The Black turkey is a breed of domestic turkey from Europe. It was developed in Europe from the Aztec turkeys originally brought from Mexico by Spanish explorers. It is also known by some other names such as the Norfok Black or the Black Spanish turkey. And birds of this type live in many European nations, despite the monikers of ‘Norfolk and Spanish’. The black colored turkeys originally were a relative rarity among New World flocks, but Europeans heavily selected for this trait until it became predominant. The Black turkey is generally considered as the oldest turkey breed in the United Kingdom.
Black colored turkeys became very popular in Spain, and they were known as ‘Black Spanish’ there. These birds made the voyage black to the Americans with early European colonists, after being selected for meat production for more than two centuries. The basis of the Black turkey variety was formed in America once the variety was crossed with Eastern wild turkeys. And through the twentieth century, the black variety was commercially viable (although it was not as popular as Narragansett, Bourbon Red, White Holland and Bronze varieties).
The Black turkey breed was officially recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. Today the breed is common in Europe, but is considered as an endangered variety of heritage turkey by The Livestock Conservancy. And the breed is also included in Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste (a catalog of heritage foods in danger of extinction). Read some more information about this domestic turkey breed below.
Black Turkey Characteristics
The Black turkeys are medium to large sized birds with very beautiful appearance. They have lustrous, metallic black plumage with a greenish sheen on top and a dull back undercolor. It is not accepted or undesirable to have a brownish or bronze cast or any white. The young or poults will often have white or bronze color in their feathers, but change into black after molting. Beak of the Black turkey is black, and the wattle is bright red (changeable to bluish-white). In adults, the shanks and toes are of pink color. Eyes of these birds are of dark brown color. Although the plumage is black, but skin of the Black turkey is generally white.
Average live body weight of the mature toms is around or up to 10.5 kg. And the mature hens on average weight around 6.5 kg. Photo and info from The Livestock Conservancy and Wikipedia.
The Black turkey is a meat breed. It is raised mainly for meat production.
The Black turkeys are hardy variety of domestic turkey. They have not been selected for production attributes for years. They are highly dependent on selection by breeder. Careful selection for good health, ability to mate naturally and production attributes will return this variety to it’s former stature. They are mostly docile in terms of temperament, but some birds can become aggressive.
Today the Black turkey breed is raised mainly for meat production. Their meat has superior flavor ad has captured consumer interest. However, review full breed profile of the Black turkey in the chart below.
Black Turkey | Breed Profile
|Other Names||Norfolk Black, Black Spanish|
|Breed Purpose||Mainly meat|
|Special Notes||Very strong and hardy birds, docile temperament, but some birds can become aggressive, highly dependent on selection by breeder, today raised mainly for meat production, the meat has superior flavor|
|Breed Size||Medium to large|
|Tom||Around 10.5 kg|
|Hen||Around 6.5 kg|
|Climate Tolerance||Almost all climates|
|Country/Place of Origin||Europe|