Italian Cowboys Refuse to Ride Off Into History

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ALBERESE, Italy — On a recent dewy morning on this flat stretch near the Tuscan coast, a man rode his horse with the reins in one hand and a long, hooked, wooden stick in the other.

The man, Stefano Pavin, is one of a dwindling handful of what are known as butteri, Italian cowboys, who for centuries have roamed the marshes of the Maremma, a coastal area that stretches across parts of the Tuscany and Lazio regions, herding maremmana cattle, a local breed famous for their large bellies and long, lyre-shaped horns....

The modern world, while slow to seep in here, has not been kind to the Maremma and its cattle (a large breed, with bulls reaching more than 2,500 pounds). Much pastureland is required for the cattle to breed in the wild, but after World War I the state confiscated and carved up many of the large landed estates that had provided that space.

In the 1930s, Mussolini drained much of the swampland, and in the 1950s tractors replaced the cattle, which were raised for farm work as well as for meat....

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