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Ramo Grande - cow - Portugal

Ramo Grande
(most common name)

The Ramo Grande is said to be essentially a mix of the Minhota, the Mirandesa, the Flemish Red and, most importantly, the Alentejana. Specific characteristics from these breeds combined into what eventually became the basis of the ‘raça da terra’ of the Azores. The importation of exotic breeds starting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have also, no doubt, played a part in the Ramo Grande’s present-day genetics.

In the Azores archipelago, cattle were first introduced to Terceira Island in the early 15th century. Ramo Grande is the common local name for the northeastern part of this island and it served as the initial site of colonization due to its richness in natural resources. Ramo Grande is still a very fertile agricultural region where today the municipality and seaport of Praia da Vitória can be found.

The Ramo Grande cattle breed is strong and sturdy, has very hard hooves, and can grow to enormous stature. Historical writings have the bulls reaching 1.7 meters (around 5.5 feet) at the withers. Their coat color is predominately a unicolor red. What kind of red and its intensity depends on which island they are now found, e.g. Terceira describes theirs as a flaming red and São Jorge describes theirs as a cherry red.

The Ramo Grande is a triple-purpose animal (as would be expected of an island breed) used for work, meat and milk. They are also used for crossing with specialized beef breeds. Their value for milk has declined over the last century due greatly to the importation of Holstein-Friesians into the Azores. In addition, mechanization has taken over much of their previous duties in agricultural work. However, their use as a triple-purpose breed does continue; the level of importance of each individual purpose is determined on each individual island.

On all islands, the primary focus is now on meat and, to a lesser degree, milk production. When it comes to work, on Terceira their ‘work’ consists mainly of being admired and pulling carts of various sorts, especially during parades celebrating the island’s cultural traditions. On São Jorge, which has a rugged terrain, oxen of both sexes are put to the more serious work of hauling cargo and such.

In 2016, Ramo Grande cattle were counted on six islands (Terceira, São Jorge, Graciosa, Faial, Pico and São Miguel) — each having a very small population. Although natural breeding with bulls on the farm is predominantly done, artificial insemination is becoming more popular. Because their numbers are so low, conservation and genetic improvement programs are both in place.

(Portuguese) Ramo Grande = Branch Big
(Portuguese) raça da terra = race of the earth

Ramo Grande - bull - Portugal Ramo Grande - heifer calf - Portugal Ramo Grande - heifer - Portugal

This page was last updated on: 2019-12-16


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