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 misleading term. In reality, the dysfunctional 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 dual-purpose animals...having very rich milk used for specialty cheese production and beef marketed as a premium product.
Below is an excerpt from 'Breed Contra Beef: The Making of the Piedmontese Cattle' authored by Annalisa Colombino and Paolo Giaccaria.
Anaborapi wrote a new chapter in the history of the Piedmontese, by dispatching one bull (named Brindisi) and four dams (called Banana, Biba, Bisca and Binda) to Saskatchewan, Canada, in the autumn of 1979. The following year, five more bulls (Captain, Champ, Corallo, Camino and Domingo) were shipped to Canada. Subsequently, in the early 1980s three bulls (Istinto, Imbuto and Iose) and two cows (India and Gazza) were exported again from Italy to the United States. These animals supplied the original genetic base for the Piedmontese breed in North America. Today, there are livestock of Piedmontese in several countries: China, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico and Switzerland.
It must be noted that the Piedmontese breed attracts international attention as it can be used for crossbreeding and improving ‘meat yield, meat tenderness and feed efficiency.' Farmers and companies in the meat industry are interested into the Piedmontese because they can produce tender and lean beef with ‘more quality cuts than other breeds.' Furthermore, it ‘offers great potential to lean beef marketing programs.' The Piedmontese fills, especially in the USA, a niche market where it is advertised as premium and ‘healthy’ beef as this latter has very little fat and it is tender (Certified Piedmontese®). With an increase of the demand for leaner meat, interest for the Piedmontese has grown in different parts of the world.