Ark of Taste
Cotton Patch Goose
Once commonplace on farms in the southeastern U.S., the Cotton Patch is a breed of goose that gets its name from the job it performed. These geese were used to weed cotton and corn fields up until the 1950s. Cotton Patch geese are typically 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 are not clear but it is thought to have derived from European stock brought to the U.S. during the colonial period. Cotton Patch geese possess many qualities that are common in sex-linked European breeds such as the West of England, Shetland, and Normandy geese. However, these breeds are recent importations to North America, and have not 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 the above mentioned sex-linked geese breeds. Cotton Patch are sexually dimorphic as other sex-linked goose breeds, but differ by having pink or orange-pink bills, light weight bodies, and the ability to fly.
The Cotton Patch is an “upright” goose with tail in line with back and wings, giving it a clean wedge shape without a “prick” tail. The Cotton Patch’s body is more elongated and is not rounded like that of the Shetland or Pilgrim goose. Lobe development the fat flaps between the legs of a goose is minimal and a single lobe, if any, becomes present with supplemental feeding. Without supplemental feed, a lobe is not present. The Cotton Patch’s head is rounded and the beak is dished. There is one strain that more closely resembles the Pilgrim 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.
The Cotton Patch is a “sleek” goose that resembles Greylag geese. The breed is light to medium-sized. Because of its smaller size, the breed has the ability to adjust to hot weather better than most of the heavier breeds of geese. Cotton Patch geese have the ability to fly well beyond their first year, easily clearing 5-6 foot fences without a running start. Although this may seem like a fault to some, this ability often allows the birds to escape predators unlike the heavier geese.
The Cotton Patch goose is superbly adapted to sustainably managed farm systems since they need little to no intervention by their owners in order to thrive. It is listed as critical on the American Livestock Association’s Conservation Priority List.
Cotton Patch goose meat is moist and flavorful with a clean texture. Some say it’s the most delicious goose they’ve ever tasted!
Photo courtesy of Mark See