The Angus and the Chianina cattle have a common ancestor in the aurochs, a 10-foot-long animal that lived from the Pleistocene era until 1627, when the last one died in Poland. The aurochs originated in Asia and spread throughout western Europe and even to the Arctic tundras, North Africa and India. It was first domesticated around 6,000 years ago though it had been hunted for much longer. The auroch's descendants are still used for their milk, meat and hides.
The Chianina is one of the oldest breeds of cattle, spoken of in poetry by Columella and Virgil, and used as models for Roman sculptures. Chianina cattle, named after the Chiana Valley in Tuscany, originated in the west central part of Italy. The foundation stock used in the United States and Canada came from Arezzo and Siena. The Angus or the Aberdeen-Angus was named after two fertile counties in Scotland and compared to the Chianina isn't a very ancient breed. They're thought to be descended from indigenous Scottish cattle. The breed was then improved in the 18th century, when farming practices in general started to be improved.
Until recently the Chianina were used as draft animals in Italy. When farming became more mechanised they were raised to produce beef, though now the chief use is to crossbreed with other breeds of cattle. Angus is renown for its well-marbled beef; the animal doesn't need too much time on feed to produce Prime and Choice grade meat. Angus bulls are also crossbred with other breeds of cows, which eliminates calving problems. Indeed, Angus are often crossed with Chianina, resulting n the ChiAngus, which has the good qualities of both breeds. The beef is excellent and the cows are fertile and have a long reproductive life.
The Chianina has extensive and well-defined muscling. The coat ranges in colour from steel grey to pure white with black skin. The shoulders, back and hindquarters are well formed and the legs are longer than the Angus', though the body isn't as proportionally long. Chianina cattle have long, straight, distinctive faces. Farmers often refer to the Chianina as a "terminal" breed, which means that the breed's primary use is to sire animals which will be sent to market, so they are frequently crossbred with other cattle. The cows have small udders and are not good milk producers.
The black colouration of the Angus acts as a sunblock and helps to prevent sun or snow burning of the udder, which may affect the white Chianina cattle. To qualify under the phenotype requirements of the Certified Angus Beef program the cattle must have at least 51 per cent black colouration and the absence of non-Angus traits like Brahman humps and dairy cattle conformation, and must be polled, or lack horns. The Angus is docile and fairly hardy, and the cows give birth easily and have good maternal instincts. Angus calves have a low birth weight but grow quickly from birth to harvest.
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