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All Things Geese.
Information and pictures on Goose
Educational, Zoological, and Classification info.

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Index

Goose (plural geese, male gander(s)) is the English name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than geese, and ducks, which are smaller.

True geese are medium to large birds, always (with the exception of the N ēnē) associated to a greater or lesser extent with water. Most species in Europe,Geese Asia and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much further south. However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.

Geese have been domesticated for centuries. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the Swan Goose has been farmed for at least as long.

All geese eat a largely vegetarian diet, and can become pests when flocks feed on arable crops or inhabit ponds or grassy areas in urban environments. They also take invertebrates if the opportunity presents itself; domestic geese will try out most novel food items for edibility.

Geese usually mate for life, though a small number will "divorce" and remate. They tend to lay a smaller number of eggs than ducks but both parents protect the nest and young, which usually results in a higher survival rate for the young geese.

True geese
The following are the living genera of true geese:

  • Anser - Grey Geese, including the domesticated goose and the Swan Goose
  • Chen - White Geese (often included in Anser)
  • Branta - Black Geese, such as the Canada goose

Geese The following two genera are only tentatively placed in the Anserinae; they may belong to the shelducks or form a subfamily on their own:

  • * Cereopsis - Cape Barren Goose
  • * Cnemiornis - New Zealand Geese (prehistoric)

In addition, there are some goose-like birds known from subfossil remains found on the Hawaiian Islands.

Other species called "geese"
There are a number of mainly southern hemisphere birds called "geese", most of which belong to the shelduck subfamily Tadorninae. These are:

  • * Blue-winged Goose, Cyanochen cyanopterus
  • * Orinoco Goose, Neochen jubata
  • * Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus
  • * The South American sheldgeese, genus Chloephaga
  • * The prehistoric Madagascar Sheldgoose, Centrornis majori, the "Woodard"

A genus of prehistorically extinct seaducks, Chendytes, is sometimes called "diving-geese" due to their large size.

The Spur-winged Goose, Plectropterus gambensis, is most closely related to the shelducks, but distinct enough to warrant its own subfamily, the Plectropterinae.

The three perching ducks in the genus Nettapus are named "pygmy geese", such as the Cotton Pygmy Goose, Nettapus javanica.

The unusual Magpie-goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.

The Northern Gannet, a seabird, is also known as the Solan Goose although it is unrelated to the true geese.

Etymology
Goose in its origins is one of the oldest words of the Indo-European languages (Crystal), the modern names deriving from the proto-Indo-European root, ghans, hence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Latin anser, Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gos with the plural Geese gés, German Gans and Old Norse gas. Other modern derivatives are Russian gus and Old Irish géiss; the family name of the cleric Jan Hus is derived from the Czech derivative husa.

In non-technical use, the male goose is called a "gander" (Anglo-Saxon gandra) and the female is the "goose" (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)); young birds before fledging are known as "goslings". A group of geese on the ground is called a gaggle; when flying in formation, it is called a wedge or a skein. See also List of collective nouns for birds.

Scientific classification

  • Kingdom:    Animalia
  • Phylum:       Chordata
  • Class:         Aves
  • Order:         Anseriformes
  • Family:       Anatidae
  • Subfamily:  Anserinae

List of goose breeds
There are currently 15 breeds of geese recognized by the American Poultry Association. They are divided into three classes: Heavy, Medium and Light.

Heavy Class

  • Toulouse Goose (Gray)
  • Toulouse Goose (Buff)
  • Embden Goose (White)
  • African Goose (Brown)
  • African Goose (White)

Medium Class

  • Sebastopol Goose (White)
  • Pilgrim Goose (sex-linked)
  • American Buff Goose (Buff)
  • Saddleback Pomeranian Goose (Gray)
  • Saddleback Pomeranian Goose (Buff)

Light Class

  • Chinese Goose (Brown)
  • Chinese Goose (White)
  • Tufted Roman Goose (White)
  • Canada Goose (Eastern)
  • Egyptian Goose (Brown)

Domestic goose
Domestic geese are domesticated Grey geese (either Greylag geese or Swan geese) kept as poultry for their meat, eggs, and down feathers since ancient times.

