The Sayaguesa is an endangered breed of Spanish bovine, native to the Zamora region.
This is also where the breed gets its name, the Comarca of Sayago. They are mainly raised in the communities of León and Castile in the Zamora province and are also known as Samorana or the Castellana variedad Sayaguesa.
Historically, the breed was primarily raised for draught work purposes. Due to the arrival of machinery in agriculture following the conclusion of World War II, populations began to decline and farmers began crossing the Sayaguesa breed with others such as Charolais’s, Friesians and Braunvieh cattle.
It wasn’t until 1997, over twenty years ago, that the Sayaguesa breed was first recognized as its own separate breed by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture. Registrations for pure Sayaguesa cattle only began in 1980 and by 1981, the Sayaguesa breeders association was formed (the Asociación Española de Criadores de Ganado Bovino de Raza Sayaguesa). The first genealogical herdbook was first established in 1998.
The breed is now listed as “at risk of extinction” and in the thirty year period from 1950-1980, populations are estimated to have dropped by 17,000 head. By 2009, populations had dropped even further, to as low as 450 cattle on 29 farms. By 2015, things had improved slightly, with Sayaguesa numbers increasing to 1,612 head.
The majority of the Sayaguesa breed are located in the Castilla Léon region to this day.
Picture above - Rewilding Europe
Characteristics and Uses -
Dubbed one of Spain’s largest indigenous breeds, the Sayaguesa breed is a large one and they are known for being very hardy.
At full maturity, bulls weigh anything up to 1,110kgs, with cows topping the scales at an average of 700kgs. Height wise, bulls usually reach up to 158cms and cows slightly lower at 154cms. This large size was the reason that the Sayaguesa breed was historically used for draught purposes until the development of agricultural machinery after World War II.
It is this large size again which led to the breed being primarily raised for beef production, which is its main use today. The breed is also used for wildlife conservation, used to graze protected pastures and it was also once used in attempts to recreate the now-extinct, auroch breed.
The Sayaguesa breed is usually a uniform black colour, though they do sometimes have lighter colours on their undercarriage. They can also feature a paler than usual dorsal stripe, which is usually absent in Sayaguesa cows.
Picture - glibs.in
The breed also have black hooves, a black muzzle, with pale colouration around the mouth and inside the ears. A horned breed, their horns are usually white at the base, with a black tip.
When born, however, calves are actually born a red colour, before their coat darkens, turning black, as they mature. Calves are usually slaughtered at 12months old, with a carcass yield of approximately 55%. Sayaguesa cows, however, are known for having poor milk yields.
A hardy and adaptable breed, the Sayaguesa are capable of surviving in most climates. A breed once used instead of tractors, but now dominating Spanish meat markets, the ancient and powerful Sayaguesa.