Roman geese originated in Italy where, more than 2,000 years ago, the Romans considered them sacred to Juno, the goddess of marriage. In 365 BCE, as the Gauls attempted to invade Rome under cover of night, it was the honk of a Roman goose that awoke Marcus Manlius to save the capital.
Despite its heroic accomplishments, the Roman goose is a small breed, weighing 10 to 12 pounds. They’re a moderate egg-layer, laying 25 to 35 eggs per year. In Europe, Roman geese are utility birds, bred for a rapidly maturing, small, meaty carcass. In North America, many strains are largely ornamental, bred for a distinguishing crest, or tuft. In common North American usage, “Roman” goose is used interchangeably with “Tufted Roman” goose.
Roman geese should be pure white, according to the American Poultry Association’s American Standard of Perfection. Some strains have gray or buff feathers. Goslings may show some gray but this is often molted in the first year. Bills and legs are pinkish or reddish-orange, and the eyes are blue.
The Roman goose is fine-boned and plump. The body is round and full, with a uniformly broad back. The breast is full and well rounded, as is the abdomen, and the paunch has dual lobes, though it is not heavy. The tail is short and the wings strong. The neck is of medium length, stout, and only slightly arched. The head is oval. The tuft of feathers on their crown, for which they are named, begins just over the eyes and inclines backward. The tuft appears somewhat like a tiny bicycle helmet perched on top of the goose head.
Roman geese in North America descend from a small group of birds, resulting in a small genetic pool. As a result, special care must be taken when selecting breeders to avoid genetic defects, including crooked toes, wry tails, kinked necks, and lack of vigor. Look for calm, gentle, robust birds with small, compact bodies, and large tufts centrally placed on the head. The front edge of the tuft should be over the back of the eyes. Ganders can be mated with two to four geese.
Roman geese are generally calm and pleasant. Despite their smaller size, Roman geese produce a plump roasting bird. They’re alert and make good watchdogs.
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.