15 Facts About Turkeys You’ll Gobble Right Up

istock
istock

Don’t be fooled by their reputation for being thoughtless. These roly-poly birds have a few tricks up their wings.

1. THEY CAN FLY. 

They’re not too bad at it, either. A wild turkey(Meleagris gallopavo) flying at full speed can reach 55 mph. This speediness is only a trait of wild turkeys, though. The domesticated variety was bred to be hefty, not aerodynamic. 

2. THE BIRDS WERE NAMED AFTER THE COUNTRY. 

The turkey is an American bird, so why does it share its name with a country on the other side of the world? Laziness, mostly. Turkish traders had been importing African guinea fowl to Europe for some time when North American explorers started shipping M. gallopavo back to the Old World. The American birds looked kind of like the African “turkey-cocks,” and so Europeans called them “turkeys.” Eventually, the word “turkey” came to describe M. gallopavo exclusively. 

3. THEY NEARLY WENT EXTINCT. 

Like the Galapagos tortoise and the bison, the turkey is just too delicious for its own good. By the early 20th century, the combination of overzealous hunting and habitat destruction had dwindled the turkey populations down to 30,000. With the help of conservationists, the turkey made a comeback. The birds are now so numerous that they’ve become a nuisance in some parts of the country. 

4. THEY’VE GOT TWO STOMACHS. 

Like all birds, turkeys don’t have teeth, so they’ve got to enlist some extra help to break down their food. Each swallowed mouthful goes first into a chamber called a proventriculus, which uses stomach acid to start softening the food. From there, food travels to the gizzard, where specialized muscles smash it into smaller pieces. 

5. FEMALE TURKEYS DON’T GOBBLE.

Turkeys of both sexes purr, whistle, cackle, and yelp, but only the males gobble. A gobble is the male turkey’s version of a lion’s roar, announcing his presence to females and warning his rivals to stay away. To maximize the range of their calls, male turkeys often gobble from the treetops. 

6. EATING TURKEY IS NOT GOING TO KNOCK YOU OUT. 

Turkey meat does contain the amino acid tryptophan, and tryptophan can have a calming effect. However, you’d have to eat a whole lot of turkey—and nothing else—to notice any effect. The sleepy feeling that you feel after the big meal is more likely caused by carbs, alcohol, and generally eating to excess. 

7. BEN FRANKLIN NEVER PROPOSED THE TURKEY AS A NATIONAL BIRD.

While it is true that the statesman and inventor had a thing for turkeys, he didn’t object to the bald eagle becoming a symbol of our fledgling nation. However, he did say that M. gallopavo was “a much more respectable Bird.” 

8. THEY SLEEP IN TREES. 

Due to their aforementioned deliciousness, turkeys have a lot of natural predators. As the sun goes down, the turkeys go up—into the trees. They start by flying onto a low branch, then clumsily hop their way upward, branch by branch, until they reach a safe height.

9. BOTH MALE AND FEMALE TURKEYS HAVE WATTLES. 

The wattle is the red dangly bit under the turkey’s chin. The red thing on top of the beak is called a snood. Both sexes have those, too, but they’re more functional in male turkeys. Studies have shown that female turkeys prefer mates with longer snoods, which may indicate health and good genes. 

10. THEY HAVE REALLY GOOD VISION. 

Turkey eyes are really, really sharp. On top of that, they’ve got terrific peripheral vision. We humans can only see about 180 degrees, but given the placement of their eyes on the sides of their heads, turkeys can see 270 degrees. They’ve also got way better color vision than we do and can see ultraviolet light. 

11. THEY’RE FAST ON THE GROUND, TOO. 

You wouldn’t guess by looking at them, but turkeys can really book it when they need to. We already know they’re fast in the air; on land, a running turkey can reach up to 25 mph—as fast as a charging elephant.

12. THEY’RE SMART … BUT NOT THAT SMART. 

Turkeys can recognize each other by sound, and they can visualize a map of their territory. They can also plan ahead and recognize patterns. In other ways, they’re very, very simple animals. Male turkeys will attack anything that looks remotely like a threat, including their own reflections in windows and car doors.

