Once commonplace on farms in the southeastern United States., 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 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 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 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 these other sex-linked geese. Cotton Patch differ from other sex-linked goose breeds by having pink or orange-pink bills, light weight 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 are a landrace breed, and there is some variability between strains. Their smaller size allows them to tolerate hot weather better than heavier breeds of geese. The Cotton Patch is an “upright” goose with tail in line with 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 5-6 foot fences without a running start. Although this may seem like a fault to some, this ability often allows the birds to escape predators. As would be expected from their history, they are 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.
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