Originally from the French department Gers, this breed is particularly adapted to farm work which requires brute force, calm, and resistance to the heat; as such it was widespread until about the 1950s.
The bulls, which are very large (they can weigh up to 1,100 kg) and renowned for their strength, were fundamental in working the hard soil of their native lands. The cattle’s coat is often white with grey spots, while the muzzle and hooves are usually black.
Towards the end of their life, the animals were fattened and provided well-marbled meat, renowned for its tender consistency and exceptional flavor.
The mechanization of agriculture took place at the expense of this breed which was slowly abandoned. At the end of the 1970s there were only about 150 cows and a single pure breed bull left, raised by the very few farmers who were on the edges of the dominant standardization movement. In the 2010s, only 1400 cattle of this breed remained.
Though Mirandesa cattle no longer act as beasts of burden, they are still highly appreciated by breeders for their excellent reproductive traits and ability to fatten. In a region in which extensive agricultural practices are ever more competitive with breeding, the rustic qualities of this cattle breed give it an undeniable advantage over other breeds in recovering even the most impervious of hilly pastures.
Photos — Archivio Slow Food