History of the Texas Longhorns

They came from Spain.

Historically, longhorn cattle in the Americas date back to 1521, when Gregorio de Villalobos was sent as viceroy to "New Spain" and brought a number of calves from Santo Domingo. Early explorers, including Coronado, brought cattle from Mexico into what is now Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. These and other importations provided the foundation stock for the longhorns of Texas and for the whole cattle industry in the Southwest.

The original cattle from Spain were various shades of red, white and coal black. As these cattle escaped from domestication, they developed colors that came from their primitive ancestor, the native wild bull or auroches of Europe. Thus, the Texas longhorn today carries many colors and hide patterns. Hardy and active, they are well suited to the arid conditions of the Southwest, where for more than three centuries they occupied extensive ranges, excluding other cattle, and left an indelible stamp on the economy and culture of the region.

The Wild West...
"This lasting fight to subjugate the cranky, armored longhorn critters made heroes out of cowboys. The cowpuncher, for half a century or more, has enjoyed one of the most romantic reputations in the world. A tamer breed of cattle would never have given rise to the stockhand's glory. A more domestic spirit than the usual cowpoke possessed could never have battled successfully with the longhorn, though.

Just the telling of the cowboy's story, in song and story and art and movie, every year now, more than exceeds the sale value of the trail herds delivered from Texas to Montana in the best year the longhorn ever enjoyed. An estimated ten million longhorns were drained off the Texas ranges and driven up the north trails from 1866 to 1890. In the northern plains, they fattened on the fresh, deep grass left by the vanishing buffalo and other big game." (The Longhorn of the Wichitas, 1947.)

Wichita Mountains Steps In...  

Shorthorn and Hereford stock were introduced into the Southwest to improve the beef qualities, and Brahma cattle to produce animals more resistant to the Texas fever tick. The true longhorn began to disappear, and by 1920 it became apparent that only prompt action could save them from extinction. Through a special Congressional appropriation, funds were made available for an intensive effort to save them. Forest Service employees Will C. Barns and John Hatton, armed with descriptions of the longhorn "type", set forth on a 5,000-mile search for typical animals. After inspecting more than 30,000 head of Texas cattle, a herd of 20 cows, 3 bulls, 3 steers, and 4 calves was assembled, and in August 1927 they were  shipped to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (then the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve).

It was the purpose of the Forest Service, continued by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife, to secure animals possessing the typical longhorn traits and develop the herd to represent the original longhorns as nearly as possible. The herd has been rigorously culled for type through the years and 80 additions have been made, most of which came from remote portions of Mexico and other longhorn herds. 

The Texas Longhorn has been portrayed as a lean, big-boned animal, inclined to be long on horn and short on beef. Given a favorable grazing range and an opportunity to get all it wants to eat, a longhorn tends to lose that lean and hungry look. In 1935, three 4 and 5-year old bulls brought from Mexico had a combined weight of 1,535 pounds. A year later, just one of these bulls weighed 1,140 pounds.