The Flanders Goose

Or Oie de Flamande

The Flanders Goose

By Stuart Sutton, United Kingdom

The goose is one of the more intelligent breed of bird, having a good memory and found to remember people, animals and environment. Geese also have a highly developed herd instinct. All in all these features help them make particularly good guard animals against predators and intruders. Also, unlike some other fowl, geese do not peck each other and usually live in harmony as a group or with other animals.

The Flanders Goose or Oie de Flamande seems descended from an ancient and primitive breed of goose that had existed in Flanders since at least the 16th century. Related to the Goose de Twente of Belgium, the bird was bred for both feathers and meat. In fact it is known farmers used to pluck the animals between one and four times a year for their white feathers leaving the gray feathers to protect the bird against the weather.

The Oie de Flamande occupies a prominent place in the Belgian poultry literature, and now also enjoys the attention of both French and Belgian associations that care for the wellbeing of their native rare poultry. Already known at the beginning of the 20th century in the Flanders and French-Belgian region.

Poultry expert and long-time director of the French journal Hunting and Fishing and Director of Ghent and Düsseldorf Zoo Louis Van der Snickt (1837-1911) wrote, “The body is almond shape. To pluck the feathers are white, they leave the rest, that is to say those of the head, neck, back and thighs as these are gray. Their special utility consists of four crops feathers and provides a greasy bird for Christmas. The white variety is especially good for her eggs, she gives 60 to 100.”

Flanders Geese
Flanders geese gather in the countryside. Photos by Stuart Sutton.

She is often portrayed as a great walker. In his book of 1926, Breeds of Waterfowl, V. Pulinckx-Eeman, editor of Hunting and Fishing wrote, “The Goose Flemish spends his summer grazing by cattle, fertile country, along the roads and on the edges of the field; therefore it must be on strong legs; the folded flap or skin on the chest would be rather detrimental to him. A gray goose constitution over a white goose, but the white feather more value than the gray “

Therefore, the Flemish goose is a rustic breed that likes to walk and is a good grazer. It has two varieties, namely white or two-tone gray and white, the latter being by far the most common. They have an almond-shaped body that is long enough with a strong, slightly pleated neck. The beak is short but robust, high at the base and yellow/orange in color. The base of the beak is surrounded by a white border that is also found on the chin. The eyes are dark brown — in fact, the darker the better. The head is strong enough, as his neck is relatively short, his back is broad and the chest is wider than it is deep, as is the body. The wings are held  tight to the body and the tail is slightly horizontal. The strong legs are pinkish to pale yellow in color. Weights are 11 to 13 pounds for the male and 9 to 10 pounds for the female, which lays 60 to 100 large speckled eggs per year. She breeds well and is considered a good mother.

Flanders Goose
The Flanders goose is a rustic breed that grazes well. It’s got two tones: A white or more commonly found, a two-tone gray and white. Photo by Stuart Sutton.

This beautiful goose is experiencing a revival and seems a breed well worth keeping, with the Living Heritage Park in the province of Wachtebeke, East Flanders, showing a large flock of the breed in an open park area.

It seems to be attracting more attention and breeder numbers are increasing, despite the fact that it is still rare, even in Northern France and Belgium. It is almost unknown elsewhere.

Thanks to Jean-Luc Malpaux and Stuart Sutton is a specialist in poultry breeds and heritages, and works as a freelance writer and photographer.

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