Turkey Breeds: Wild - Standard & Heritage - Non-Standard but Heritage - Rare - Commercial
What brought the various turkey breeds to the table?
Turkeys have the following Taxonomic Classification:
There are two species of turkey: Agriocharis oscellata from southeast Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize; and, Meleagris gallopavo the North American Wild Turkey and the domestic turkey.
The Meleagris gallopavo is the important commercial
* Kingdom: Animalia
* Phylum: Chordata
* Class: Aves
* Order: Galliformes
* Family: Meleagrididae
* Genus: Meleagris
* Species: Meleagris gallopavo and Agriocharis oscellata
M. g. gallopavo- South Mexican turkey
M. g. osceola- Florida turkey
M. g. intermedia- Rio Grande turkey (Illustration by Diane Jacky)
M. g. merriami- Merriam's turkey
M. g. mexicana - Gould's turkey
We have information about raising turkeys - and we would love to hear about your experience.
The American Poultry Association (APA) promotes pure breeding and protects the standard-bred poultry industry. They publish the Standard of Perfection, and they are the group that can admit a variety to "Standard."
These "Standards" are often referred to as turkey "breeds." Many of these breeds have been listed by the APA since the end of the nineteenth century.
Narragansett Turkey - A turkey
breed named for its area of origin on Narragansett Bay Rhode Island
- admitted to standard in 1874. Hen is 14 lbs. tom 23 lbs.under one year of age. (Illustration by Diane Jacky)
American Bronze - Also called Bronze and "unimproved Bronze" was bred from stock imported to America by colonialists and Eastern Wild Turkeys - admitted to standard in 1874.
The "unimproved" in the name indicates that this type of bird was the foundation stock along with Jesse Throssel's Sheffield Bronze turkeys, which became the Broad Breasted Bronze - see Turkey History. Hen is 16 lbs. tom 25 lbs.under one year of age.
Bourbon Red Turkey - Developed
in Bourbon county Kentucky in the late 1800s from Buff, Bronze, and
White Holland - admitted to standard in 1909. Hen is 14 lbs. tom 23 lbs.under one year of age. (Illustration by Diane
White Holland - Bred in Europe from North American Wild Turkey stock and brought to America - admitted to Standard in 1874. Hen is 16 lbs. tom 25 lbs.under one year of age.
Black - Bred in Europe from North American Wild Turkey stock and brought to America - admitted to Standard in 1874. This turkey breed is also called Spanish Black and Norfolk Black. Hen is 14 lbs. tom 23 lbs.under one year of age.(Illustration by Diane Jacky)
Slate - Named for its color which resulted from a genetic mutation - admitted to standard in 1874. Also called Blue Slate. Hen is 14 lbs. tom 23 lbs.under one year of age.(Illustration by Diane Jacky)
Beltsville Small White - Developed by the USDA in Beltsville MD and distributed worldwide from 1941 to 1962 - admitted to standard in 1951. Hen is 10 lbs. tom 17 lbs.under one year of age.
Royal Palm - One of the smallest breeds and very attractive (white with black edging on its feathers) - admitted to Standard in 1977. Hen is 10 lbs. tom 16 lbs.under one year of age. (Illustration by Diane Jacky)
Jersey Buff - Named for its color and area of origin (New Jersey) - accepted to Standard in 1874, but dropped in 1915 because there were so few birds. They are now almost extinct. Hen is 12 lbs. tom 21 lbs.under one year of age.
White Midget - Developed in
the 1960's at the University of Massachusetts to meet expected demand
for smaller turkeys. This bird was developed by crossing a Broad Breasted
White with a Royal Palm. Hen is 8.2 lbs. tom 13.8 lbs.at 20 weeks..
Broad-Breasted Bronze - Introduced from England to Canada in the 1900s, then to the western U.S. and crossed with U.S. stock. This was the commercial turkey of choice before the Broad Breasted White. Although this bird is not a Heritage Turkey, it is studied by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). (Illustration by Diane Jacky)
Broad Breasted White - The only commercially important turkey today. Bred from the White Holland and Broad Breasted Bronze. Commercially today in North America there are only 2 strains of this bird owned by just two companies: Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms of Lewisburg, West Virginia; and Hybrid Turkeys of Ontario, Canada. This bird takes just 12 to 18 weeks to reach 14 to 20 lbs. (Illustration by Diane Jacky)
We wish to thank Diane Jacky for her permission to include her illustrations depicting many of the breeds. If you would like to browse her unique poultry gifts click here.
Auburn (Light Brown Turkey)
Black Wing Bronze (Crimson Dawn)
The following are designated Rare by the SPPA