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Cinisara and Modicana

black cattle of Sicily

The hardy, coal black Cinisara is a traditional, very rustic breed of cattle from the Palermo area that has been revived after nearly going extinct in the 1980s. The story goes that a shipload of cattle brought to Sicily by the Spanish rulers for bull fights wrecked near Cinisi; the survivors swam to shore and headed for the hills. The breed's ability to thrive in the mountains on wild herbs ('The Cinisara cow licks stones and makes milk) in hot dry conditions has increased interest in recent years; its meat is tasty (in Sicily you are apt to see carpaccio di cinisara) and its fatty milk goes into ricotta, caciocavallo, casciotta and a local caciocavallo called Godrano made around Corleone. In the Slow Food Presidium.

Another similar (but genetically different breed), the Modicana from southeast Sicily is more common and successfully brought to Sardinia (Modicana Sarda); once bred for field work, it is now mostly used for milk and cheese production, especially for making caciocavallo and ragusano.

Meats & Poultry


Slow Food

Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Image by ilgiornaledelcibo