25,000 years ago a migration of Zebu or Brahman cattle from Pakistan made its way into north western Italy. Blocked by the Alps Mountains from moving further, these cattle stayed and intermingled with the local "native" cattle - the Auroch.
This blend of Bos Taurus (Auroch) and Bos Indicus (Brahman) evolved in that harsh terrain over thousands of years of natural selection to become the Piedmontese breed of today. There are several breeds from Italy which also show the influence of this Brahman migration - these are the so-called Italian "white breeds"...but the similarity to the Piedmontese does not go further than the color. All Italian white breeds, Piedmontese included, are born 'fawn' or tan and change to the grey-white color, with black skin pigmentation. The Piedmontese, however, also carry genetic traits absolutely unique to them.
The Italian Herdbook was opened in 1887, after the appearance of 'double muscling' was noted in the cattle in 1886. Over one hundred years later, the genetic component which gives rise to the greatly increased 'muscle' (beef) production of this breed was discovered. MYOSTATIN.
Myostatin occurs naturally in all mammals. Its effect is to restrict muscle growth. However, when the gene has naturally mutated, as is the case with the Piedmontese cattle, it can become in-active and no longer prevents muscle development. This allows for what has been called "double muscling" - a very mis-leading term. In reality, the disfunctional Myostatin removes the "growth governor" and allows these cattle to develop on average 14 percent more muscle mass than cattle with functional myostatin.
In Italy, the Piedmontese have been (and many still are today) utilized as a dual-purpose animal...having very rich milk used for specialty cheese production and beef marketed as a premium product.
As of January 2003, all A.I. fullblood Piedmontese sires in Italy for the past 30 years have been tested for the myostatin gene - and ALL have carried 2 copies.