Texas Longhorns


The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge's objective for the Texas Longhorn Cattle is one of protecting and preserving a significant cultural and historical resource. Specifically, the management objective, as set by the U.S. Congress states, "To maintain and preserve under reasonably natural conditions, with as little change and as true to type as is possible, a herd of historically significant Texas Longhorn cattle for the enjoyment and study by present and future generations."

Differences of opinion prevail as to just what constitutes a "longhorn." The following type characteristics were gathered by Forest Service officials from ranchmen, trail riders, historical accounts, and other sources of information in the early 1900's and were used as guidelines in making the original and subsequent selections.

Body of Cows and Steers
Fairly large-boned and rangy, short coupled. Average weight for cows ranges from 800 pounds up to 1200 pounds, steers at 4 to 5 years should weight 1000 to 1200 pounds when fat. Fairly smooth in conformation but narrow and "slabsided." Long legs with forelegs seemingly shorter than usual, due, doubtlessly, to heavy forequarters with somewhat arched shoulders merging to the hollow of the neck and loin, particularly in aged steers, slightly swaybacked with sloping hips and bony, fish-shaped prominence along the top of the rump just back of the line across the hip bones. Not a beefy animal. Eyes wide apart, appearing more so on account of length of face. Head usually large, often with wide, hairy crown between the bases of the horns compared with present-day cattle, face long, neck short and stocky.

Body of Bulls
Characteristics of bulls are similar to those of cows and steers except: Horns extend outward then sweep forward and upward to provide functional weapons. Rather long dewlaps; black points; inclined to be mean in disposition; hair tends to be coarse and thick on their necks, crowns and ears.

Horns of cows and steers extend outward and exhibit a prominent twist. Although similarly shaped, cows horns are much smaller than those of steers. Tips of steer horns are often black with a 6 year-old steer often having horns of five feet, tip-to-tip. Horns over seven feet are rare and over eight feet are extremely scarce.

Traditional colors were earth tone shades of red, dun and brown. However, they may be any color, speckled, roan, pied, brindle, etc., with fawn colors or yellows and light reds in conspicuous proportions. Too many blacks or whites in the herd would not be advisable. A "line-back" animal should not be turned down for there were many in the old herds. These were mostly red, black, or brown with a white line down the backbone. Some are brown with a light brown or red streak down the back.

Longhorn Associations
The bulls and cows of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge longhorn herd born prior to 2002 are registered with the Texas Longhorn Breeder's Association of America (TLBAA), the International Texas Longhorn Association (ITLA), and the Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Registry (CTLR). As of 2002, the animals will no longer retain individual number brands and will therefore not hold pedigrees. The TLBAA and CTLR will register the animals as "WR Texas Longhorns" without pedigree information. Please contact the Refuge Manager for further information.

Learn More: 
History of the Texas Longhorns