Why Is It Called a Turkey In Bowling?

Bowling is a beloved pastime for many, filled with unique lingo and fascinating traditions. One particularly intriguing term is “turkey,” which refers to the achievement of bowling three strikes in a row.

But why would this impressive feat be associated with a bird typically known for gracing our Thanksgiving tables? The answer lies in the rich history and cultural evolution of the sport.

In this blog, we’ll explore the origins of calling three consecutive strikes “a turkey” and its significance in bowling today, as well as uncover other interesting tidbits about this captivating game.

Why Is It Called A Turkey In Bowling?

The term “turkey” for three strikes in a row has various explanations, including a possible connection with Thanksgiving and the history of prize-giving for consecutive strikes.

Various Theories And Explanations

There are many theories and explanations surrounding why three strikes in a row are called a “turkey.” One theory suggests that because bowling used to be more challenging in the past, achieving three consecutive strikes was difficult and as rare as getting a turkey while hunting.

Another theory argues that the term originated from early 20th-century bowling alley proprietors who gave away turkeys to those who could bowl four strikes in a row during Thanksgiving week.

Over time, the name became associated with just three strikes, possibly due to its shorter distance from the original four-stroke prize or simply because it sounded catchier.

Importance Of Consecutive Strikes

Scoring three strikes in a row, or a “turkey,” is considered an impressive feat in bowling due to the importance of consecutive strikes. When you throw one strike, it can be attributed to luck or a fluke shot.

But when you follow it up with another and then another, it shows consistency and skill. Consecutive strikes also have special significance when it comes to scoring since every subsequent strike earns more points than the previous one.

For example, the first strike is worth 10 points plus any pins knocked down on the next two rolls while the second is worth 20 plus pins on the next roll after that.

The History And Origin Of “Turkey” In Bowling

Why Is It Called a Turkey In Bowling

Evolution Of Bowling

Bowling has a long and fascinating history that dates back as far as 5,000 years to ancient Egypt. Over time, the game made its way through various civilizations, from the Roman Empire to medieval Germany before eventually becoming popular in England and landing on American shores.

In fact, it was not until around the mid-19th century that the modern bowling we know today started taking shape. Back then, lanes were uneven with no standardization of pins or balls across different regions.

This made achieving consistency in ball rolls extremely difficult; hence consecutive strikes were considered quite rare feats for bowlers at that time! Bowling continued to develop throughout the 20th century with technological advancements enhancing lane surfaces and pin-setting mechanisms making perfect scores more attainable than ever before.

Emergence Of The Term “Turkey”

The term “turkey” for three strikes in a row has an interesting origin story. In the early days of bowling, it was difficult to achieve four strikes in a row due to uneven lanes and pins.

Therefore, prizes were often given out to those who could accomplish this feat. These prizes sometimes included live turkeys or other small animals that were easy to transport.

Interestingly enough, some have suggested that there may be another reason behind why turkeys specifically are associated with this achievement.

The bird we commonly refer to as turkey is rumored to have been initially imported from Africa via the Ottoman Empire during Columbus’s voyages. It was mistakenly called “Turkey fowl” because they believed they had reached Turkey instead of what is now America; thus perhaps having additional significance beyond just being easy prizes at early tournaments.


In conclusion, the term “turkey” is believed to originate from the history of giving away prizes for four consecutive strikes in a row. However, over time it has been associated with achieving three strikes in a row in bowling.

Bowling lingo is full of unique terminology and fascinating facts that add to its rich cultural history. Achieving a turkey is now considered an important achievement in the sport due to its rarity and difficulty.

Last updated on May 13, 2023