The Chianina is considered to be one of the oldest cattle breeds on the earth. The Georgic poets, Columella and Vergil, admired them, and they served as models for Roman sculptures. The breed’s name is derived from the Chiana Valley in Tuscany, Central Italy, where it originated. The breed’s largest members come from the Arezzo and Siena plains. These also provided the basis for the bulk of the stock used in the United States and Canada. Chianinas were mainly used as draft animals in their homeland to help with farming. Chianina’s main purpose today, thanks to modern mechanized farming methods, is to grow beef.
Chianina cattle are one of the world’s most common breeds. They have short hair that ranges in color from white to steel gray. Bulls’ front ends are usually a darker grey. Chianina males and females have black skin with black tongues, palates, noses, eye regions, and switches. They have excellent resistance to pinkeye and eye cancer because of their pigmentation. While several are now polled through breeding programs, the breed is naturally horned. Their small horns bend forward and are black at first, but as the animals get older, they become lighter.
The breed’s most distinctive trait is its well-defined muscling. Their shoulders, back, and rear quarters are all well-formed and proportioned. They have longer legs than other breeds, and their faces are long and straight.
Mature bulls weigh between 2500 and 2800 pounds, while the average Chianina cow weighs between 1600 and 1800 pounds.
Characteristics to Be Described
The Chianina breed is known for its strength and large frame. They have a high heat tolerance and can survive in tropical climates. Since they are widely used in crossbred operations, one of their strengths is hybrid vigor. Chianina bulls have a reputation for achieving exceptional growth in the offspring of these crossbred females. Since they were initially used as draft animals, one of their physical attributes is hardiness. The breed’s cows have small udders and aren’t known for producing a lot of milk. Chianinas are late-maturing cattle that can be used to supply yearling and older beef.
During World War II, American soldiers stationed in Italy discovered Chianina. Chianina genetics were first introduced to the United States in 1971, when the first semen was imported from Italy. A black half-blood Chianina x Angus/Holstein bull calf born January 31, 1972, at the Tannehill Ranch in King City, California, was the first Chianina born in the United States.
Chianina genetics were historically only available by sperm. Unfortunately, new US Department of Agriculture legislation made it illegal to import cattle from countries afflicted by the Foot and Mouth Disease. One of those countries was Italy. A
Semen was gathered, sorted, and delivered to breeders in the United States at a private quarantine station in Italy.
Another source of fullblood Chianina sperm was Canadian breeders. Although Italian Chianina cattle were not permitted to reach the United States from Canada, American breeders were able to import their sperm. Italian fullblood Chianina were exported from Canada to the United States in 1973.
In June 1972, the American Chianina Association was founded in Kansas City, Missouri. Breeders needed a central location where they could register and move their seed stock while maintaining a live herd book. The association currently has approximately 1000 members and 300,000 registered cattle.