is a strange and wondrous process that has been responsible for
the creation of a multitude of forms and shapes in the kingdom
of nature -- forms and shapes that are unique to their time and
totally adaptable to the environment in which they
evolved. The Texas Longhorn is such a creature.
Texas Longhorn, an evolutionary marvel, traces its history from
Texas to Mexico, to Spain and finally back to Africa. His
origin began in Africa, his voyage began when he accompanied the
Moors to Spain and he thrived in the new environment.
landed cattle in Santa Domingo in 1493 on his second voyage to
the New World, and 29 years later in 1521, Gregorio de
Villalobos brought the first cattle from Santa Domingo to
Mexico. Explorers, settlers, and expeditions to establish
missions brought cattle into Texas. These cattle
propagated as they escaped, were scattered by Indians, or
abandoned when missions failed.
began the second phase of the evolutionary process that began as
these cattle were put aboard ships. Space limitations
allowed for a minimum of food and water, and as days at sea
lengthened into weeks, the elements took a good toll on animals
totally unaccustomed to the conditions. It is
probable that the losses were extreme, and hardiness, a major
trait of today's cattle, first began to function as a genetic
of evolution and its nursery was between the Rio Grande and the
Nueces Rivers. Time was needed and by 1860 the census
recorded 600,000 people and 4 million cattle in Texas.
Nature produces animals
that all possess a single common denominator, environmental
adaptability. It is this common denominator that is
sometimes called survival of the fittest. Nature is a
harsh master; if you cannot adapt, you perish.
Texas Longhorn developed many traits, genetically coded into its
being, that have many viable economic benefits that can be
utilized by today's beef producer:
LONGEVITY -- a
result created by the fact that the longer-lived cattle
produced greater numbers of offspring and gradually infused
this genetic component into the breed.
CALVING EASE --
the natural result of calving difficulties causing the early
and swift demise of those cows that did not give birth easily and
without undue problems.
DISEASE AND PARASITE RESISTANCE
-- a subtle but important attribute. Susceptibility to
disease and parasites soon depleted that type of cattle.
-- the sometimes harsh environment, that was the nursery of evolution,
demanded that the cattle do well in times of drought as well
as in times of plenty.
HARDINESS -- a
trait directly connected to "survival of the
FERTILITY -- a
genetic trait dominant in evolution of a species. A
species is fertile or it dies out.
The evolutionary process
created a breed of cattle that had a body size commensurate with
the availability of food, a breed of cattle that developed horns
for protection, allowing the dominate males to propagate the
breed. Polled or non-horned cattle did not survive.
Thus was created the Texas
Longhorn, imported into Texas, defined and refined by nature,
tested by the crucible of time, found not wanting, responsible
for the economic recovery of a Sovereign State after the Civil
War and finally in a few short years, man in in infinite wisdom
did begin, in his opinion, to "improve" these fine
cattle and improved them to the point of extinction.
This improvement began
with the importation of bulls from England and Europe. The
Texas Longhorn cow bred to these bulls and the progeny bred back
to the same bulls. In the space of only four generations
the Texas Longhorn traits began their swift decline into
Texas Longhorn was nearer extinction than the buffalo or the
whooping crane, when in 1927, the federal government
appropriated $3,000 for the requisition and preservation of a
herd of Texas Longhorns.
Mr. Will C. Barnes found
it necessary to travel almost 5,000 miles through South Texas
and Mexico to discover and acquire 20 cows, 4 calves, and 3
bulls with which to develop a herd that was the remains of some
4,000,000 cattle in Texas only 60 years before. In 1960,
there were about 2,500 Texas Longhorns in the United States, and
in 1964 the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America was
created to preserve the cattle. Thus the breed was
created, evolved, became virtually extinct, and seemed to be
relegated to being preserved only for their historical significance
and heritage when a new awareness of the significance of their
genetic capabilities became dominant in the mid 1970s.
The cattle industry began
to appreciate the fact that a Texas Longhorn bull is probably
the best of all breeds for use of a virgin heifer. She can
be bred at the youngest possible age, will carry the pregnancy
to term and deliver a healthy viable calf, without undue stress
or strain caused by the process. The calf will be small
and vigorous at birth, but will grow and wean at an adequate
The cattle industry is
becoming more aware of the value of the other genetic traits possessed
by the Texas Longhorn and making use of them through the use of
F-1 or one-half Texas Longhorn brood cows. This
combination, when bred to a bull of yet another breed, produces
a three-way cross calf that is a complete product. The
Texas Longhorn has become a symbol of survival. It
evolved, prospered, was brought to the brink of extinction,
recovered and is now on the way of again becoming one of the
world's most important breeds of cattle.
Texas Longhorns were
unique in that they could be fattened on the trail. A
trickle of the flood that was to follow began in 1846 when the
first documented drive to Missouri occurred. These cattle
were held in Ohio that winter and sent to Eastern markets in
1847. During the 1850s,
sporadic drives of probably less than 1,000 cattle each were
moved north. These drives were handled by small groups of
men. A herd of 500 head might have three men and another
might have eight men.
The Civil War closed
northern markets, the trail drives were turned to the east and
Texas beef began to supply the Confederacy. The eastern
drives had many new and different obstacles. The rivers,
swamps and vast timbered areas were extremely difficult to
negotiate and the herds were consequently smaller than those
driven north over the open prairies. A
majority of the herds swam the mighty Mississippi at Vicksburg
on their way to a final destination, which in some instances,
was as far east as Mobile, Alabama.
The northern movement of
the Texas Longhorn was resumed after the Civil War for the
demand of beef had driven the price of sirloin steak in New York
to the exorbitant price of 24¢ to 35¢ a pound. In
1866, some 260,000 head were moved up the trail to Kansas and
Missouri, but less than half reached their destination.
The herds were driven by cowboys, many of which were in their
teens, 14 to 19 years of age. They faced constant hazards
from storms, floods, Indians, and those who would steal the
The trickle that had begun
in 1846 become a flood and some 10,000,000 cattle were sent over
the northern trails before they were closed. More than
700,000 cattle were driven north in 1871, the year of the
maximum effort. The trail herds of the 1860s and 70s
probably averaged 2,000 to 2,500 cattle. They were driven
by about 12 men or boys, a "boss" drover and a
cook. The cowboys received an average of one dollar per
day and with the traveling rate of 10-12 miles per day, were on
the trail for a minimum of two months.
A very slight disturbance
was enough to sometimes cause panic. The most effectual
way of controlling a nervous herd was by the cowboy circling and
singing loudly and steadily. This image of the working
cowboy singing to the cattle became the model for the singing
cowboys of the Hollywood Western, except beautiful women were substituted
for the cattle and seldom were any cattle seen. By the
time movies were invented the Texas Longhorn had been
"improved" out of existence.
The Texas Longhorn was
responsible for the start of the economic recovery of
Texas. The net profits of $8 to $20 per head, when
returned to Texas enabled the owner to invest in vast tracts of
land, often at 50¢ per acre. Thus one Texas Longhorn was
worth 15-40 acres of land. The image of the cowboy, the
romance associated with the Texas Longhorn, and the trail drives
are the result of the events that took place during an era of
some 15 years.
The cowboy was a spirited,
independent, resourceful, hardworking individual that earned his
livelihood in the only way he could, bought land, and
became a rancher. The large Texas ranches of today all
have a history of cowboys, trail drives and Texas
Longhorns. The Texas Longhorn is truly the symbol of Texas
and of bold, straight-forward, independent men.
Taken from a leaflet provided by the Texas
Longhorn Breeders Association of America
2315 N Main ~ Ste 402 ~ Fort Worth, Texas 76016