Light Geese

Recognized light geese, the Chinese and the Tufted Roman, weigh 10 to 12 pounds. Canada Geese and Egyptian Geese are also recognized for exhibition in the Light class. They are different from the domesticated breeds, kept more for ornamental reasons than utility.

Chinese Geese, like their larger African cousins, are knobbed geese.  Most are very sweet tempered, particularly if they are raised around people. They are good foragers, making them welcome as weeders.

The Brown have black knobs and the Whites have orange knobs. White Chinese are more popular than the original Brown color variety. Their relation to the wild Swan Goose is apparent in their graceful necks. The Brown variety shows a dark brown stripe down the back.

The band of white now favored by such authorities as Dave Holderread of Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center in Corvallis, Oregon,  to separate the satin-black bill and brown knob wasn’t accepted universally in the early 20th century. Theodore F. Jager of Connecticut, secretary of the Waterfowl Club, who edited the 1912 The Poultry Book’s chapter The Domestic Goose defended the all-gray head. He ascribes any white to “impurity of breeding.” Samuel Cushman is quoted from his article in the 1912 Reliable Poultry Journal in the section admiring it: “A line of white feathers clean cut and distinct, close to the base of the bill, is considered a desirable feature in show birds.”

Cold weather doesn’t bother them. Their close feathers protect them and may make them appear smaller than their muscular bodies are. Goose feathers and down are the original insulating materials, for the birds and for warm clothing and bedding. No man-made product is as good as goose down and feathers. Their knobs are subject to frostbite, showing up as orange patches, which fade back to black over time.

The hens develop a lobe during laying season, but otherwise they have a slim, graceful silhouette. They are the champions for egg laying, with occasional reports of more than 80 eggs a year. A more realistic number is 30-40. Bakers prize goose eggs for baked goods. They can substitute for chicken eggs but check for appropriate weight. The white is thicker and won’t whip up well the same way chicken egg whites do.

Tufted Roman Geese are named for the round tuft of feathers on their heads. They have a long European history, going back to Juno’s temple in Ancient Rome, where they were sacred. They originated in the Danube area and are related to Sebastopol Geese.

They have a compact body without keel, lobe or dewlap and make a good roasting bird, despite their relatively small size. The tuft is present from hatching. They are now raised in several colors, although White is the only recognized color.