Horns & Antlers – The Texas Longhorn

By, Jo Carol Hebert

Did you know the Longhorn cattle are not indigenous to America?

So how did these cattle get to Texas?

Check it out!

Christopher Columbus Sailed With Cattle, Too!

First, Christopher Columbus had to open up the New World of America in 1492. Actually, 220px-Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbushe brought the first stock of Spanish cattle aboard his ships to feed the crew during and after the voyage.

After this breakthrough in exploration, other sailors and settlers dared to venture out to explore America. Conquistadors from Spain brought a long-horned type of Spanish cattle for food and milk.

New adventurers arrived with more of these strong, hardy cattle and moved into lands claimed by Mexico. Eventually, settlers chose to live along rivers in a region that is now the great Lone Star State of Texas.

The Call of the Wild

animated-cow-image-0201Through the next centuries, these long-traveled, long-horned Spanish cattle strayed into the vast open flatlands of the area. They survived in a habitat of extreme weather conditions. They thrived eating twigs, thorn bushes, and spiny Mesquite trees.They escaped from the threats of animal and human predators.

This adaptable bovine ranged freely across the Great Plains of America. They were the original stock of a truly American breed of cattle – The Texas Longhorn.

Fun Fact: The Texas Longhorn is a type of domesticated bovine cattle. His cousin, the wild American Bison, also in the cattle family was actually in Texas long before the Spanish cattle appeared.

Did you know that the Texas Longhorn

  • Has long legs and extra thick hooves
  • Is a good swimmer
  • Can go days without water             
  • Is very fertile (gives birth easily)
  • A newborn calf can stand in 10 minutes
  • Has a lifespan of 10 years
  • Horns span tip to tip at 4-7 feet (the record is 10 feet!)
  • No two have the same color/marking

Fun Fact: Longhorn cattle come in many colors ranging from black, white, yellow, brown, and red. Their markings are solid, spotted, splashed, streaked, and dotted.

Cowboys & Longhorns!       

By the end of the Civil War in 1865, war-weary Texas soldiers were returning to their maxresdefaulthomes to find ruined lives, failed crops, and a world of poverty. But, there were those long-horned cows running wild by the millions. This new source of income renewed the land and spirits of defeated men.

Ranchers hired cowboys for trail drives. Large herds of up to 3,000 Longhorns were moved North to the railways that shipped them to beef-hungry customers in the East.

Between 1866-1895, about 10,000,000 Longhorns were driven the 800-miles from Texas to markets in the Kansas area of America. The Old West cowboys on their beloved horses managed and controlled the lumbering bovines along the way. They called their cattle dogies.

Longhorns are easily spooked. Stampedes of out-of-control animals were frequent. To keep them calm,the Old West cowboy on the night shift would sing them to sleep.

The Decline of the Texas Longhorn

In the late 1800’s, ranchers began to fence off their property with barbed wire. The days of the wide-open spaces of the freedom-loving Longhorn were over. People were preferring other kinds of beef.

Expanding railway transportation was also eliminating the need for cattle drives. The Longhorn was no longer desirable.

The Texas Longhorn Today

fort-griffin-longhorn-herdIn 1927, the Federal Government stepped in to preserve the Longhorn as a symbol of the American Old West. They set up protected herds. Rancher associations and conservation groups in Texas also joined the cause.

From a meager population of 1,500 Longhorns in the 1960’s, today, there are over 200,000 registered Texas Longhorns.

You can see the official State of Texas Longhorn Herd at Fort Griffin State Historic Site in Albany Texas.

You won’t believe your eyes!

Check out ‘The Saola’ post in Horns and Antlers for information on this cattle cousin of the Longhorn.

Categories: Horns & Antlers

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