Keli Gwyn Historical Author PhotoBefore James Marshall discovered those shiny nuggets at Sutter’s Mill that sparked the Gold Rush and made the precious metal the focus of fortune-seekers around the globe, longhorn cattle were California’s primary product. Sadly they were raised for their hides and tallow. Much of the meat was left to rot on the beaches while the valued items were loaded on longboats anchored off shore.

That changed in 1849 when California was overrun by miners pouring in by the thousands. Food was scarce in the gold fields of the north, so the cattle ranchers of the south found a ready market for their beef. At that point, nearly half a million head of longhorn roamed the countryside in the sparsely populated area around Los Angeles.

Some believe the California longhorn was closely related to its Texas counterpart, with both tracing their heritage to the Andalusian Iberian longhorn of southwestern Spain. The records kept at the time didn’t document the physical appearance or attributes of the California longhorn, so one can only speculate.

A series of droughts in the mid-1800s all but obliterated the herds. The disastrous drought of 1864 brought about the loss of 50-75% of the longhorn cattle in Los Angeles County due to thirst or starvation. The remaining cattle ranches were broken up into smaller ranches, with many of the ranchers diversifying into more stable and financially beneficial agricultural ventures.

One rancher, Henry Miller, originally a butcher in San Francisco, did well despite the disastrous losses of others. He expanded his herd and his holdings. It’s thought he might have been the largest owner of private lands in the state. Miller was one of the first to bring in Durham and Hereford bulls to breed with the longhorn cows, providing the public with beef from the British breeds the rapidly increasing population preferred. And thus the end of the longhorn legacy in California came about.

Cattle ranching increased in northern California as gold became harder to find and more expensive to extract. The small town of Shingle Springs, in which my debut Love Inspired Historical, Family of Her Dreams, takes place, shifted from mining to cattle ranching. Sprawling ranches sprang up in the area, and cattle could be seen grazing there for much of the year.

During the hot, dry summers, ranchers herded their cattle up the mountain to pastures high in the Sierras.longhorn-529572_640 Oftentimes the womenfolk would stay with the herds while the men remained in the valley and saw to things there. Since the temperatures in the valley can top one hundred for a number of days each summer, I think the ladies got the better end of the deal.

In my story, the hero, Spencer Abbott, dreams of leaving his stationmaster duties behind and becoming a cattle rancher, as was his father back in Texas. Spencer pays to have a longhorn bull brought to him, which he intends to breed. With payment in calves, he plans to grow a herd of his own. Whether or not he succeeds shall remain a mystery—until you read the story anyhow. 🙂

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of Family of Her Dreams, just leave a comment with the  answer to one (or more) of the questions below by midnight EDT on Saturday, June 20.

  • Do you like rancher heroes in romances?
  • How prevalent are cattle ranches in your part of the country?
  • Have you ever seen a longhorn bull in person? If so, what was your impression of it?

Keli Gwyn Contemporary Author Photo (3)


Award-winning author Keli Gwyn, a native Californian, transports readers to the early days of the Golden State. She and her husband live in the heart of California’s Gold Country. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, historical museums and other Gold Rush-era towns. Keli loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her Victorian-style cyber home at www.keligwyn.com, where you’ll find her contact information.

A Family to Cherish 

Headstrong Tess Grimsby loves her new job caring for the children of a recently widowed man. But she never imagined that she’d fall for her handsome employer. Yet Spencer Abbott is as caring as he is attractive, and Tess can’t help but feel for him and his family. Though, for the sake of her job, she’ll keep any emotions about her boss to herself.

Between his stationmaster responsibilities in a gold-rush town and trying to put his family back together, Spencer has his hands full. He soon finds his new hire’s kind personality warming his frosty exterior. But could he ever admit to seeing her as more than just an employee?

Leave a comment to enter her drawing on here for an autographed copy of Family of Her Dreams.

Copyright © 2015 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover art and cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.

June 19 - Keli Gwyn Petticoats & Pistols Giveaway


http://keligwyn.com/library/my-books will take you directly to Keli’s “My Book” page of her website, where she has a number of retailers’ links.


+ posts

60 thoughts on “LONGHORN CATTLE … IN CALIFORNIA? By Guest Blogger Keli Gwyn”

  1. I’m excited to be here at Petticoats & Pistols once again. Thanks to filly Karen Witemeyer for extending the invitation. I look forward to reading the comments and will mosey on back to leave replies in the morning. I reckon since I’m way out West, some o’ you might beat me here, though.

