Longhorns…Cattle with a Twist

Longhorns in California?

As a matter of fact, yes. I get asked this question often enough that I thought I would share my feelings about the noble Texas Longhorn.

Hi. I’m Kristiane McKee Maas, owner of Bar 46 Ranch. Texas Longhorns are special. Having them in your pasture is even more special.

You know, of course, that Texas Longhorns are our true American breed–a cross between the long-horned Spanish cattle brought first to the Caribbean in 1493 (and later introduced into Mexico) and the English breeds introduced by early colonists. Their history is long and colorful. If fact, if you’re interested in the breed, I recommend J. Frank Dobie’s The Longhorns, written in 1941.

But it’s the animal itself that gets to you, with its majestic horns, hearty conformation and a pair of eyes that seem to look right through to your soul. Yes I fell in love.

I may have originally bought Longhorns on emotion, but I knew from the experiences of a couple of people in this area who had Longhorns that this was the breed for me. I call it, cattle ranching…with a twist.

And it turns out that the Longhorn is a good breed for a small operation like mine. These hearty animals are disease resistant and produce strong calves. The cows are good mothers. And I like that I could buy cattle directly from the Foundation stock at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. These are the animals brought back from near extinction after the Longhorn lost favor in the early 20th century to the beefier, fattier Angus and Hereford breeds. With my three original animals, I felt a part of the historic effort to reinstate the Longhorn to its rightful place.

Today, my breeding herd produces between 14 and 16 calves a year. I have sold a few bulls into large cattle operations that want their young cows to breed with the smaller Longhorn for the first year or two. But most of my cows and steers go to people who, like me, love the breed.

Whether you call them lawn art, party animals or part of the family, Texas Longhorns can make good, gentle pets. I can (and do) hand-feed my cows. I have friends who ride their Longhorns and use them as the official greeters at all their barbecues. And they can thrive on five acres just as well as 40–just know that you’ll need to provide more of their hay and feed.

The calves are slow to mature and don’t reach full adulthood until about six, but they can live well into their 20s. And for the years in between, they’ll bring you great joy, happiness…and just maybe love.

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