Origin of Breed
The Chianina may well be one of the oldest breeds of cattle in existence. They were praised by the Georgic poets, Columella and Vergil, and were the models for Roman sculptures. The name comes from the Chiana Valley in the province of Tuscany in Central Italy where breed primarily originated. The largest representatives of the breed are from the plains of Arezzo and Siena. These have supplied the foundation for most of the stock that has been used in the United States and Canada. Chianina were originally used primarily as draft animals to assist with farming in their homeland. Today, with modern mechanized farming practices Chianina’s main function is to produce beef.
Chianina is one of the largest breeds of cattle in the world. They have short hair that varies from white to steel grey in color. Bulls are often a darker grey around their front end. Both Chianina males and females have black-pigmented skin, including a black tongue, palate, nose, eye area and switch. This pigmentation provides them excellent resistance to pinkeye and eye cancer. The breed is naturally horned although many today are polled through breeding programs. Their short horns curve forward and are black but become lighter as the animals mature with age.
The most noticeable characteristic of the breed is their well-defined muscling. Their shoulders, back and rear quarters are well formed with shape and dimension. Their legs are longer than most breeds and their faces are rather long and straight.
Mature bulls weigh around 2500 to 2800 lbs. while the average Chianina cow stands 1600-1800 lbs.
The Chianina Breed is known for their large frame and strength. They possess a high heat tolerance, still finishing well in tropical areas. Hybrid vigor is one of their strengths as they are frequently used in crossbred operations. Chianina bulls are known to provide an outstanding growth rate in the offspring of these crossbred females. Hardiness is one of their physical strengths, as they were originally used for draft animals. Cows of the breed often have small udders and are not noted for their milk production. Chianinas are late-maturing, and are therefore suitable for production of yearling and older beef.
Development in America
U.S. servicemen discovered Chianina while stationed in Italy during World War II. In 1971, Chianina genetics were introduced to the U.S. when the first semen was imported from Italy. The first Chianina born in the U.S. was a black half-blood Chianina x Angus/Holstein bull calf born January 31, 1972, at the Tannehill Ranch, King City, CA.
For several years, Chianina genetics were only attainable through semen. Unfortunately, new United States Department of Agriculture regulations prohibited the importation of cattle from countries having Foot and Mouth disease. Italy was one of those countries. A
private quarantine station was established in Italy where semen was collected, processed and shipped to breeders in the U.S.
Canadian breeders were another way to obtain fullblood Chianina semen. Although Italian Chianina cattle were not allowed to move into the U.S. from Canada, U.S. breeders could still import their semen. In 1973, Italian fullblood Chianina were exported from Canada into the U.S.
The American Chianina Association was established in June 1972, in Kansas City, MO. Breeders desired a central location to register and transfer their seed stock while keeping a dynamic herd book. Currently, the association has nearly 1000 members and 300,000 registered head of cattle.
Registry and Improvement Programs
The American Chianina Association is headquartered in Platte City, MO. The Association provides registrations, transfers, member benefits, and sales as well as junior programs, shows, and scholarships.