FarmVille portraits of animals (almost) lost - PhMuseum

FarmVille portraits of animals (almost) lost

Emanuela Colombo

2017

Italy

According to FAO about 6400 species, belonging to 30 species among mammals and birds, are bred all over the world. Over 1300 species are at very high risk of extinction, namely there are less than 100 females and less than 5 males. The European scenario confirms these data: domestic species of mammals recorded in Europe represent 40% of the world total of which more than 500 have already disappeared while as many are in a critical situation.

In Italy barns, chicken coops, sheepfolds are now literally empty and 38 species of sheep, 24 of cattle, 22 of goats, 19 of horses, 10 of pigs, 10 of poultry and 7 of donkeys are at risk of disappearing. Among these, the small white Asinara’s donkey, of which there are still about 90 individuals in the wild on the Asinara island and in the forest of Porto Conte. Not to mention the last remaining 400 Girgentane goats with corkscrew-shaped long-horned reared for the production of milk used for “Tuma” cheese which is aged in plaster or stone crevices. Moreover the Garfagnina cattle with “frosted” coat and slate-coloured skin that include a population of only 145 head of cattle and last but not least the “Cabannina” species with only 200 left.

To be able to tell about this situation, I took in account some of the most endangered domesticated species in Italy. The images were treated as if they were old family pictures hung on walls covered with wallpaper in the house of an old lady where friends and relatives now disappeared, are living in memory thanks to an old framed photograph.

All these beautiful animals will run this same risk.

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  • Albino donkey of Asinara Island: the white donkey of Asinara island is a variant of the commoner Sardinian donkey. This variety is present in limited numbers on the island of Asinara and in the forest of Porto Conte. Some of these animals can now be found in other parts of Sardinia, but only thanks to recent species conservation programmes. The white donkey reaches about 1 m in height at the withers; it has a heavy head, a short neck and thin but robust limbs and a thick coat. The features that distinguish this particular animal type are: the snow white colouring of its coat, whose texture is rather soft and little bristly, the pinkish colour of its skin and a partial pink-blue pigmentation of the iris.

  • Garganica Goat: the Garganica Goat is an old local breed typical of the Gargano promontory, where the rearing has always played a key role in the economy. Its rearing has a dual purpose as it is a dairy and meat species bred in the wild. It is immediately recognizable at sight for some physical features: it has a long, smooth and raven black coat, with a long-crested beard under the chin, slightly flattened and twisted horns with divergent arc-shaped tips. The Gargano goat milk is traditionally used for the production of some types of cheese: the canestrato and cacioricotta. In recent years the number of these animals has drastically decreased despite the features of rusticity and adaptability of the breed, making it perfect for the soil and climate of the Gargano area.

  • Leprino Rabbit of Viterbo: the presence of this rabbit in Viterbo area goes back to the time of the Etruscans. In the Middle Ages, the local people continued to feed on hares and rabbits, probably bred in the wild, just as the monks of the Tiber island on Lake Bolsena did in the same territory. In the following years the native rabbit was crossed with other breeds, thus losing its original purity and even its numerical significance. In the 1970s, the turning point: thanks to the research done by prof. Alessandro Finzi and the University of Viterbo, the pristine features of the native rabbit were recovered, and in 1978 a cooperative of rabbit farmers selected the rabbit breed "Leprino of Viterbo" for its development and commercialization. The return to this breed has been so successful that today this species is regarded as an excellence of Tuscia (Viterbo).

  • Frabosana Sheep: it’s a local breed of sheep reared in the valleys of the Cuneo area and it was, until a few decades ago, the most dairy breed reared in Piedmont. It is now mostly present in the following territories: Valli Monregalesi, Alta Val Tanaro, Gesso, Vermenagna and Pesio (in the province of Cuneo) and in Valle Pellice near Turin. It is very similar, in features and in production terms, to the Brigasca sheep reared in the neighboring territories of Liguria and Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur, in fact it is assumed the same origin. The number of this animal population is estimated in a range between 6 -7,000 individuals and it is included among the breeds at risk of extinction by the European Community legislation.

  • Garfagnina cow: it comes from the Garfagnana area and it would descend from the primitive Podolica cattle. It has undergone a dramatic reduction since the second World War. It is now reduced to a few hundred animals which are predominantly bred free range.


  • Brianzola sheep: the Brianzola sheep, for its morphology, is connected to the giant mountain meat sheep group. In the past it was widely spread in the area amidst Como, Lecco and Monza, reaching, in those years, the peak number of over four thousand animals. The preservation area of the animal population is currently located in the foothills amidst the towns of Proserpio, Cesana Brianza, Suello, Civate, Valmadrera and Galbiate. Today in this area there are about thirty breeding farms, for a total of about 700 animals raised, where you can find over 250 animals still bearing the standard features of the species.

