The breed originated primarily in the
west central part of Italy and was found in a wide variety of environmental
conditions. Because of this, the cattle vary in size and type from
region to region.
The largest representatives of the breed,
from the plains of Arezzo and Siena, have supplied most of the foundation
stock that has been used in the United States and Canada. The name
comes from the Chiana Valley in the province of Tuscany in Central
Until recent times the Chianina were
used primarily as draft animals in their homeland. With the advent
of modern mechanized farming practices they selection emphasis has
been placed on the breeds ability to produce beef.
The earlier selection for work animals had
produced a very large breed with considerable length of leg, good
action, and heavy muscling. Good dispositions were also desired
in the draft animals. The later selections for beef production has
maintained the size of the breed and improved the rate of growth.
U.S. servicemen, stationed in Italy during
World War II, discovered Chianina. In 1971, Chianina genetics were
introduced to the U.S. when the first semen was imported from Italy.
Diaceto I was the first Italian fullblood bull to be collected.
The first Chianina born in the U.S. was a
black half-blood Chianina x Angus/Holstein bull calf. He was born
January 31, 1972, at the Tannehill Ranch, King City, CA.
For the first few years, Chianina genetics
were attainable only through semen. United States Department of
Agriculture regulations prohibited the importation of cattle from
countries having Foot and Mouth disease, and Italy was one of those
A private quarantine station was established
in Italy where semen was collected, processed and shipped to breeders
in the U.S. For a one year period, 17 young Chianina bulls were
admitted and their semen collected.
Another avenue for obtaining fullblood
Chianina semen was from Canadian breeders. Although Italian Chianina
were not allowed to move into the U.S. from Canada, U.S. breeders
could import semen. In 1973, Italian fullblood Chianina were exported
from Canada into this country.
Fullblood Chianina have short hair that varies
from white to steel gray in color. Bulls are often a darker gray
around their front ends. Both sexes have black pigmented skin, points
and mucosa. The short horns curve forward and are usually black
in the younger animals but become lighter, beginning at the base,
as the animals mature.
The most noticeable characteristic
of the breed is the extensive and well-defined muscling. The shoulders,
back and rear quarters are especially well formed. The legs are
longer than most breeds and the bodies are not proportionally as
long as some breeds that have shorter legs. The faces are rather
long and straight. These characteristics give a distinctive appearance
The breed is often referred to as a
"terminal" breed by cattlemen. This infers that the primary use
of the breed is as the sire to animals which will all be marketed.
The herds they are used in are frequently crossbred and the Chianina
bulls provide an outstanding growth rate in the offspring of these
Cows of the breed often have small
udders and are not noted for their milk production. This is not
surprising as they were originally valued for draft and later for
Briggs, H.M. & D.M. Briggs. Modern
Breeds of Livestock. Fourth Edition. Macmillan Publishing Co.
Mason, I.L, World Dictionary of Livestock
Breeds, Third edition (1988), C.A.B International
Promotional materials from American Chianina
Association, Platte City, MO provided by Dr. Michael L. Thonney,
Professor of Animal Science, Cornell University
Dr. Robert Kropp, Oklahoma State