Friday, February 6, 2009
One of the most ancient breeds of cattle still alive is the Chianina. It had been depicted on Roman sarcophagi and ancient painted scrolls from antiquity. It is an enormous beast, easily surpassing 2200lbs live weight and was the beast of burden of choice for the ancient Romans as well as for the prudent contadini (peasants) for its rustic and thrifty nature. It is a beautiful pure white color with black mucous membranes and horns that are black when young and lighten on ageing.
When the tractor began to replace animal traction in the 1950's it survived due to it's popularity as a source of meat and the Florentine beefsteak still eaten in trattoria all over Italy usually comes from this breed raised in the region of Maremma in southern Tuscany.
It has been imported all over the world and in the USA, in the Northeast where small pockets of stubborn small farmers keep working the land via animal power the Chianina can also be found harnessed to the plow and cart.
2009 is the Year of the Ox according to the Chinese Zodiac and out of respect for the thousands of years that this beast has worked the fields of Italy and abroad he/she is the subject of my annual, late-to-go-out greeting cards.
Anyone interested in Animal traction in the modern age should check out Ruralheritage.com or The Small Farmers Journal for information on the economics and ethics of small farming with draft animals.
Year of the Ox
Japanese woodblock print in four colors.