The first bibliographical sources and the territorial expansion of the Cow-buffalo

With the name "buffalo" are denoted some species of cattle indigenous to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia; they are diffused whether in wildstate or in domestic state.
Buffalos are accustomed to living exspecially in damp and marshy zones, even if today, some ancestral behaviors have been modified by modern cattle-breeding.
In spite of the shortage of bibliographic sources, in Italy, the presence of these animals can be placed between the XII and the XIII century, in a sure and documented way.
At the beginning of the second millenium,the breeding of the buffalo developed mainly inside of the big monastic orders; during the Middle Ages, they operated actively in the field of the breeding and in the agricultural one. These facts are testified by some documents between which that discovered in the Episcopal Archieves of the XII century; moreover, this document had reported in the writing of the historian Monsignore Alicandri of the Metropolitan Church of Capua, and it was named "Il mazzone nell'antichita' e nei tempi moderni"; from this document we can deduce that the consumption of cow-buffalo cheeses became a part of ecclesiastic and laic customs in this period.
From another document, "Acta Imperia Seculi XIII e XIV", we can learn that the commercial valuation of buffalo animal was superior to that of bovine animal.
In 1300, therefore, the breeding of buffalos was an economic reality very rooted in the south of Italy, in the Pontifical State and also outside Lazio; so that we have newses about a regulation which disciplined the commerce of buffalos and of buffalo leather in 1360 in Rome.
From this period, cow-buffalos became the uncontested queen of the marshy zones, when to the impossibility of cultivation united the malaria which provoked the progressive depopulation of these territories from man.
The hydrologic disorder and the turn into a swamp of a lot of coastal areas of the peninsula created the favorable conditions to the diffusion of the breeding of the buffalos which started his expansion in Campania, in Puglia, in Calabria, in Lazio and in Marche.
Buffalos spread, rapidly, in Low Volturno and in Sele Plain ; they exploited the pastures otherwise not utilizable because of the periodic floods of the two rivers.
Buffalos were strong animals, resistant to diseases, able to provide their own contribution to the work of the man with quite null costs and in very hard conditions.
Other wealth of these animals was the production of milk in abundance in the winter periods; from milk they produced appreciated cheeses: casicaballus ("caciocavallo"), butyrus (butter), recocta (buttermilk curd or "ricotta"), and provaturo ("provola").
In the Sforzesco Archieves of Milan are preserved some documents, which testify the presence of the buffalo also in some north regions; but here, they didn't find the same environment which allowed the spreading of them in the south.

In the half of the second millennium, the breeding of buffalos became an economic and social reality diffused especially in the marshy zones of the central and south Italy. The breeding was based on transhumance and on the wild aspect of the behaviour of the animals.

Between the XVII and the XIX century, the breeding of the cow-buffalos was diffused firmly in a great many of the south zones of the peninsula.
While before milk had been worked and transformed in cheese in the same place where the milking took place, from 1600, it has been worked in the "bufalare"; they were costructions in masonry of a circula shape, with a central chimney which allowed whether to heat milk for the curdling, or to provide hot water for the modelling of the forms.
Of this period, we can find newses on registers of slaughter of buffalo animals and of their price, confirming the use of the cow-buffalo meat in that period; generally, their meat wasn't much appreciated, because the animals had been slaughtered in advanced age, and therefore their meatresulted very hard and it had a marked taste of musk.
The hide of the buffalo, instead, had been sold well in Costantinople and on the coasts of North Africa, where important tannery rose.

At the beginning of the XIX century the breeding of the buffalos was tied still to systems of primitive breeding; infact it used a half-wild system which required investments, expenses and risks reduced to the minimum, giving birth to a real fortune for the marshy regions which could not have found another form of exploitation and therefore of income.
The different productions of milk, hide and meat has been used differently in the peninsula, where the breeding had been practised; in the south of the areas of Caserta and of Salerno, the buffalos had been bred exclusively for the production of the milk, transformed then subsequently in cheese; in the zones of Toscana, the productions of meat and hide were the most requested.

In the XX century, with the advancing of the work of reclamation, the breeding of the buffalos its territory contracting, but it didn't modify its half-wild and primitive characteristics.
The first innovations were had only with the effectiveness of the law on the integral reclamation, the complete transformation happened thanks to the norms of the agrarian Reform and of the uncultivated lands. The reclamation of Agro Pontino, of Low Valley of Sele, of Volturno and of other zones of Italy in the pre-war period, and the agrarian reform of the second postwar period contracted the area of breeding of the cow-buffalos to limited zones of Campania, of Lazio and of Puglia.
In this period, the breeding had a decisive turning-point of renewal,changing from a traditional half-wild and travelling form, to another one compatible with the new territorial order.
The experimentation accomplished in the first postwar period, and subsequently in the 40s, showed that the transformation of the breeding of cow-buffalos was possible without excessive difficulty and without the need of the animals to bathe in summer, provided they had been sheltered from the solar radiations and from the punctures of the bugs; these experimentation were possible thanks to the intuition of Maymone, before in Salerno and then to the experimental Institute of the zootechnics in Rome.
So,the modern breeding of the cow-buffalos began asserting and bettering; today, techniques and machineries more and more modern make of it a sector in the van and ready to new challenges and horizons.

How contact us

previous Home page next