Difference between a turkey and a hen turkey. Europeans became acquainted with this bird after Columbus discovered America. That is, it became a participant in the so-called Columbian Exchange. This term refers to the movement of animals, plants, and infectious diseases initially belonging exclusively to these regions from the Old World to the New (and vice versa). However, this is clear from the name of the bird itself, as America was initially considered not an independent part of the world but India, hence the name of its inhabitants—Indians. And in Russia, initially, the turkey was called “Indian chicken.” But let’s understand the difference between a turkey and a hen turkey, or maybe they are equivalent terms?

Turkey in America

The habitat range of the turkey covers more than half of the territory of modern-day USA (excluding Alaska) and some regions of Mexico. This large member of the pheasant family (weighing up to 8 kilograms, and in domestic conditions—up to 16) was the object of hunting for the indigenous inhabitants of America, and some of the most advanced tribes raised turkeys as domestic birds. Wild subspecies inhabit forests and are omnivorous. The turkey’s diet includes insects as well as fruits and seeds of various plants: nuts, acorns, and several types of grains.

The popularity of turkey in gastronomic terms is evidenced by the fact that a dish made from it is a traditional part of one of North America’s most popular celebrations—the Thanksgiving Day. This holiday commemorates the rescue of the first English settlers by the Native Americans who came to the new continent on the ship Mayflower and faced great difficulties initially. After the first harsh winter, which claimed the lives of many settlers, the local Native Americans came to the aid of those who survived, taught them the basics of agriculture and animal husbandry in the new conditions, and provided a large amount of food that saved the English from death. After the first successful harvest, the governor of the colonists invited the Native Americans to share a feast, which became the first Thanksgiving celebration. According to tradition, one of the main dishes of the feast was roasted turkey.

Turkey in the Old World

The turkey, as a valuable bird in poultry farming, was brought to Europe in the 16th century and took a worthy place in the agriculture of many countries on the continent. The exact time of the appearance of these birds in Russia is unknown. Most likely, it was the 17th century, and initially, turkeys were probably not particularly popular. But in the book “Aviary” of 1774, they are already mentioned. Apparently, it was during this time in Russia that the name “Indian chicken” stuck.

However, over time, as often happens, the name “turkey” slightly transformed in the public consciousness, and a new name for this domestic bird appeared—hen turkey. That is, a turkey and a hen turkey are equivalent terms. In explanatory dictionaries, it’s noted that a hen turkey is “the same as a turkey.” Some sources claim that “hen turkey” is a colloquial, folk variant of “turkey.” Hen turkey meat is not as tender as chicken, but its nutritional value is very high. Considering that the amount of meat obtained from one hen turkey (or tom) is several times more than from representatives of the chicken family, it becomes clear that this domestic bird is a popular object in poultry farming.