Behind the Book ~ A look at Cattle

All of a sudden, I realized that Harlequin is releasing my Christmas novella TODAY!
I am not ready for Christmas. NOT. ONE. BIT. Autumn hasn’t even officially arrived here!

So…at the end of this post I will share a blurb about A Western Christmas Homecoming,
which is the last book in the Oak Grove Series that I have been writing with Lauri Robinson. 

Texas Longhorns

Recently, I had to research different types of cattle here in America for my story, Wedding at Rocking S Ranch that takes place on a ranch. Oak Grove was a railroad town that blossomed as a result of its location and the cattle drives from Texas. Sure, Longhorns came from Texas, but was that the kind of cattle that would be found on a ranch in Kansas? My grandfather and uncle raised Black Angus cattle here in the Midwest their entire lives and I have yet to see a Texas Longhorn this far north. So when, and where, did the switch occur? I also had to check the history of barbed wire.

1870 marked the start of the big cattle drives into Kansas. 300,00 arrived that year. The next year that amount doubled. Three-fifths of the cattle were “stock cattle” which means they were yearlings, heifers, cows and steers younger than four years old. Abilene, Kansas, Wichita and Dodge City became the towns (and later cities) that truly boomed with the transporting of cattle to market.

Many of the Longhorns didn’t immediately board the train and head to points farther east, but wintered in Kansas, existing on the buffalo-grass prairie. Although barbed wire had been invented and was in use, the sectioning off of large parcels of land hadn’t happened yet in Kansas in 1879 at the time my story takes place. Cattle still roamed free and had to be watched over by cowboys. At the Rocking S Ranch, the ranch-house and the crops had fences around them to keep the cattle out of the corn and alfalfa and off the porch. This was known as “fenced out.” Further east, a farmer would use wood and barbed wire to enclose a pasture, which was known as “fenced in.”

In my story, I have the owner of the ranch looking into crossbreeding his longhorns with another breed of cattle to make a healthier, more profitable herd. He has brought in Black Angus to give this a try. Black Angus first came to Kansas in 1873 when George Grant transported them from Scotland. Where the longhorns were hardy, they were a tougher meat and had a wild-streak and could be difficult to manage. Angus had a gentle nature but were more susceptible to extremes in weather. Their meat is more tender and has a better flavor that the longhorns. Angus weigh between 850 and 1000 pounds when mature.

When Grant took his four Angus bulls to the fair at the Kansas City Livestock Exposition that year, the local people didn’t know what to think of them. These cattle had no horns! (Called polled, which means naturally hornless.) But Grant had the last laugh when he successfully crossed his bulls with native Texas longhorns. The calves were hardier, hornless, and weighed more. They were also a bit more docile. Between 1878 and 1883, twelve hundred Angus cattle were imported to the Midwest. Cross-breeding has steadily improved the hardiness of the Angus here in America.

And there are Red Angus! Red Angus occur as the result of a recessive gene. They are the same as their black relatives except they are actually more tolerant of the hot weather. At one time, The Angus Association barred the registration of Red Angus in an attempt to promote a solid black breed. Likely that is one of the reasons they are fewer in number. Eventually, The Red Angus Association of America formed when breeders searched out and collected the Red Angus from the black herds.

Although I used a lot of this information in Wedding at Rocking S Ranch, it was sprinkled in with a light touch. After all, in historical romance it is the relationship between the two protagonists that carry the story!

* * * * * * * * * * *

And now for my New Release!      

Three festive stories ~ Christmas in the Wild West!

A Western Christmas Homecoming


In Christmas Day Wedding Bells by Lynna Banning, buttoned-up librarian Alice is swept away by US marshal Rand Logan on a new adventure.
Then, Welles is Snowbound in Big Springs in this novella by Lauri Robinson, where he must confront Sophie and their undeclared feelings…
Finally, rugged outlaw Russ rescues Abigail from spending the festive season alone in Christmas with the Outlaw by Kathryn Albright!

Available at HarlequinAmazonBarnes and Noble

Visit my website for excerpts and more information on all my books!

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31 thoughts on “Behind the Book ~ A look at Cattle”

  1. Wow this book looks amazing, since I live in Kansas, but reign from Texas, I’ll be looking for it in the stores.

    • So glad to have you stop by Tonya! I enjoyed writing about a ranch and learning about round-ups in this book. And I quite fell in love with the hero. The strong, silent type holds a lot of appeal to me 🙂

  2. Seeing so many Christmas books pop up on my facebook feed is something I wasn’t ready for either. It’s hot still in Texas! very humid here in East Texas from the off and on rain we’ve been getting. I’m a cattle brokers daughter so I loved your blog. Good luck with your new release!

    • Thank you Stephanie! Doesn’t it seem to get earlier and earlier each year that Christmas is promoted? Autumn is my favorite season, so I refuse to skip over it so fast! The leaves on the top of the trees are just now beginning to turn to shades of red and gold here in northern Illinois. We’ve had a lot of humidity too — and mosquitoes.

