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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Texas Longhorns in Photos

Few things evoke the Old West as much as the Texas Longhorn. Unlike most breeds of cattle, the Texas Longhorn is a naturally selected animal. In addition, they are the first American breed. Their ancestral past includes cattle that the Spanish brought over from the Canary Islands. These cattle originally hailed from Portugal. The closest relatives of the Longhorn are Iberian stock such as Alentejana and Mertolenga. This was just the beginning.

After the Spanish brought their cattle over, they left them to fend for themselves in the wilds of northern Mexico. One day this area would become Texas, and it was a harsh and unforgiving land. Weak and sickly animals, animals that could not defend themselves or those could not outwit the weather did not survive. For two centuries these animals lived by their own shrewd nature. The end result was a very hardy animal with the ability to eat things most other cattle will starve on and stay comfortable in temperatures that would kill any less hardy animals.

During the early years of the West, the Longhorn was the breed of choice. They were plentiful on the range. They weren't always to easy to round up as a more tame animal would have been, but the hardy nature of these beasts more than made up for the trouble. As the Texan ranges were settled, interest shifted to easier to care for and fatter breeds. Longhorn beef tends to be leaner then most beef cattle meat and at the time people wanted fatty beef and lots of tallow. Finally, the breed was reduced to a few small herds by 1927. It was barely saved by J. Frank Dobie as a historical curiosity on Texan state parkland.

Texas Longhorn cattle photos show this magnificent animal for what they are. The bulls can be as big as 2,100 pounds and the cows can be up to 1,800 pounds. The magnificent horns start to grow when the calf is around a month old. Both sexes grow these signature horns that can be up to 126 inches from tip to tip. As these cattle are a natural breed, they can be stocky or rangy in build. Individuals also show much more size variation then in more human controlled cattle breeds. Their coats come in every color and combination that can be found on a cow. Longhorn cattle in photos are often shown with striking spotted and mottled coats of red and white or black and white. Despite the wild and dangerous look, a well treated and pastured animal is a very gentle creature. Many people prefer them as riding steers for this very reason.

Today this iconic breed is in no danger of disappearing. Their hardy nature is again in demand as the west suffers drought after drought. Consumers are health-conscious so leaner meat has risen in popularity. Stock-men keep the bulls to improve their other herds and those bulls are best if full blooded Texan Longhorn cattle. Truly, and gladly, their presence will not pass from the range.


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