The eyes have it (2)

This is the second in a series of posts concerning the different dispositions and characters of various breeds of livestock. It goes without saying that individuals within breeds may differ from one another in this way but what we’re getting at here are differences in disposition between and among the various animal breeds themselves; the hardwired, rather than differential expression of personality. We believe that these differences are most freely revealed through the eyes, the gaze, and countenance.

We raise turkeys seasonally and have come to know them well. Like chickens, turkeys have some capacity for flight but spend the majority of their time ground foraging. Flocks are close-knit.  Chickens range as a loose association with group members moving about, foraging, on their own. Turkeys, in contrast, range as a tight group. Their behavior as individuals is not nearly as frenetic as that of ranged chickens. Turkeys tend to pause often … I was just about to say that they tend to pause often, as if to cogitate … but that would have been a non-truth because I don’t believe that turkeys think much at all. They often gaze blankly as if to suggest that what they are trying to think about is percolating, ever so slowly, into the deep recesses of their consciousness. Once they have processed information they act, slowly. If you watch a group of turkeys for a time you might be lead to think that groups make collective decisions – flocks function as a committee. I’m not quite sure how, but individuals do communicate with one another in the decision-making process. In our experience males (Toms) can be belligerent with lots of bluster to accompany the attitude. Hens are quiet, quicker than the males (physically and mentally) and purposeful about their movements. My daughter has commented that turkeys tend to looking disapprovingly at just about everything. There’s something about their long beaks and the relation of the beak to the eyes which gives the impression that they are looking down their nose at you. Toms make a drumming or thumping sound which can be mistaken for sounds of disapproval, as if they’re commenting, Harumph.

If a turkey were to be transmogrified into human form the result would be a very large, bombastic, pompous, sort. This person would be generally quiet and when he did speak it would be to condescend. He would be more interested in talking to and interacting with close friends rather than in entering into open discourse with you or with anyone else outside his circle. Now that I think of it it’s clear that I’ve described Mr. Darcy from (the beginning of) Jane Austin’s, Pride and Prejudice. I would be quick to point out however that no turkey could hold a candle to Fitzwilliam’s sharp intellect. Finally, Tom turkeys will speak when spoken to … if you gobble at them, they are quick to gobble back; they don’t take insult lightly.

Next time you get the chance to watch a flock of Turkeys consider these characterizations.

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