Home » History » Goose Pulling is the Practice of Tying Greased Live Geese Onto a Pole. Riders on Horseback will Then Attempt to Grab the Bird by the Neck and Pull Their Heads Off.
Goose Pulling

Goose Pulling is the Practice of Tying Greased Live Geese Onto a Pole. Riders on Horseback will Then Attempt to Grab the Bird by the Neck and Pull Their Heads Off.

From the 17th to the 19th centuries, goose pulling was a blood sport practiced in parts of the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and North America. It originated in Spain in the 12th century and was spread throughout Europe by the Spanish Third. But how is this sport performed?

Goose pulling is the practice of tying a live greased goose to a pole. Riders on horseback then try to grab the bird’s neck and pull the head off as they gallop by.

The History of Goose Pulling

A live goose was used in the past. The goose’s neck was generously oiled to make it difficult to keep a grip on it, and the bird’s constant fluttering and flailing made it difficult to target in the first place. A nigger with a long whip in hand was sometimes stationed near the target, harassing the horse as he passed by.

A goose-pulling contest’s prizes were insignificant – often the dead bird itself, other times audience contributions or rounds of drinks. The main draw for spectators in such competitions was betting on the competitors, sometimes for money but more often for alcoholic drinks.

Today, dead geese are used instead of living ones, but this does not make the sport any less brutal. Even when animal cruelty was common, goose pulling was often frowned upon and sometimes compared to bullfighting’s barbaric practice. (Source: Amusing Planet)

What Prize Can You Get after Winning the Goose Pulling?

The prize for winning these competitions was usually insignificant, such as the manhandled bird itself. Above all, it displayed manhood, skill, and strength. On the other hand, Spectators came for the general enjoyment of the goose-pulling event, as well as the booze and betting.

The whoopin, hollerin, screamin, bettin, and excitement, beats all; there ain’t hardly any sport equal to it, one contemporary observer observed. (Source: Lazer Horse)

Animal Blood Sports That Were Once Thought to Be Entertainment

These animal blood sports were as violent as they were popular, ranging from bear-baiting to goose-pulling.


Monkey-baiting, popular in 18th and 19th century England, involved a dog vs. a monkey.

Many spectators were surprised when the monkeys frequently won such fights due to their dexterity and unique fighting style. Jacco Macacco was the name of one of these champion monkeys. He competed in monkey-baiting matches in London in the early 1820s, defeating 14 dogs before having his jaw torn off by a vicious dog named Puss and dying shortly afterward.


In the 16th and 17th centuries, bear-baiting was especially popular in England. The sport entailed tying a bear to a stake by its leg or neck. Dogs were then let loose in the pit to terrorize the wild animal.

This cruel sport was especially popular with Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I, who went so far as to overturn Parliament’s decision to prohibit bear-baiting on Sundays.


Cock-throwing, popular in 17th and 18th century England, involved tying a cock to a post and throwing specially weighted sticks at it until the helpless bird died. Puritan officials banned cock-throwing in Bristol in the 17th century, resulting in violent riots. Cock-throwing became less popular as people became more concerned about animal welfare. (Source: ATI)

Image from DailyMail.Co.Uk

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