The Mediterranea Italiana is a breed of Italian river buffalo that are well known for their milk-yielding abilities. Although these bovids have been used as draught animals, to keep waterways, channels, drainage systems clean from weeds. In Europe, the buffalo population had dramatically been declining since the World War II, with the introduction of the Holstein dairy cattle, and with gradual mechanization.
|Also known as||Italian Mediterranean, Bufala Mediterranea Italiana|
|Physical Characteristics||The structure has a compact conformation with a deep, wide chest and a developed pectoral; the back is short; the rump is short, and the udder is medium size with the quarters squarely placed; the teats are cylindrical|
|Skin Color||Black, black and brown, dark grey or slate|
|Horn||Horns are flat at the base, backwards, and are slightly pointed outwards while the top is pointed inwards|
|Uses||Milk production, dairy; also for meat production; formerly drought, ploughing|
|Milk Production||Normally 1600–1800 kg per lactation period (up to 3000 kg)|
|Meat Production||250-400 kg (Average slaughter weight at 12-15 months)|
|Popular Traits||Yielding high quality milk; hardy and economical to rear|
|Calving||At age 50 months (average)|
|Lactation Duration||277 days|
|Lifespan/Expectancy||15 to 18 years|
|Weight||Male: Average 500–600 kg (up to 800 kg);|
Female: Average 300–450 kg (up to 650 kg)
|Height (size)||Male: 143 cm;|
Female: 135 cm
|Food/Diet||Coarse feed, straw and corn products, roughage etc.|
|Country of Origin||Italy|
There are several theories that suggest the introduction of these bovines in Italy, however, none are confirmed. One theory suggests that, it was during the time of the Roman Empire that the Mediterranea Italiana was introduced in into the realms of Italia. However, it is also thought that, this breed of cattle was brought in to Italy during the time of the Barbarian invasions of Italy.
In 1980, within a year from the formation of the ‘Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Specie Bufalina’ (National Buffalo Species Farmers’ Association), a genealogical herd-book for this breed was opened. The breed got an official recognition in 2000.
In Italy, the Mediterranean type has particularly been named as the ‘Mediterranean Italian’ breed so as to differentiate it from the other European breeds, which genetically differ from the other.
Other than Italy, the Mediterranean buffalo are also found in Greece, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, and with a few hundred in Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Milk and Dairy Products
There is a dramatic variability in the average daily milk production for these bovines. It mainly depends on the daily feeding system. Milk production can range from 3 – 4 kg per day for bovines that are fed poorly, up to 15 kg/day in case of intensive management systems. Their milk has 40% more protein, 43% less cholesterol, and 58% more calcium than cow milk. The fat content is 7.92%.
These buffalo are raised, following selective breeding, primarily for yielding buffalo milk for the production of buffalo mozzarella. Other dairy products like yoghurt, scamorza di bufala, stracchino di bufala, stracciatella di bufala, burrata, caciotta di bufala, and ricotta di bufala are also made from their milk.
- The Italian Mediterranean is the only indigenous water buffalo breed in Italy.
- Mozzarella made of Mediterranea Italiana milk has a ‘DOP’ status, a quality assurance label for Italian food products (especially Italian wine and cheese).