    • Hi Debra. Thanks for stopping by. I think animal husbandry…and even the same idea with plants and flowers — is fascinating. When I think of all the amazing colors of roses, or all the breeds of dogs…it has really brought about a lot of variety.

  3. I an guarantee you I won’t be messing with an Angus Bull, they are big boys! You’re book has a beautiful cover. Congratulations on it’s release.

    • Hi Deanne! I agree! Those bulls are huge! I really don’t understand how George Grant was able to control four of them at the livestock exhibition. He must have had a LOT of help! I like the cover Harlequin made for it, although, in my mind, the outlaw was a bit scruffier. Even so…I am terrifically happy with the cover.

  4. I love cows. We (My Cowboy and me) have mostly black Angus but in my books I have Angus, Hereford, lots of cross breeds–many black cows with white faces, a cross between Angus and Hereford. We have neighbors with long horns..I want one SO BAD! Santa Gertrudis cattle. Some with Tarentaise cattle–and those two breeds look like Red Angus. We also had a yard near us years ago with Scottish Highland cattle, with the shaggy face hair. I loved those pretty cows.
    We have some Maine Anjou cattle, not purebred but mixed. We mainly know them for having particularly large ears. 🙂

    • I love your pictures and posts about your cows, Mary! I didn’t realize that you had so many breeds on your ranch. Those Scottish Highland cattle are amazingly cute as calves. I saw a calf for the first time at the fair last year in the “baby animal” tent. Just wanted to cuddle it.

  5. Thank you for such an interesting post, as usual, Kathryn. I’m not ready for two things: Christmas or for the Oak Grove series to be done. Oh well, I’ll survive,I suppose. 🙂 On another front, the year I lived in the Scottish Highlands I saw a lot of Highland cattle which really are something else to behold since I haven’t lived on a ranch and mostly see longhorns in movies. Besides their shaggy faces, I was always amazed at how short they seemed. Thanks again for an informative post.

    • Oh Eliza! How good to have you stop by! Thank you for your words about the end of the Oak Grove Series. I hate to leave Oak Grove myself! I think you will enjoy this last story. It’s not often that I smile to myself as a write a scene, but it happened a few times in this story!

  6. What an interesting post. I never knew they were from Scotland. I too love the strong silent type of hero. I’m definitely looking forward to reading
    these stories. Have always loved Christmas stories any time of year. Thank you for the post Kathryn.

    • Hi Carol! A dear friend of mine loves Christmas stories at anytime of the year, also. We tease each other about it often. Next month when I post I will share an excerpt and host a giveaway. It will seem close enough to Christmas by then for me 🙂

    • Hi Susan! A dairy farm sounds like an interesting upbringing and so very different from mine in the city. I imagine that you were expected to help work with the cows yourself. A family business — and your parents were around all the time, whereas my father disappeared down the street for work everyday. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Thank you for all the interesting information on cattle and ranching. They would certainly have to fence out the cattle. Our neighbors cows got out one night. There is nothing like being awakened at 3 AM by something large thumping around on your porch, bumping into furniture, and unable to find its way off. The “neighbor” lived about 5 miles away, so my husband and a sheriff deputy were herding cattle in the dark. Not the only time it happened. One day I looked out to see them in the back yard, eating the begonias out of the planters. Got the farmer to herd them back in that time.
    I did always wonder how they got longhorn cattle on the trains to ship east. The horns would make it rather difficult. Admittedly, young cattle would not have the impressive horns the older ones would. Cross breeding for desired traits is a good idea and has been used for a long time. I am glad they are preserving some of the old breeds as they originally were. It would be a shame to lose what is unique to them.
    OK, I have rambled enough. I love Christmas stories and look forward to reading A Western Christmas Homecoming..

    • Hi Patricia! I rather enjoyed your rambling! I remember that a few times my uncle and cousins would have to run down the country road in front of their house to round up the cattle that had broken through the electric fencing.

      Regarding the horns…Years ago when I first moved into my house, I decorated “western” style and looked about for a pair of longhorns to put over my fireplace. Once found, just trying to fit them into my small car and load up my family too was a feat! They are long! So I have no idea how a train filled with longhorn cattle would pack them in!

  8. Kathryn, I am always ready for a Christmas story! I think people like me are the reason for “Christmas in July”! LOL I am looking forward to reading this–looks great! And this is a very interesting post about cattle. Even though I was born and raised in Oklahoma, I don’t know much at all about cattle. Great blog, and congratulations on your new release!

  9. I got a postcard a few years ago from a country in eastern Europe they have grey cows but when the sun hits the fur it has a blue tint to it. though it was interesting . I wish it would cool down here still in the 90’s. Thanks for sharing.

    • That is a new one for me too, Kim! A gray coat on a cow shouldn’t come as a surprise considering all the varieties “out there” but I’ve never seen one.

      We’ve had a hot summer too–but it is cooling now and the leaves are starting to change on the trees.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Hi Kathryn, Thanks for your blog on cattle. My family use to raise the red cows…..I enjoyed them except for the bull that like to chase me….. Looking forward to reading your new book. I am on your review crew so I will check this one out also.

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