Norfolk Black

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Norfolk Black
Black Spanish Turkey Tom.jpg
Conservation status
Other names
  • Black Spanish
  • Black Turkey
  • Black
Country of originEurope, the county of Norfolk
  • Male:
    8.2–11.4 kg[3]:358
  • Female:
    5.0–6.8 kg[3]:358
PCGBlight turkey[6]

The Norfolk Black, also known as the Black Spanish or Black Turkey, is a British breed of domestic turkey. It is thought to derive from birds taken to Britain from Spain, where they had arrived with Spanish explorers returning from the New World.[3]:358[7]:345[8][9][10]

It is generally considered the oldest turkey breed in the UK.


Turkeys were brought to Europe by early conquistadors returning from the New World, and were introduced to Britain – probably from Spain – in the early sixteenth century.[11] According to the Chronicle of the Kings of England of Richard Baker of 1643, this was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Henry VIII, or about 1524.[12]:328[13]:298 William Strickland is often credited with having brought them.[8] Black birds had occasionally been seen among New World flocks of wild birds; European breeders selectively bred for this colour.[14]:227 In England, turkey farming was carried on mainly in East Anglia, and particularly in Norfolk.[3]:358

In the seventeenth[7]:345 or eighteenth century,[9] early colonists travelling to the New World took black-coloured turkeys with them. Cross-breeding of some of these with Meleagris gallopavo silvestris, the Eastern sub-species of the wild turkey, led to the later development of the Bronze, Narragansett and Slate breeds.[7]:345[a]

They remained a commercially farmed variety in the U.S. until the early 20th century, but fell out of favour after the development of the Broad Breasted Bronze and Broad Breasted White. Fairly common in Europe, they are considered an endangered variety of heritage turkey today by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,[15] and are also included in Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a catalogue of heritage foods in danger of extinction.[9]

A 1998 census conducted by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy found that there were only 200 Black Spanish turkeys remaining in the United States, which were being raised by just 15 different breeders.[16] To help with conservation efforts, the Accokeek Foundation helped reintroduce this bird to the Potomac River tidewater region by sharing breeding stock with other historical museums and local farmers.[17] A rafter of Black Spanish turkeys is currently being preserved by the Heritage Breed Livestock Conservation Program within the National Colonial Farm at Piscataway Park to increase public awareness of this threatened breed.[18]


  1. ^ In the United States, the American Poultry Association regards these not as breeds but as colour variants of a single breed, the Turkey[14]:222


  1. ^ Barbara Rischkowsky, Dafydd Pilling (editors) (2007). List of breeds documented in the Global Databank for Animal Genetic Resources, annex to The State of the World's Animal Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. Rome: Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 9789251057629. Archived 23 June 2020.
  2. ^ Breed data sheet: Norfolk Black / United Kingdom (Turkey). Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed January 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d J. Ian H. Allonby, Philippe B. Wilson (editors) (2018). British Poultry Standards: complete specifications and judging points of all standardized breeds and varieties of poultry as compiled by the specialist breed clubs and recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain, seventh edition. Chichester; Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 9781119509141.
  4. ^ APA Recognized Breeds and Varieties: As of January 1, 2012. American Poultry Association. Archived 4 November 2017.
  5. ^ Liste des races et variétés homologuée dans les pays EE (28.04.2013). Entente Européenne d’Aviculture et de Cuniculture. Archived 16 June 2013.
  6. ^ Breed Classification. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Archived 12 June 2018.
  7. ^ a b c Victoria Roberts (2008). British Poultry Standards: complete specifications and judging points of all standardized breeds and varieties of poultry as compiled by the specialist breed clubs and recognised by the Poultry Club of Great Britain, sixth edition. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 9781405156424.
  8. ^ a b Turkeys. Poultry Club of Great Britain. Archived 9 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Black Turkey: Ark of taste. Bra, Cuneo: Fondazione Slow Food per la Biodiversità Onlus/Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity. Accessed January 2021.
  10. ^ "Native Americans First Tamed Turkeys 2,000 Years Ago". The Discovery Channel. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  11. ^ Norfolk Black. Kenilworth, Warwickshire: Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Accessed January 2021.
  12. ^ Jennifer Speake, John Simpson (editors) (2015). The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, sixth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198734901.
  13. ^ Richard Baker (1670 [1643]). Chronicle of the Kings of England from the Time of the Romans Government unto the Death of King James. London: Printed for George Sawbridge... and Thomas Williams.

    About his fifteenth year, it happened that divers things were newly brought into England, whereupon this Rhyme was made: Turkeys, Carps, Hoppes, Piccarel, and Beer, Came into ENGLAND all in one year.

  14. ^ a b Carol Ekarius (2007). Storey's Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing. ISBN 9781580176675.
  15. ^ "Black Turkey". American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
  16. ^ Burros, Marian (21 November 2001). "The Hunt for a Truly Grand Turkey, One That Nature Built". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  17. ^ McKay, Kathryn (November 2005). "In Our Own Backyard: Talking Turkey". Washington Parent. Retrieved 9 April 2020.
  18. ^ "National Colonial Farm: Heritage Breed Livestock Conservation". Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park. 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2020.