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Texas Longhorn

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Title: Texas Longhorn  
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Subject: Cattle drives in the United States, Remuda, San Antonio Academy, The Rare Breed, Hugh McColl
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Texas Longhorn

A Texas Longhorn cow

The Texas Longhorn is a breed of cattle known for its characteristic horns, which can extend to 7 ft (2.1 m)[1] tip to tip for steers and exceptional cows, and 36 to 80 in (0.91 to 2.03 m) tip to tip for bulls. Similar cattle were imported by Spanish colonists into other parts of North America, including California and Florida. Horns can have a slight upward turn at their tips or even triple twist. Texas Longhorns are known for their diverse coloring. A longhorn can be any color or mix of colors but dark red and white color mixes are the most dominant. Texas Longhorns with elite genetics can often fetch $40,000 or more at auction with the record of $170,000 in recent history for a cow.[2] Due to their innate gentle disposition and intelligence, Texas Longhorns are increasingly being trained as riding steers.

Registries for the breed include the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, the International Texas Longhorn Association, and the Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry.[3]

History of the breed

A Texas Longhorn steer

Genetic analyses show the Longhorn originated from an Iberian hybrid of two ancient cattle lineages: "taurine" descending from the domestication of the wild aurochs in the Middle East, and "indicine", descending from the domestication of the aurochs in India, 85% and 15% respectively by proportion.[4] The Texas Longhorns are direct descendants of the first cattle in the New World. The ancestral cattle were first brought over by Christopher Columbus in 1493 to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Between 1493 and 1512, Spanish colonists brought additional cattle in subsequent expeditions.[5] The cattle consisted of three different breeds; Barrenda, Retinto and Grande Pieto.[6] Over the next two centuries the Spanish moved the cattle north, arriving in the area that would become Texas near the end of the 17th century. The cattle escaped or were turned loose on the open range, where they remained mostly feral for the next two centuries. Over several generations, descendants of these cattle evolved the high feed- and drought-stress tolerance and other "hardy" characteristics that Longhorns have become known for.[7][8]

Early US settlers in Texas obtained feral Mexican cattle from the borderland between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande and mixed them with their own eastern cattle. The result was a tough, rangy animal with long legs and long horns extending up to seven feet. Although this interbreeding was of little consequence to the makeup of a Longhorn, it did alter color. The varieties of color ranged from bluish-grey, and various yellowish hues, to browns, black, ruddy and white, both cleanly bright and dirty-speckled.[9] Portuguese cattle breeds, such as Alentejana and Mertolenga, are the closest relatives of Texas Longhorns.[10][11]

As Texas became more heavily settled following annexation by the US, the frontier gave way to established farms and ranch lands. The leaner longhorn beef was not as attractive in an era where tallow was highly prized, and the longhorn's ability to survive on the poor vegetation of the open range was no longer as much of an issue. Other breeds demonstrated traits more highly valued by the modern rancher, such as the ability to gain weight quickly. The Texas Longhorn stock slowly dwindled, until in 1927 the breed was saved from near extinction by enthusiasts from the United States Forest Service, who collected a small herd of stock to breed on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma.[12] A few years later, J. Frank Dobie and others gathered small herds to keep in Texas state parks. They were cared for largely as curiosities, but the stock's longevity, resistance to disease and ability to thrive on marginal pastures quickly revived the breed as beef stock. Today, the breed is used as a beef stock, though many Texas ranchers keep herds due to their link to Texas history.


Most breeds of cattle fall into either beef or dairy. The Texas Longhorn is principally a beef animal and is known for its lean beef, which is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than most beef.[13]
The Texas Longhorns show great variation in coat color
  • Tip-to-tip   The length from each tip of the horn, a straight line. This is a common measurement.
  • Total horn   The total length following the horn.
  • Composite (or base)   The circumference of the horn at the largest point.

These measurements can be adjusted to horn per month of age (HMA) which is calculated by dividing the number of months of age into the horn measurement. For example, a 48-month-old animal with 50" of horn would be 50 / 48 or 1.04" per month of age.

Commercial ranchers cross-breed longhorns with other breeds for increasing hybrid vigor and easy calving characteristics. Smaller birth weights reduce dystocia for first-calf heifers.

In Culture

A Longhorn, the logo for the University of Texas sports teams

See also


  1. ^ Siebert, Charles (July 2011). "Food Ark". National Geographic. 
  2. ^ Herskovitz, John. Texas Returns to Passion of the Longhorn Reuters via Environmental News Network. November 26, 2004.
  3. ^ "Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry". Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry. Retrieved 2013-12-13. 
  4. ^ McTavish, Emily Jane; Jared E. Decker; Robert D. Schnabel; Jeremy F. Taylor; David M. Hillis (2013). "New World cattle show ancestry from multiple independent domestication events". PNAS.  
  5. ^ Rouse, John E. (1977). The Criollo: Spanish Cattle in the Americas. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. 
  6. ^ Stacy, Lee (2003). Mexico and the United States. Tarrytown, New York: Marshall Cavendish. p. 233.  
  7. ^ Barragy, Terrence J. (2003). Gathering Texas Gold. Cayo del Grullo, TX: Cayo Del Grullo Press.  
  8. ^ University of Texas at Austin (2013-03-25). "Decoding the genetic history of the Texas longhorn.". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  9. ^ Hoyt, Alan M. "History of the Texas Longhorns". Double Helix Ranch. 
  10. ^ Hillis, David M. "Frequently Asked Questions about Texas Longhorn Cattle". Double Helix Ranch. 
  11. ^ Kidd, K. K.; et al. (1980). "Immunogenetic and Population Genetic Analyses of Iberian Cattle". Animal Blood Groups, Biochemistry and Genetics 11 (1): 21–38.  
  12. ^ Donald E. Worcester. "LONGHORN CATTLE," Handbook of Texas Online. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. 
  13. ^ "Lean Longhorn Beef". Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America. Retrieved 2013-12-13. 

Additional Reading

  • Will C. Barnes, "Wichita Forest Will Be Lair of Longhorns", The Cattleman, April 1926.
  • Dan Kilgore, "Texas Cattle Origins", The Cattleman, January 1983.
  • James Westfall Thompson, History of Livestock Raising in the United States, 1607-1860 (Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1942).
  • James Frank Dobie, The Longhorns (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1980) (ISBN 029274627X).
  • Don Worcester, The Texas Longhorn: Relic of the Past, Asset for the Future (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987) (ISBN 0890966257).
  • Premier Longhorns-Information About Texas Longhorns

External links

  • Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Registry organization that preserves and certifies purebred Texas Longhorn cattle
  • Longhorn Cattle from the Handbook of Texas Online
  • The Longhorn Roundup News monthly newspaper to the Texas Longhorn industry
  • Texas Longhorns in State Parks
  • Texas Longhorns Breeders Association of America organization that promotes and preserves the Texas Longhorn cattle history
  • "The Gathering of the Texas Herd" - early development of Texas Longhorn breed by Graves Peeler, Sid Richardson, Gene Autry, J. Frank Dobie, there are also many important and relative historical library references.
  • Longhorn Cattle Are Prized By The Inch - audio report by NPR
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