Unpacking Jorge: the goose, the myth, the legend

Graphic by Carrie Clowers ’18

Graphic by Carrie Clowers ’18

BY TEAGAN WEBB ’18

For anyone who spends time at either of Mount Holyoke’s lakes, Jorge the goose is a constant, honking presence. Despite his pervasiveness and presence in our community, little is known about him. 

Jorge is a female pilgrim goose, a domestic breed in the United States. The pilgrim goose was first bred in Iowa by Oscar Grow and named for its “pilgrimage” to Missouri when he and his wife were relocated by the Great Depression, according to American Livestock Breeds Conservancy News. It was not until 1939 that the breed was accepted by the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection, the fundamental text on all poultry paragons. Jorge is also a member of the Livestock Conservancy and protected under Massachusetts Law as wild waterfowl. This is because pilgrim geese are a heritage breed and their history and genetics are being documented. Determining heritage breeds is an “art” which increases the value and motivation to reproduce the species, according to the Livestock Conservancy. 

Pilgrim Geese are the only standardized geese which are “auto-sexing” — meaning that the sexes are different colors. Males, or ganders, have gray plumage while females are all white. Pilgrim geese are often about 14 pounds, when they aren’t being fed bagels by first-years. They are also known for being docile according to the website pilgrimgeese.co.uk, although anybody who has ever eaten near Lower Lake will tell you, Jorge is not.

Sonya Stephens’ Chief of Staff Kathleen Pertzborn is deeply invested in our living, screaming piece of campus history. Though she doesn’t know where he came from, she has heard many speculate that he looks a lot like the geese from McCray’s or Maple Farms, two local goose hubs. According to Pertzborn, Mount Holyoke didn’t purchase him or provide food, housing or handlers, which makes his consistent presence even more mystifying. LITS claimed in the February 2018 Alumnae Quarterly that his first sighting was in 1993, making him 27 years old. That is extraordinarily old for a domestic goose, which is probably why students so often conspire that he is periodically replaced. “I don’t know what will happen if Jorge leaves or when he dies. I choose to say ‘when’ he dies, although we have no proof that he isn’t immortal. He may well be,” said Pertzborn. 

Although the mystery of Jorge is far from solved, Jorge is still an integral member of this community and the student body. According to Emily Graham ’19, he is “simultaneously a staple of campus and a creature we all fear.” He always has his crew of ducks, but also co-parents the babies of a pair of mated Canadian geese who visit once a year to lay eggs. 

His community includes far more than just waterfowl. According to Pertzborn, one of his friends from the South Hadley community even called to share concerns about an eye infection, and everyone kept a close eye on him through his recovery. He is also a reported menace for brides taking photos near Lower Lake. “He takes offense, I think,” said Pertzborn “at the largest white goose he’s ever seen trying to pose for pictures near his territory.” 

Jorge’s big personality has cemented him in history as the mascot of LITS, an active member of Twitter (@honkhonkjorge) and a cautionary tale to first-years trying to plan a picnic.

Mount Holyoke News

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