    • Hi Keli! Welcome to P&P. We’re so happy to have you. Congratulations on your release! It’s always so exciting to see you name on the copy of a book you wrote. It looks great. I love stories about family and children so I think yours will be right up my alley.

      I certainly didn’t know about longhorn cattle in California! Oh my gosh. That’s amazing. They look very different though from our Texas longhorns. Both breeds are huge though. I sure wouldn’t want to run into one accidentally!

      Wishing you tons of success and much happiness! Can’t wait to see what you write next.

      • Linda, it’s interesting hearing you say how different the California longhorn of today is from the present-day Texas longhorn. Even if the two did come from the same herds originally, as some California longhorn ranchers like to believe, that isn’t as evident today as it might once have been. Since the origins of the California longhorn can’t be proven, given the records that were kept, it’s likely we’ll never know.

  2. I love longhorns. We have several working cattle ranches in my area and I love driving by and looking at them. They help me relax (especially when it is baby season). We also have a couple longhorns at some of the ranches. One about a mile from us just started raising them and I can see them every time I leave the house and head towards the highway. They are magnificent.

    • Janine, what fun it must be to drive past those cattle ranches and see the magnificent longhorns up close. A longhorn calf must be mighty cute.

  3. What a great post! There are cattle ranches all over the place since I am from Texas. We have a very small herd and my husband loves them dearly! I am in awe of the stately longhorns and would love to have a few grazing in our front pasture.

    • Melanie, I visited Texas once, but apparently the area we were in (Midland-Odessa) isn’t cattle country. Thus my wish of seeing a longhorn for myself has yet to be fulfilled. One day…

  4. I live in the metro area of a big city, so no cattle ranches here. 🙂

    I do enjoy reading about ranchers and any other type of western hero in historical and contemporary romances.

    • Cheryl, it can be fun to experience different professions than the ones we’re used to in the stories we read, can’t it? Since you’re in a big city, reading stories about those living and working out in the country could be a kind of literary vacation.

    • Ashley, since a number of authors include rancher heroes, you could have your choice of stories. I know there are many of them to choose from in the LI and LIH lines.

  5. I do enjoy “rancher heroes,” as I find they are strong, interesting and usually complex characters. Regarding cattle ranches where I live, there really are not any. I live in northwest WA state, and it is more about berry farming up here. I have never seen a longhorn in person! ?

    • Jen, there is something special about a rancher hero, isn’t there? Those I’ve read about seem to be larger than life–rugged, honorable men who can deal with whatever comes their way.

      I didn’t know Washington had a berry farming area. Which varieties are raised?

  6. im in Vermont at this time and there are not very many cattle ranches here,,too cold would be my guess,now im from TN orgionally and there are a few cattle ranches there but mostly farms,,and yes i love reading about them and enjoyed your post,,very interesting

  7. I just wanted to let you know I loved your book…I’ve fallen in love with the Love Inspired Historical line lately (especially the Westerns) Please do not enter me in the drawing since I already bought and read my copy.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story. Love Inspired Historical puts out Westerns every month by talented authors. I’m honored to be writing for the line.

  8. Hi Keli, Welcome back to Wildflower Junction! Coming from southern California, and with my interest in history, I made sure to read Two Years Before the Mast–a classic that details parts of the California cattle industry in hides. I found it fascinating. I also bought a book–The Cattle on a Thousand Hills — probably ten years ago. It sits on my shelf STILL waiting to be read.(Have you ever done that?) I enjoy reading the LIH line but have never read your books. I will definitely have to check this one out!

    • Kathryn, I saw a number of references to Two Years Before the Mast when I was doing my research. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like it would be an eye-opening look into the early days of the Golden State.

      I can totally relate to books languishing on my TBR pile, er mountain. If only there were more hours in my days…

  9. I love the cover of your book! 🙂
    •Do you like rancher heroes in romances? yes
    •How prevalent are cattle ranches in your part of the country? There is a dairy farm not that far from where I live… I know that there are some ranches around…
    •Have you ever seen a longhorn bull in person? no I have not…
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Like you, Colleen, I love the cover of Family of Her Dreams. The Love Inspired design team took one of my suggested cover scenes and created a cover far better than anything I’d imagined. I squealed when I opened the file and saw the cover for the first time.

  10. My neighbors about 1/2 mile away have a herd of Longhorns. I’ve seen many bulls, cows and babies.

    I find them so fascinating, and their pasture is along a curvy road with a creek alongside it.

    I’m trying very hard to not watch the cows to the extent I go plunging over the creek bank!

