Are domesticated turkeys really that stupid?

Published31 October 1999

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Domesticated turkeys room so lacking in intelligence that they will certainly look up in ~ falling rain till they drown.

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Stop us if did you do it heard this one before.


My grand told me that domesticated turkeys are so stupid that, upon emotion the very first drop of rain, they will look up in ~ the sky, fascinated. Lock will proceed looking straight up into the rain, with their mouths open, till they drown.

First that all, this id as described is based upon a couple of false premises:

Turkeys do not look up in order come “see” rain. Turkeys, like most birds, carry out not have actually binocular vision (i.e., the capability to focus both eye on the same object); they have actually eyes set on opposite sides of their heads, a feature which offers them a greater field of vision and also thus enables them more effectively point out potential predators. (On the other hand, birds of prey such as the owl need to have the ability to focus on their targets, and they thus have both eyes collection in the front of their heads to provide binocular vision in ~ the cost of a more restricted field that vision.) The concept that a turkey make the efforts to see something above its field of vision would tilt the head backward is an anthropomorphization — a turkey’s eyes point sideways, so also if a turkey tilted that head backward, it would certainly still it is in looking to its sides, no up. A turkey attempting to look in ~ something above the plane of that normal ar of vision will certainly tilt that is head party (not up) in order to carry one eye come bear on whatever it’s trying come see.

The notion that a “dumb” animal would it is in fascinated by something as mundane as rain is an additional anthropomorphization. The concept of “fascination” calls for a level of knowledge that also the smartest turkeys perform not possess. Animals of this order react to a phenomenon such together rain in one of two very an easy ways: If they don’t mind it, they overlook it (as duck do); if they don’t choose it, they seek shelter native it.

Nonetheless, this legend does have a pair of marginally-related facets of fact to it:

trained turkeys room not necessarily “stupid,” but since they have been bred in bondage for so numerous generations, they lack the survival skills of your wild cousins: lock weak, they’re fat, they’re no agile, they can’t run really fast, and they can not fly. Every one of this renders it more challenging for castle to make it through on their own in one unprotected environment, so as soon as something unusual occurs (such together a storm), they often tend to panic. Frightened residential turkeys will commonly run as finest they deserve to until they with a corner or fence or part other barrier to progress, but even then they may continue their initiatives to escape, piling onto each other and possibly suffocating those in ~ the bottom of the heap.

Most tamed turkeys are increased in confinement because that the an initial several main of your lives, so the takes part time for them to become adjusted to life in an the end environment. If young turkeys encounter rain throughout their first couple of days outdoors, before they’ve “figured out” just how to live in the environment, they have the right to be much more vulnerable to mishaps precipitated by scare or inexperience.