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Originally published 2018
…strolling all the way to London? Yes, hundreds of years ago it actually happened!
Norfolk Black Turkeys are one of the most popular breeds of Turkey in the country. Turkeys were first shipped in to Britain in the late 16th century from Spain, and they soon gained popularity, though they used to be somewhat of a luxury due to price. In 1930 it would, on average, cost a week’s wage to buy a turkey; in fact they were still a luxury up right until the 1950’s, when they became a lot more accessible and affordable – and now they’re hugely popular at Christmas, with approximately 10 million turkeys consumed last Christmas in the UK alone!
Now, what you really want to know about is these hiking turkeys, eh?
Back in the early 17th century, Norfolk Turkeys were hugely popular as a luxury Christmas food, and London wanted its fair share of these Norfolk birds. So they were actually walked to London by the Turkey farmers, along the Norfolk roads. That’s well over 100 miles of walking for both birds and farmers, with plenty of food stop-offs along the way – after all, no one wants an emaciated turkey for Christmas, do they?
And it gets even more bizarre… because this journey could be really hard on the turkey’s feet, small leather ‘boots’ were fashioned to protect them, or alternatively their feet would be dipped in tar as a protectant. (We’d rather the boots, cheers)
By the early 18th century there were over 250,000 turkeys walked to London each year. They’d be taken in smaller flocks (less than 1,000) and because the journey would take around 3 months, the first flocks would set off in August.
So next time you’re sitting comfortably in your car, cruising down the A11, think of those poor turkeys in their little boots!