Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Embden Geese

Embden (or Emden) Geese are the commercial goose that makes its way to the supermarket. Embdens are big white geese, one of the three (the others are Toulouse and African) heavy goose breeds recognized by the APA. The white plumage eliminates the problem of dark pinfeathers in the skin. Occasional gray feathers on young geese usually grow out white as they mature. They have orange bills and deep orange legs and feet. Their eyes are bright blue. They grow rapidly to their full size, 16 to 20 pounds for a young goose. Old geese range from 20 pounds for a female to 26 pounds for ganders. This goose feeds a large family at holiday dinners.

They take their name from the Westphalian city of Embden and are an old breed. Pliny the Elder, the Roman writer of the first century AD, wrote about white German geese in his Natural History.

Harrison Weir, in Our Poultry (1912) describes Embdens and ‘very quiet.’ He cautions against crossing them with other geese, particularly Toulouse, to avoid, among other things, the development of the dewlap and lobe, “the large abdominal fat folds that now so often disfigure our Embdens of late years...” As shown in these drawings that illustrate the differences between Embden and Toulouse Geese, from Dr. J. Batty's Poultry Colour Guide, with paintings done by Charles Francis (second edition, 1979).

He documents their arrival in America to imports from Bremen to Boston in 1821. The two ganders and four geese were described as “being of the purest white – the bills, legs and feet, of a beautiful yellow.”

“I consider them the easiest sort of fowl to raise,” Weir writes.

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