The Crested Turkey
American Agricultruist, Vol XXIX, No. 11, November 1870
with permission from
SPPA Bulletin, 2003, 8(1):7-8
Among all domesticated poultry and other birds, so far as we know, except, perhaps, Guinea fowls, geese and swans, we find either natural crests, or a tendency of the feathers about the head to assume extraordinary shapes. Among doves we have frills, hoods, and crests; among fowls, turban-like crests, and mufflers about the throat; among canaries, frills and crests. Peafowls have peculiar crest feathers. Pheasants, beautiful and diverse crests. There is a crested breed of common ducks, and beautiful natural crests upon several wild species. Among the various general or wild gallinaceous fowls are found beautiful crests of very different forms. The Curassow, for example, a bird of South America, nearly as large as the turkey, has a superb narrow crest, capable of being spread like a fan, with its edge to the front, and depressed, or folded in like manner. So it does not seem an extraordinary freak of Nature that a turkey should occur with a crest, especially when we consider the varying circumstances under which our domestic turkeys are raised.
In the number of the London Field for July 17th, a gobbler was figured, having a crest much like the one represented in the engraving here given. The accompany memoranda by Mr. W. B. Tegetmeier, gave a brief sketch of other reported crested turkeys. It seems certain that they have repeatedly occurred, and have received so much attention from poultry fanciers as to have become at different times, more or less established as a breed, but now they are, and for many years have been, altogether lost.
The specimen represented in the Field, and in possession of Mr. Tegetmeier, was said to have come from Zanzibar, and to have been sent to a Hamburgh dealer in Zoological specimens, by a collector in Africa. It is of the common species native to this country. How it should have occurred in Africa, is strange. Knowing, as we do, the very imperfect knowledge of natural history which zoological dealers usually possess, and the lack of accuracy which characterizes their statements concerning their animals, even when truth would serve their purposes better than fiction, we respectfully don't believe a word of it having come from Africa.
Almost simultaneously with the appearance of this interesting bird in the yard of Mr. Tegetmeier, one is found in this country which closely resembles the other in many respects. We noticed it as shown at the exhibition of the Connecticut State Poultry Society, and again at that of the New York State Poultry Society, and as having been purchased by Mr. D. E. Gavit, in whose possession it still remains.
The cock is a medium-sized one, weighing perhaps 18 or 20 pounds; of a blacking bronze color upon the body, fading into gray below, and into brilliant light chestnut bronze on the tail and wing feathers, these being edged with broad bands of black and white. The legs are dark, flesh color; the spurs indicating at least a 1-1/2 year old bird. The carunculations upon the neck, and the beard, are well developed. The crest is like the Hamburgh bird, "of a dull uniform gray, the feathers composing it being soft in texture." It is a beautiful appendage, adding a peculiar grace to the bird. It is in a measure erectile at the will of the wearer, and gives the gay fellow quite the air of a Broadway belle, with her extraordinary chignon.
We hope this notice may elicit some positive information from disinterested parties who know by whom and where this bird was bred. From all we can learn, he came from somewhere near Birmingham, Connecticut. The parties who sold him to Mr. Gavit are not disposed to be communicative in regard to his origin. If he lives he will be bred with care, and we hope and expect his progeny, some of them at least, will take after him in this beautiful peculiarity.
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