Origin of Breed
During the fourth century AD, the barbarian hordes of the Goths, led by Aginulf, reached Europe with all their goods, including cattle. Part of these populations settled in the fertile lands of Romagna, their cattle becoming the ancestors of the Romagnola breed. The Romangnola breed of cattle derives from the Bos primigenius podolicus, a wild ox that lived on the Italian peninsula. For centuries, the main purpose of these animals was to assist man in tilling the fertile plains. Due to mechanization and the development of agricultural techniques, selection in this breed was aimed more towards beef production, rather than their dual purpose of dairy. In the middle of the 19th century, Leopoldo Tosi, an engineer living in the Romagna town of San Mauro Pascoli, established the first selectively bred herd of Romagnola. This herd served as the foundation of today's breed. The bull Medoro, who was raised on Tosi’s estate, is considered to be the founder of our modern day Romagnola. Medoro was born in 1920 and then bought and transferred to Gambellara, a small town close to Ravenna, where he served at stud for thirteen years. Medoro was responsible for a definite change in the basic structure of Romagnola cattle toward a modern type where strength, muscling and thickness were the main characteristics.
Immediately before World War II, the Romagnola breed was at its peak, with the population close to 700,000 head. The official herd book was initiated with Medoro in the 1920's. After the war 550,000 animals were left. From this period of glory a series of factors including the mechanization of agriculture, the end of tenant farming, the rapid expansion of intensive fruit growing and the progressive reduction of profitability from cattle breeding all caused the breed's numbers to decline from 550,000 in 1953 to the 15,000 remaining today. Starting in the Seventies, the breed has been introduced in a number of countries abroad such as Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and Mexico.
Romagnola are among the largest of the beef breeds. The Romagnola ranges from ivory to light grey in color with black-pigmented skin including the muzzle, horn tips, hooves and tail switch. Their coloring aids them in hot climates and they grow dense coats in winters. Romagnola calves are born a light reddish color and turn white after about three months of age. Both sexes are horned, which are lyre-shaped in cows and half-moon shaped in bulls. They are very muscular over the loin, rump and through the shoulders and the lower thigh is especially pronounced. Although their very heavy muscling was once sought for draft, that characteristic is now attracting attention to them for meat purposes.
Mature bulls weigh around 2,700 lbs. while mature cows weigh between 1,100 and 1,600 lbs.
Romagnola are extremely well muscled, are tolerant of both heat and cold, have good
dispositions and reach sexual maturity relatively early for a large breed. Rapid gain, economical feed conversion, good dressing percentages and a good quality carcass are breed traits. Bulls are noteworthy for their excellent libido, clean sheaths, and pendulous scrotums. Cows are known for their well-tucked udders.
Development in America
International interest in the Romagnola breed has been steadily increasing since the first cattle left Italy for Scotland in the early 1970's. Today the breed is present in Great Britain, Ireland, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
Registry and Improvement Programs
The Romagnola & RomAngus Cattle Association is headquartered in LaCygne, KS. The Association provides registrations, transfers, performance data, and member services.