  • Mora Romagnola Pig: it is a native breed of pig that is in danger of extinction: in 1949 there were about 22,000 animals, which fell, a few years ago, to less than 15. The Mora Romagnola is recognizable at once for its dark brown hair that tends to black, almond-shaped eyes and for the presence of very long fangs, such as to make them seem more like wild boars than pigs. With the spread of factory farms this species has been completely abandoned. Like many old breeds, the Mora Romagnola pig is vigorous, suitable for fattening and very rustic: ideal for free-range farming systems.

  • Girgentana Goat: its name comes from Girgenti (now Agrigento) and this species is absolutely unmistakable thanks to its long spiral horns. Its coat and horns are reminiscent of Asian species still living in the wild and its origin, according to some, is to be found among the goats of Tibet. The introduction of hygienic requirements and the increasing consumption of heat-treated milk, resulted in the drastic reduction of reared animals: from 30 thousand in the 1950s to little more than 500 units nowadays.


  • TPR horse: the historical absence of an equine stock of Italian origin, to be used in heavy work in the agricultural and military fields, was at the origin of the selection process of this breed. Between 1911 and 1926, the crossbreeding of Breton stallions with mares of various origins already existing in the Veneto-Friulian plain, allowed the breeders to get a medium-heavy sized horse, though elegant in its movements. Its use as a working breed for agricultural activities and for medium-heavy civilian and military transport, reached a crisis point in the 1960s with the spreading of mechanization in transport and agriculture. The breeding of the TPR underwent a considerable downsizing, but the economic interest, took on for food production, avoided its disappearance.

  • Brianzolo Turkey: it is a native breed of Lombardy, of medium size; it is a fast growing species and disease resistant other than being an untiring walker. Females are excellent brooding hens. It has become rather rare since poultry industry is more interested in larger and heavier animals. Amateur farmers, in particular, devote themselves to this type of rearing as well as family-run farms which use their meat for their own consumption.


  • Pontremolese cow: it is the Italian cattle race with the fewest number of units, all gathered in three breeding farms in the area of Garfagnana, outside the ancient breeding territory located in the valleys of the rivers Magra and Vara in the provinces of Massa Carrara and La Spezia. Around 1940, the number of livestock was around 15000 to reach, in 1960, 5700 units until the final collapse of the population: 13 animals recorded in 1983, and consequently lining up to the current 45 units. The fate of the breed was determined by the continual recourse to the replacement crossbreeding with the most productive Italian brunette.

  • The Pisana Cow: the Pisana cow is a breed that, among those who run the risk of extinction, is the least old and at the same time the less standardized. It is the result of a series of cross-breeding that have gradually changed its morphological and productive skills. Talks about it go back to the late 1700, but after the second world war the number of these animals has decreased. This was due to the uncontrolled cross-breeding, human neglect and a poor administration of domestic affairs which led again to the deterioration of the quality of life and to a numeric decay of the only surviving cattle. We can now talk about an all-time low under one hundred units.

  • Orobica goat: the Orobica goat has impressive horns that twist sideways. It’s a long-haired goat with a multi coloured coat with a predominance of black-gray tones at the rear and white-beige ones at the front. The history of this breed is not sure, but the most accepted hypothesis is that it is from Val Gerola, in the province of Sondrio. The geographical isolation of this area favoured, over time, its diversification compared to other goat breeds and its rusticity has enabled it to adapt well to the inaccessible pastures of these mountains. The marketing of most productive goat breeds in recent decades has dramatically reduced the number of this species. Many farmers abandoned their activity leaving grazing areas unattended.


  • Spanish chicken breed with white face: It is a very old breed that originated from the mutation of the Spanish countryside chickens. The current type was selected, and first presented at exhibitions in England. It was born as an egg-laying and meat chicken and it comes from the crossbreeding of many Dutch and Spanish species. In the 20th century this breed has become mainly a chicken for exhibition, thanks to various physical features, including its characteristic wattle. In the late 90's German and English farmers focused on saving this species, held on the threshold of extinction, ever since its birth, due to its unpopularity and to the loss of its reproductive features.


  • Brianzola sheep: the Brianzola sheep, for its morphology, is connected to the giant mountain meat sheep group. In the past it was widely spread in the area amidst Como, Lecco and Monza, reaching, in those years, the peak number of over four thousand animals. The preservation area of the animal population is currently located in the foothills amidst the towns of Proserpio, Cesana Brianza, Suello, Civate, Valmadrera and Galbiate. Today in this area there are about thirty breeding farms, for a total of about 700 animals raised, where you can find over 250 animals still bearing the standard features of the species.


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