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Breeders needed for rare breeds and varieties of waterfowl. (The poultry yard).

Geese, once the traditional holiday centerpiece, have all but dropped out of the commercial poultry market in North America. Although many American Poultry Association (APA)-recognized breeds and varieties maintain healthy populations due to their popularity as show birds, others are dwindling fast. Enthusiastic breeders willing to take on these breeds are needed.

The Gray Goose, once the most populous, and the Pomeranian, second-largest in population, are historically important types in traditional American agriculture. They are in serious decline and need immediate help.

The Gray Goose is the traditional goose of farm and homestead, a large version of the Western Graylag. Now often called the Commercial Toulouse, it was, as recently as the 1960s, the most common market goose in North America. That position is now held by white geese, particularly the Embden.

The name, a marketing innovation, is a source of confusion. The Gray and the Toulouse are both gray, but have altogether different types and backgrounds.

The Gray, while smaller than the Toulouse, is generally a better layer, easier to finish, not as fatty, matures earlier, and historically was a better parent.

While some hatcheries still maintain good-sized flocks, the problem facing this breed is preserving strains that retain their historic production values. The Grays have always been noted as layers. Commercial breeding may actually have improved this trait. Brooding and parenting skills, however, have been seriously degraded. A number of historic strains routinely sat twice a year.

The strains that retain these traits need attention if they are to be preserved.

In North America, German or Pomeranian geese, descended from Eastern Graylags, have nearly disappeared. The Gray and White varieties and the related solid buff Celler breed are not recognized by the APA, which recognizes only the Gray and Buff Saddlebacks. Many of those now presented at show are not genuine.

True Pomeranians have pink feet and bills, not orange. Maximum size should be 17 lbs. for ganders, 15 lbs. for hens. They should have a single-lobed paunch. The changes are probably a result of crossing with Embdens.

Craig Russell, president of the Society for the Preservation of Poultry Antiquities (SPPA), says that these large false Pomeranians with orange feet and bills and double-lobed paunches might better be called American Saddlebacks.

"As conservationists, we should work to straighten out the misunderstandings with the standard and obtain recognition for the Gray and White varieties," he said.

Some individuals are currently working toward APA recognition of the Gray Goose. Perhaps another effort could be launched for the solid color Pomeranians.

Two other historic types also deserved conservation efforts.

The Blue Goose is a striking light blue color, patterned like a Gray. This goose has never been common in North America, but there have been fixed strains.

The color may be derived from the German Steinbacher goose.

The West of England is one of four autosexing breeds. The male is white and the hen is saddlebacked, white with a dark head and dark over the back.

Pure stocks have been reported in New England and other Eastern states, but SPPA currently has documentation of only one flock in North America.

SPPA seeks to find and preserve remnant flocks. Individuals showing these traits should be secured for organized breeding programs. Look for these traits at swaps, auctions, shows and goose flocks kept on farms.

SPPA welcomes any information about established Gray flocks with well-developed natural reproduction or any individuals of the other types. Please contact Christine Willard, 619-938-9675,
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2003
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