|Panzano Chianina with manger, hay and spacious open-air stables|
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
A Noble Bovine Breed
Whenever I glimpsed the Chianina cattle, indigenous to central Italy, in old photos, occasionally at country fairs and rarely at pasture, I was always struck by their massive yet elegant build. A quick search on internet reveals that they are in fact the largest cattle breed in the world. The average Chianina cow stands 150-160 cm at the withers and weighs 800-1,000 kg, while the bull measures 160-175 cm, weighing 1,150-1,280 kg. Massive.
And elegant: they are near-white, long-legged and have beautifully-shaped heads, large eyes and long lashes which stand out against the white.
It is also amongst the oldest breeds of cattle in the world, probably originating in ancient Roman times. Formerly used as a draught breed, (apparently at one time at Le Ripe there were two 'bovi' or oxen, as they called them), now they are bred almost exclusively for meat. The bistecca alla fiorentina is traditionally theirs.
Yesterday I was lucky enough to be invited to visit a nearby farm which breeds Chianina for the market. This was the setting, in the famous conca d'oro or 'golden basin' of Panzano. The day was overcast, but the scene is beautiful nonetheless.
These particular Chianina are very well treated, fed on fresh hay in clean, open stables and external pen; they are apparently allowed to pasture outside too, a rarity in Italy.
The Chianina calves are born darker fawn in colour and a little woolly; these traits change after about 5 months.