Once commonplace on farms in the southeastern United States, the Cotton Patch goose gets its name from the tasks it performed. These geese would weed cotton and corn fields up until the 1950s. Cotton Patches are remembered in the rural south for helping many farmers and their families survive the Great Depression by providing a regular source of meat, eggs, and grease.
The breed’s beginnings aren’t clear but it’s thought to have descended from European stock brought to the U.S. during the colonial period. Cotton Patch geese possess many qualities in common with other sex-linked European breeds such as the Shetland, West of England, and Normandy geese.
However, these breeds are recent importations to North America and haven’t played a role in the development of the Cotton Patch goose. The Cotton Patch goose is the remaining relic of a little-known American breed of goose with parent stock that probably shares common ancestors with these other sex-linked geese. Cotton Patches differ from other sex-linked goose breeds by having pink or orange-pink bills, lightweight bodies, and the ability to fly.
The Cotton Patch is a “sleek” goose that resembles Greylag geese from which all European geese descend. The breed is a light to medium-sized goose. They’re a landrace breed with some variability between strains. Their smaller size allows them to tolerate hot weather better than heavier geese breeds. The Cotton Patch is an “upright” goose with a tail in line with its back and wings, giving it a clean wedge profile. The Cotton Patch’s body is more elongated and less rounded than breeds such as Shetland or Pilgrim goose. The paunch is minimal and when present has a single lobe.
The Cotton Patch’s head is rounded and the beak is dished. One strain more closely resembles the Pilgrim goose and has a beak that is slightly “roman”. The ganders in this strain tend to have as many gray feathers as Pilgrim ganders, but these feathers are all dove gray – unlike the Pilgrim in which they can be slate gray.
Cotton Patch geese have the ability to fly well beyond their first year, easily clearing 5 to 6-foot fences without a running start. This may seem like a fault to some, but it often allows them to escape predators. As expected from their history, they’re excellent foragers and goose breeders should continue to select for this trait. Cotton Patch geese are very rare and in need of serious conservation breeders.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.