Also known as the Texas Longhorn, Longhorn cattle are magnificent beasts. The span of their horns can extend up to seven feet. The Longhorn is famous among farmers for being a lean beef producer. Its distinctive horned silhouette is also easily recognized as the mascot of the University of Texas at Austin.
History of Longhorn Cattle
The history of the Longhorn is itself long. Texas Longhorns are thought to be direct descendants of some of the first cattle imported into America from Europe. According to genetic testing, the original Longhorn was an Iberian hybrid of Middle Eastern and Indian wild bovine creatures, known as aurochs, which are now extinct.
Early Longhorns first arrived in the Americas when Christopher Columbus brought them to the Caribbean in 1493. Spanish colonists eventually gradually moved the cattle north to Texas, where some of the breed escaped and became feral. Longhorn cattle evolved quickly to survive the hot and dry Texan climate, and they are now famed for their hardiness and ability to tolerate drought.
Longhorns fell out of favor as a beef-producing breed, as the creation of established farms and ranches meant that breeds did not need to be as hardy to survive. During this period, the lean meat produced by the Longhorn was not highly prized, and ranchers turned instead to breeds which were able to quickly and easily put on weight. The breed almost became extinct during the 1920s, but the United States Forest Service created a breeding stock in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in 1927.
Why Keep Longhorn Cattle?
Although not as popular as many other breeds, Longhorn cattle still have a lot to offer to the Texas rancher. Their beef is lean, with less fat and cholesterol than other varieties of beef, which can be attractive to the modern health-conscious consumer. Texas Longhorns are also used for cross-breeding, as their small size means that hybrid calves have low birth weights, which reduce the risk of obstructed labor for first-calf heifers.
Texans have begun to breed an increasing number of Longhorn cattle as riding steers. Steer riding is gaining popularity in many areas. Longhorns are particularly suited to being ridden, as they are intelligent and have a gentle, tolerant temperament.
The cultural significance of Longhorn cattle in Texas means that those with pure genetics can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per animal at auction.
Physical Characteristics of Longhorn Cattle
The most distinctive physical characteristics of Longhorn cattle are their horns, which appear on both cows and bulls and can span as wide as seven feet. The horns develop in a characteristics pattern, growing out to the sides before turning up at the tip, sometimes followed by another turn out to the side.
Longhorns vary widely in color. Dark red and white are the most common colors, but individuals can also display speckled mixes of brown, black, white, and red. Longhorn cattle have relatively long legs and are not generally as heavy-set as some other beef breeds.
The closest relatives of the Texas Longhorn are two breeds of cattle from Portugal: the Alentejana and the Mertolenga. Until recently, these cattle were used to work Portugese farms, due to their high energy and hardy constitutions.
Information About Longhorn Cattle
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