Wednesday, February 21Food Security Matters

What is White Holland Turkey: Breed Profile and Characteristics

The Dutch White or White Holland turkey is an ancient variety of domestic turkey, known for its white plumage. It originated in Europe (probably Holland or Austria), where their populations showed an early preference for white birds. White Holland turkeys became very popular by maturing earlier than dark-colored birds, and they also lacked dark pin feathers. The latter trait often led to the upper hand in the market, although the birds were not as large as the broad-breasted white turkey.

The White Holland turkey is striking in appearance, with snow-white feathers and a bluish-red head. The beard is black, the beak is pink to antler, and the throat and beards are pinkish-white. The legs and toes are pinkish-white and the eyes should be brown. The standard weight for a young male is 25 pounds and 16 pounds for a young hen.

White Holland Turkey History and Origin

The White Holland turkey or Virginia snow turkey is an ancient variety of domestic turkey known for its white plumage. White Dutch, whose connection to the Netherlands is unfounded, originated from crosses of European white turkeys (re) imported to North America and crossed with native birds.

White Holland turkeys were first recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874, and today it is considered a hereditary breed of turkey. The breed was crossed in the 1950s with the white turkey to create the broad-breasted white turkey, which is now the most common breed of turkey in the world and was also the basis for creating the rare small white turkey.


The standard weights today are 36 pounds for a male and 20 pounds for a hen. The White Holland breed is currently listed as “threatened” by The Livestock Conservancy in the United States. The Standard of Perfection does not distinguish between the white Dutch turkey and the broad-breasted white turkey, although the white Dutch turkey is known for its hardiness, smaller chest, and longer legs. In Great Britain, the same has happened, and the broad-breasted white turkeys can be described by breeders as “British white” birds.

Breed Characteristics

Dutch white turkeys are beautiful birds that are often mistaken for broad-breasted white turkeys. But broad-breasted white turkeys are larger in size than these birds. White Holland breed turkeys have smaller chests and relatively longer legs. They are completely white in color. Its feathers are white like snow and its head is red to bluish.

These birds have black beards and the beak is pink to horn-colored. Their throat and beards are pinkish-white. The handles and toes of the Dutch white turkey are pinkish-white, and the eyes are brown. The live average body weight of a mature male is about 16.33 kilograms. And mature chickens have an average weight of about 9 kilograms.

Breed Classification

The White Holland turkey has been the most important white-feathered variety throughout most of American history. Despite this illustrious past, the White Dutch is one of the rarest and most difficult varieties to authenticate today. The white Dutch turkey was the only commercial white variety in the first half of the 20th century. The advantage of these white turkeys has been their lack of dark feathers, and this trait often led to the advantage in the market although the birds were not as large as the tan turkeys.

The mutation to white (which is a lack of color) is old. The Aztecs and other indigenous cultures selectively raised white turkeys, and they were certainly among the populations sent to Europe. In Austria and the Netherlands, white turkeys were the favorites. It is quite possible, although it is not documented, that Dutch settlers or other European immigrants came to the New World with white turkeys.

In the 19th century, a white variety was known in the United States, now called White Holland. It was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. The name White Holland implies Dutch origins for the variety, but it is an American breed developed from the white genes of the tan turkey variety.

The White Holland turkey became a very popular variety, especially in New England, which remained such until well into this century. Although less numerous than the tan and smaller breed, the Dutch white turkey matured earlier and offered a cleaner carcass than the dark-colored birds.

Producers, however, came to want the best of both worlds: a wide variety of white feathers. In the early 1950s, researchers at Cornell University and elsewhere in the United States began crossing the broad-chested white and tan Dutch. By the 1960s, the Broad Chested White (or Large White) had surpassed the tan turkey for commercial production. This variety dominates the turkey industry today.

White Holland Turkey Behavior

The White Holland turkey is raised primarily for meat production, and they are known for its firmness. Today they are a rare variety of domestic turkeys, occasionally seen in poultry shows. Although these animals are smaller in size they are more desirable than some of the other larger turkey breeds.

Most are docile in temperament, although some birds of this breed of turkey can be aggressive. Chickens lay large eggs, and their eggs are pale cream to medium brown with spots.

Breed Habitat

Domestic turkeys have wild breed genes that make them tough and robust. These birds can live comfortably and without difficulties in any type of climate. If you live in a cold or warm climate, then this is the perfect breed for your farm.

Dutch white turkey is typically kept for meat production. They live with other farm animals very well, you just have to be careful with some dogs. They have handles that are thick and fleshy, suitable for potting, especially during Thanksgiving.

Turkey Reproduction

These turkeys are quite known for their hardiness, something rare today, seen occasionally in poultry shows, smaller in size, but more desirable than some of the other larger breeds of turkeys, docile in temperament, but some birds can be aggressive, known for their large eggs, the eggs are pale cream to medium brown with spots.

Iron-coated turkeys of this type have a slow growth rate and are not suitable for those types of farmers who raise poultry for commercial purposes. They take a long time to mature and can eat the feed of other poultry since they tend to eat a lot to grow since they are just chicks.

Breed Conservation

The White Holland turkey as a distinctive and historical population is on the brink of extinction. Dutch turkeys are occasionally seen at poultry shows, but they often have wide breasts and short legs, reflecting the genetic influence of large or white turkeys.

The American Poultry Association recognized this fact and confused the issue in 1983 when a change to the White Dutchman added the following: “It can be referred to in trade terminology as Broad-breasted Whites or Large Whites.” Thus, the two varieties merged, with the white Dutch race the large white race was absorbed. The same has happened in Great Britain, with the grouping of all the white varieties in a population called “British White” turkey.

Some Questions Related to White Holland Turkey

What is the White Holland turkey used for?

Though the White Holland hen can produce abundant, large egg clutches, this breed is primarily raised for meat. The toms are large and can be up to 35 pounds, yielding a market weight of 16 to 25 pounds. The breed is rare, however, and the meat is not widely available.

How big is White Holland turkey?

Weight: Male Young – 25 lbs. Mature – 33 lbs. Female Young – 16 lbs.

Are White Holland turkeys rare?

Today White Holland Turkey is considered a Heritage breed and is very rare — listed as threatened by the Livestock Conservancy — and mostly kept by exhibition breeders.

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