Origin of Breed
In secluded valleys of the northern French Alps, the breed with the common name of Tarine was likely the result of the crossbreeding of Bos taurus Alpinus and Bos taurus Jurassicus. The bloodlines of both descended from an even more ancient cattle line either out of Indo-Asia that made it’s way to Western Europe, the migration taking place long before the time of the Roman Empire. The breed then developed separately from any other breed of cattle over many centuries because of the geographic isolation of the area, adapting to the different challenges of the environment.
In the mid-1800’s, cattle breeders of the Savoie region of France recognized the many desirable traits found in the sturdy reddish-brown cattle that lived in the high mountains year round. Climbing at these altitudes made for natural muscling and marbling, as well as developing a robust cardiovascular system. The cattle were originally introduced in 1857 at the county fair in Mont Brison in Savoie with the breed name Savoyarde. In 1861, the Savoie Duchy again became part of France.
In 1861, the cattle became a French breed and it was named Tarentaise after the Tarentaise Valley above which most of the breed lived. In 1863, the French National Agricultural Fair officially recognized the Tarentaise breed. Work began in 1866 to decide the elements to select for in the Tarine/Tarentaise cattle. The first Herd Book was created in 1888, and the official name “Tarentaise” for the cattle breed was adopted at that time.
Their original Fullblood Tarentaise breed color is Auburn, with distinctive dark markings on their legs, and dark pigmentation around the eyes and orifices. Their heads are shorter from poll to muzzle than other French breeds, and can be concave in shape. Fullblood Tarentaise have horns that are not very long and have an upward curve. Polled Purebred Tarentaise can be found in the United States. Bulls have masculine heads with wide foreheads, naturally thick, well-developed necks. Mature cows have feminine characteristics about the head and neck, with dark eyes. Their udders are strongly attached and evenly sloped with finger size teats with dark pigmentation. The dark pigmentation found on the Tarentaise offers good protection from sun-related disorders. Tarentaise have long necks and bodies, straight backs, are extra long from hooks to pins and their shoulders blend smoothly into their bodies. Hooves are black and extremely hard.
Mature bulls weigh from 1,600 to 2,100 lbs. while mature Tarentaise cows weigh from weigh from 900 to 1,300 lbs.
Tarentaise are primarily a dairy breed in their native France, where test performances show average milk production of 10,000 lbs. with high butterfat.
They have a long-term proven track record in crossbreeding with British breeds and have unmatched longevity traits. Cows are very maternal, with high calving ease and excellent milk quality. Because of their origin in the mountains, they have a high adaptability to extreme changes and have the ability to travel long distances for feed and water. They are very docile and are easy to work with in any operation. Tarentaise are known for genetically trim back fat and high cutability, high quality meat and feed conversion efficiency.
Development in America
In 1972, Canada imported the first Tarentaise, a bull named Alpin. A year later, Tarentaise were introduced to the United States, beginning in the northern plains states, and eventually found in all corners of the continent. The American Tarentaise Association was formed in 1973, while the Canadian Tarentaise Association was formed in the early 1970’s.
Registry and Improvement Programs
The American Tarentaise Association is headquartered in Elkhorn, NE. The Association provides registrations, transfers, performance data, sales and member services as well as a junior program, shows and scholarships.