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The name Toulouse is used for several types of gray geese descended from the European Greylag. People have selected Toulouse as general purpose farm birds, as producers of fois gras, and as show-birds. Oscar Grow, in his 1963 article "The Toulouse Goose", discusses how trying to include both aesthetic and practical traits under the name of one breed is problematic. For this reason, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy recognizes one breed, "Toulouse," and three types: Production, Standard Dewlap, and Exhibition. People have bred the Production type, the most numerous, as a utility bird found on small farms and homesteads. The Standard Dewlap Toulouse is a massively boned bird, bred for ability to gain weight rapidly and produce fois gras when force fed. The Exhibition Toulouse is bred as a decorative show bird with an exaggerated dewlap and keel.
Production Toulouse are large (18-20 lbs.) moderate egg-laying (25-40 eggs/year) geese suitable for the home or small farm flock. Most gray geese on farms and homesteads are Production Toulouse or crosses. Their popularity comes from their availability, general practicality, and to some, aesthetic quality. Production Toulouse are the best layers among the heavyweight breeds.
Production Toulouse have large, oval heads; moderately long, heavy necks; and thick, wide bodies. Like all breeds descended from the wild Graylag, the feathers on the sides of the neck are deeply furrowed. Gray is their primary color. Their abdomen is off-white. Lighter markings traverse the dark sides and back giving an attractive laced effect. They have an orange bill and reddish orange legs (Holderread, 1981).
Their dark feathers provide good camouflage and a neater appearance than white feathered geese. However, dark pin-feathers show on plucked carcasses. This trait limited their use commercially since consumers prefer the plucked appearance from white pin-feathered breeds. Ganders may be mated with three or four geese (Holderread, 1981).
When selecting breeders, choose active birds exhibiting fast growth, big, meaty bodies, and good egg production. Avoid birds with refined features, shallow or narrow bodies and weak heads. For aesthetic reasons, many breeders select against white feathers except on the abdomen. Foreign color, however, does not decrease practical qualities (Holderread, 1981).
Standard Dewlap Toulouse
The Standard Dewlap Toulouse is a huge (20-26 lbs.) moderate egg-layer (20-35 eggs yearly). Some specimens tip the scales at thirty pounds or more. Because of their loose plumage, they often appear heavier than they actually are.
Every feature of this placid giant is massive. The bill is stout, the head large and broad, and the moderately long neck is thick and nearly straight. Often suspended from the lower bill and upper neck is a heavy, folded dewlap that increases in size and fullness with age. The body is long, broad and deep, ending in a well-spread tail that points up slightly. They have a rounded breast, and often exhibit a wide keel. The abdomen is double-lobed and often brushes the ground, particularly in females during the early spring. When Dewlap Toulouse are relaxed, their carriage is nearly horizontal.
In the past, goose fat was a primary source for cooking fats and lubricants. People caged Dewlap Toulouse, valuing their ability to put on large quantities of fat when fed plenty of food with no room to exercise. Modern farmers use Dewlap Toulouse as noodling geese. Noodling is force-feeding geese a fat and grain mash. Small farmers massage "noodles" down geese throats by hand. Large producers auger geese full of mash and maximize fat production through intensive confinement. The product is fat-laden flesh and an oversized liver. Even when not confined, these massive birds do not wander far from their food and water. These geese must have access to unlimited food during their first three months, with additional calcium provided to support development of their large frame.
The major considerations when choosing utility breeders are vigor, adequate body size, high fertility, and good egg production. Large keels and dewlaps are byproducts of selecting for large birds. If not carefully bred, all heavyweight breeds of geese may decrease in size every succeeding generation. Do not use birds with narrow or undersized bodies, excessively arched backs, keels with extremely rough underlines, slender necks, small dewlaps, and weak heads. Except in mature laying geese, tails drooping below the line of the back are often a sign of low fertility and lack of vigor. Breeders of production birds should take care not to select for excessive keels as these inhibit a bird's ability to breed. Matings of pairs or trios are usually the most productive. (Holderread, 1981).
Standard Dewlap Toulouse are probably the most challenging domestic goose to raise successfully. Seed stock is expensive, because they do not reproduce consistently until two or three years of age. Fertility and viability of eggs are often considerably lower than for other breeds, although productivity varies widely depending on management, strain and individual birds. Some breeders are able to produce twenty or more goslings from Standard Dewlap Toulouse geese, but such records are the exception rather than the rule.
During the breeding season it is extremely important that producing birds are not overweight, but they do need an adequate supply of concentrated feed that is 18 to 22 percent crude protein. Fertility is highest when birds get sufficient exercise, access to succulent green feeds, and water for swimming.
Exhibition Dewlap Toulouse
The Exhibition Dewlap Toulouse is the result of extreme selection of the Toulouse for show. Breeding of Exhibition Toulouse is complicated because their enormous bulk is combined with the unnatural characteristics of exaggerated keel, lobes, and dewlap. Some Exhibition Toulouse exhibit traits slowly, breeders need to watch their goslings closely for their first nine months and avoid premature culling (Batty, 1985). A buff sub-type has been developed by Paul Lofland of Oregon (Holderread, 1981).
Like the Standard Dewlap Toulouse, the Exhibition Toulouse is very difficult to raise successfully. Selection of breeders is like that of the Standard type, and should be done with an eye for overall health and vigor.
Status: See CPL
Batty, J. 1985. Domesticated Ducks and Geese. Nimrod Book Services. Liss, England.
Grow, Oscar. 1963. "The Dewlap Toulouse." The Magazine of Ducks and Geese.
Holderread, Dave. 1981. The Book of Geese: a Complete Guide to Raising the Home Flock. Hen House Publications. Corvallis, Oregon.
Malone, Pat; Donnelly, Gerald; Leonard, Walt. 1998. American Standard of Perfection. American Poultry Association, Inc. Mendon, MA.