As far back as I can remember my grandpa always had cows, pigs, chickens and other domestic animals. He lives with my granny in one small village in Istria, they are both in their eighties now but the animals are still here. Well, not in the same number as in the old days but they are not giving up. Good for them!
It’s impressive to see their will for hard work even if they don’t have to do so hard anymore. Life wasn’t easy for them, that’s for sure and I guess that’s sth that always sticks with you.
Growing up around all these animals was such a privilege for my sister and me, we were really enjoying and we were always full of stories for our friends in town. Sometimes we were chased by chickens, or we spent all day jumping in hay, once someone fell in the muck and once the cows went crazy and started to run like hell all over the place. Even today when we talk about life in village our friends sometimes joke and call us little shepherdesses. But there was one animal we never dared to come close, we were too afraid…
A few animals that are very common for our region and are present in this area for centuries are: the goat (the symbol of Istria, every house use to have at least one or two of them when my parents were young), the donkey (well known for its endurance, resistance and longevity) and one amazing animal we were so afraid off, animal that always leaves me speechless, the Boskarin ox.
Boskarin is the autochthonous Istrian cattle of firm constitution, very resistant and adapted to living conditions in this area. This cattle was very widespread in Istria until the mid-twentieth century (the appearance of agricultural mechanization), it was the most important farm animal and since then the number has drastically decreased. Today the local community, Agency for rural development of Istria, Cattle Associations and others are doing a great job in protection and preservation of this breed.
Boskarin is a working animal with peaceful nature, used for plowing and towing, recently mostly for tourism advertising. This intelligent white giant reaches it’s maturity at age 6 to 7, providing long-term fertility. It’s amazing that something so big and strong manage to grew up in this waterless land stingy with food.
Oxen reach a mass of up to 1300 kg, while bulls are lighter and weigh up to 900 kg. Adult males in the reef are about 150 cm high, and cows, whose weight reaches 650 kg, are at the height of 135 to 142 cm in the ridge. Their color is light gray to white, with transitions to darker shades. The calf most often comes on the world red – brown and when is 3 to 4 months old it’s color changes to gray. The broad horns are white with black tops and have a lyrical shape. The owners sometime put brass balls on the top of the horns for protection. Milkiness is modest because this property wasn’t important for breeders.
There are a couple of fairs during the year where you can see and admire the Boskarin ox but the one on St. Jacob’s Day – “Jakovlja” in Kanfanar is the most popular. Local people participate in this exhibition and competition with their cattles in few disciplines: beauty, weight and obedience. Interesting to see is the part after they pass through Kanfanar, when the oxen try the skill of ploughing with traditional ploughs in nearby small valley, individually and in pairs. At the end of the day the best Boskarin is chosen, as well as winners in other categories. The celebration takes place in the end of July where, among other things, you can try various Istrian delicacies. Another place where you can always see Boskarin oxen are the Brioni Islands.
I’ve seen the Boskarin Cattle many times and still each time I’m impressed and stunned by it’s appearance. I feel such a respect for this animal who has passed a long and thorny way from being a working animal in fields to an animal all Istrians are proud off.