Many independent sources support the claims that the Chianina are one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world. Their appearance on some of the art sculptures of ancient Rome and the fact that they were mentioned in the poetry of Columella, which was written around 50 AD, certainly supports such claims.
The Chianina breed first emerged in the western and central regions of Italy. Prominent historical records reveal that the Chianina cattle were particularly common in the Valdichiana area.
The contemporary breed of Chianina is predominantly utilised for beef. However, at one point they were very popular as draught cattle.
The adaptability and robust nature of these breed mean that they have become very popular breeding specimens. Today, Chianina bulls are frequently crossbred with other types of cattle including Chimaine, Chiford and Chiangus (Chianina and Angus).
Chianina cattle typically have a short white coat; however, there are some less-common grey variations. They have black hair around the nose and switch, and Chianina bulls also have darker faces than the cows. Calves are typically a fawn colour when born.
One feature of Chianina that is particularly prominent is that of their short, curved horns. These horns start off black in the young and gradually become paler as the animal ages.
Chianina are very strong and robust. They weigh around 50kg at birth and put on weight at a rate of around 2kg per day until the males weigh an average of 1,500 kg, and the females are about 1,000kg. The cattle are typically slaughtered when they reach the age of 16-18 months.
Chianina are able to adapt well to warm climates with their tough black-pigmented hide protecting them well against skin cancer and parasites.
Chianina beef is popular due to the lean, tender nature of the meat and the 65% yield of the carcasses makes them a popular choice for contemporary farmers.