Origin of the Species

Habitat. The Romans referred to geese as duplicis vitae, or having two lives—being active both on land and in water. Indeed, geese are as comfortable on water as they are on land. Geese feed in both environments but are considered to be inefficient grazers because they cannot digest the cellulose of grasses.

Domestication. There is evidence that the Nile goose may have been domesticated by the end of the second millennium b.c. The Egyptians' utilization of the domesticated goose was short-lived; by the middle of the first millennium b.c. they had substituted domestic chicken meat for goose meat in their diet. The fact that wild waterfowl was so plentiful may have encouraged hunting of geese over farming of them. The domestic goose (Anser domes-ticus) is descended from the wild gray leg goose. This bird may have tended to linger, or lag, during its migrations, thus making it easier to catch and domesticate.

History of Association with Humans. As with other domesticated animals classified as household animals, the goose was probably domesticated by women and maintained in small numbers near the home. The ancient Greeks fattened geese, and goose meat was highly prized. Not only were geese kept by the Romans as a food source, they were also viewed as national heroes. The goose is said to have sounded the warning when the Gauls attacked Rome. The Romans consumed goose meat and eggs, learned how to produce fatty livers, used goose fat for medicinal purposes, and developed the goose quill pen. The Romans transported goose stock across Europe. Even after the fall of Rome, the goose was kept as a backyard/ barnyard animal in western and central Europe. With the Europeans' colonization of North America came the goose as well. The domestic goose was kept in nearly every backyard through the early 1900s, for it offered more in return than any other animal or bird.

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