Texas Longhorn Cattle: Guide, Info & Facts

Texas Longhorn cattle aren't just known for their unique long horns. They enjoy long lifespans, ongoing reproduction past 20 years and very strong resilience. Their meat is often consumed and is very tasty, being one the healthiest of all cattle breeds. 

The story of Texas Longhorn cattle is similar in some ways to that of Red Angus cattle. Both breeds were once alienated by cattlemen, only to rise again from dwindled populations to a higher pedestal as important, futuristic breeds in the American cattle industry.

While the Red Angus breed was alienated for its red color in favor of the black coat of their black Angus relatives, the Texas Longhorn breed was alienated for its lack of fat—an overlooked quality that has been instrumental in the breed’s comeback.

But how exactly did America’s first cattle nearly become extinct, and how were they saved?

Where Do The Texas Longhorn Cattle Come From?

Texas Longhorn cattle are an American beef breed of European descent but with some indicine genetics from cattle of African origin. They came to the Americas during the new world discovery period.

Texas Longhorns descend from Criollo cattle brought to the Americas from the Iberian Peninsula by Spanish explorers.

The arrival of the more miniature longhorn cattle traces back to the 1493 second voyage of Christopher Columbus from Spain, in which he brought Spanish cattle on his ship and landed in the Dominican Republic, which he called Dominica.

From the landing point, the long-horned cattle that came as a source of food for colonists were used in Mexico by the incoming Spain people before finding their way north to Texas around the end of the 17th century.

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In Texas, the cattle were either released into the wild or became unmanageable as they now had a lot of space to roam the open range, eventually becoming feral for two centuries.

The now wild-living cattle continued to thrive and develop independently without human intervention to grow to a population of millions.

Anglo-American settlers bred the feral Mexican cattle in East Texas with their eastern cattle to produce the Texas Longhorn cattle—a breed with longer horns that span up to 7 feet from tip to tip.

The bulk of the cattle remained feral until after the end Civil War when the demand for beef grew tremendously in the US. The millions of Longhorn cattle were slaughtered for meat also to satisfy the ballooning Texan population, but not for long because producers opted for other beef cattle breeds.

Because of competition from other beef breeds that had more fat to produce tallow for the candle-making industry, ranchers of that time alienated the Texas Longhorns because their meat had less fat.

Despite the hardiness and browsing ability cultivated by the Longhorns over centuries of feral life, their lack of fat led to a decline in demand, driving the breed to near extinction by the early 1900s.

In 1917, the University of Texas at Austin adopted a Texas Longhorn named Bevo as the school’s official mascot. The university’s sports teams also adopted the breed’s name and became known as the Texas Longhorns. These actions rekindled interest in the breed.

In 1927, a group of United States Forest Service enthusiasts saved the breed from extinction when they took a small Texas Longhorn stock and bred it in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

American folklorist J. Frank Dobie and a group of cattlemen also helped with conservation efforts by collecting some small herds to be raised in Texas state parks.

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Charles Schreiner “Three” also began rearing Longhorns on his ranch in 1957 in honor of his grandfather and the Longhorns he also kept on his ranches.

Charles Schreiner founded the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America (TLBAA) in 1964 to perpetuate purebred Texas Longhorn cows and bulls.

Today, Texas Longhorns are reared in Canada, South America, the US, Africa, the Netherlands, and Australia.

The current members (about 250) of the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd are managed jointly by Texas Parks and Wildlife and The Historical Commission. The herd is hosted in Texas parks such as:

  • Fort Griffin State Historic Site
  • Abilene
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Copper Breaks
  • San Angelo
  • Palo Duro Canyon

Texas Longhorn Breed Characteristics

The Texas Longhorn breed has the following characteristics:

Official Breed NameTexas Longhorn
OriginSpain and Africa
AppearanceExceptionally long horns in both bulls and cows
One solid color or a mix of colors such as red, yellow, white, blue, orange, black, cream, grey, or brown
Calf Weight40 pounds
Mature Cow Weight600-1,400 pounds
Mature Cow Height48-60 inches at the shoulder
Mature Bull Weight1,400-2,200 pounds
Mature Bull Height48-60 inches at the shoulder
Ready To BreedEarly maturity, with heifers breeding at around 13 months of age
Gestation Period9 months
First Calvings22 months
Time to Slaughter2 years (at 1,250-1,300 pounds on average)
Carcass Weight400-600 pounds (for steers slaughtered at 20-28 months of age)
Expected Lifespan20-30 years
Productive LifespanLong reproductive life with a live calf every year for 20 or more years
Known ForDocility and intelligence
Adaptability to a wide range of cold and hot climates
Disease and parasite resistance
Ease of care and handling
Exceptional mothering instincts
High libido for bulls and high fertility for cows
Lean, natural meat
Marked hybrid vigor for enhancing other breeds
Low birth weights
Long legs with hard hooves
Short, straight, slick coat
True ease of calving (they aren’t added genetically by humans from another easy calving breed)
WeaknessesSlow growth, reaching a maximum live weight in 8-10 years
Limited/poor milk production, but rich in butterfat content
ClimateHigher tolerance for heat and drought than European breeds
Ability to survive on poor vegetation
a lone texas longhorn cow on pasture

What Is So Special About Texas Longhorn Cattle?

Texas Longhorn bulls and cows are famed for their characteristically long horns, longevity, long reproductive life, maternal instincts, browsing ability, intrinsic ability to care for themselves, and highly diverse coloring.

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The horns of Texas Longhorn cattle grow about 50% in their first year and can reach 70-80 inches on average from tip to tip. Some reach 120 inches, with the record-breaking M Arrow Cha-Ching’s horns measuring 129.5 inches.

When not butchered for meat, Texas Longhorns live up to 20-30 years, with most cows producing a live calf every year for 16-20 years. Some pass the 30-year mark and even calve down past 30 years of life.

When a Longhorn cow gives birth, she hides the calf until she is sure the baby faces no predation threats. Mothers have also been observed to shelter their babies from the rain and protect them from contact with unfamiliar humans.

Despite their long horns, Texas Longhorn cattle are characteristically docile. However, the docility levels and overall personality vary from one cow or bull to another.

The ability to thrive on poor pastures or coarse forage developed in the Texas Longhorn breed of cattle as part of survival for the fittest instincts in their many years of natural selection and adaptation in the wild. The cattle do poorly on a grain feeding system.

The many years in the wild also helped the Longhorns learn how to care for themselves without human intervention.

Why Should I Raise Texas Longhorn Cattle On My Farm?

The reasons you should raise Texas Longhorns on your farm are countless:

  • The cattle are low-maintenance. They can take good care of themselves without much human interaction.
  • They are a spectacle on farms because of their beauty, owing to the coloring variety with solid colors, brindles, patches, or speckles.
  • They have an interesting diversity in personality, body size, and disposition. No one Texas Longhorn looks or behaves like the other!
  • You can raise your own grass-fed, lean beef with less cholesterol without using weed-killing chemicals and fertilizers on grass pastures (thanks to the browsing ability).
  • The longevity and high reproductivity of the Longhorns mean more calves for more profits from calf sales and Longhorn beef from steers. You can sell more calves while retaining heifers for herd propagation.
  • You’ll be part of a tradition, heritage, and nostalgia that are the living symbol of the Old West.
  • Resistance to bovine diseases and parasites means fewer vet expenses.
  • The ease of calving because of their larger birth canals means fewer nights spent out in the cold. Rarely do Longhorn births require any human assistance.
  • You can make money selling harvested Longhorns’ horns, mounts, and skulls, which people use as decor. The hides are also an important by-product.
  • Texas Longhorns are regarded as the “genetic breed of the future”, and you can use their unique genetics to improve the ease of calving and hybrid vigor of other breeds through crossbreeding.


Alex grew up in a rural area with chickens, cows, goats, and rabbits. He has always enjoyed waking up at 6 am to tend to his flock and vegetable garden. He bought his first cow at 25 and named her "104". In 2021, he set up an aquarium and now spends his lazy time watching his fish. He is happiest watching small animals and plants grow big, not to mention writing to share his farm-life experiences.

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