    • Mary, I would have a hard time keeping my eyes on the road if I were driving past a herd of longhorns, too. In fact, I’d probably park and grab my camera. Of course I’d be taking those pictures from a respectable distance. 🙂

  11. I’ve been trying to research (believe it or not) Shorthorns.

    Long horns are almost always featured in my books unless I am specifically talking about a special breed, Angus or Hereford mostly. Herefords are older to this country than Angus.

    But my husband was reading a Louis L’Amour book and he said something later about Shorthorns and Durhams. (I think the two are closely related)
    Now I am trying to figure out if it’s okay to plant a whole new breed of cow into my stories.

    • Mary, I know next to nothing about cattle. I thought of you many times when I was working on this story. Be glad I didn’t call you with my research questions since I did a fair amount of my writing around midnight out in California. 🙂

    • Thanks for your kind words, Mary. Adding a wannabe rancher to my story was almost as much of a s-t-r-e-t-c-h as adding a six foot tall heroine. Let’s hear it for research!

  12. One other longhorn bull comment. They’re way smaller and skinnier than you’d expect.
    And a true longhorn is rare. They can be crossbred several times, I’ve heard up to 8 crosses and they’ll still have wild color and long horns.

    • Mary, my hero could probably have gotten a crossbred longhorn from somewhere in southern California at the time, but he wanted a purebred bull, so he had one shipped waaaaay across the country. Thanks to me being in charge of the story, he was able to find one. Gotta love fiction!

      I figure that even with their leaner form, a longhorn bull with horns six foot from tip to tip would be pretty intimidating to someone not accustomed to seeing cattle. I’d keep my distance, that’s for sure.

  13. I love to read about ranch hands and if they are a hero all the better. Interesting reading about longhorns in California. There are not many cattle that I know of in the San Diego area but a lot of horses…mostly the kind that are jumpers and show horses. I saw a longhorn bull when I was younger…he was BIG. My grandpa had a few cows on his faarm in Colorado when i used to go visit in the summers. One of the things I like seeing the most at the county fairs are the animal barns with cows and lambs and bunnies.

    • Jackie, what fun it must have been to visit your grandfather’s farm when you were growing up. I’m sure you must have a treasure trove of memories.

      How exciting to have seen a longhorn for yourself. That’s on my bucket list.

  14. Hi Keli, thank you for sharing this bit of history. I was not aware of the cattle history of California. We have a friend who had two longhorns on his ranch in Western Nebraska. When I first met the cattle I was able to walk up to them and feed them by hand. They were young and while the horns were long the cattle were gentle. A couple of years passed and I helped herd them from pasture to the barn. I was told to stay back from them as they were not so gentle anymore. Last time I was on the ranch one of them had been sold. He was a jumper and could not be contained. I was still able to feed the second one but only through a six foot fence. He liked to put his head on the owner’s shoulder but you have to stay out of the way of those horns.

    • Connie, I’ve heard longhorns can be gentle, but if they’re agitated, watch out. This bit of information comes into play in my story.

      It’s neat that you’ve gotten to care for longhorns. I doubt many people can say that.

  15. Except for when we lived in northern Maine, Sacramento, CA, and Washington, DC, There have alway been people raising cattle around where I lived. Northern NY is an area of large farms and apple orchards. We had large dairy farms and farms with large herds of angus all around us. We lived in Colorado next and we know there are ranches there. I don’t remember seeing any long horns during our travels when we lived in California. We now live in NE TN. There are cattle across from our house and next door. There is a herd of american bison not 6 miles from our house and there is a small herd of about 5 or 6 longhorns about 15 miles away.
    We have seen longhorns over the years at several venues. Up close they are impressive. A mature, large male has a truly wide set of horns. The ones I have petted and been close to have been rather docile. I can’t imagine them fitting into a trailer or hauler truck to be moved.
    Best wishes for the success of FAMILY OF HER DREAMS.

    • Patricia, I’m impressed with how many places you’ve lived. You’ve experienced a lot more of our country than this California gal has. Of all the states you’ve called home, which is your favorite, and why?

      Until a few years ago, there was a herd on bison on Hwy 50 between El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park. If you traveled to South Lake Tahoe via 50 when you lived in Sacramento, you might have seen them. I was sad when the owner got too old to care for the small herd. I miss seeing them.

      The longhorn bull in my story shows up in a rail car. His arrival leads to some interesting scenes. I had fun writing them.

