Turkey History

The King of the Forest

Turkey, Meleagris Gallopavo to be precise, was living in the forests of Central & North America.

Already in the 15th century, local Indians hunted and domesticated the so called ‘King of the forest’. When the Spanish explored the America’s, things got confused.

The Spanish thought turkeys were a kind of Guinea Fowl because of their colorful feather. Guinea fowl however was also called Turkey fowl at that time because Guinea fowl came to Europe via Turkey. That’s why the Spanish called our King of the forest a turkey (fowl).

The Americas at that time were also known as the West-Indies. So the French called our ‘King of the forest’ after India : Coq d’Inde or rooster from the Indies (Dinde).

In Turkish reference was made to India as well, calling it ‘hindi’.

In Dutch, Finnish and other North European languages they were called after the Indian trading post Callicut: ‘kalkoen’ in Dutch, ‘kalkunna’ in Finnish, …

The Portugese just called it ‘peru’ as they probably just encountered the animal there …

In some Asian countries the name for a turkey refers to the former European colonizers:
Cambodia : Moan barang (French Chicken), Vietnam : Gà tây (Western Chicken), Malaysia: Ayam belunda (Dutch chicken), …

In Japan, it is called shichimencho, which means ‘seven-faced bird’, because the wild turkey can change its neck and head of color depending on its temper or mood.

In China, a turkey is called huoji, meaning ‘fire chicken’ referring to the color of its head.

Over the years a large number of turkeys were brought from the America’s to Europe. In less than a century turkeys were found all over Europe.

In the 17th & 18th century European immigrants brought the (European) turkey back to America, where they started to cross breed with the local wild turkeys.

The Volys Star turkeys are descendants of these European-American crossbreeds.

But we still call them: ‘The king of the forest’.