducks should be monitored for avian influenza, as they are especially prone to infection with the dangerous H5N1 strain.[12]

The females of many breeds of domestic ducks are unreliable at sitting their eggs and raising their young. Exceptions include the Rouen duck and especially the Muscovy duck. It has been a custom on farms for centuries to put duck eggs under broody hens for hatching; nowadays this role is often played by an incubator. However, young ducklings rely on their mothers for a supply of preen oil to make them waterproof; a chicken hen does not make as much preen oil as a female duck, and an incubator makes none. Once the duckling grows its own feathers, it produces preen oil from the sebaceous gland near the base of its tail.[13]

Ducks are also kept for their ornamental value. Breeds have been developed with crests and tufts or striking plumage, for exhibition in competitions.[14]

In culture[edit]

In children's stories[edit]

The domestic duck has appeared numerous times in children's stories. Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck was published by Frederick Warne & Co in 1908. One of Potter's best-known books, the tale was included in the Royal Ballet's The Tales of Beatrix Potter.[15] It is the story of how Jemima, a domestic duck, is saved from a cunning fox who plans to kill her, when she tries to find a safe place for her eggs to hatch.[16]

Make Way for Ducklings is a children's picture book written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey. First published in 1941, the book tells the story of a pair of mallards who decide to raise their family on an island in the lagoon in Boston Public Garden, a park in the center of Boston. Make Way for Ducklings won the 1942 Caldecott Medal for McCloskey's illustrations.

The Disney cartoon character Donald Duck, one of the world's most recognizable pop culture icons, is a domestic duck of the American Pekin breed.

In music[edit]

The domestic duck features in the musical composition Peter and the Wolf, written by Sergei Prokofiev in 1936. The orchestra illustrates the children's story while the narrator tells it.[17] In this, a domestic duck and a little bird argue on each other's flight capabilities. The duck is represented by the oboe. The story ends with the wolf eating the duck alive, its quack heard from inside the wolf's belly.[18]

In art[edit]

Domestic ducks are frequently depicted in wall paintings and grave objects from ancient Egypt.[19] They are featured in a range of ancient artefacts, which revealed that they were a fertility symbol.[20]

As food[edit]

Since ancient times, the duck has been eaten as food.[21] Usually only the breast and thigh meat is eaten.[22] It does not need to be hung before preparation, and is often braised or roasted, sometimes flavoured with bitter orange or with port.[23] Peking duck is a dish of roast duck from Beijing, China, that has been prepared since medieval times. It is today traditionally served with spring pancakes, spring onions and sweet bean sauce.[24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Anas platyrhynchos, Domestic Duck; DigiMorph Staff - The University of Texas at Austin". Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  2. ^ Sy Montgomery. "Mallard; Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  3. ^ Zhang, Zebin; Jia, Yaxiong; Almeida, Pedro; Mank, Judith E; van Tuinen, Marcel; Wang, Qiong; Jiang, Zhihua; Chen, Yu; Zhan, Kai; Hou, Shuisheng; Zhou, Zhengkui; Li, Huifang; Yang, Fangxi; He, Yong; Ning, Zhonghua; Yang, Ning; Qu, Lujiang (1 April 2018). "Whole-genome resequencing reveals signatures of selection and timing of duck domestication". GigaScience. 7 (4). doi:10.1093/gigascience/giy027.
  4. ^ Albarella, Umberto (2005). "Alternate fortunes? The role of domestic ducks and geese from Roman to Medieval times in Britain". In G., Grupe; J., Peters (eds.). Feathers, Grit and Symbolism: Birds and Humans in the Ancient Old and New Worlds (PDF). Documenta Archaeobiologiae III. Verlag Marie Leidorf. pp. 249–258. ISBN 9783896466181.
  5. ^ Appleby, Michael C.; Mench, Joy A.; Hughes, Barry O. (2004). Poultry Behaviour and Welfare. CABI. ISBN 978-0-851-99667-7.
  6. ^ Piggott, Stuart; Thirsk, Joan (February 1981). The Agrarian History of England and Wales: Volume 1, Part 1, Prehistory. Cambridge University Press Archive. ISBN 978-0-521-08741-4.
  7. ^ DigiMorph Staff –The University of Texas at Austin (2004). "Anas platyrhynchos, Domestic Duck". Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  8. ^ Wood-Gush, D. (2012). Elements of Ethology: A textbook for agricultural and veterinary students. Springer. ISBN 978-9-400-95931-6.
  9. ^ "Nuisance Mallards".
  10. ^ Kiple, Kenneth F.; Ornelas, Kriemhild Coneè (2000). The Cambridge World History of Food. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-40214-9. OCLC 44541840.
  11. ^ "FAOSTAT". Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  12. ^ Songserm, Thaweesak; Jam-on, Rungroj; Sae-Heng, Numdee; Meemak, Noppadol; Hulse-Post, Diane J.; Sturm-Ramirez, Katharine M.; Webster, Robert G. (April 2006). "Domestic Ducks and H5N1 Influenza Epidemic, Thailand". Emerging Infectious Diseases. 12 (4): 575–581. doi:10.3201/eid1204.051614. ISSN 1080-6040. PMC 3294714. PMID 16704804.
  13. ^ "Ducks - Poultry Breeds Encyclopedia".
  14. ^ "The best ducks to keep in your garden: in pictures". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
  15. ^ Roberts, Laura (16 December 2010). "The Tales of Beatrix Potter performed by The Royal Ballet". Archived from the original on 21 August 2016. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  16. ^ Potter, Beatrix (1993). Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck. Frederick Warne. ISBN 9781854713858.
  17. ^ Rijke, Victoria de (2008). Duck. Reaktion Books. ISBN 978-1-861-89489-2.
  18. ^ Prokofiev, Sergei (1999). Peter and the Wolf. North-South Books. ISBN 978-0-735-81189-8.
  19. ^ LeMaster, Richard (March 1995). The Great Gallery of Ducks and Other Waterfowl. Stackpole Books. ISBN 978-0-811-70706-0.
  20. ^ Chadd, Rachel Warren; Taylor, Marianne (2016). Birds: Myth, Lore and Legend. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-472-92287-8.
  21. ^ Dalby, Andrew (2013). Food in the Ancient World from A to Z. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-95422-2.
  22. ^ The Visual Food Encyclopedia. Québec Amerique. 1996. ISBN 978-2-764-40898-8.
  23. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 472. ISBN 978-0-191-01825-1.
  24. ^ "The Evolution of Peking Duck". CBS. 24 September 2006.
  25. ^ "A Cultural Classic: Peking Duck". Globe Trekker. Archived from the original on 17 May 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2017.

External links[edit]