Texas Longhorns - Cattle Breed and Symbol of the Lone Star State
The breed of cattle known as Texas Longhorns is iconic in Texas and around the world as a symbol of the American cowboy and the Texas cattle trails.
The Longhorn breed is a truly American-bred breed of cattle. Breeds of longhorned cattle first arrived in the Americas with the Spanish in 1493. Over the centuries they bred with other European-originating stock until the Texas Longhorn emerged as a rough and hardy breed all its own.
Texas Longhorns roamed free and wild across Texas until around the 1850s, but eventually their territory was fenced as they came to dominate the American beef markets.
But that dominance faded as faster-maturing breeds from Europe were imported, breeds that produced more - and higher-quality - beef. Texas Longhorns were nearly interbred out of existance, and the Texas icon was on the brink of extinction in the early 1900s.
The U.S. government stepped in in 1927, preserving the breed on wildlife refuges in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Texas government began to act, as well, rounding up 20 head of Texas Longhorn to form the first Official State Longhorn Herd in 1941.
That herd eventually settled at Fort Griffin State Park, which continues to be its home. But other small herds can now be found in other state parks around Texas. The Texas Longhorn breed is also making a comeback among commercial breeders, and the breed's future is no longer in doubt.
If you want to catch a glimpse of these mighty icons of Texas, your best bet is to travel to one of the state parks that contains part of the Official State Longhorn Herd or an affiliated herd.
Below are Texas state parks at which herds of Texas Longhorns are maintained. Click the name of the park to visit that park's page on the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's Web site.
Abilene State Park
Sixteen miles southwest of Abilene.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
More than 280,000 acres of some of the most remote and rugged terrain in the Southwest U.S. Located in Brewster and Predidio counties along the Rio Grande River, stretching between the towns of Presidio and Lajitas. (The small Texas Longhorns herd here is not part of the Official State Herd.)
Copper Breaks State Park
In North Texas, almost in the Panhandle, between Quanah and Crowell off of State Highway 6. You might see another famous Texas animal here, the "horny toad" (or horned lizard, to be proper).
Fort Griffin State Historic Site
Fifteen miles north of Albany - which is 35 miles northeast of Abilene - on U.S. Highway 283.
Lyndon B. Johnson State Historic Site
Smack in the middle of the Hill Country, two miles east of Stonewall, 14 miles west of Johnson City on U.S. Highway 290. Very convenient to Fredericksburg. (The Texas Longhorn herd here is not part of the Official State Herd.)
Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Armstrong and Randall Counties, south of Amarillo. From Amarillo, take Interstate 27 south to State Highway 217, and go east eight miles.
San Angelo State Park
Right next door to San Angelo and adjacent to O.C. Fisher Reservoir.
To learn more about Texas Longhorn breed and its history, visit the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America. Photo above courtesy of the TLBAA.