White Hollands

text by

Bonnie

This profile is of the White Holland variety of turkey.

I have had the opportunity on several occasions to speak with Glenn Drowns, owner of Sandhill Conservation Center, and SPPA (Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities) Secretary. Glenn has assured me that there are, in fact White Hollands still in existence in the original form (he raises them at his farm), this form being a longer legged, medium breasted bird. The most frustrating thing is that the show 'White Hollands' all seem to favor the short-legged broader breasted type of the commercial white turkey, and this is the reason that it is widely believed that the White Holland, in its original form is, in essence, extinct. That said, I would like to relay to the reader the description of the White Holland, as described by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) -- reprinted with permission, and credit given to Robert O. Hawes, as author.

"The White Holland is a white-feathered variety that originated in Europe, perhaps, though not certainly in Holland. It was developed from Mexican turkeys brought to Europe from the Americas beginning in the 1500's. This population is likely to have included birds of many colors, including black, bronze, and white. In some countries there was a prejudice against white turkeys as more vulnerable to predation and disease, though white turkeys were favored in Holland and Austria. They were documented in England in the early 1800's and exported to the United States not long afterward. The White Holland variety was accepted ino the Standard in 1874. This variety became popular and has been important commercially in this country.

The White Holland turkey is showy in appearance, with snow white feathers and a red to bluish head. The beard is black; the beak is pink to horn colored; and the throat and wattles are pinkish-white. Shanks and toes are pinkish-white, and eyes are brown. Standard weights are 33 pounds for toms and 18 pounds for hens. The White Holland's advantage has been its lack of dark pinfeathers, and this trait often led to market advantage even though the birds were not as large as the Bronze.

The White Holland was the only commercial white variety in the first half of this century. Today it is quite rare, being kept by only a few exhibition breeders. White Hollands are seen occasionally at poultry shows, but birds generally have the wide breasts and short legs, reflecting some genetic influence from the Large White, so the turkeys that remain may not be purebred."


Indeed, as written in the ALBC's first edition of the 'Snood News', the American Poultry Association, itself, declares in its Standard, that the White Holland "may be referred to in commercial terminology as Broad Whites or Large Whites"! So, if the APA Standard doesn't recognize the true form of the White Holland, than how is this strain of 'naturally breeding' turkeys to continue? To conform to 'Standard', the show bird will look more like a commercial type -- the type which needs artificial insemination to procreate. And, as Dr. Hawes has written, "White-feathered turkeys which are distinct from industrial strains or stocks are genetically important and need to be better documented and conserved."

I would like to encourage people to consider this breed as a prime candidate for conservation. The Sandhill Preservation Center is one good source for these birds. Their phone number is 319-246-2299. Glenn Drowns may be able to recommend other sources for this bird. The ALBC's first edition of the 'Snood News' profiles this breed in more detail, although has a definite 'slant' against the existence of the breed in its true form. A copy may be obtained by writing to Carolyn Christman, c/o American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC, 27312.


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