Texas Longhorn cattle are remarkable animals known for their docile nature, massive horns, disease resistance, and impressive fertility. With a history dating back to the early colonization of the New World, the cattle evolved in a wild environment that was not hampered by government regulations or range restrictions. Although the breed came close to extinction, the cattle’s population numbers slowly increased in the 20th century due to support from the United States Forest Service and concerned cattle ranchers. Currently, Longhorns still make up a small percentage of the beef and milk production in North America, but the breed’s popularity is rising, and more ranchers recognize the advantages of raising the horned cattle.
Quick Facts About Texas Longhorns
|Breed Name:||Texas Longhorn|
|Place of Origin:||United States|
|Uses:||Beef, rodeo entertainment|
|Bull (Male) Size:||1400–2200 pounds|
|Cow (Female) Size:||600–1400 pounds|
|Color:||White, red, brown, gray, black, spotted|
|Climate Tolerance:||Hot and cold climates|
|Production:||20 or more calves, limited milk production|
|Benefits:||Milk is high in butterfat; beef is lean|
Texas Longhorn Origins
The earliest ancestors of Texas Longhorns were the first cattle brought to the island of Hispaniola by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Spanish settlers continued to migrate north with their herds, and by the 17th century, the Spanish cattle were firmly established in Texas. When American settlers began occupying the Texas region, they brought along English cattle that mated with the Spanish varieties.
The Longhorn is a mix of Spanish Retinto cattle and English mongrels, and it proliferated in the 18th century in North America. Longhorns traveled long distances during cattle drives and became accustomed to multiple terrains and temperate zones. During the industrial revolution in the late 19th century, Longhorn populations began to decline.
Cattle ranchers chose other heftier European varieties to produce more tallow and milk. In 1927, the few remaining Longhorn herds were taken to Oklahoma and Nebraska to live in wildlife preserves. The breed was also helped by the formation of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of Texas. The organization shed light on the cattle’s dire situation, and eventually, more ranchers raised Longhorns to increase the population.
Texas Longhorn Characteristics
Texas Longhorns are much leaner than other breeds like Holstein and Angus. They owe their striking physical appearance, with horns that can reach over 100 inches, to their rugged free-range history. As feral animals, they mated without human interference and learned to scare off predators with their enormous horns.
When western Longhorns were distributed to other regions in North America, they endured long journeys and varying weather conditions. The rugged trips defined the strongest members of the breed and weeded out the animals that could not cope.
Compared to the short life (6 years) of a Holstein, Longhorns can live over 20 years. They reach maturity much faster than other cattle, and females can begin breeding when they’re only 13 to 16 months old. As breeders, Longhorn heifers have a few advantages over other cattle. Their enlarged birthing canal allows them to deliver healthy calves with limited human interference. Their milk is enhanced with a high percentage of butterfat that helps their offspring develop faster. Longhorn heifers are naturing mothers that keep a close eye on their calves and will even shield infant calves from harsh weather.
Although Longhorn bulls are well-known for their tremendous appendages, the females also have horns. Their horns are an evolutionary gift designed for defense, but they contrast the animal’s friendly nature. With the correct diet and care, Longhorns socialize well with their caretakers. However, the cattle should not interact with young children unsupervised because of its horns.
Texas Longhorn Uses
Longhorns produce nutritious milk for their calves, but their milk production is lower than other breeds like the Holstein. Most cattle ranchers raise the cows for their beef, and some use them in rodeos, parades, and other exhibitions. Longhorn meat is lean, high in protein, and enhanced by the animal’s grass-fed diet. When a mature Longhorn dies, the horns and skulls are sold to collectors and consumers who appreciate a Southwestern memento for their homes.
Longhorns are easy to train and more tolerant of human riders than other cattle. Around Texas, the cattle are featured at sporting events and political rallies.
Texas Longhorn Appearance & Varieties
Compared to other breeds, Texas Longhorns are longer and leaner. They can grow up to 5 feet tall at the shoulders, but the feature that stands out most is their majestic horns. The horns’ average length is around 100 inches, but the record-breaking horns of M Arrow Cha-Ching are 129.5 inches long. The cattle’s horns served them well when they were wild animals roaming the North American continent. They used their appendages to scare off predators while grazing in the fields. Although some bulls grouped together on a farm may use them to establish dominance, Longhorns typically do not use them to attack other animals or humans.
Longhorns come in several colors and pattern variations, and you’re unlikely to find two that look alike. They can have a solid color like red, white, or black, or they can have spots or streaks.
Texas Longhorn Population/Distribution/Habitat
Although their habitat was limited to the southwestern regions of the United States in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Longhorns now enjoy habitats around the world. They’re most prevalent in North America, especially in western states and Canada, but they also live in South America, Australia, and Africa. Because of the conservation efforts in the early 20th century, the population numbers of the cattle continue to rise. However, they’re still on the critical list of endangered animals, and they’re not abundant enough to supply entire countries with milk or beef.
Are Texas Longhorns Good for Small-Scale Farming?
With their laid-back personality and fondness for socializing with humans, Longhorns are excellent animals for small-scale farming. However, they require vast fields for grazing and would not be suitable for a small homestead. Their dairy production is less desirable than other breeds, but some small farmers train them for exhibitions and public events. The Texas Longhorn is an evolutionary marvel that beat the odds and remains a treasured breed among ranchers, animal lovers, and people of all ages. Thanks to the remarkable conservation efforts during the 20th century, the Longhorn will continue to prosper well into the future.
Featured Image Credit: Quinn Calder, Shutterstock