Guide to Domestic Goose Breeds

Geese Facts to Help You Select the Ideal Breed

Domestic Geese

Most domestic goose breeds have been developed primarily to raise for meat, although some are bred with emphasis on ornamental attributes, such as curly feathers or head tufts. The main criterion when choosing a breed to raise for meat is to select a size that is appropriate for the number of people you plan to feed. Another important aspect is plumage color—the white-feathered breeds are easier to pluck clean. To grow meat as naturally and as economically as possible, foraging ability is also important.

African

The origin of African geese is unknown; they are most likely related to Chinese geese. The African is a graceful goose with a knob on top of its head and a dewlap under its chin. The brown variety, with its black knob and bill, and brown stripe down the back of its neck, is more common than the white variety with orange knob and bill. Because the knob is easily frostbitten, Africans must be sheltered in cold weather. This breed is among the most talkative and also among the calmest, making it easy to confine. Africans, like Chinese, tend to have leaner meat than other breeds, and the young ganders grow fast—reaching 18 pounds in as many weeks.

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American Buff

Developed in North America for commercial meat production, the American Buff is a pale brown goose with brown eyes. This goose is known for being docile, friendly, and affectionate. The American Tufted Buff is a separate breed (developed by crossing American Buff with Tufted Roman), but similar except for having a bunch of feathers sprouting from the top of its head. The Tufted is hardier and somewhat more prolific than the American Buff. Both domestic goose breeds are active, curious, and relatively quiet.

Chinese

Originating in China, the Chinese goose is similar in appearance to the African but lacks the dewlap. It may be either white and brown, with the brown variety having a larger knob than the white. Like the African, Chinese geese need protective winter shelter to prevent frostbitten knobs. This domestic goose breed is the one most commonly employed for controlling weeds. Being both active and small, they do a good job of seeking out emerging weeds while inflicting little damage on established crops. Thanks to their light weight and strong wings, they can readily fly over an inadequate fence. Chinese geese are prolific layers. In contrast to heavier geese, they produce a high rate of fertile eggs even when breeding on land rather than on water. Like African geese, the young grow relatively fast and have lean meat.

chinese-goose

Embden

Originating from Germany, the Embden goose is the most common domestic goose breed raised for meat because of its fast growth, large size, and white feathers. Hatchlings are gray and may be sexed with some degree of accuracy, as the males tend to be lighter in color than the females. Their blue eyes, tall and erect stance, and a proud bearing give these geese an air of intelligence. Although they are not as prolific at laying as some other breeds, the eggs are the largest, weighing 6 ounces on average.

Pilgrim

Originating in United States, the Pilgrim is slightly larger than the Chinese goose and one of the few domestic goose breeds that may be autosexed—the male hatchling is yellow and grows into white plumage, while the female hatchling is olive-gray and grows into gray plumage similar to the Toulouse, but with a white face. Due to their lightweight, Pilgrims will often fly over a fence if attracted to something on the other side. The Pilgrim is a quiet breed and more docile than most others.

Pomeranian

Originating in Northern Germany, the Pomeranian is a chunky goose with plumage that may be all-buff, all-gray, all-white, or saddleback (white with a buff or gray head, back, and flanks). This breed is winter hardy and an excellent forager starting at a young age when goslings need plenty of quality greens to thrive. More than most breeds, the Pomeranian’s temperament is variable and can range from benign to belligerent.

Geese Breeds

 

Roman

Coming from Italy, the Roman is a small, white goose that may be smooth headed or tufted — having a stylish clump of upright feathers at the top of the head. The Roman is similar in size to the Chinese, although the Roman’s short neck and back makes it somewhat more compact. This breed is known for being docile and friendly.

Sebastopol

Arising from the Black Sea area of southeastern Europe, the Sebastopol’s claim to fame is its long, flexible feathers that curl and drape, giving the goose a rumpled look. Because of the looseness of the feathers, this domestic goose breed is less able to shed rain in wet weather or stay warm in cold weather. Varieties include white, gray, and buff plumage. Lacking webbed wing feathers, Sebastopol geese cannot fly well.

Shetland

Coming from Scotland, Shetland geese are exceptional foragers that, given ample access to quality greens, can basically feed themselves. Like Pilgrims, they are autosexing—the gander is mostly white, while the goose is a gray saddleback (white with a gray head, back, and flanks). The Shetland is the smallest, lightest weight domestic breed with powerful wings that result in a dandy ability to fly. These tough little geese have a reputation for being feisty, but given time and patience can become gentle and friendly.

Toulouse

Originating in France, the Toulouse comes in two distinct types. The production Toulouse is the common gray barnyard goose; the giant, or dewlap, Toulouse gains weight more rapidly, puts on more fat, and matures to a much more massive size, especially when bred for exhibition. The dewlap consists of a fold of skin hanging beneath the bill, growing more pendulous as the goose grows older. In contrast to the more active production Toulouse, the Dewlap Toulouse is less inclined to stray far from the feed trough and puts on more fat, which when rendered lends a wonderful flavor to baked goods.

Domestic Goose Breeds at a Glance

breed

eggs/year

lbs. live weight

male/female

foraging

activity

temperament

African

35-45

22/18

best

gentle

American Buff

25-35

18/16

good

docile

American Tufted Buff

35-50

15/13

good

calm

Chinese

30-50

12/10

best

usually calm

Embden

15- 3

25/20

good

calm

Pilgrim

20-45

14/12

good

docile

Pomeranian

15-35

17/14

best

*

Roman

25-35

12/10

good

docile

Sebastopol

25-35

14/12

good

*

Shetland

15-30

10/7

best

feisty

Toulouse

25-50

20/18

good

calm

Toulouse, dewlap

20-30

26/20

poor

docile

* More than most breeds, individuals may be either docile or aggressive.
Adapted from: The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals by Gail Damerow
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