The Bourbon Red is a breed of domestic turkey named for its unique reddish plumage and for Bourbon County, Kentucky. The breed standard indicates mature Bourbon Red toms (males) weigh 15 kilos (33 pounds), and mature hens (females) weigh 8.2 kilos (18 pounds). The breed standard indicates the Bourbon Red should weigh 10.4 kilos (23 pounds) for toms and 6.3 kilos (14 pounds) for hens at slaughter age (28 weeks). These standard weights were published with anticipation of the potential of the Bourbon Red and when the breed was at its prime. Though there are efforts to restore and accomplish the Bourbon Red standard, today these weights are realized by few breeders and growers. Bourbon Reds have been unrefined for too long due to the lack of selective breeding to preserve the breed. Turkeys in general will deviate from these published weights up to ~30% loss due to their relentless, extensive and highly instinctive breeding season with their lowest weights typically being recorded in July.
The breed's feathers are a dark base color, with white primaries in the tail characterized by a soft red band and white flight feathers; both the tail and wings feature chestnut coverts. The standard allows for a total of 30% red feathers in the tail before the bird is disqualified.
In the past, the breed has alternatively been called Kentucky Reds and Bourbon Butternuts. The bird originated in Kentucky and Pennsylvania in the late 19th century, and was created by crossing Buff, Standard Bronze, and White Holland Turkeys. It was first recognized as a turkey variety by the American Poultry Association in 1909.
Bourbon Reds were selectively bred for utility traits as a meat bird, and was an important variety in the turkey industry throughout the 1930s and 1940s. Like most turkey breeds, it declined after the commercial adoption of the Broad Breasted White. Populations began to recover in the early 21st century, and today it is one of the most popular heritage turkey breeds in the U.S. Despite its relative popularity as a heritage breed, it is still listed as "watch" by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, entailing that there are fewer than 5,000 breeding birds in the U.S.. The Bourbon Red is also included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a catalog of heritage American foods in danger of extinction.
- Ekarius, Carol (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. Storey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58017-667-5.
- "Bourbon Red Turkey". American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- "Bourbon Red". Ark of Taste. Slow Food USA. Archived from the original on 2008-06-15. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
- "Bourbon Red Turkeys". feathersite.com. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
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