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Israel Environment & Nature: Pheasant

PHEASANT, the game bird Phasianus colchicus. The pheasant was known in Greek as Φασιανός and hence in mishnaic Hebrew as פַּסְיוֹנִי (pasyoni).

It is not mentioned in the Bible, although pseudo-Jonathan identified it with the biblical שְׂלָו (selav; Ex. 16:13), which is, however, the quail . The pheasant was originally found in Asia, from the shores of the Caspian Sea to Manchuria and Japan. It was brought to Europe and America where, acclimatized in forests, it became a notable game bird. The Romans set great store upon its flesh, and it is told that when the emperor Hadrian doubted whether there were also pheasants in Ereẓ Israel, R. Joshua b. Hananiah produced some to prove to him "that Ereẓ Israel lacks nothing" (Eccles. R. 2:8, no. 2). Whether these particular pheasants existed in a wild state in the country or were bred cannot be determined, although from other sources it is evident that they were bred together with peacocks (Tosef., Kil 1:8), this having been a sign of wealth (Eccles. R. 7:8). The pheasant is listed in the Midrash among those rare delicacies, the taste of which the manna could acquire should a person yearn for it (Num. R. 7:4).

In connection with the command to honor one's father, it was said: "One may give his father pheasants as food, yet this drives him from the world, while another may make him grind in the mill, and this brings him to the world to come" (Kid. 31a). In several communities in Europe the Jews ate the pheasant, which has the characteristics of a kasher bird. An attempt was made in recent years to breed it in Israel, but the rabbinate cast doubt on its kashrut for lack of local tradition to that effect (see *Dietary Laws ).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.