It is thought that the Chianina breed began in the Bronze Age with the animals brought from Asia and Africa into Italy in 1500 BC. Thus Chianina are one of the oldest, if not the oldest of pure-bred bovine breeds. It is contentious whether they are derived from the Bos Indicus line of cattle or perhaps the even older Bos Primitus.
The Etruscans sacrificed the Chianina's ancestors to their Gods and we have Roman sculptures depicting the breed. The Roman Empire was a canny time and Chianina were developed with a dual purpose as both plough pulling and food producers. Chianina are deeply rooted in Tuscan history and their snow white coat and huge size has seen them used for triumphal parades and countless festivities, even in modern Italy. They have been surperseded by tractors in the field and so today, the Chianina cattle are primarily considered to be some of the most prized meat producers in the world.
In 1974, the first Chianina semen was imported to Australia (via Canada) where numbers are still small and it is predominately used for cross breeding. Their growth rate, especially long legs, high quality meat and heat and disease tolerance make them sought after as a cross breed. As the breed is slow growing, it does not suit standard commercial production.
Chianina are characterised by short white hair with black skin and mucosa. They are born caramel coloured and lighten up as they age. The fact that they were bred as work animals supports the premise that they are gentle and largely good tempered. They are huge cattle with extensive and well defined muscles; the shoulders, back and rear quarters are especially well formed. The meat is red and lean but still retains a marbling of fat among the muscling.