Longhorn

image-3

    Until Christopher Columbus there was no cattle in the new world. On his second voyage he brought Andalusian cattle from Spain. These cattle were chosen for the voyage because they were small and fit on well on the ships they had very short horns.  He left them on the island of Santo Domingo and there they remained for 15 years while he had difficulties in Europe. Biologists believe that this environmental change caused the cattle to evolved into what we now know as the longhorn. The cattle had to adapt to their new environment and apparently consumed different minerals than they were accustomed to, causing them to grow much larger, longer horns and larger bodies. Even their color changed from solid to spotted thus camouflaging them from predators. These cattle evolved into one of the most and drought and winter resistant breeds. Eventually Spaniards  transported them to the Yucatan peninsula. In those days there were no fences so some of the cows would wander off and return to the wild. Being so hardy they populated fast; there were literally millions of wild cattle throughout Mexico and the southern part of the U.S. This species learned by protecting themselves from wolves and predators to be deadly with their horns. They were very aggressive to-wards horses and men; eventually it got to the point that it was more sport to hunt a longhorn bull than it was to go after bear or buffalo. Indeed the longhorn went so feral that their meat, even today, is more like Elk or Buffalo than it is regular beef. The meat does not marble and has about 70% less cholesterol than other beef.  For centuries longhorns were the most populous bovine species in America because of their ability to survive in extremely harsh conditions.
Wild cattle are not much use to anyone since they will run away from the ranch, try to kill you and not even move in a herd. Cattle were worth a lot of money if they could be drove to a place needing beef; they had to be tamed.  So Mexican ranchero’s began the domestication of these animals not Texans; hence a more proper name for them is Mexican Longhorn. Many times Mexican vaqueros the price of domestication with their lives and the lives of their horses. These cattle were as wild as the buffalo that roamed the Great Plains but the need for domesticated cattle urged the determined vaqueros through the years to eventual success. They learned the most successful means of domesticating them was to scatter the herd and capture a small band of calves. The vaqueros were accompanied by people in oxcarts who transported the young longhorns back to the ranchero where they were kept in strong, tall fences until they grew accustomed to people feeding them.
As the years went by the need, and thus the price, of cattle went up. The herds of buffalo had been exhausted in order to subdue the Native American Indians. Other wildlife such as deer, elk, and antelope were greatly diminished at the hand of professional hunters feeding miners and railway workers. After the border of Texas was established as the Rio Grande River, in the 1800s, many new settlers wanting to make fast money would make cattle raids across the border stealing from the Spanish ranchero’s. The U.S.’s need for food to continue developing the railroads and to explore for gold fields was so great that the need for cattle outweighed the wrong of stealing; nothing was done and the rustling went on for many years.  If by some chance, the cattle were bought, they usually paid the Spanish a couple of dollars apiece.When the cattle reached a mining town they would be worth twenty or thirty dollars apiece.
This of course, is where cattle drives started. Miners up north needed food and down south there was an abundance of cattle so the cattle would be driven from the Mexican border to a railroad that would then haul them to wherever they were needed. The longhorn was perfect for these drives. They could walk 8 to 10 miles a day with no adverse effects; they could even gain weight on the move if there was good grass. Just the movement would kill most breeds today. Even the hardiest would have a hard time moving 5-8 miles every day and none could gain weight on the move. Some historians believe that the settling of the west would have taken thirty-years longer, posibly with a very different outcome, if it had not been for this hardy breed.
By the end of the 1800s the focus had shifted; trains were everywhere so cows did not need to be driven very far. Cows just needed to graze on their home range, get fat, then they were taken a short distance and sold by the pound. Longhorns could not change their spots in a day so what had been attributes was now detriments. Ranchers wanted cattle that would get big and heavy, longhorns are lean; they wanted them to stay near the ranch and not move around much, longhorns are athletic. New cattle breeds started being shipped to the west on trains. They couldn’t have made it like the longhorn did; on its own four legs. These fat lazy cows were bred to longhorn herds with the intention of breeding the longhorn out of them, eventually they succeeded.
For many years longhorns were forgotten for their instrumental role in developing the west and despised for their bony frames an the waste of nutrients it takes to develop horn. The government realized, nearly too late, that they should be preserved for history’s sake. In 1920, the government began looking for pure blood longhorns they were only able to find 60 in the entire nation that they believed were pure and unmixed with beef cattle. Through
the efforts of the United States government those 60 head where gathered, purchased and taken to a wild life refuge where they have again shown their resilience repopulating to hundreds of thousands.
Today the longhorn has a devoted fan club who raise them for pets to ride or show as well as eat. They are now appreciated for the quality of their meat which advocates affirm tastes better than regular beef as well as being more healthy since it is lower in cholesterol.

     Our longhorn was recently retired so we are currently looking for a replacement that the kids can pet and feed out of their hands.

Advertisements