Copper Breaks Longhorn Herd

The Texas Longhorn is actually a hybrid between Spanish retinto Criollo brought by Columbus and Coronado and English cattle brought to Texas by settlers between 1820s and 1830s.  During the 1850s Texas longhorns were trailed to markets in New Orleans and California.  They developed immunity to Texas tick fever, which they carried with them and passed on to local herds along the way.  In 1861 Missouri and the eastern counties of Kansas banned Texas stock, and during the second half of the nineteenth century many states attempted to enact restrictive laws in an effort to fight the fever.  After the Civil War, however, millions of Texas longhorns were driven to market.  Herds were driven to Indian and military reservations in New Mexico and Arizona, and in 1867 Illinois cattle dealer Joseph G. McCoy arranged to ship cattle from Abilene, Kansas, to the Union Stockyards in Chicago. Over the next twenty years contractors drove five to ten million cattle out of Texas, commerce that helped revive the state’s economy.  Longhorns, with their long legs and hard hoofs, were ideal trail cattle; they even gained weight on the way to market. Soon ranchers had begun crossing longhorns with shorthorn Durham and later with Herefords, thus producing excellent beef animals. Longhorns were bred almost out of existence; by the 1920s only a few small herds remained.  It is estimated that by 1927 only 27 head remained and then the US Government stepped in and with $3000 the Texas longhorn was saved from probable extinction by Will C. Barnes and other Forest Service men, when they collected a small herd of breeding stock in South Texas for the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma.  A few years later J. Frank Dobie, with the help of former range inspector Graves Peeler and financial support from oilman Sid W. Richardson, (of Fort Worth fame) gathered small herds for Texas state parks.  Since 1948 the official state Texas longhorn herd has been kept at Fort Griffin State Historic Site which is now part of the Texas Historical Commission.  Smaller longhorn herds were located at Possum Kingdom State Recreation Area, Palo Duro Canyon State Scenic Park, Abilene State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, and Copper Breaks State Park. We were able to see the local herd as we came and went from the gate each time.  The Leader attempted to get photos of the ones with the longest horns which can reach up to seven feet tip to tip.  As usual in his efforts to photograph Longhorns they quietly turned tail and continued to graze peacefully except for this one. They are beautiful animals and so many colors!  Maggie wanted to make friends (yeah) but it was hot and dusty that day!

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