The daily pattern of total locomotor activity (TLA) of cattle kept in different housing conditions was investigated in order to evaluate whether TLA could be used as a useful index of animal welfare. Twenty Modicana cattle were divided into two equal groups: Group A, housed in a grazing area of 5 hectare, and Group B, housed in a paddock of 200 m2. Animals were equipped with activity-monitoring data loggers (Actiwatch-Mini®) to record the daily TLA for 7 days. The trigonometric statistical model, used to describe the rhythmic parameters (mesor, amplitude, acrophase and robustness of rhythm), indicated a diurnal rhythm of TLA in cattle. Animals belonging to Group B showed lower TLA, an anticipation of acrophase (time of activity peak) of TLA, and lower values of Mesor, amplitude and robustness of rhythm compared to Group A (p < 0.05). These results suggest that cattle in the paddock condition showed disturbed physiological characteristics of TLA displaying a flattening in its daily pattern compared to animals kept in the grazing area. This aspect should be taken into consideration of farming management in the planning of housing conditions, which should respect the requirement of locomotor activity and related physiological behaviors of cattle in order to guarantee the animal welfare.