Love Those Longhorns

Not being from Texas, I was hesitant to tackle this topic.  But I’ve always been a fan of  those tough, rangy cattle with their amazing horns, stretching as long as seven feet from tip to tip.  Longhorns are, and always will be, a symbol of the American West.

Their ancestry dates back to cattle brought to Mexico by the Spanish.  Some of these cattle went wild.  Over time they developed the resilience and survival skills that make Longhorns what they are today.  Early Texas settlers mixed the blood of these feral Mexican cattle with their own eastern cattle.  The result was a rugged, long-legged animal with spectacular horns and a coat that could be blue, yellow, brown, black, red or white, plain or speckled.   

But Longhorns are more than looks.  They have strong survival instincts and can find food and shelter in rough weather.  Longhorns can breed well into their teens or longer, and they’re known for easy calving.  A Longhorn cow will often go off on her own to have the calf in a safe place.  The calves can stand up sooner after birth than other breeds.

With their long legs and hard hoofs, Longhorns made ideal trail cattle.  After the civil war millions were driven to market.  They also stocked most of the new ranches on the Great Plains.    But times changed for the breed.  The “Big Die-up in the winter of 1886-87 and the spread of barbed wire fences brought an end to the open range.  Breeds like the white-faced Herefords put on weight faster and had fattier meat, providing needed tallow.  Ranchers crossed these breeds with Longhorns to produce hardier stock.  By the 1920s,  only a few small herds of Longhorns remained.

In 1927, Longhorns were saved from near extinction by the U.S. Forest service, who collected a small herd to breed in Oklahoma.  Other groups in Texas gathered small herds to keep in parks.  They were regarded as curiosities, but the stock’s longevity, disease resistance and low-fat, low-cholesterol meat revived the breed as beef stock—although many ranchers keep them purely as a link to Texas history.

Does anybody out there have experience with these amazing animals?  Any good stories?

There are no Longhorns in my March Western, THE LAWMAN’S VOW.  But you can get a sneak peek and an excerpt on my web site:

Watch for a giveaway next month.

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15 thoughts on “Love Those Longhorns”

  1. Good morning everyone. I’ll be leaving you a bit later this morning, but I’m hoping you’ll drop by. Some of you may even have more things to tell as about Longhorns. Wishing you a great Martin Luther King Day.

  2. I don’t have any experiences of them but I’ve always thought they look fearsome. I bet they could do some major damage with those horns.

  3. Interesting post, Elizabeth. I don’t have any personal experiences with longhorns, but I never realized they were almost extinct at one time. Thanks for the information.

  4. I only know this breed of cattle from movies and books… No real personal experince.. But they are a hearty breed of animal.. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth…

  5. hi Elizabeth, these are such grand animals! When I visited the Silver Spur Ranch in Bandera TX, they have a herd that are kind of like “pets” for the tourists to gawk over.

    Of course we didn’t get out of the hay wagon on our hayride to “pet” them, but they came running toward us to get their “corn” (little treats, not really corn) and posed for us. Aw. There was a baby speckled calf who looked just like Picasso, one of the big guys.

    It was breathtaking, seeing them run.

    Great post and pix. oxox

  6. Elizabeth, what an interesting post. You really explored the history of the longhorns, which of course, here in Texas at one time were in abundance. I have some neat pictures of some that are still in Palo Duro Canyon (but they don’t run wild any longer). I think the longhorns of today don’t have nearly the horn span of the original breed. Or at least compared to the pictures, I’ve seen. Thanks for sharing. Definitely a keeper post! Phyliss

  7. Elizabeth,
    I love the way this breed of cattle looks. My uncles and cousins raised cattle and they live very near the TX border here in OK, but I don’t believe any of them ever raised longhorns. There is a wonderful burger place in Lawton, OK that advertised (used to) that they raised their own longhornd cattle–I don’t know if they still raise longhorns, but they do raise their own cattle whatever kind they use. I tell you what, I can’t imagine trying to drive a bunch of these from TX to KS–I’d be scared to death to make one of them mad.LOL Great post.
    Cheryl P.

  8. Our neighbor has a long-horn bull running with his cattle. I just stare and stare every time I drive by.
    What is he THINKING?
    Won’t all his calves have horns?
    Calves aren’t supposed to have horns. They’ll all have to be de-horned as babies. When you sell your cattle the price is docked if there are any horns in the herd because they bruise each other and that affects the meat.
    Still, I keep wanting to stop and take pictures. What a cool animal.

  9. I have friends in Western Nebraska who have a couple of longhorns who are pets. He walks right up to them and hand feeds them. I fed them last year but this year I could only feed them or pet them through the fence because they tend to get excited and would swing their heads and gore you with those long horns but the owner still can walk right up to them and hand feed them. I think they are facinating animals.

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