Narragansette Turkey History

 poult 2012
Historically, this was the turkey of New England. It takes its name from the Narragansett Bay area. Some authors have suggested an exotic origin for the Narragansett, suggesting it may have come originally from Mexico or Central America. While this suggestion seems to have little basis, some of its ancestry did come from that area, but by way of Europe. Such turkeys, crossed with local wild turkeys, produced the Narragansett. It could, in fact, be considered an intermediate step in the production of the Bronze. Early writers praised the quality of its meat as well as its egg production. I can’t disagree with that, but perhaps I should warn you that this is my favorite turkey. It’s an active bird; but when kept at liberty, doesn’t wander too far from home. It is also a good mother. The pattern is similar to the bronze but bronze is replaced with steel gray and the brown in the tail is a lighter tan. The gray has a slightly golden or brown tint. . . . My preference for the Narragansett is based mostly on a calm disposition and size. A grown out young Narragansett will feed you, your family, your friends, your neighbors and a few people you don’t even like whereas] even the standard Bronze is too much turkey for general use.

At one time fanciers had developed a Silver Narragansett. In this variety, white replaced gray and tan. It was never accepted by the American Poultry Association and is very rare, although such sports appear from time to time in Narragansett flocks.

Early in the 19th century European strains (probably Blacks) were crossed with the local wild turkeys in the region of Narragansett, Rhode Island. This local variety was the forerunner of the Narragansett and the Bronze types. The Narragansett color factor was refined and preserved, but the name was not used to distinguish the color pattern and type until after the Bronze was named in the 1830s. One of the first varieties developed in the U.S., it has been very popular. Abraham Lincoln was sent 2 Narragansetts by the citizens of Rhode Island, who claimed the turkey was the best in the world. It was admitted to the APA Standard in 1874. In the 1930s, the Narragansett was the 3rd most popular variety behind the Historical Bronze with the White Hollands being 2nd. By 1952, they had dropped to only 2,576 being raised (with most in Minnesota), and were far out-numbered by the Broad Breasted Bronze, Beltsville Small White, White Holland, Jersey Buff, Nebraskan and the Historical Bronze in that order. Today, a total of 60 hens and 27 toms were found amongst 12 breeders. This is 3% of the total Historical turkey population found by the survey. The largest flock has 20 hens. They were well known for their excellent quality of meat, good egg production, broodiness and a calm disposition. Narragansetts are similar to Bronze, but the bronze color is replaced with a steel gray color and the brown in the tail is a tan color. A variant of this variety was called Silver Narragansett, in which pure white replaced the steel gray and tan colors. A breeder in Canada listed Silver Narragansetts on the census form.
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