What is the origin behind the term “Turkey” for three strikes in bowling? (Everything you need to know)

Every sport has its jargon that can be perplexing if you’re not well-versed in the terminology, and bowling is certainly no different!

If you’re new to the sport of bowling, you may have pondered the question: Why is it that three consecutive strikes are referred to as a “Turkey” in bowling?

In this article, we will delve into the origins of the term “Turkey” in bowling, examining the reasons behind why achieving three strikes in a row is referred to by this fascinating name.

Continue reading to discover further details.

The Origin Of The Turkey In Bowling

Bowling, a sport with a rich history spanning thousands of years, has given rise to a distinctive vocabulary over time.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, bowling tournaments gained immense popularity, attracting participants from various social classes, ranging from the working class to the aristocracy. This widespread participation demonstrated the universal appeal and influence of bowling, transcending social boundaries.

Bowling tournaments traditionally bestowed prizes in the form of food-filled gift baskets. These coveted baskets often featured delectable items like a substantial ham or, as we gather today, the iconic turkey!

Why are three consecutive strikes in bowling referred to as a “turkey”?

Turkeys were once a popular reward for winning bowling tournaments. However, as the achievement of a strike became more commonplace, the rules were adjusted to require multiple consecutive strikes for participants to earn their prizes. This change was implemented to increase the difficulty of winning and add an element of challenge to the competition.

“Bowling a Turkey” is the term coined for achieving three consecutive strikes, while other notable accomplishments in bowling have also earned their names. This explains why the term “Turkey” is still used to refer to three strikes even today!

Bowling enthusiasts often use unique terms to describe certain achievements. Some of these terms include “Hambone,” “Brat,” “Wild Turkey,” “Golden Turkey,” and “Dinosaur.” But what exactly do they mean? Let’s delve into the intriguing world of bowling lingo and uncover the significance behind these expressions.

Scoring a Hambone in bowling has become synonymous with achieving four consecutive strikes.

Achieving a Brat Bowl is the term used when a bowler successfully rolls 5 consecutive strikes.

Achieving a Wild Turkey in bowling has become synonymous with consecutively hitting 6 strikes in a row.

Bowling a Ham-Turkey has become synonymous with achieving a streak of 7 consecutive strikes in bowling.

Bowling an Octopus has become synonymous with achieving 8 consecutive strikes, as implied by the number of legs.

Bowling a Golden Turkey has become synonymous with achieving the feat of rolling 9 consecutive strikes.

Bowling a Dinosaur has become synonymous with achieving a perfect game, where every bowl results in a strike from start to finish. This remarkable feat showcases the skill and precision of the bowler, leaving no room for error.

In the past, achieving three consecutive strikes in bowling was a formidable accomplishment, further complicated by the less balanced nature of the bowling balls.

Moreover, in bowling tournaments, officials would occasionally add to the challenge by weighing the bottom of the pins, further diminishing your chances of winning a prize.

Bowling a Turkey, therefore, stood as an extraordinary achievement, indicating a lower probability of winning a prize.

In the present day, achieving a sequence of three consecutive strikes in bowling has become significantly more attainable with dedicated effort and practice. Therefore, if you aspire to bowl a Turkey, with sufficient commitment, it is an achievable goal well within your grasp!

Although you won’t be gobbling up a turkey today, the tradition lives on through the language of bowling.

Turkey in Bowling versus Turkey Bowling

Turkey bowling is a unique twist on the classic game of bowling. Instead of using a regular bowling ball and pins, this game replaces them with a frozen turkey and ten plastic bottles. It adds an exciting and unexpected element to the traditional sport while still maintaining the essence of bowling.

This game has become a cherished Thanksgiving tradition and enjoys widespread popularity in both the United States and Canada.

As previously mentioned, in the game of bowling, a “Turkey” refers to the impressive feat of scoring three consecutive strikes.

Is It Difficult To Bowl A Turkey?

Achieving three consecutive strikes in modern bowling is considerably more attainable than it was centuries ago. However, it should not be mistaken for a simple task, as it still requires skill and precision.

To achieve a turkey in bowling, follow these steps.

If you truly aspire to bowl a Turkey, your first step is to master the art of throwing a strike.

At the start, the key focus is mastering the technique of bowling a strike. Once you achieve mastery in this, you gain the ability to replicate it consistently.

Achieving this may prove challenging, especially for beginners. It’s unrealistic to expect to bowl a turkey overnight just by going bowling. Even if you possess exceptional talent, it’s highly improbable. If it does happen, it’s likely a mere fluke.

