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The Texas Longhorn is a breed of cattle known for its characteristic horns, which can extend to six feet in width and have a slight upward turn at their tips, as well as for their distinctive "burnt orange" coloring.
Though some historians disagree, the Texas Longhorn is generally thought to have been created as a cross between the Spanish retinto (criollo) stock left in the United States by Spanish explorers and English cattle brought to Texas from southern and midwestern states in the 1820s and 1830s.
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 began to spread northward to the open range of the 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 made cowboys obsolete) 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.
With the advent of barbed wire in the late 1880s, the open-range cattle boom came to an end and with it the Texas Longhorn's dominance. Its stock slowly dwindled, until in 1927 the breed was saved from sure 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.
"The Longhorns" is also the nickname of the sports teams of The University of Texas and the school mascot is a Longhorn named Bevo
- Will C. Barnes, "Wichita Forest Will Be Lair of Longhorns," The Cattleman, April 1926.
- Dan Kilgore, "Texas Cattle Origins," The Cattleman, January 1983.
- James Westfall Thompson, History of Livestock Raising in the United States, 1607-1860 (Washington: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1942).
- Don Worcester, The Texas Longhorn: Relic of the Past, Asset for the Future (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987).
Last updated: 05-02-2005 12:05:34