Texas Longhorn cattle are an extensive beef cattle breed. Texas Longhorns are known for their exceptionally long horns and diverse fur patterns.
The origin of these animals lies in the cattle that Spanish settlers brought to what is now the USA in the 15th century. Many of these cattle escaped, became feral, and established stable populations, particularly in southern North America, today's Texas. Genetically speaking, they are closely related to the Iberian cattle breeds such as De Lidia and Retinta from Spain and the Alentejana and Merolenga from Portugal. However, there are also minor influences of Indian cattle in the genome, which could probably be a consequence of gene flow across the Strait of Gibraltar from cattle of African origin.
For two centuries, these feral cattle were largely left to fend for themselves. Over several generations, the offspring developed a high feed and drought stress tolerance, as well as some other robust characteristics (calving ease, good maternal instincts, strong herd structure). Later, these feral animals were bred with the early Anglo-American settlers' own breeds of cattle in East Texas to produce a tough, robust animal characterized by its long legs and exceptionally long horns. At that time the horn span was up to one meter. The breed really became popular in the late 1870s, when the large herds of bison had already disappeared. The spread of ranchers to the northwest brought about the heyday of the longhorns, because they were particularly well adapted to the living conditions there. They had long legs and hard claws, which allowed them to be driven north to the large slaughterhouses. Around 9 million cattle of this breed were driven to large cities such as Chicago before animals could be transported by rail.
This boom in Texas Longhorn cattle was followed by a rapid decline brought about by improved transportation and the introduction of barbed wire. The very lean longhorn meat was no longer in demand and the focus in cattle breeding was on rapid growth and a high fat content. Thus, the Texas Longhorns were threatened with extinction in the 1920s.
These animals were saved from extinction by the United States Forest Service, which collected a small herd of these cattle to graze in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Other isolated ranchers began to maintain small herds of these cattle. One of them was Charles Schreiner III, who founded the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America in 1964. He was also the organizer of the first “show cattle drives” to draw attention to the origins and importance of the breed in earlier years.
Texas Longhorns Today
From these small herds, which were kept primarily out of curiosity, a steadily growing population of Texas Longhorn animals developed again. Today the breed is valued not only for its longevity, but also for its resistance to disease and its ability to survive on poor pastures. In addition to the cultural and historical significance
The breed is now also bred again for its lean and particularly low cholesterol meat. People's changing nutritional awareness is causing the demand for meat from Texas Longhorn cattle, which are kept extensively and fed naturally, to rise sharply. In addition, the characteristics typical of the breed, such as the pronounced horns and the striking coat patterns, are very important in today's breeding. Horn spans of over 3.50 meters are currently possible for oxen, over 2.60 meters for bulls and over 2.80 meters for female animals. The breeding of these cattle breeds is no longer limited to the USA. Today, Texas Longhorns are valued and specifically bred in many countries around the world.