The Black turkey originated in Europe and was developed from wild turkeys brought from the Americas by explorers. It became popular in Spain, where it was referred to as the "Black Spanish" as well as in the Norfolk region of England where they were dubbed "Norfolk Blacks".
- Breed Colors/Varieties:
- Black Spanish/ French Black - pure, rich black
Norfolk Black - dull black, with brown and even white tips showing
Black - lustrous, greenish-black plumage
- Breed Size:
- Large Fowl
Centuries later the Black turkeys of Europe came back to America with colonists and inevitably crossed with the Eastern wild turkey. This created the Black turkey of America we are familiar with today. Originally this variety was not as common in New World flocks but colonists selected heavily for this trait and dominated farmyards in New England for quite some time.
In America Black turkeys were used to develop newer breed such as the Bronze, Narragansett, and Slate varieties. Black turkeys were admitted to the American Poultry Association in 1874 and remained commercially viable and popular up to the twentieth century but fell out of favor and was replaced by new commercial strains like Broad-breasted Bronzes and Whites.
The birds are still common in Europe but here in America the current ALBC (American Livestock Breed Conservancy) census shows the Black Turkey listed as a breed that should be watched to ensure future generations can enjoy this beautiful bird. Black turkeys are also included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a catalog of heritage foods in danger of extinction.