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|- | style="text-align:center;" | 240px
A Canada Goose |- style="text-align:center;" ! style="background: pink;" | Scientific classification |- style="text-align:center;" |

|- valign=top |Kingdom:||Animalia |- valign=top |Phylum:||Chordata |- valign=top |Class:||Aves |- valign=top |Order:||Anseriformes |- valign=top |Family:||Anatidae |- valign=top |Subfamily:||Anserinae† |} |- style="text-align:center; background:pink;" !Genera |- | Anser
† see also: Swan, Duck
Anatidae |} Goose (plural geese) is the general English name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes the swans, which are mostly larger than geese, and the ducks, which are smaller.



This article deals with the true geese in the subfamily Anserinae. A number of other waterbirds, mainly related to the shelducks, have "goose" as part of their name.

True geese are medium to large birds, always (with the exception of the Néné) associated to a greater or lesser extent with water. Most species in Europe, Asia and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much further south. However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.

Geese have been domesticated for centuries. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the Swan Goose has been farmed for at least as long.

All geese eat an exclusively vegetarian diet, and some can become pests when flocks feed on arable crops.

Geese tend to lay a smaller number of eggs than ducks. However, both parents protect the nest and young, which usually results in a higher survival rate for the young geese, known as goslings.

Goose species

True geese

The following are the true goose species.

Genus Anser, Grey Geese

Genus Anser or Chen (depending on authority cited)

Genus Branta, Black Geese

Genus Cereopsis

Other species called "geese"

There are a number of mainly southern hemisphere birds named as geese which are more correctly placed with the shelducks in the Tadorninae. These are:

The three perching ducks in the genus Nettapus are named as Pygmy Geese, eg Cotton Pygmy Goose, Nettapus javanica, but are true ducks.

The odd Magpie Goose is in a family of its own, the Anseranatidae.


Goose in its origins is one of the oldest words of the Indo-European languages, the modern names deriving from the proto-Indo-European root, ghans, hence Sanskrit hamsa (feminine hamsii), Latin anser, Greek khén etc.

In the Germanic languages, the root word led to Old English gos with the plural gés, German Gans and Old Norse gas. Other modern derivatives are Russian gus and Old Irish géiss.

In non-technical use, the male goose is called a "gander" (Anglo-Saxon gandra) and the female is the "goose".

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Geese in cooking

Geese can be roasted as a whole bird, though their size precludes this preparation except for banquets and other festive meals (such as on Christmas).

Geese are used for the production of foie gras.

Geese in fiction and myth

When Aphrodite first came ashore she was welcomed by the Charites (Roman "Graces"), whose chariot was drawn by geese.

There are Mother Goose tales, such as a farmwife might have told; there is the proverbial goose that laid the golden eggs, warning about the perils of greed. And there is the goose as a veiled reference to the Censored page in the verses

Goosy Goosy Gander, where dost thou wander?
Upstairs, downstairs, in my lady's chamber.

The geese in the temple of Juno on the Capitoline were said by Livy to have saved Rome from the Gauls around 390 BC when they were disturbed in a night attack. The story may be an attempt to explain the origin of the sacred flock of geese at Rome.

There is a tale of Trickster and the geese in the North American Trickster cycle [1] .

Liliane Bodson and Daniel Marcolungo, L'oie de bon aloi: Aspects de l'histoire ancienne de l'oie domestique [The goose in ancient life and folklore]. Vise (Musée Regional d'Archeologie et d'Histoire de Vise), 1994, discusses the image and lore of domestic geese in classical antiquity, with a separate chapter on the goose in folklore.

Other meanings

  • Goose! , a 2004 movie

Goose can have some other meanings in slang.

  • A fool (common in the works of Wodehouse) or someone who is shy (also goosy/goosey).
  • An (usually friendly, but possibly sexual) "attack" - the buttocks of another person are pinched between forefinger and thumb.

See also:

Last updated: 02-08-2005 08:43:15
Last updated: 02-17-2005 08:55:24