Black Turkeys

aka Spanish or Norfolk Black Turkeys

Black toms displaying
Photos courtesy of Lynette Courtney

Following text with permission from
by Craig Russell
SPPA Bulletin, 1997, 2(4):5

The American Poultry Association proudly claims that all turkey varieties listed in its standard, with the possible exception of the White Holland, were developed in the United States. The claim may be a bit too bold. While American origin can be claimed for all turkeys, some colors weren't developed in the U.S., including some that were probably developed in Europe.

The Black, sometimes called Black Spanish or Norfolk Black, is one of these. As its other names indicate, the Spanish and English also claim its development. However, Blacks were probably among the first turkeys sent to Spain, perhaps because they were a rarity in their own land. This was probably the case with whites too. Black or mostly Black turkeys were mentioned by early explorers but don't seem to have been the dominant type anywhere. They did better in the Old World, quickly becoming the dominant type in Spain and Norfolk County, England. They were also common in the rest of England as well as in France and Italy. In this country, flocks referred to as Norfolk Black are usually marked with white as the original Norfolk Blacks often were. Today, in England this color is found on Longer Right Breasts, while the Norfolks are completely black.

Following text with permission from
"1998 SPPA Turkey Census Report"
by Paula Johnson

The Black is a very old variety, possibly the first variety to be developed. Probably some of the original turkeys taken to Europe were black. The Black turkey was very popular all across Europe, but especially in Spain and Norfolk County, England. I have been told that there can be two varieties of Black turkeys called the Spanish and the Norfolk. The adult Norfolk turkeys (in the U.S.) can have some white tipped feathers with pink toes and shanks. The British poultry Standard of 1951-1971 calls for the Norfolk Black to have black shanks and toes with no white in the feathers. The adult Spanish Blacks are completely black with solid black feather, shanks and toes. I have kept two lines over the years and both adult strains had black shanks and toes, but one line had white in the feathers and the other had no white at all. The Black turkey was admitted to the APA Standard in 1874, and it is interesting to note, that the current APA Standard calls for the shanks of adult Black turkeys to be pink with no white in the feathers. . . . Standard weights are 33 pounds for toms and 18 for hens.

The census resulted in 164 females and 47 males listed by 15 breeders. The Blacks made up 7% of the historical Farm turkeys found by the survey. Only one hatchery had over 100 females with 105 hens and 15 toms. The next largest flock has 8 females. The Blacks number 4th in rank of the varieties with the most individual turkeys. If you raise Blacks, please do not drop them to raise another variety! We do not have enough breeders. More breeders are needed.

Black Turkey Links:

Black Spanish at CBF Super Quail

Heritage and Rare Poultry

A Black tom telling off a Royal Palm

The head of a Norfolk Black tom
Photo courtesy of Robert Stephenson

Two pairs of Black turkeys
Left photo courtesy of Tom Richardson; right photo courtesy of Cathy Hill

Photo courtesy of Senia Phillips

Another pair
Photos courtesy of Pam Marshall

A Black tom
Photo courtesy of Tom Richardson

Another pair of Black turkeys
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

Norfolk Black hens
Left photo courtesy of Rupert Stephenson; right photo courtesy of Cathy Hill

More Black tom heads
Photo courtesy of Lynette Courtney

A young Black turkey
Photo courtesy of Lisa Feitshans

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