The Bronze Turkeys is a breed of domestic turkey. It is named for its unusual color, a shimmering green-bronze that appears metallic if viewed in sunlight.
The Bronze has been the most popular turkey throughout most of American history but waned in popularity beginning in the mid-20th century.
This turkey is commonly found in two types:
- The Broad-breasted Turkey: Common colorations are white or bronze. These turkeys require artificial insemination to reproduce, a result of the meaty breast which presents an obstacle for natural mating. In addition, processors have favored the white-feathered birds, whose pinfeathers are harder to detect after cleaning. This has left the Bronze in decline, even though many producers say this breed is calmer and easier to handle than the White. The Broad-breasted Bronze is now bred at only five or six hatcheries in the United States. The North American turkey industry has built its current success on broad-breasted white turkeys. It is sometimes crossed with the White turkey.
- The Unimproved Bronze (or naturally mating) is rarer still, with only one hatchery breeding flock and a few scattered university flocks known. For information on purchasing unimproved Bronze turkeys, contact Wish Poultry, Box 362, Prairie City, OR 97869, by telephone at 541-820-3509. Other sources can be found in the ALBC Breeders Directory.
A great deal of confusion exists about the difference between Standard and Broad Breasted Bronzes, or whether there is any difference at all. Collectively, the Standard and Broad Breasted varieties are simply called the Bronze turkey.
Both are rare in North America.
History and Current Status:
The turkey is native to North America and was domesticated by the Aztecs in Mexico 500 years ago. Turkeys were taken to Spain beginning in 1500 and rapidly became known across Europe.
The Pilgrims and other settlers brought turkeys with them to New England where they were crossed with wild indigenous stocks.
This hybrid type was itself taken back to England where a game keep named John Bull began to select for a broader breast.
He emigrated to Canada and brought turkeys with him, selling them in North America as “broad-breasted” turkeys.
The unimproved Bronze is not the same breed as the wild turkey, though they are able to interbreed, which is a cause for concern to some wildlife managers.
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC