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Maremma: Buttero, an epic trade. Maremma’s ultimate symbol

di Nadia Fondelli – Shrouded by an aura of magic, it is an epic trade that still survives in Tuscany. The “Buttero” is the symbol of Maremma. To learn more about this figure, its history and its trade, we met with Stefano Senserini, technical manager of the Associazione Butteri d’Alta Maremma (association of Butteri of the Upper Maremma), also known as “Sensitive”, because every “buttero Online Pokies” worthy of the title has a nickname.

Who was the “buttero” traditionally and who is he today?
“buttero” is the herdsman, the person who was traditionally in charge of watching over, looking after, taming and breaking large herds of cows and horses bred in the wild.
Sadly, the land reclamation works carried out in the 1930s and ‘40s, and the agrarian reform of the 1950s, which marked the transition from the
large landed estates to sharecropping, almost caused the extinction of the “buttero”.
Wild breeding has almost disappeared, eradicating in its wake customs and traditions that have always distinguished this land. The few remaining “butteri” can be found in state or regional companies, which preserve this type of breeding more for traditional reasons than economic interests.

So, being a “buttero” today is therefore more of a passion than a job?
Today, very few
“butteri” consider their craft a profession. For the majority, it is an act of love towards this wonderful land and our grandparents, for whom being a “buttero” was an honour, a means to rise above the masses and a much coveted and admired profession, albeit a humble one.
Today, those who carry on this trade, are motivated by the desire to keep these traditions alive, to save them from being forgotten and lost forever.

So, the words “buttero” and Maremma are inseparable?
, without a doubt. “Buttero” and Maremma are two closely related concepts; the “buttero” would never have existed without the Maremma region, but it is also true that, over the centuries, the “buttero” has become the symbol of this land, virtually taking on an air of heroism and representing Maremma around the world.

Can you explain, once and for all, the differences between the cowboy and the “buttero”?
Strictly speaking,
there are few differences between the two, just as the “buttero” does not differ much from the Argentinian Gaucho. They all do the same job.
The only major difference is that the “buttero” dates much further back, given that the figure existed way before Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America, so what annoys us the most is that we are called the Italian cowboys. It’s the exact opposite: cowboys are the American “butteri”!

What did the Buttero’s duties involve?
To put it simply,
the life of the “buttero” was not an easy one; his duties involved watching over more than 500 wild Maremma cows and bulls and 120 horses every day, sitting atop a horse come rain or shine.
His working day started when it was still dark and he chose one of the 3 or 4 horses available, according to the
tasks to be performed during the day. In May, during the second half of the month, when the animals shed their winter coats, the “merca”, that is, the branding of the cattle heads, was carried out.
This was a veritable ceremony, which attracted people to the farm, signalled the official entry of the young calves and foals into the herd and offered the “buttero” the opportunity to display his skills.
With much effort and spurring, and with the aid of long sticks, the herds were guided towards an enclosure and from here each animal was separated from the group (cut out) and directed towards the
tondino (circular fence) to be branded. After being immobilized here, the animal was branded by three different men: one branded the year of birth, another the animal’s serial number (marked at either side of the rump) and a third the farm’s symbol (visible on the thigh).
One must bear in mind that
a one year-old Maremma calf is already fully developed, possesses strength and agility owing to the free life it has led, and, inside the tondino, is extremely nervous because it has been separated from the group and is surrounded by people.
The struggle to floor and fetter the calf is an dangerous one
, hence the saying: “Chi va alla merca e non è mercato, alla merca non c’è stato”, that is, he who takes part in the branding and comes out of it without a single scratch didn’t perform it in the first place…

Does transhumance still exist in this part of Italy? Can you explain what it means?
It is the
oldest method used to move the cattle from a depleted grazing land to a fresh pasture. There were two types of transhumance: one was the transhumance of sheep flocks, which descended in the autumn to winter in Maremma; an endless sea of wool marching towards the sea from the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and the Apennines north of Arezzo.
The second was the transhumance of horses, known as
estatura, which, as the word suggests in Italian, took place during the summer season to avoid malaria. Every year our association recreates the experience of transhumance, moving a herd of wild horses along a course that cuts across the glorious landscape of the Tuscan Maremma over a two-day period.

Can people take part in the transhumance experience with you?
Of course. A
nyone who owns a horse will be able to enjoy an extraordinary experience, with hot and typical, local dishes in the evenings, as well as music, dances, all in the company of cheerful people recreating ancient atmospheres.

Your association aims to spread the word about the trade and duties of the “buttero”. Which events should we not miss out on?
During the year we organi
se equestrian shows at leading Italian equestrian fairs and at shows all around the country.
The equestrian shows are the feather in our cap: they are an opportunity for us to display the Maremma horses’ qualities and consist of ancient games, typical of the region, such as the “Game of the Rose” and the spectacular
“Carousel”, a choreography of trotting and galloping movements, where horses and horsemen follow one another forming a whole with the music accompanying them as they perform breathtaking circles, serpentines and diagonals.
It is during such performances that the skills of the “buttero” and the Maremma horses are displayed to their fullest, the horse trusting its rider so blindingly as to tackle even the most dangerous of movements.
Furthermore, during the summer season, in our Puntone di Scarlino
complex, we hold set evening events (on August), featuring, in addition to the aforementioned performances, a demonstration of the “buttero’s” duties: the buttero leads a herd of Maremma cows into an enclosure and shows the public how the calves are arranged and separated during the branding phase.
From end September onwards, we organise the Colline Metallifere Transhumance, this year are celebrateed 18th year.
The event will attract riders and their horses from all over Italy and they will help us move a herd of wild foals. Last but not least, we are also proud to be co-managing, with the Bandite di Scarlino, the wild breeding of a herd of Maremma cows in the Padule di Scarlino area.
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