WHEN I was in school I often used to wonder why the name Turkey referred to a country as well as a bird. I was never able to get an answer to this question. In time, I almost forgot about it. Then recently it popped into my head once again, and this time I was determined to find an answer. I did some research and this is what I came up with.

We all know that Turkey is the name of a country. What then, is the connection between Turkey the country and the bird bearing its name. It is a strange looking bird. It has a bald head, has an appendage that dangles along its neck, fluffy plumage and a fan-like tail. There is no other bird quite like it. Except for one, and this bird has a fair resemblance to the one found in America. This bird is called a guinea fowl and is found in eastern parts of Africa.

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During the middle ages, most of the trade originating from eastern Africa used the land routes that went through the eastern coast of Africa northward to the Mediterranean Sea. The sea routes had not been discovered as yet. The guinea fowl, considered an exotic bird in Europe and therefore had a good demand, also made its way through this route.

The northern part of Africa was under the control of the Turks and Turkish traders were doing a lot of business with Europe which included the guinea fowl as well. This bird came to be known as the Turk cock or Turk hen in Europe. The popularity of the guinea fowl can be gauged from the fact that it is mentioned in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Book of the Duchess believed to have been written in 1368.

When European settler began arriving in the New World, they came across a bird that strongly resembled the Turk cock and the Turk hen that they had known in Europe. They began to call it by that name also. In time, however, it simply changed to ‘turkey’.

So, there is, after all, a connection between Turkey the country and turkey, the bird!