Origins and characteristics
In Europe, north Africa, and western Asia, the original domesticated geese are derived from the Greylag Goose Anser. In eastern Asia, the original domesticated geese are derived from the Swan Goose Anser cygnoides; these are now known as Chinese geese. Both have been widely introduced in more recent times, and modern flocks in both areas (and elsewhere, such as Australia and North America) may consist of either species, and/or hybrids between them. Chinese geese may be readily distinguished from European geese by the large knob at the base of the bill, though hybrids may exhibit every degree of variation between them.

The domestication, as Charles Darwin remarks (Animals and Plants under Domestication, i. 287), is of very ancient date, with archaeological evidence for domesticated geese in Egypt 5,000 years ago. They have been selected for much larger size, with domesticated breeds weighing up to 10 kg, compared to the maximum of 3.5 kg for wild Swan Goose and 4.1 kg for wild Greylag Goose. This affects their body structure; whereas wild geese have a horizontal posture and slim rear end, domesticated geese lay down large fat deposits toward the tail end, giving a fat rear and forcing the bird into a more upright posture.

Wild goose structure:
They have also been strongly selected for fecundity, with females laying up to 160 eggs per year, compared to 5-12 eggs for a wild goose.

Changes to the plumage are variable; many have been selected to lose dark brown tones of the wild bird. The result is an animal marked, or completely covered in white feathers. Others retain plumage close to the natural; some, such as the modern Toulouse goose looks almost identical to the Greylag in plumage, differing only in structure. White geese are often preferred as they look better plucked and dressed, with any small down feathers remaining being less conspicuous. From the time of the Romans, white geese have been held in great esteem.

The most recognized breeds of domestic geese are those with the distinctive names of Embden and Toulouse, but a singular breed, said to have come from Sevastopol, called the Sebastopol Goose, was introduced into western Europe in 1856. In this breed, the upper plumage is elongated, curled and spirally twisted. Their shaft is transparent and so thin that it often splits into fine filaments, which, remaining free for 2-3 cm, often coalesce again; while the quills are aborted, so that the birds cannot fly.

Geese have proved remarkably resistant to intensive rearing methods, and they remain to be an expensive luxury compared to other poultry like the chicken and domesticated turkey.

Geese produce large edible eggs, weighing 120-170 g. They can be used in cooking just like chicken's eggs, though they have proportionally more yolk, and this cooks to a slightly denser consistency. The taste is much the same as that of a chicken egg.

Geese in cooking
A goose can be roasted as a whole bird, but its size tends to preclude this except for banquets and other festive meals (such as at Christmas). Goose meat contains much more fat than turkeys or chickens - at least 500 ml (around one pint) of fat may be rendered from an average-sized goose during cooking. One liter is not unusual for larger birds. The Cantonese barbecue features roast goose over a charcoal spit with a "tuned" crispy skin.

Most of the fat is concentrated in the skin, and the meat itself is very lean, rather like duck. It is easy to overcook the breast and undercook the leg if roasting whole. Separate treatment for breast and leg is therefore often necessary to achieve a consistently cooked bird.

Some argue that the breast meat of goose need not be cooked as thoroughly as that of chicken, since it has not endured the cramped living conditions of factory chickens.

Goose fat is often separated and stored for use on its own. It can be used as a substitute for butter, although the flavor can be slightly "gamey". Potatoes cooked in this fat are highly regarded by some. The fat keeps well in the refrigerator.

Roast goose is a traditional Christmas food in Scandinavia, Germany, Ireland and the UK.

Goose can also be prepared as confit, and the fat used to preserve the meat.

Geese are also used in the production of foie gras.

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