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Texas Longhorn -cow- USA

Texas Longhorn
(most common name)
(transboundary/brand name)

(local/other name):
• Longhorn

A Timeline of the Texas Longhorn

1540: Spanish cattle arrive by way of Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande for the first time.

1690: More cattle imports follow when Spanish missionaries and settlers start ranching.

Until the 1800s: Longhorn cattle develop into a tough, resistant animal (mostly through natural selection) and become very well adapted to their rugged environment and to predators. West Texas has a dry subtropical climate; East Texas has a very humid subtropical climate. Both have extremes of temperature and rainfall.

Hides and tallow are the only important cattle products.

1800s: North American ranching of unimproved cattle consists of:
• large ranches
• large numbers of cattle per ranch
• open ranges
• branding and periodic roundups
• overland drives to market
• lots of cowboys for hire

1815: The Shorthorn enters the USA.

1820: There is evidence of ranching on the coastal prairies with predominantly Mexican stock.

1821: British settlers bring their so-called Native Cattle out west.

1836: Republic of Texas formally secedes from Mexico.

1837: USA recognizes Texas’s independence from Mexico.

1837–1846: Battles over this continue.

1840: Ranching spreads into the semi-arid inland and Texas ranchers are claiming cattle abandoned by their Mexican owners.

1845: USA annexes Texas as a state.

1845–1870: The Shorthorn is the dominant beef breed in the USA; purebred Shorthorn bulls do poorly in Texas.

1849: Herefords are now present in the USA; Herefords do just fine in Texas.

1860: The Texas Longhorn is now sufficiently distinct to be called a true breed and 20 million head are reported to be in the state of Texas alone — leading to its devaluation economically as a breed.

1865: American Civil War ends and the Texas Longhorn becomes more economically important due to the demand for meat (and the depletion of bison).

1866: Cattle trails from Texas to the north are better organized.

1867: The railroad reaches Abilene, Kansas.

After this, a new droving route (the Chisholm Trail) is established from San Antonio, Texas, through what is now Oklahoma to the Kansas railheads. This provides a market outlet both to the east and overseas.

Individual ranching enterprises flourish and foreign capital, much of it from Britain, is invested with the majority aimed at upgrading the Texas Longhorn using specialized beef cattle.

1875: Barbed wire is invented.

1875/6: Export of chilled beef to the UK provides incentive to improve the Texas Longhorn and increase its competitiveness with midwestern beef herds (which have already been upgraded using British breeds).

1880s: Cattle industry suffers bad management, overgrazing and mass cattle stealing.

1885: Financial crash; half the ranches close down.

1886/7: Disastrous winter; entire herds of Texas Longhorn cattle die after months of blizzards and no winter food.

(Bison walk facing into the direction from which a storm blows and, in this way, essentially walk out of the storm. Cattle do not face storms; they let the wind herd them and, in this way, end up spending more time in a storm by staying inside the storm’s path.)

Barbed wire fences also stop the starving herds searching for food and animals in the front are trampled to death; 90% of the Texas Longhorn herds perish and most ranchers are ruined.

Ranchers then start rebuilding their herds, mainly using new breeds or cattle of mixed origin.

Despite this, some ranchers stick with the Texas Longhorn and rigorously exclude the influence of other breeds.

by 1890: Close to ten million cattle have been driven northwards, replacing the bison.

Start of the 1900s: Long cattle drives of huge herds over trails start to fizzle out mainly due to the parcelling and fencing of land by settlers.

1920: Beef cattle present in the USA
• 39.2% Shorthorn
• 38.1% Hereford
• 10.2% Aberdeen-Angus

1920: Beef cattle present in Texas
• 4,000 Shorthorn
• 70,000 Hereford
• 2,000 Aberdeen-Angus

1920s: The Texas Longhorn is now almost made extinct in its original form due to upgrading (mainly with the Hereford).

1927: US Forestry Service establishes a conservation herd at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge at Cache, Oklahoma; this herd becomes the nucleus from which several new composite breeds are later established.

1960s: Interest in the Texas Longhorn leads to the original conserved lineages becoming intermingled to the detriment of their distinctiveness.

1964: Texas Longhorns Breeders Association is established.

1974: Herdbook is closed.

2000s: Several Texas Longhorn breed associations and registries exist; some focusing on commercial development and others stressing maintenance of an original type.

Texas Longhorns now essentially descend from the following eight founding lines:

Old family local lines:
• Butler (still intact)
• Marks
• Woods
• Wright
• Yates (still intact)

Lines created after searching far and wide for cattle of acceptable type:
• Peeler (still intact)
• Phillips (rare; produced the popular bull ‘Texas Ranger JP’ which contributed extensively to the breed as a whole)
• Wildlife Refuge

The original, rangy Texas Longhorn is described as:
• bony
• large framed
• flat-ribbed
• scanty muscled
• horns growing to an average of a 130 cm (1.5+ yds)

Although the horns of Texas Longhorn bulls are comparatively short, Texas Longhorn steer horns can, in rare cases, reach 2.4 m (2.6+ yds) in span. (Extreme horn length had been favored in one of the original conservation herds.)

Selection of horn length and better muscling has made the Texas Longhorn larger, fleshier, and perhaps even longer horned — all of which may reduce some of its superb environmental adaptation.

Texas Longhorn coat colors include:
• bays with brown points
• black and white (often with spots and speckles)
• blues (mulberry, ring-streaked, speckled)
• browns with bay points
• cream (many shades)
gateada (brindles)
grulla (brownish-tan color of a sandhill crane)
• linebacks (frequent
• reds, all shades (except the dark red characteristic of Herefords; pale red, very common)
sabina (red-and-white speckled)
• slate grey
• yellow (all hues)
zorillo (lineback with a black body color)

(Spanish, adj) gateada = similar in some aspect to a cat
(Spanish) grulla = crane
(Spanish, adj) sabina = catlike
(Spanish) zorillo = skunk

The Texas Longhorn is today noted for:
• ease of calving
• excellent mothering ability
• high fertility
• hardiness
• vigor
• leanness
• adaptability
• efficient use of scanty forage, browsing
• endurance
• longevity
• high resistance to parasites and diseases

Texas Longhorns are slow maturing animals (full-grown at 6 to 7 years of age), however they have a long breeding life.

Composites using the Texas Longhorn include:
Geltex - Gelbvieh (5/8) × Texas Longhorn (3/8)
Salorn - Salers (5/8) × Texas Longhorn (3/8)
Texon - Devon × Texas Longhorn

On the basis of microsatellites (Delgado et al., 2012; Martinez et al., 2012), Mexican Criollo cattle breeds which cluster with the Texas Longhorn include:
Criollo Poblano
Criollo de Chihuahua
Criollo de Baja California
Criollo de Nayarit

Texas Longhorn -steer- USA

This page was last updated on: 2023-05-20

You can also go to:

My Daily Cow® USA and read about other American cattle breeds.

The Cow Wall® A-Z Cattle Breed Picture Reference to see other breeds of cattle in the world.