Breed Standards

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Turkeys are native to the Americas and were domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico. They were taken to Spain in 1500, and introduced from there to England in 1524. The Black turkey, which eventually became known as Norfolk Black was believed to be the first variety of turkey in Britain. As a species they are facing the threat of extinction or constricting bloodlines, therefore it is important that Turkey Club UK with a growing number of enthusiasts rise to the challenge of helping this majestic bird.


The turkey dates back to the Aztec period where it was discovered being kept for its meat and decorative feathering. There are five recognised subspecies in the USA, but the nominate race (Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo, bronze with white in tail) was the one explorers introduced to Europe in the early sixteenth century. William Strickland is reputed to have brought the turkey to England from Spain in 1524. Over the centuries it has also been displayed for its exotic features. Classes for turkeys were offered at the first English Poultry Show in 1845 and a standard for turkeys appeared in the first English Book of Standards in 1865. A few Meleagris g. silvestris (from the Eastern USA seaboard and bronze with brown in tail) have been imported and these are slim, flying wild-looking birds. The standards published here relate solely to the traditional varieties of turkey, which are naturally bred and not related in any way to the modern day, commercial, broad-breasted or dimple-breasted types, which are not considered appropriate for the show pen.

General Standard: Heavy Breeds
General characteristics: Male

Carriage: Stately and moderately upright.

Type: Body long, deep and well rounded. Back curving with good slope to tail. Breast broad, full, long and straight. Wings strong and large. Tail long in proportion to body.

Head: Long, broad and carunculated. Beak strong, curved and well set. Eyes bright, bold and clear.

Snood: The fleshy protruberance above the beak of a male turkey. This is a muscle that elongates to as much as 15.24 cm  (6 in) down over the beak when displaying. It can be retracted to form a short erect cone above the beak when not displaying. The snood will vary in colour from pale pink to very deep pink on all varieties, according to activity and behaviour.

Throat wattle: Large and pendant.

Caruncles: The fleshy round prominences on the head and neck, which are larger on the front of the neck, below the throat wattle. They can change from bright red through to bluish white.

Neck: Long, curving backward towards saddle.

Beard or tassel: A cluster of thick, black, hair-like growth attached to the centre of the upper part of the breast in all adult males. The beard can grow to around 15.24cm (6 in) in length. Females have a smaller beard, which is usually hidden by breast feathers.

Legs and feet: Thighs long and stout. Fluff: (the feathers between the legs and base of the vent) soft and short. Shanks large, strong, well rounded and of medium length. Toes, four, straight and strong and well spread.

Female: The female is smaller and finer in bone structure than the male.

General Standard: Light Breeds

The general characteristics are the same as for the Heavy breeds with the following exceptions.

Carriage: Active and upright

Legs and feet: Shanks large, strong and fairly long

Egg: Most turkey eggs are beige with darker speckles, different colours having varying amounts of speckles. The shape should be very pronounced: broad at one end, tapering to a narrow point.

Scale of Points for all colours

  • Type and size   40
  • Head                  20
  • Legs and Feet   10
  • Colour                20
  • Condition          10
  • Total:               100

Serious Defects

Crooked or other deformity of the breast bone. Wry tail. Feathers other than the colour stipulated for the variety. Double-breasted varieties. Any birds exceeding the weights laid down in the Standard. Waddling gait denoting a commercial meat breed. Any abnormality.


There are similar variations of the black and white Pied turkey including the Ronquières from Belgium (which also comes in other colours) and the American Royal Palm. The Lavender (a very pale self-colour Blue) is sometimes seen.