The ultimate showdown: Are overseas Toulouse geese better than Australian birds?
Within the waterfowl community we are regularly shown drawings of the “perfect bird” and photographs of overseas birds. Whilst it may be human nature to compare them to our own, are geese overseas better than ours?
Recent social media comments have motivated me to seek out some answers. I interviewed Graham Hicks, an international waterfowl judge who is currently on a committee reviewing the British waterfowl standards.
Graham Hicks was recommended to The Goose Breeders Network of Australia by previous international judges, Chris & Mike Ashton. They recommended him at the time as the only person in the UK with the experience and knowledge to handle and judge waterfowl at the Australian National Show 2012.
At the 2012 National show a large number of geese were entered from breeders like myself, Graham Webb, Gale Watson and numerous other breeders from around Australia. Graham hicks also visited a number of breeder’s farms. During his visit he graded, handled many birds in their natural environment. I along with Heather Soane and Gale Watson were lucky enough to be among this group.
Graham again visited Australia in May 2017 where he judged The Allstate Waterfowl Festival in Goulburn, as well as grading and inspecting a number of geese on farms. He had quite a lot to say about the geese here in Australia, Toulouse in particular.
During my interview with Graham I asked him for his opinion on recent Social media posts and comments, as shown below;
- Toulouse in Australia are too short in the back.
- Toulouse in Australia may be big but most still lack the indication of length and balance in body proportion.
- Toulouse lack lacing!!
Graham immediately replied with a very direct and quick answer,
I asked Graham what his impression was of Toulouse geese that he observed while here in Australia.
Graham Hicks stated clearly:
- I can’t believe the structure these birds have in their frames, they are exceptional.
It is very clear from Graham Hicks’ personal assessment that Australian Toulouse do indeed have the desired indication of length and balance to their body.
This brings us to a common perception portrayed by several comments on social media. We see almost daily posts about overseas Toulouse like:
- Overseas Toulouse are better than Australian Toulouse in every possible way
- Australian breeders will never achieve these types of Exhibition Toulouse.
As Graham Hicks is a renowned international waterfowl judge, having handled Toulouse geese from all over the world, I decided to find out what his impression of our Australian Toulouse is compared to the overseas Toulouse in general.
I asked Graham, are our Australian Toulouse as good as the overseas Toulouse?.
- Graham said in one word “Yes”.
So why is it when we see photos on social media of overseas Toulouse they appear to look better than our Australian Toulouse geese.
Graham said very quickly,
- Because they’re all feather
- I can tell you now the Australian Toulouse have a better frame and structure.
- The overseas Toulouse are much lighter in frame.
My impression from our discussion is that overseas Toulouse have a light frame with a lot of feather/down to allow better thermal qualities in their cooler climates. Australia has a unique climate and it only seems practical that our birds have evolved to suit, hence stronger frames with tighter feathers. Climate plays a big part in the evolution of a breed and it’s one of those situations where you will find it hard to compare apples with apples. Seeing photos compared to handling the birds in real life are two totally different things.
I also asked Graham about lacing in reference to another social media comment that Australian Toulouse lack feather lacing.
- The birds he’s seen have no problem with the lacing.
- You can always pick one or two birds out and if you really look hard you will find a problem.
- But the majority of the Toulouse I saw and handled in Australia do not have a problem with lacing. The lacing is fine.
I finally asked Graham for his thoughts and advice for Australian Toulouse breeders.
- If you want to improve Toulouse I would strive for a more even consistent flock.
- If I can suggest anything, I think you need to work more on the keel out front.
- A good forward keel will get your Toulouse looking just right.
- But be aware that the birds with larger keels can at times have fertility issues. This is something to keep in mind when you are looking to expand your developed flock.
During our interview Graham also mentioned breeders in England had recently imported German Toulouse (commercial type) with lesser keels to increase fertility in UK Toulouse flocks.