Chianina cattle of the Val di Chiana, Tuscany, Italy
Chianina bull, Val di Chiana, Tuscany
The white Chianina ox, only fifty years ago a fixture of every
Tuscan landscape, is the largest extant breed of cattle in the world. Large cattle were known in Lucania during Roman times and the Chianina
cattle of the Val di Chiana may well trace back to these. The
oxen now known as the Chianina were praised by the Georgic poets, Columella and
Virgil, and were the models for Roman sculptures.
The breed originated primarily in the west central part of Italy and was found in a wide variety of environmental conditions. Because of this,
Chianina cattle vary in size and type from region to region. The largest representatives
are from the plains of Arezzo and Sienna - the Val di Chiana of
Tuscany. Until recent times the Chianina
ox was used in Tuscany primarily as a draft animal. With the advent of modern
mechanised farming practices, the selection emphasis has been placed on the
breed's ability to produce beef. The earlier selection for work animals had produced a very large
animal with considerable length of leg, good action and heavy muscling.
A docile disposition was also desired in the draft animals. The later selections for beef production has maintained the size of the breed and improved the rate of growth.
The famous Florentine T-bone steak, the
bistecca alla Fiorentina, is by tradition prepared from Chianina beef
although there is no law mandating this and vast amounts of
Spanish and even Argentinian beef is sold in Tuscan butchers and
as bistecca alla Fiorentina.
Etruscan oxen and plough
Val di Chiana
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