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Origin and diffusion area
The ancient breeding area of this breed is located in the valleys of the Magra and Vara rivers, located in the provinces of Massa Carrara and La Spezia.
Around 1940 the number of heads was around 15000 to pass in 1960 to 5700 until reaching the definitive collapse of the population, 13 heads surveyed in 1983, to then settle at the current 45 heads. The fate of the breed was determined by the continuous recourse to the replacement cross with the more productive Italian Brown.
According to many scholars, it had affinities with local ethnic groups of Emilia Romagna (Bardigiana, Valtarese, Cornigliese) all attributable to an Iberian-type population settled in the hilly and mountainous areas of the Apennines.
Unfortunately of the Emilian Breeds, only the memory and some faded photos remain and even in the Pontremolese area only a few remember the strong Bettolesi oxen, tireless companions of the local farmers who practiced poor but extremely diversified agriculture.
A proper use of the breed was the use in the Carrara area for the transport of the precious marbles from the Apuan Alps to the sea for boarding.
Since 1985 the Registry of autochthonous bovine populations and ethnic groups with limited diffusion has been established. This register was established to safeguard endangered cattle breeds that are bred in Italy and to safeguard these genetic heritages. The following breeds were admitted: Agerolese, Bianca Val Padana (Modenese), Burlina, Cabannina, Calvana, Cinisara, Garfagnina, Modicana, Cow Pisana, Pezzata Rossa dOropa, Pinzgau, Pontremolese, Pustertaler, Reggiana, Sarda, Sardo-Modicana, Varzese .
(See in-depth analysis by Dr. Alessio Zanon - RARE Association)
In the bull the coat is loaded fromentino, with a light strip along the back-lumbar line and with dark gradations on the head (provided with dark circles), on the sides of the neck, on the outside of the shoulders, on the front face of the forearms and shins, on the coronary rim of the four limbs and on the lower third of the lateral face of the trunk; the muzzle is slate colored; the head is relatively light with a straight profile; the trunk is rather short with withers slightly raised with respect to the back line. In cows the coat is pale fromentino with slight dark gradations in the regions indicated for the bull; the head is lighter and a little longer than that of the bull; the breast is globular, well attached forward and with relatively large nipples.
Given the great rusticity, this breed would adapt very well to the Cow-calf breeding system in marginal areas for the production of fattening animals. In this regard, a special brand has been established since September 1999 "Beef from Garfagnana and Valle del Serchio" which also brings together the production of another local breed at risk (Garfagnina).
Considering the breed's aptitude for producing useful milk, it would be to link this production to a typical local product. Limit to this initiative is given by ex-situ conservation which does not allow a true cultural and productive recovery of the breed.
Pontremolese cows (photo by Massimo Vannozzi - ARSIA Toscana archive)
Pontremolese cow (photo CNR)
Pontremolese bull (photo CNR)
Pontremolese breed (website photo)