Pilgrim Geese originated in Britain but are associated with the Pilgrim Fathers with some believing that the breed was taken to America in the 1600s with them. This has been widely disputed, but the birds did get to America and indeed the breed was first standardised in the USA. This was the result of the work Oscar Grow did with the breed during the 1930s. He maintains that he named them Pilgrim to mark his own family's 'pilgrimage' during the depression to Missouri.
What is certain is that the breed was derived from the “Common Goose” and the most significant thing about these is that the male is white and the female is grey. These very definite different colours in male and female are known as “auto-sexing” and this was much valued by poultry farmers mid 19th century as they could easily distinguish the sex of the birds at a comparatively early age. They are not plentiful in the UK but were taken up by some poultry exhibitors and so became better known.
Their purpose has always been as a medium-sized table bird that fattens well from grass – very typical of a goose that was probably raised on common land throughout the UK from medieval times.
Pilgrim geese are hardy and capable of living from good grass. They are good parents and are able to raise goslings. They would have to have been like this centuries of years ago in order to survive and thrive on grass and be the cottagers' goose. Therefore they do like space to forage. They also have quite a docile temperament that lends itself to domestication.
The gander (male) is primarily white, with a gray rump (usually obscured by feathers) and trace amount of gray interspersed throughout the wings. Geese (female) are dove gray with varying amounts of white on their faces. The white markings on the goose increase with age. Ganders have blue eyes, while geese have hazel-brown eyes. Both sexes have short, stout orange legs, and their plumage is hard and tight against the weather. Their breasts are keel-less, and they have full, plump bodies.
Be sure to obtain Pilgrim Geese from a reputable breeder. Avoid birds with a knob, long necks or legs, ganders with excessive gray coloring, and geese with predominately white necks. If crossbreeds are bred together, the resulting offspring will not carry the auto-sexing gene.
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