13. BABY TURKEYS CAN FEND FOR THEMSELVES.

Baby turkeys, or poults, are precocial. This means that they’ve already got downy feathers when they’re born, and they can walk, run, and get their own food. Turkey moms defend their poults from predators, but that’s about all they need to do. The fluffy chicks are pretty self-sufficient.

14. THERE WAS NO TURKEY AT THE FIRST THANKSGIVING. 

The written menu listed “fowl,” but this most likely meant duck, goose, or grouse. The pilgrims did have a taste for bald eagle, however, so it’s possible the as-yet-undeclared national symbol was a central part of the feast. 

15. IN THE EVENT OF A TURKEY ATTACK, CALL THE POLICE. 

They might look silly, but a belligerent turkey is no joke. Male turkeys work very hard to impress other turkeys, and what could be more impressive than attacking a bigger animal? Turkey behavior experts advise those who find themselves in close quarters with the big birds to call the police if things get mean. Until the authorities arrive, they say, your best bet is to make yourself as big and imposing as you possibly can. 

5 Dog Breeds That Get Along With Cats

iStock/chendongshan
iStock/chendongshan

Dogs and cats may be seen as common enemies, but it does not have to be that way. If you're a strategic pet parent, you can add a cat into your dog family, or vice versa, seamlessly. here are plenty of dogs out there that would make a wonderful—and friendly—companion for your cat. Here are five of the best breeds for that.

1. JAPANESE CHINS

Japanese Chin against a burgundy background
iStock/Dixi_

​Japanese Chins are the perfect dogs for your pet. The breed has even been described as a ​"cat in a dog suit" because of their acrobatic abilities and cat-like agility. ​Animal Planet describes these dogs as even-tempered and adaptable to new members in the family. They're also playful, mischievous, smart, determined, and affectionate.

2. GOLDEN RETRIEVERS

Friendly Golden Retriever looks at the camera
iStock/KalebKroetsch

These ​furry friends are as playful as it gets, but more importantly they're a versatile breed, so they know how to adapt to different friends they meet, including cats of all sizes and ages. Golden retrievers are very unlikely to be rough with your cat, even when playing, and will just consider the cat a part of its family. There's no jealousy on the part o these dogs.

3. PAPILLONS

Papillon and a cat snuggle under a blanket
iStock/yykkaa

​Papillons are the dog versions of your friend who invites you to every social gathering. They have a ​"more the merrier" attitude, meaning they welcome any and all friends. These social butterflies are quick to befriend any and all creatures, cats included.

4. LABRADOR RETRIEVERS

Black Labrador Retriever and a cat share a couch
iStock/Willowpix

A Labrador retriever grows to be pretty huge, there's no denying that, but that does not spell disaster for a cat-dog relationship. Labrador retrievers are very outgoing, but at the same time very gentle, and get along well with cats.

5. BEAGLES

A Beagle and a cat cuddle together
iStock/kobkik

Beagles are an easy choice to add to the family. According to the American Kennel Club, beagles are very friendly around all animals, and have an easygoing demeanor. Despite the fact you may see a beagle chase a cat outside from time to time, indoors, they won't keep that same energy. Inside, they play well with others, and will live peacefully—and possibly even snuggle—with cats.

12 Fun Facts About Pugs

iStock/ClarkandCompany
iStock/ClarkandCompany

These wrinkly-faced dogs have an adorably rich history. In honor of National Pug Day, read up on essential facts for any pug fanatic.    

1. THEY'RE AN ANCIENT BREED.


iStock/Melissa711

Because the pug lineage stretches so far back, their early history is a little murky. Most believe that the breed originated in China and existed before 400 BCE and were called (or at least closely related to a breed called) “lo-sze.” Buddhist monks kept the dogs as pets in Tibetan monasteries.

2. THEY WERE TREATED LIKE ROYALTY.

Emperors of China kept pugs as lapdogs and treated them to all the luxuries of royal life. Sometimes the pampered pooches were given their own mini palaces and guards.  

3. A GROUP OF PUGS IS CALLED A GRUMBLE


iStock/calero

In Holland, the pug is called a mopshond, which comes from the Dutch for “to grumble.” 

