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 two types: Production, and Dewlap. People have bred the Production type, the most numerous, as a utility bird found on small farms and homesteads. The Dewlap Toulouse is a massively boned bird, bred for ability to gain weight rapidly and produce fois gras. A subset of these birds bred for exhibition may show 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 quite widespread, and are not considered a priority for conservation. They can be distinguished from their non-industrial counterparts by the absence of a true dewlap, though the sides of the neck are deeply furrowed.
The Standard Dewlap Toulouse is a huge bird averaging 20-26 lbs. 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. The Toulouse goose comes in two color varieties. Most common is the Grey Toulouse, which was recognized by the American Poultry Association in 1874. The Buff variety was admitted to the standard in 1977.
In the past, goose fat was a primary source for cooking fats and lubricants. Historically farmers often raised Dewlap Toulouse geese in cages to limit their movement, valuing their ability to put on large quantities of fat when fed plenty of food with no room to exercise. Modern farmers fatten Dewlap Toulouse geese for production of foie gras, or raise them on pasture for a large roasting bird. Even when not confined, these massive birds do not wander far from their food and water. During their early life, Dewlap Toulouse geese must have access to unlimited food during their first three months, with additional calcium provided to support development of their large frame.
The Toulouse is a moderate egg-layer (20-35 eggs yearly).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, and in the past these traits were emphasized in bloodlines selected for exhibition. 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.
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. Best results with this breed come when pairing ganders with only one or two geese. Some breeders are able to produce twenty or more goslings from 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.
Grow, Oscar. 1963. "The Dewlap Toulouse." The Magazine of Ducks and Geese.
You may be interested in...
The Book of Geese
- Dave Holderread
Storey's Country Wisdom Bulletin: Raising Ducks and Geese