Geese are separated into three classes by the American Poultry Association: Heavy, Medium and Light. There are other ways to categorize geese: wild and domestic, ornamental and utility, commercial and exhibition. The APA makes the point that “If not for exhibition value, many breeds would be lost to cross-breeding and neglect resulting from the absence of a meat marketability for most breeds.”
Schlitz Goose Farm, which raises most of the table-ready geese sold in supermarkets, has developed its own commercial variety, Schlitz 306, from German Embden, the Royal English, the French Toulouse and the Royal Chinese goose.
Recognized traditional medium goose breeds are Sebastopol, Pilgrim, American Buff and Saddleback Pomeranian. Top weights for medium geese range from 14-18 pounds for the mature gander, the term for male geese.
Sebastopol geese look as if someone curled their feathers. Their soft, flowing ruffles give them the appearance of fantastic dream birds. Their feathers are as much as four times as long as normal feathers, with flexible shafts that spiral, draping down to the ground.
Despite their festive appearance, they are an ancient utility breed, hardy and respectable egg layers of 25-35 eggs a year.
Sebastopols are gentle and enjoy human companionship. Keep them away from aggressive birds. They enjoy bathing those lovely feathers in clean water.
American Buff Geese have the colorful plumage that reflects their name. Those light feathers make them easy to dress out without dark pinfeathers. They were developed from the traditional Gray farm goose and buff geese from Germany.
Females and males of most breeds are so similar to each other that it’s difficult to tell females from males. More than one breeder has been disappointed in breeding pens, only to find out that the birds in them were of only one sex. In autosexing breeds, the sexes have different plumage. Ganders are white and hens are solid color or saddlebacked. Saddleback means that the shoulders, back and flanks are colored, in contrast to the white body. Autosexing dates back 1,000 years or more in England and France, longer in Scandinavia. These breeds probably originated in Scandinavia and are indigenous to areas where Vikings set their anchors.
Pilgrim Geese were developed in the 1930s by Oscar Grow. They are a modern composite of American Gray and the autosexing Old English or West of England geese. Pilgrims have orange bills and legs, which distinguishes them from the Old English. They are the only autosexing breed recognized by the APA for exhibition.
Blue geese, an unrecognized breed, are also medium sized. Blue individuals appear in flocks of Gray and Pomeranian geese occasionally. The blue color is regularly bred in Steinbachers. The blue color in geese breeds true, unlike the blue color in other fowl.