Detail of a buttero cowboy on horseback showing the saddle

Butteri – Italian Cowboys of the Maremma

The fascinating world of the butteri, the cattle breeders and horsemen of the Maremma in Italy’s wild west

by Edel Cassidy
Words Edel Cassidy

Famed for its exceptional art and architecture, beautiful landscapes and excellent wines, Tuscany is considered one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. Among its most popular destinations are some of Italy’s best-loved cities: Florence, Siena, Pisa and Lucca.

Maremma, one of the most interesting but less well-known regions, stretches along the Tyrrhenian coastline in south-western Tuscany and over the border into northern Lazio. Because this district is largely unexplored by tourists, it remains wild and unspoiled with many interesting things to see and do. It is characterised by breathtakingly beautiful beaches, medieval villages, thermal baths and ancient castles. 

Man on horseback galloping and kicking up dust
A buttero galloping in Tuscany‘s Maremma region

This is also cowboy country, home to the butteri, or cowboys, of the area, a legendary group of livestock herders whose origins can be traced back to Etruscan times. The butteri traditionally ride Maremmano horses, a hardy breed native to the region usually bay, brown, dark chestnut or black in colour.

For hundreds of years, these cattle breeders and horsemen have tended to herds of Maremmana cattle, one of Europe’s oldest breeds. The adult animals have an intense greyish-white coat and characteristic long, wavy horns. Nowadays, these extraordinarily rustic and long-lived cattle are primarily raised for meat production, but they were also once used as draft animals. 

The typical attire of a buttero consists of coarse moleskin pants and matching vest, velvet jacket, flat-heeled high-top boots, small spurs and a large-brimmed felt hat. He often carries the mazzarella, a hand-carved wooden staff with a crook on one end and fork on the other, which is used to open gates, herd cattle and train horses. 

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  • Butteri – Italian Cowboys of the Maremma’ is published in Anthology Volume 17. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
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