      • I still love the Adirondacks in Northern NY State where I grew up. of all our assignments in the Air Force, Colorado Springs, CO. was our favorite. It was the healthiest we ever were and the weather was wonderfully unpredictable. We were our in Arizona and New Mexico a few weeks ago and even though it was hot, the low humidity made it tolerable. Colorado is the same way. The focus is on being active and enjoying the out of doors. We took advantage of every assignment, exploring the area and traveling in the region. Here in the South and the humidity kills me and the lifestyle is much more sedentary. We moved here for the good VA hospital which my husband needs. Our children have married and settled here, so I guess we are staying. If the VA hospital near my home in NY had been a good one, we would have moved there. In addition, my husband’s family is in Orlando, Fla. so we are sort of halfway between families. It sounded good at the time, but we have discovered 13 to 14 hours from both of them isn’t really much of an advantage.

        • Patricia, I think it’s great that you embraced the opportunities to explore each area you’ve called home. I visited the Colorado Springs area when I was much younger and was impressed with the beauty.

          I’m sorry your husband has health issues. At least you’re able to be close to your children and grandchildren.

  16. In my immediate of Texas the ranches have been sold to developers for homes and businesses to be built, but it’s not much of a drive to areas that still have cattle ranches. The last Texas Longhorn I was close to was massive but pretty tame. Can’t say that I’ve ever been up close and personal to a California Longhorn.

    • Glenda, it seems more and more farm land and ranches are being lost to development, doesn’t it? At least in California we still have large portions of the state suitable for growing crops and raising cattle.

  17. I live ranchers in my stories:)
    No I don’t.think there’s any branching here I’m MA
    And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a longhorn:)

      • I love the spelling of your name, Alecia. I’m sure it gets misspelled often, as mine does, but I like having a different spelling. Our unique spellings set us apart, right?

        Auto correct errors can be frustrating but funny. And then there are those corrections that can be downright embarrassing. Not that I’m saying I’ve ever had that happen to me. 😉

  18. I’m from Texas do I love longhorns. I like reading about ranchers in stories. There are many ranches and farms in Texas near me. I’ve seen many longhorns in person. Touched one too. Love western books.

    • How cool that you’ve seen so many longhorns, Connie. And petted them, too. Wow! Were you scared to touch them? I’m pretty sure I would be.

  19. Hi Keli, welcome to the Junction once again. I was born and raised in the Texas Panhandle, so I’m familiar with the typical longhorns of this part of Texas. At the entrance to Palo Duro Canyon there are a herd and they’ve been there a long time. I wish I could show you some pictures out of our newspaper just this month. We have an annual Coors Ranch Rodeo and for the last several years they’ve paraded a huge herd of Longhorns from downtown Amarillo, through our main street and on out to the Tri-State Fair Grounds. It’s amazing. The book I’m finishing up for Kensington in my Kasota Springs Series opens with their Spring Festival and of course they have Longhorns in the parade … behind the school band!!!! LOL Again, welcome to P&P and I look forward to reading your book. Hugs from the Panhandle, Phyliss

    • Thanks for the warm welcome, Phyliss.

      It must be so exciting to see the longhorns in your local parades. I can’t help but wonder at the placement behind the school band. I would think the loud music would unsettle the cattle.

  20. Keli, Thanks for the chance to win your book. Yes, those long horns have quite a lot of clout as far as cows go. You don’t mess with them. Have seen a few & I give them lots of room. I was raised on a farm so I know how animals can be. The Wild West has come a long way.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Joye. I’m very happy to be writing for Love Inspired Historical. I’m delighted the LI editors like my California settings. It’s fun for me to write stories set here in our historic Gold Country portion of the state.

  21. Great cover! I’m married to a Texan so he’s whole family are Texas Longhorn fans. Your book reminds me of an old movie “The Rare Breed” with James Stewart and Maureen O’Hara.

  22. Keli, I had no idea there were longhorns in California. If I hadn’t read that fact in your post, I would have found out soon enough — my copy of Family of her Dreams arrived in the mail! Best wishes for your writing debut 🙂

    • P.S. There are longhorns all around me, and very little is as cute as a baby longhorn. To my astonishment, the adults can jump fences — hence occassional delays on some roads out here ????

      • Nancy, I’d be gripping the wheel tightly if I encountered a longhorn on the road in front of me. I’m pretty sure I’d also be wondering how one of those large animals could jump a fence. Amazing!

  23. Living in the SF Bay area, ranches are within driving distance but not something we see that often. I enjoy rancher heroes. Evoke a little bit of an earlier, simpler time and I enjoy some of the history that goes along with the story.

    • Sally, you’re not too far from me. I live in Placerville in the Sierra Foothills. My husband and I met when we were both living in the East Bay. We see some cattle up our way, but it seems most of the ranches are in the valley.

Comments are closed.