4. THE BREED PROBABLY GETS ITS NAME FROM A MONKEY.

Marmosets were kept as pets in the early 18th century and were called pugs. The name made the jump to the dog because the two animals shared similar facial features. 

5. THE PUG IS THE OFFICIAL BREED OF THE HOUSE OF ORANGE.


iStock/Irishka1

In 1572, the Dutch were in the midst of the Eighty Years' War, a protracted struggle against the Spanish. The Prince of Orange, William the Silent, led the Dutch forces into battle. According to Dutch legend, while the prince was sleeping in his tent one night, Spanish assassins lurked just outside. Luckily, William’s pug, Pompey, was there to bark wildly and jump on his owner’s face. The Prince woke up and had his would-be assassins apprehended. Because of this, the pug was considered the official dog of the House of Orange. The effigy of Prince William I above his tomb also features Pompey at his feet (although weirdly, that dog doesn’t have a flat face, leading some to believe that it was a different breed).

Later, when Prince William III came to England to rule with his wife Mary II, he brought his pugs, who wore little orange ribbons to their master’s 1689 coronation. 

6. THE PERFECT PUG TAIL HAS TWO CURLS.

Pugs are known for their curly tails that curve up towards their bodies. According to the AKC, “the double curl is perfection.” 

7. THERE'S A PUG WITH AN MBA.

In 2009, Chester Ludlow the pug received an online graduate degree from Rochville University. He submitted his resume to the website and paid around $500 for entry. A week later, he received his grades, degree, and a school window decal in the mail. Although he never attended a class, he received a 3.19 and he got an A in Finance. Chester may have been the first pug to get his degree.

It’s too bad Rochville University isn't accredited. The whole thing was a stunt pulled by a website called GetEducated.com. The website reviews online colleges to protect students from being duped by diploma mill fraud. So while Chester the pug has a diploma, you won’t see him getting a job very soon (unless that job is acting in cute commercials). 

8. THERE WAS A SECRET ORGANIZATION NAMED AFTER THE DOG.

Around 1740, Roman Catholics formed a secret fraternal group called the Order of the Pug. The Pope forbad Catholics from joining the Freemasons, so this group formed as a replacement. They chose the pug as their symbol because the dogs were loyal and trustworthy. The Grand Master was a man, but each division of the group had two “Big Pugs” that were always one male and one female. 

To join, members were expected to prove their devotion by kissing the rear of the Grand Pug under his tail (luckily, the Grand Pug was porcelain). Other wacky habits included wearing dog collars, scratching at the lodge door for entry, and barking loudly. 

This outcome probably wasn’t the result anyone was expecting from the freemason ban, so this new, stranger group got banned in several regions, until ultimately fizzling out. Probably due to a lack of people willing to kiss a pug’s posterior.  

9. JOSEPHINE BONAPARTE'S PUG DIDN'T MESS AROUND.


iStock/Camrocker

Napoleon’s wife Josephine had a pet pug named Fortuné that she loved so much that she refused to let the dog sleep anywhere but in her bed. It’s rumored that when Napoleon entered the bed with his new wife for the first time, her pug bit him on the leg. 

10. THEY'VE GOT ROYAL CONNECTIONS IN THE UK, TOO.

Long before Queen Elizabeth II met her first corgi, Queen Victoria was the top British dog fancier, and she loved pugs. Victoria was such a dog lover that she also banned the practice of cropping ears, enabling pug owners to enjoy their pups’ velvety ears in all their glory.

11. THEIR SHORT NOSES CAUSE SOME TROUBLE.


iStock/iamzereus

Pugs are brachycephalic, meaning their noses are pushed in more than other dogs. While cute, these smushed faces can lead to some breathing problems. Their facial structure makes it difficult to take long and deep breaths, which is why you might hear a pug snuffling while running around. The dogs are still very energetic, but they might not be the best swimmers and may have trouble on airplanes

12. PUGS ARE MADE TO BE COMPANIONS.

Pugs are excellent pets because of their adaptable personality. Whether you like to stay at home or enjoy the outdoors, the little dogs will be up for anything. Bred to be companions, their favorite place is right by your side.

An earlier version of this article ran in 2015.

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