By Harold McGee
Cattle are descendents of the wild ox or aurochs, Bos primigenius, which browsed and grazed in forests and plains all across temperate Eurasia. Cattle are our largest meat animals and take the longest to reach adulthood, about two years, so their meat is relatively dark and flavorful. Breeders began to develop specialized meat animals in the 18th century. Britain produced the compact, fat-carcassed English Hereford and Shorthorn and Scots Angus, while continental meat breeds remained closer to the rangy, lean draft type; these include the French Charolais and Limousin, and the Italian Chianina, which is probably the largest breed in the world (4,000-pound bulls, double the size of the English breeds).