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Texas Longhorn (cattle)

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The Texas longhorn is a breed of cattle known for its characteristic horns, which can extend to 120 inches tip to tip for steers and exceptional cows and bulls in the 70 to 80 inch tip to tip range. Horns can have a slight upward turn at their tips or even triple twist. Texas Longhorns are known for their extreme diversified coloring. The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America serves as the recognized registry for the breed, which can often fetch up to $40,000 or more at auction with the record $160,000 for a cow.


The Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry Certified Texas Longhorn Registry(CTLR), is the other recognized breed registry dedicated to preserving the purest Texas Longhorn of the highest quality. By incorporating the tools of visual inspection of cattle by the most knowledgeable of Texas Longhorn breeders and the use of bloodtype analysis to further identify any evidence of impurities and for future parentage identification, CTLR rekindled the ideal of preserving for posterity fullblood Texas Longhorn cattle.

History of the breed


Though some historians disagree, the Texas longhorn is generally thought to have descended from the Spanish Corriente cattle introduced into North American by spanish colonists in the 16th and 17th century. The cattle that survived in the wild developed unique characteristics and desert dry climate survival skills that allowed them to expand their population outside of domestic captivity. The wild cattle breed spread into the Northern Mexico high desert and South Texas brush country through the 18th and early 19th century. Early in the 19th century some of the cattle were recaptured and crossed with English cattle brought to Texas from southern and midwestern states in the 1820s and 1830s.


The first cattle to set foot in North America and the only breed of cattle to evolve without human management, the Texas Longhorn can thrive in country where no other breed can live; subsist on weeds, cactus and brush; range days away from water; and stay fit and fertile whether it’s living in the scorching, parasite-infested tropics or in the arid, subzero winters of Montana.


The breed began to gain popularity in the late 1870s, when buffalo herds were slaughtered and ranging tribes of Plains Indians largely confined. As a result, ranches were set up to round up the feral cattle to be sold at market and new ranches began spreading northward to the open range of the Noth American Great Plains. Texas longhorns, whose long legs and hard hoofs made them ideal trail cattle, were the preferred breed to stock these new northern ranches, initiating the cattle drives of cowboy legend. Cattle drives in this era (before railroads began to take over much of the transport of cattle) moved an estimated 9 million Texas longhorn cattle up the Chisholm Trail and others to shipping points created by Joseph G. McCoy after the American Civil War.


In the late 1800s, the advent of barbed wire brought the open-range cattle boom to an end and allowed for more selective breeding of cattle. The leaner longhorn beef was not as attractive in an era where tallow was highly prized, and the longhorn's ability to survive on often poor vegetation of the open range was no longer as much of an issue. Other breeds demonstrated traits more highly valued by the modern rancher, such as the ability to put on weight quickly. The Texas longhorn stock slowly dwindled, until in 1927 the breed was saved from almost certain extinction by enthusiasts from the United States Forest Service, who collected a small herd of stock to breed on a refuge in Oklahoma. A few years later, J. Frank Dobie and others gathered small herds to keep in Texas state parks. They were cared for largely as curiosities, but the stock's longevity, resistance to disease and ability to thrive on marginal pastures quickly revived the breed as beef stock. Today, the breed is still used as a beef stock, though many Texas ranchers keep herds purely because of their link to Texas history.


In other parts of North America this breed is used for much more. Longhorn cattle have a strong survival instinct and can find food and shelter during times of rough weather. Longhorn calves are very tough and can stand up sooner after birth than other breeds. Longhorn cattle can breed for a long time, well into their teens. There have been cows that have bred for up to thirty years. Some Ranchers keep Longhorns for their easy calving. A Longhorn cow will often go off on her own to a safe place to have the calf then bring it home. They are also known to hide their calves in safe places to avoid predation, sometimes causing difficulty for ranchers, who may need to work on the animal.



Most breeds of cattle fall into either beef or dairy. The Texas longhorn is a beef animal and is known for its lean beef, which is lower in fat, cholesterol and calories than most beef. The Texas Longhorn is also utilized for their many excellent qualities adding hybrid vigor and easy calving abilities when crossed with other breeds. However, they continue to represent the romance of the Old West and are often retained for their beauty and intelligence.


One popular fad for some Texas longhorn breeders (owners) is to breed for the horn characteristics. Due to the variation in horn growth, with some cattle having almost flat horns while others have many twists and turns, there are 3 horn measurements that can be taken.


Tip to Tip - The length from each tip of the horn, a straight line. This is a common measurement.

Total Horn - The total length following the horn and always greater than the Tip to Tip

Base (or Poll) - The circumference of the horn at the largest point.

These measurements can be adjusted to a Horns per Month of Age (HMA) which is calculated by dividing the number of months of age into the horn measurement. For example, a 48 month old animal with 50" of horn would be 50 / 48 or 1.04" per month of age.


It is also common for many ranchers to cross breed longhorn with other breeds to have the simiar behavioral characteristics. This is especially true in warmer climates where purebred longhorn cattle excel in this environment.


Texas longhorn in popular culture

The Longhorns is the nickname of the sports teams of The University of Texas at Austin and the school mascot is a longhorn named Bevo.

The Texas longhorn is an official symbol for the city of Fort Worth, Texas, which is nicknamed "Cowtown".


Texas Parks and Wildlife maintain an official "State Longhorn Herd", created by Sid Richardson and J. Frank Dobie. Portions of the herd are kept at various state parks within Texas.

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