The Turkey That Weighed About The Same As A Baby Rhino

If you're serving turkey this holiday season, culinary experts recommend multiplying your number of guests by one to one-and-a-half pounds to decide how big of a bird you need (via Bon Appétit).  However, grocery store turkeys typically weigh between eight and 24 pounds, according to USDA. So if you're feeding much more than two dozen guests, you will probably need to cook two. And if, for some reason, you're serving between 57 and 86 people? Well, then you'll want to wish for a turkey as big as Tyson. 

Tyson is the reigning Guinness World Record holder for heaviest turkey, despite the fact that he earned that title more than three decades ago. Tyson, a male turkey, weighed in at 86 pounds once dressed. To put that in perspective, that means Tyson weighed about as much as a baby rhinoceros, or 16 bricks stacked on top of each other, according to AZ Animals. Bare Ingredients claims the massive bird got his name from boxer Mike Tyson.

British behemoth

Tyson the turkey was born and raised in Peterborough in the United Kingdom by a man named Philip Cook of Leacroft Turkeys Ltd, according to Guinness World Records. The world came to know of the bird's massive size when he won London's heaviest turkey competition on December 12, 1989. The winning bird was auctioned off for £4,400, which was the equivalent of $6,692 at the time. The auction total also broke records, and all the proceeds went to charity. That year marked the last time that London held its annual heaviest turkey contest, so maybe that's why Tyson's bulk hasn't been matched since. 

Because turkeys are native to the Western Hemisphere and so closely associated with U.S. traditions like Thanksgiving, it may be a bit of a surprise that the heaviest turkey record went to a British bird (via AZ Animals).Then again, turkey is also popular in the U.K., where it is by far the No. 1 choice for Christmas dinner. Seventy-six percent of UK households eat turkeys on Christmas Day, and around 10 million turkeys are sold in the country every holiday season, according to iNews. The birds were first brought to Great Britain during the 1520s. It was during the Victorian era, however, that the idea of turkeys as a Christmas dinner centerpiece really took off, as reflected by the depiction in "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. Even then, it wasn't until the mid-20th century that they really became cheap enough for every family to enjoy.

U.S. heavyweights

While the U.K. may hold the world record for the heaviest turkey, the U.S. still produces some big birds. In fact, the size of the average turkey in the country more than doubled between 1929 and 2019, as Insider reported. Since 2012, the average size of a live turkey before slaughter has been around 30 pounds, according to Insider and the USDA. However, the average live weight for a male turkey is around 41 pounds, according to USDA. For comparison, male turkeys in the wild typically grow to be between 15 and 25 pounds, according to Wildlife in Connecticut

Domestic turkeys truly began to diverge in size from their wild counterparts during the second half of the 20th century, according to Mother Jones. This was when turkey farmers started selectively breeding turkeys to grow faster and bigger. Large breasts were especially prized. The turkeys grew so big that they had difficulty standing on their own, and males couldn't impregnate females without help. Now, farmers usually artificially inseminate their turkey hens to keep the big birds coming.