The Roman goose is a domestic breed from Italy. They are considered some of the oldest breeds of geese and have been around for over 2,000 years. They were once considered sacred to the Roman goddess Juno.
You can tell these birds apart from others due to the tuft of feathers on their head. These birds are highly adaptable and can be utilized for a wide variety of different purposes. They are popularly used as an exhibition breed in North America due to their uniquely tufted heads. In Europe, they are primarily used for their meat.
Their crests are an optional part of the breed in Europe and Australia, while they are required in most North American locations.
Quick Facts About the Roman Goose
|Breed Name:||Roman Goose|
|Place of Origin:||Italy|
|Uses:||Meat, Eggs, “Watchdog”|
|Male Size:||10 to 12 pounds|
|Female Size:||10 to 12 pounds|
|Lifespan:||Up to 25 years|
|Production:||25 to 35 eggs per year|
Roman Goose Origins
This breed is ancient, dating back to the Roman empire. We do not know precisely when they came into being. Likely, it was a slow progression over many hundreds of years.
It is thought that this breed of goose was found in Italy at least 2,000 years ago. The Romans thought of this goose as sacred to Juno, one of their significant deities.
There is a legend surrounding this goose and their role in the Roman world. In 365 B.C.E., a goose alerted the Romans to the coming of the Gauls, who were attempting to invade the city during the night. Due to the geese’s squawking, the Romans were able to defend the city.
In ancient Rome, these geese were utilized for both meat and eggs. They are still used for these purposes today in many locations. They are one of the “default” goose breeds in Europe.
Roman Goose Characteristics
These geese are known for the tuft of feathers on the top of their head. This characteristic sets them apart from other birds and is one reason that they are used ornamentally in the United States.
However, the size of this tuft does vary. In Europe and Australia, it may not that large at all. It is considered “optional” in these areas.
In America, however, these geese have been bred to exhibit huge tufts. They are mainly utilized as ornamental birds in North America, so their tuft is essential.
These geese should be pure white. However, some strains do have gray or buff feathers. These color differences are more common in places that use these birds for their meat or eggs, not as ornamental birds.
Their legs and bills are pinkish, while their eyes are blue.
These birds are fine-boned and round. They produce a large amount of meat for this reason and have good carcasses. Their tail is relatively short, but they do have a long wingspan. Their neck is not as arched as it is in some other breeds; instead, it has a far more utilitarian appearance.
These birds in Europe, Australia, and North America are all different, as they have evolved separately from each other. However, they are still part of the same species.
Roman Geese in Europe are the most varied because they have the most significant gene pool.
What Roman Geese are used for depends mainly on their location.
In Europe, these geese have always been used for practical purposes: eggs and meat. They are considered to be intermediate egg layers. They aren’t the absolute best out there, but they lay enough eggs to be useful. When this is combined with their small but meaty carcasses, they are considered some of the most well-rounded breeds out there.
However, in North America, more popular and common breeds fit this role, so these tufted Roman birds are usually only used for ornamental purposes. Therefore, this species has a more prominent tuft in North America than in other parts of the world.
Appearance and Varieties
The most apparent difference in appearance between this goose breed and others is their tuft. The prominence of this trait varies by location. In Europe, the presence of the tuft isn’t typically cared about, so some birds may not even have it at all. However, in North America, these birds are mainly ornamental, so their tufts are often large and quite prominent.
Their feathers are usually entirely white. However, some minor color differences do exist in Europe and Australia. In these areas, birds with greyish feathers may occur. This is primarily because they are used for practical purposes, not cosmetic reasons like in America.
There are no different varieties in this breed besides the differences that exist due to geographic location. However, these do not have different names and are not considered true varieties.
Population & Distribution
For the most part, there are small pockets of bird populations throughout Europe, but they are most common in Italy, where they originated.
That said, this breed is not as common as they once were. Other breeds have pushed them out of practical use in many areas.
For this reason, they are considered a heritage breed. Some conservation efforts are underway, though this breed is not nearly as endangered as some others out there. Still, they are considered “critical” by the Livestock Conservatory.
Are Roman Geese Good for Small-Scale Farming?
These birds can be great for small-scale farming if you can find them. They are utilized equally for their meat and eggs, making them a good choice if you only want to raise one breed. They also grow relatively quickly and don’t require much care, making them easy to handle on small farms.
They can also work as “alert geese.” They are aware of their surroundings and can be quite loud. If something is wrong, they will let you know.
They are calm and gentle, so they won’t chase smaller animals like some other geese out there will. However, some ganders can be aggressive, especially when around females.
Despite their small size, this breed does produce a plump roasting bird. You’ll get about 25 to 35 eggs per female a year.
If you are in America, be careful when selecting birds. Due to the smaller gene pool, these birds are sometimes unhealthy. Be sure to choose birds that are not deformed and that are free from genetic defects. Care should be taken to keep your flock genetically diverse by regularly introducing new birds.
Featured Image Credit: Caz Harris Photography, Shutterstock