However, in the late 1800s, the hardy Texas Longhorn met with an enemy his natural instincts couldn't fight: the fencing of the open ranges and the importation of other beef breeds. The number of Texas Longhorns dwindled until the true Texas Longhorn approached extinction. As national concern grew, the U.S. government appropriated $3,000 in 1927 to acquire a herd of the old-time cattle. After a 5,000 mile trip through South Texas and Old Mexico, Forest Service employees located 23 head that became the foundation stock for the federal herd at the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge in Cache, Oklahoma.
Left on their own without the benefit of man, the Texas Longhorn survived by its' own ingenuity, and developed the traits of hardiness, disease resistance, longevity, fertility, and browse utilization still present in the cattle.
The same characteristics that the Texas Longhorn developed through its' years of neglect are now in demand by the cattleman of the 21st century - calving ease, fertility, disease resistance, and longevity. It is not unusual for Texas Longhorn cows to calve well into their teens, and more calves mean more dollars for today's cattleman. The breed is adaptable to any climate, doing equally well in the hot and humid summers of the Florida coast and the cold winters of Canada and the northern United States. The Texas Longhorn also forages on minimum pasture, and works extremely well in crossbreeding programs.
Through the years, interest in the breed increased, and in 1964, concerned breeders organized the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, now headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. Today, through the efforts of those breeders, over a quarter million head of Texas Longhorn cattle have been registered. Although recognized for its rich history and long horns, which average four feet and sometimes more from tip to tip, the Texas Longhorn is making a major contribution to the modern beef industry. .
During the dark days following the American Civil War, the Texas Longhorn became the financial salvation of the Southwest. Men returning home found that their only source of income was the thousands of Texas Longhorns wandering freely - worth next to nothing in Texas, but hungered for by residents of the North. An estimated 10 million Texas cattle were trailed to northern markets between 1866 and 1895 bringing in the staggering sum of $200,000,000.
The Texas Longhorn has followed a long trail to the 21st century. Its ancestors came from the shores of Spain, arriving with Columbus in 1493 at Santa Domingo. In 1521, Gregorio de Villalobos brought the first cattle from Santa Domingo to Mexico. Explorers, settlers and expeditions to establish missions then brought cattle into Texas. These cattle, mingling with cattle lost by eastern settlers, propogated as they escaped, and were scattered by Indians or were abandoned.
Despite the movie directors' love of a good stampede, Texas Longhorns' are very docile, and are easy to work with as witnessed by the number of men and women who work the cattle on foot, and by the number of youngsters who exhibit the Longhorn in the show ring. Another reason that Texas Longhorn genetics are in demand in today's beef market is the lean beef they provide. With the public's concern regarding fat, it is a relief to know that there is a breed of cattle that can provide naturally lean beef. Research from Texas A&M University has shown that Texas Longhorn steaks have about 30% less muscle fat and 15% less saturated fat that steaks from British beef cattle. However, the marbling, quality grade, and flavor are similar. So next time you order steak in a restaurant, ask for Longhorn Lean!