Bourbon Red Turkeys

A trio of Bourbon Reds
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

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

The Bourbon Red which was developed from the Buff [Turkey] by selection is certainly a U.S. product. Development started in Pennsylvania with the selection of Jersey Buffs for deeper color. The result was called Tuscarora Red, sometimes Tuscawara Red. Settlers heading west took them to Kentucky along with the long rifle. Final development was centered in Kentucky and southern Ohio where they were also called Kentucky Reds and Bourbon Butternuts. Except for the required white flight feathers, the Bourbon Red pattern is just a darker, richer version of the buff pattern. Claims that the Bourbon Red was discovered in the wild are without merit.

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

This popular turkey is believed to have been developed from the Tuscarora Red turkey. The Tuscarora, or Tuscawara, was developed in Pennsylvania by selecting Buffs for darker color. The Tuscarora Reds were taken to Kentucky where their development was continued until the deep reddish-brown color of the Bourbon Red was finalized. At one time, they were called Bourbon Butternuts and/or Kentucky Reds, but the name or the variety did not become popular until around the turn of the century when they were promoted as the turkey from Bourbon County, Kentucky. The Bourbon Red was [accepted] into the APA Standard in 1909, and Mr. Barbee of Bourbon County, Kentucky, had been given credit for its origin. Their weights are 33 pounds for toms and 18 for hens. It has been a popular breed for many years, and today it remains the most numerous of Historical turkeys. The Bourbon makes up 33% of the Historical Farm turkeys. The survey had 782 females and 149 males recorded. There were 4 breeders with more than 100 females. Two of these breeders had 200 females each. This is encouraging, but they still fall below the critical list as put out by the ALBC. If you are a breeder of Bourbon Reds, please do not get rid of your Bourbons to breed a rarer variety. If you can add a new variety that is great!

Bourbon Red Links:

Midget White and Bourbon Red Turkeys are Better! A taste test

Boourbon Reds at Flying A Farm

Flip Flop Ranch

Bourbon Reds at Half Moon Heritage Farm

Bourbon Reds at Steinbacher Poultry Farm

Bourbon Reds at Little Bend Heritage Farm

Head shots of a 10-month-old tom and hen
Photos courtesy of Angie Brainard

"Blue," a Bourbon Red hen
Photo courtesy of Sue Tivol

"Henrietta," an ex-Petting Zoo Bourbon Red hen
This made her somewhat dangerous. She's too tame! You've no idea of pain 'til you've had a turkey pluck a stud earring out of your ear while you're lying on the ground trying to fix a recalcitrant lawn mower. Took quite a while to find the earring--but if she'd eaten it she'd have been roast turkey!!

A Bourbon Red pair
Photo courtesy of Phil Sponenberg of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

The head of a Bourbon Red tom
Photo courtesy of Pam Marshall

A pair of Pam's Bourbon Reds
Photos courtesy of Pam Marshall

Side shot of a displaying Bourbon Red tom
Photo courtesy of Keith Smith

A very good tom from the UK
Photo courtesy of Rupert Stephenson

A pair of Bourbon Reds also from the UK
Photo courtesy of Rupert Stephenson

A Bourbon Red poult
Photo courtesy of Pam Marshall

More Bourbon Red poults
Photo courtesy of Taryn Koerker

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