Piemontese cattle are a domestic breed native to the Piedmont region of Northern Italy.
Now a dual-purpose breed, historically there were many different types of Piemontese cattle, especially in the 19th century. These included types such as the Demonte, the Ordinario di Pianure, the Scelta di Pianura, the Canavese and the Della Langa. They were also originally kept as a triple purpose breed, for milk, meat and draught purposes.
The first Piemontese herdbook was only opened in 1877, with breeders pushing towards a more dual-purpose breed, rather than a triple threat. This, and breeding programmes designed to improve the breed and eliminate detrimental characteristics, led to the breed becoming more uniform in character.
The breed is best-known for their double-muscling, which is why they became extremely popular in the 1860’s. This double-muscling is caused by a Myostatin gene, first discovered in the breed approximately 100 years ago, which normally restricts muscle growth. In the case of Piemontese cattle, it mutated over time and means they have unrestricted muscle growth.
In fact, Piemontese cattle tend to develop muscles up to 14% greater than other breeds. This gene is the same one found in Belgian Blue cattle. The breed is one of Italy’s most popular breeds, with an estimated population of over 680,000 in Italy alone at the beginning of the 20th century.
It was, however, in danger of extinction at one point as populations dropped to as low as 851 animals by 1957. By 2011, there was an estimated population in excess of 260,000 cattle in Italy.
The breed can now be found in the US, Canada, Ireland, the UK, Denmark, Australia, Brazil, Holland, Poland, New Zealand and Mexico.
Uses and Characteristics -
A breed which is medium in size, Piemontese usually have black pigmented skin, with a white coat and grey shading.
When born, calves are usually a fawn colour, but turn grey-white upon maturing. A horned breed, Piemontese cattle are mainly reared for beef production purposes nowadays, though they are still used for draught work and milk production in their native Italy.
The primary characteristic of the Piemontese breed is their unique double-muscling abilities, as mentioned above. At full maturity, Piemontese bulls will weigh from 700 to 850kgs, with cows ranging in weight from 520 to 550kgs.
Suited to all climates, the Piemontese breed are very docile in nature, with a calm temperament. They are known to live long, healthy lives and cows are famed for their fertility. They also have excellent maternal instincts and produce an abundance of milk for their young.
The champion breed of muscling, Should all beef farmers have a bit of Piemontese?