Bourbon Red Turkeys

| 8/14/2014 12:40:00 PM

The Historic FoodieEarly publications place the origins of the Bourbon Red turkey in Bourbon County, Kentucky, probably a cross between the wild turkeys found in mountainous areas of Kentucky and the white domestic. The American Standard of Perfection accepts their creation in Bourbon County from the wild yellow turkey. From Kentucky, the turkeys were distributed into Ohio and other locales. They were admitted to the American Standard in 1910 and were thought likely to supersede the Buff.

There are contradictory published accounts of the origins of this majestic bird. One school of thought places their creation in Pennsylvania where it descended from the Tuscarora red and Buffs. That account states that from Pennsylvania, the breed was taken to Kentucky where the color was enhanced.

Bourbon Reds were thought to be more disease-resistant than other breeds at a time when the bronze was dying from a disease called blackhead.

Bourbon Red Turkeys 

Advantages of the Reds include pin feathers that “did not show as plainly as darker colored birds, being nearly the color of the skin,” and that poults were larger when hatched and more free from disease. One breeder said the hens laid larger clutches of eggs, up to as many as 30, and they were great rangers, always returning at night. “They are well feathered, and endure the cold winters without shelter. They make fine market birds, having plump, yellow-skinned carcases ….” The breeder went on to say that if there was a plentiful supply of grasshoppers and other insects, berries, etc. the turkeys required no feeding at all.

Bourbon Reds were described in the Standard of Perfection as being “deep brownish-red” with the head being rich red changeable to bluish white.” The throat wattle is “rich red changeable to bluish white.” The wing bows are “deep brownish red; primaries and secondaries white.” The tail is white. Shanks and toes are reddish-pink. When the males drop their wings, the white feathers stand out against the deep cinnamon color giving them a remarkable appearance.