Achieving a Turkey in bowling requires time and dedication. As a beginner, it’s important to focus on gradually improving and aiming for a strike, rather than setting your sights on Turkey immediately. Remember, building your skills and technique should be the priority.

Once you have mastered the technique of a strike, you can then focus on repeating it multiple times to achieve the coveted feat of bowling a Turkey.

How Do You Bowl A Turkey?

Through dedicated practice, a bowler can achieve the impressive feat of bowling a Turkey. However, mastering the art of striking is the crucial first step on this journey.

Step One – Choose The Right Ball

Selecting the appropriate ball is crucial to achieving a strike and, of course, a Turkey in bowling.

The bowling ball should strike a balance between being light enough to deliver with force down the lane, and heavy enough to maintain a straight trajectory without veering off course.

When selecting a ball, it’s important to physically examine a few options to assess how they feel in your hands. This hands-on approach ensures you find the perfect fit for your preferences and needs.

It is crucial to ensure that the finger holes fit your fingers perfectly when bowling. If they are too large or too tight, it can potentially affect your bowling technique and performance.

Step Two – Choose Your Starting Distance

To begin, you must select your initial distance.

Position yourself with your back facing the pins and align your heels with the foul line. Take about four regular steps toward the scoring area, carefully noting where your toes come to a stop. Remember this position mentally.

Step Three – Get Into The Right Position

Before you can begin consistently bowling strikes, it is crucial to determine the optimal position from which to initiate your approach.

To uncover your non-dominant foot, observe the foot that aligns with the opposite side of your bowling hand.

If you are holding the ball in your right hand while bowling, then your left foot will correspondingly be the one to consider.

Step Four – Aim For The Second Arrow On Your Dominant Side 

To improve your aim, it’s important to pay attention to the arrows on the lanes. These arrows serve as a guide and help you direct your focus effectively.

Step Five – Take A Few Practice Bowls

Achieving a strike in bowling isn’t an immediate feat. Therefore, it’s advisable to start with a few practice bowls to refine your skills before aiming for perfection.

To achieve a more natural bowling technique, focus on keeping your shoulders aligned with the foul line. Additionally, strive to maintain a straight arm while swinging. This will help optimize your form and improve overall performance.

After bowling, it’s crucial to pay close attention to where the ball lands. This observation will enable you to make the necessary adjustments and increase your chances of bowling a strike when the opportune moment arises.

Understanding the concept of the “pocket” is crucial in bowling. The pocket refers to the area adjacent to the lead pin, and it is the target you should aim for to consistently score strikes and, ultimately, achieve a Turkey.

Step Six – Make The Necessary Adjustments By Moving In The Direction Of Your Miss

If you missed to the right, aim for the next throw slightly to the right of the center point. Conversely, if you missed to the left, adjust by doing the exact opposite. This way, you can maintain precision and accuracy in your throws.

While it may seem peculiar, this type of miss indicates that the bowling ball is hooking either too early or too late in the lane.

Step Seven – Practice, Practice, Practice

Emphasizing the importance of practice cannot be overstated when it comes to enhancing your accuracy.

As a beginner, you may tire of hearing this, but it holds: practice truly does lead to perfection in the realm of bowling.

Keep in mind the importance of staying grounded. It’s unrealistic to expect an immediate strike or a Turkey in bowling.

Striving for overnight success may be appealing, but dwelling on it can be counterproductive. It often leads to frustration and the risk of giving up prematurely, hindering progress towards your ultimate goal.

By following these steps diligently, you will gradually draw nearer to your goals with each passing moment and every ounce of effort invested. Ultimately, the outcomes you achieve will be directly proportional to the input you contribute.

Once you have mastered the technique to bowl a strike, you can focus on developing the skill to consistently achieve strikes, ultimately aiming for the coveted achievement of a Turkey!

It’s important to note that although bowling three strikes in a row no longer earns you a turkey prize like it did in the olden days, you’ll still have the satisfaction of boasting to your friends about your achievement! Keep that in mind.


So, that’s why three strikes are called a “Turkey” in bowling. It’s because when a bowler gets three strikes in a row, it resembles the waddle of a turkey, hence the name. It’s one of those quirky and fun facts that add to the charm of the sport.

Hopefully, this article has been helpful and has given you a better understanding of bowling terms and where they come from. It’s fascinating to learn about the origins and meanings behind these terms that are commonly used in bowling alleys worldwide.

Practice makes perfect, so don’t feel disheartened or discouraged if you can’t bowl a Turkey right away. It takes time, practice, and dedication to master the skills required for consistent strikes. With the right motivation, time, and effort, you’ll eventually get there. So keep at it and enjoy the journey of improving your bowling game.

Good luck and enjoy the thrill of knocking down those pins!

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