The Sebastopol Goose

Poultry Breed Profile

The Sebastopol Goose

Story and Photos by Kirsten Lie-Nielsen, Maine

Sebastopol geese form a surreal and intriguing spectacle drifting across a pond or foraging around your backyard. With feathers every which-way, the appearance of a Sebastopol is reminiscent of unfolded laundry, and contrary to goose stereotypes, their personalities are most often amiable and sweet.

Key Facts
The most unique looking breed of goose has to be the distinctive Sebastopol. These striking birds were relatively recent additions to America’s Standard of Perfection for Poultry, and they have become a backyard favorite because of their docile personalities and stunning plumage.

Sebastopols are small compared to other goose breeds, with white feathers. The feathers on their bodies curly-queue and corkscrew, often trailing behind them and fluttering in the slightest breeze. Though the exact origins of the Sebastopol are unknown, modern birds are most frequently raised for show or as pets.

Appearance
Sebastopols weigh 10 to 12 pounds. They have elegant, arching necks that evoke images of swans. Their eyes are bright blue, a pleasing compliment to their orange bills. The Sebastopol’s frame is compact, appearing larger than their true size because of the mass of feathers that puff from their back and breast. The unique feathers of the Sebastopol are long and wide, with flexible shafts. These spiraling feathers will often cascade in long waves all the way to the ground.

Goslings will be yellow and gray, with pink bills and feet, and no indication of their adult plumage.

There’s a peculiar attractiveness of the Sebastopol, their bright eyes implying surprising intelligence. The feather pattern that makes these geese so unique can be difficult to breed, and if you plan to raise these geese, selecting good specimens for stock is vital.

Temperament
Naturally docile and friendly, Sebastopols are an excellent goose to keep as a farmyard pet. They are quiet, rarely honking except when threatened, and are widely regarded as the sweetest breed of goose. Often found with a “thoughtful” expression, these calm and fluffy birds put all stereotypes about aggressive geese on their heads.

Care Considerations
Because the feathers of the Sebastopol are loose and unkempt, they need more shelter and warmth in winter than other goose breeds. Keeping them indoors at night, and out of the wind on especially cold days, will help them to weather freezing temperatures.

Their unique traits also mean that Sebastopols need plenty of clean water for bathing. Their white feathers quickly turn brown in muddy weather and they prefer being able to keep themselves in spotless condition. Sebastopols are not the most graceful swimmers, as their plumage doesn’t seal out water as effectively as smooth-feathered birds, but they still love a good splash.

Sebastopol Geese
Sebastopol geese are mostly raised for show or as pets, and love to forage.

History
The Sebastopol was accepted by the American Poultry Association in 1938. The breed was first discovered in the region around the Black Sea, though its exact origins are unknown. Originally known as Danubians, the breed quickly gained popularity as a show bird in Europe before making its way across the Atlantic to American poultry exhibits. American audiences were skeptical of the “disheveled” and “grotesque” birds at first, but they soon became more prevalent on show circuits and farmyards because of their reliable egg laying. The name Danubian may be more geographically accurate for its origins, but calling them “Sebastopols” soon became standard.

Initially two types of Sebastopols existed: one, a smooth-breasted variety whose curling feathers were confined to its wings and back; and the other, with curly feathers upon its entire body except for the neck and head. The first type slowly disappeared. In fact, the breed as a whole was extremely rare during the early 1900s. Since it is too small to be a useful meat bird, and its 25 to 30 eggs a year are not enough to sustain a farm, Sebastopols rely on hobby farmers and those drawn to its unique beauty to breed and expand their presence in the United States.

Primary Uses
Sebastopols are primarily a decorative breed, their amiable personalities making them ideal pets. They do lay a regular number of white eggs, which are smaller than other goose eggs but still quite large compared to a chicken or duck egg. De-spite their small bodies, they can be raised for good roasting meat. Difficult to breed, Sebastopols can experience low fertility, and consequently breeding stock must be carefully selected to carry on their distinctive traits. Their fertility issues are part of what keep Sebastopol geese on rare and endangered lists around the world.

Sebastopol geese are beautiful and unusual additions to any backyard flock. They are one of the only goose breeds that can easily be integrated to an urban farm, a homestead with smaller fowl, or a backyard shared with children. Their docile, curious attitudes make them family favorites and their striking feathering is sure to draw comments from all the neighbors.

Breed Summary
A beautiful bird with loose-fitting feathers and thoughtful expressions, the Sebastopol goose is quiet and a great backyard animal. They do need clean water to bathe, and are difficult to breed, and live more comfortably in warmer climates.

Kirsten Lie-Nielsen is a freelance writer and farmer from Liberty, Maine. When not cultivating a growing garden and tending her geese and other animals, she maintains Hostile Valley Living (hostilevalleyliving.com), hoping to help others learn about self-reliance and simple living.

Originally published in the October/November 2016 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine.

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