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The Narragansett Turkey is a hybrid Turkey and a descendent of a cross between the domestic turkey and the Eastern wild Turkey. Its biological name is Meleagris Gallopavo. The domestic turkey was introduced into colonial America by the Englishmen when America was colonized by Britain and other European colonists. The bird was introduced into America during the early 17th century.
It is considered a historic variety which is unique to North America alone. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy considers it a historical breed. It gets its name from the Narragansett Bay where turkeys were once very prolific.
Physical Characteristics of the Narragansett Turkey
The Narragansett turkey is known for its heavy plumage of multi-colored feathers ranging from gray and tan to white and solid black. This is similar in coloring to those of the Bronze Turkey but does not have the copper tone associated with the Bronze Turkey.
Instead it has dull gray and dull black feathers in place of the shimmery coloring of the Bronze Turkey. The Narragansett turkeys found in North America often have bars of white feather appearing on their wings. The main reason identified for this is that the turkeys undergo a genetic mutation only in United States.
The beard of the Narragansett Turkey is black in color and has a horn shaped beak with a head that is almost featherless. The neck of the Turkey is a bluish white to solid red color.
The main reason for the popularity of the Narragansett breed of turkeys is that they are very calm and motherly in nature. This cool tempered turkey matures very quickly and produces a very good clutch of eggs.
While the bird was initially very lightweight, through constant improvement in the breed by crossbreeding of the Eastern wild turkey and the domestic Turkey in a selective manner the young toms are now known to weigh approximately 22 to 28 pounds whereas the turkey hens range between 12 pounds to 16 pounds in weight. The meat is of excellent quality and can be utilized for various recipes.
These birds are very territorial and spend their nights in their roost or in the trees for roosting. That means they do not stray very far away from their main roost and breeding area even if you keep them in the open. They are good flyers and run very fast as well, travelling swiftly.
Commercial Importance of the Narragansett Turkey
The bird is a prized as an agricultural bird because it is very suitable for commercial production of meat and eggs. As far back as the 1870s one could find flocks of 200 turkeys in roosts. These turkeys are very good at foraging for insects like grasshoppers and crickets and require very little animal feed to maintain good weight.
In fact the New England poultry industry was founded on the Narragansett Turkey. Its importance was seen across the Mid-Atlantic States as well as the Midwestern United States. Connecticut and Rhode Island were two other areas where the turkey was extremely prized for its industrial importance.
However by the early 20th century the Bronze Turkey had replaced the Narragansett Turkey and became more popular in terms of its commercial value because it had larger chunks of breast meat. However by the early 21st century there a revival in the interest of the organic value and superior flavors of the Narragansett Turkey has occurred and it is bred today for a niche market which prefers Narragansett turkey.