UNIMPROVED BRONZE TURKEY
INCLUDES RIDLEY BRONZE
||North America and United Kingdom|
||Critical (Canada) Rare (USA), |
||Primitive Broad Breasted Bronze, Ridley Bronze (Canadian strain)|
Turkeys are the only fowl that originated in the Americas. When the Spanish Conquistadors landed in Mexico in 1519 they discovered that Turkeys were already domesticated (Crawford, 1990). Archeological information indicates that the turkey was domesticated around 200 BC in the Tehuacan area of Mexico. The Spanish, on their return home introduced them to Europe. Their classification and Latin name Meleagris gallopavo however did not appear in the literature before the18th Century. The name is a combination of the names for Guinea fowl (meleagris), the chicken (gallus) and the peafowl (pavo) (Hawes, 1999).
In about 1625 the turkey was reintroduced to Eastern North America from England by the Pilgrims. They bred with the indigenous turkey of that area to produce the bronze coloured bird that became the foundation of the modern turkey (Crawford, 1990).
The wild turkey was at that time distributed all over the North American continent and had been given the name of M.g. silvestris meaning that it was a bird of the forest and open glade. This name still applies to the wild turkeys that have been successfully reintroduced into Eastern Canada recently.
The development of the modern Broad Breasted Bronze is credited to an Englishman, Jesse Throssel (Davey, 1974). He had been selecting turkeys for hatchability and meat production for many years. After arriving in Canada in 1926 he decided to import birds of his own breeding in 1927 (Crawford 1990). His hatchery in B.C. was successful and ultimately he sent some of his birds to Oregon and California where they were they met with great favour. This was the true beginning of the modern turkey industry.
Unfortunately the modern Broad Breasted Bronze male become so heavy that it could not breed naturally. This situation also applies to the Heavy White Turkey and to resolve this dilemma the modern turkey industry has to resort to artificial insemination. This necessitates a team of qualified people milking the toms for their semen and inseminating the females as soon as possible after the semen is drawn.
Rare Breeds Canada, on the advice of Dr. R.D. Crawford, decided to concentrate their efforts on the Ridley Bronze Turkey. Although not an extremely heavy turkey it has a good body mass and can breed naturally.
There is no definitive information as to the actual history and origin of this particular strain of Bronze Turkey however, Dr Crawford remembers that George Ridley used to supply the Anstey Hatchery in Saskatoon with hatching eggs from this particular strain.
When Dr Crawford heard that Anstey hatchery would no longer be hatching this strain he decided to add them to his flocks of rare poultry at the University of Saskatchewan.
Future Of the Breed
A concerted conservation effort is required to save this useful strain of turkeys from extinction. Its ability to breed naturally, among its other attributes, could be of value to the turkey industry in the future.
The Bronze colouring in turkeys is best described as follows: A good metallic Bronze throughout with the female showing slightly lighter ticking on the breast. The flight feathers on the wings must be black with distinct white barring. The tail is bronze in colour with a broad black band edged with white at the outer edge. The caruncles (the odd looking wrinkled skin on the upper neck and on top of the head must be bright red). The snood which is the odd fleshy apendage on the head must also be bright red but both the caruncles and the snood can also have a bluish tinge when the male displays his masculinity.
Ridley toms about 9kg, hens about 7kg
Egg production ranges from 50 to 85 eggs per hen and all reports indicate a great variation in fertility and hatchability. (pers com. R. Gonda and Robert van den Hoef)
Extremely hardy, will roost outside. Laying is seasonal from mid March to mid July in Southern Canada
Non intensive production on family farms. Niche marketing of excellent quality meat.