In the 12th century, it is reported that monks in the Emilia Romagna area used Vacche rosse “Red cows” breed to produce a parmesan cheese which was similar to what we today call Parmigiano Reggiano.
From this point onward Red cows breeding started to expand to both Northern and Central Italy. It is not rare to recognise in Italian Renaissance paintings, representing the Nativity, the figure of a Red cow for parmesan chees instead of the traditional ox.
For centuries, this particular breed has been at the centre of Reggio Emilia and Parma area food and breeding development. It is reported as the most used breed for production of parmesan cheese in the region until the middle of the 20th centuries with a peak in 1954 of 139,695 livestock.
Post-war Italian zootechnics policy, in order to simplify and reduce costs of production parmesan and selection, started interbreeding the Red cow with international cow varieties for production of parmesan. In 1980 an overall Red cow livestock counting couldn’t go over 1000 units. Since then, the slowly re-flourished consideration for the quality of this breed’s milk and new quality focused strategies allowed the livestock to treble in number, encouraging an increasing number of small producers to take on the breeding of this variety for production of parmesan.