Nautilus

Inside the Goth Chicken: Black Bones, Black Meat & a Black Heart

In the historical novel The Black Tulip, written by Alexandre Dumas, an honest and decent Dutch tulip fancier is nearly brought to ruin by his quest to breed a purely black flower. More precisely, his misadventure is due to the dastardly schemes of his neighbor, who, frantic with spite and jealousy over the plants, frames him for a political crime and gets him thrown in jail. The potboiler plot is ridiculously overheated, but Dumas got one thing exactly right: People will go nuts over the desire to possess a living thing in a strange and beautiful color.

Almost 400 years after the Dutch tulip craze drove prices of some flowers to ridiculous heights, legions of U.S. poultry fanciers are now obsessing over another unusual breeding product: a chicken called the Ayam Cemani. The bird is inky black from the tip of its comb to the end of its claws, with blue-black skin, jet-black eyes, and a black tongue. It is covered in shimmering metallic black feathers

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