Turkey Facts, History, Origins

General Facts

The turkey species are native to the Americas and were domesticated by Aztecs in Mexico 500 years ago. Turkeys were taken to Spain from 1500 quicly spreading across Europe. For many years they like crackers have been a symbol of Christmas Thomas Tusser wrote a book in rhyme about farming in 1573 and said that at that time he had “Beef, mutton and pork, shred pies of the best, pig, veal, goose and capon and the turkey well dressed.”.

Barnaby George wrote one of the first books on Livestock (Four Books on Husbandry) in 1578 where he remarks that “Turkey cocks we have not long had among us, for before the year of our Lord, 1530, they were not seen with us.”.

The Pilgrims and other settlers brought turkeys back with them to New England these were crossed with wild indigenous stocks. This new type was itself taken back to England where a game keep named John Bull began to select for a broader breast. He later emigrated to Canada and bringing turkeys with him, selling them as “broad-breasted” turkeys. As a species they are facing a greater threat of extinction or constricting bloodlines than any other poultry except the large geese often for the same reasons . . . farming has changed; fewer people with the space and money taken to keep the breeds, fashion . . . they are not as cute and obvious as a call duck or bantam chicken.

In Britain they are assisted by the Rare Breeds Trust some poultry clubs have shows for them as in Hants and Berks in October and January and the Poultry Club National.