Onyx will be one year old tomorrow. He came into this world a little early, about a month early to be exact. Jay went out to do chores on an early winter morning to find him laying in the hay, his mama wouldn’t leave his side (this breed is known to be one of the most maternal in the world). When we realized he was just too cold we grabbed him, brought him into the greenhouse and continued nursing him to health. We had blankets & towels, hair dryer and heat lamps all working to dry him off. We pulled some of the amniotic sac out of his throat & swung him from his back legs. By the end of the day we got his temperature up and finally got him walking.
He refused to be bottle fed, so we had to tube feed him for the first 24 hours until Jay got into the stall with Onyx and Brilliance & what I would imagine a ballet dancer move, held both the udders and the horns, forcing the calf’s mouth to latch on, and the rest is history.
Speaking of history, here’s a little: on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World (1493) he brought cattle with him from the Canary Islands. Over Centuries, Spanish settlers and missionaries drove these ancestral Longhorn cattle herds north, over Mexican lands towards what we now call Texas. It is estimated that around the 1860's, 5-6 million cattle roamed wild in Texas, replacing the need for buffalo because of their decline after the civil war. Some were trailed to New Orleans and California for their hides and tallow. Longhorns come in all sorts of beautiful colors and patterns: red, white, orange, black, brindled, lineback & speckled.
This cattle can handle long travels because they forage on brush and can survive days without water. Both of these helped them make it through the harsh conditions in the earliest days of the unsettled west, allowing them to gain foothold in the new land. Their horns also played an important role in helping them survive predators in the wild before the days of fenced pastures and, even now, help chase coyotes and mountain lions away from their babies. We get asked about their horns a lot. Texas Longhorns do not shed their horns, they grow over their lifetime & are usually spread 4-7 feet at maturity. Typically, bulls have more base to their horns than heifers do. What comprises a horn are layers upon layers of keratin (like your fingernail) over a bone. Each layer has a slightly different color depending on the different elements it’s exposed to and what the cattle is knocking around/digging into at that time.
Now, back to the timeline. Many Civil War soldiers who returned to a war impoverished Texas, turned to Longhorn cattle to earn a living. These war veterans rounded up unmarked cattle, branded them, and claimed them as their own. The longhorn cattle drives helped revive the state out of an economic depression and became the fuel for the legendary cowboy and the trails that they pursued.
By the 1920's, Texas Longhorn faced extinction. As the cattle industry grew, so did the demand for more beefy cattle. Fencing made it easier to control cattle and a practice of interbreeding Longhorns with more beefy bovine breeds began. Subsequently, the number of Longhorns in their pure form began to dwindle, so the federal government commissioned the establishment of a foundation herd, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, of Texas Longhorn cattle in order to preserve the breed. J. Hatton and W. C. Barns, two US Forest Service employees, rounded up 19 heifers and a bull over a seven year period. From 1927, records of each animal were kept and to the present day an annual auction sale of these historic longhorn cattle is held. Six additional families are recognized for contributing to the maintenance of the Longhorn breed. These ranchers bred Longhorn cattle in their purest form when other farmers did not. The bloodlines they perpetuated influenced and provided the foundation for the Longhorn breed as we know it today.
Fort Griffin State Park is the permanent home of the Official State of Texas Longhorn herd. The herd is comprised of around 250 Texas Longhorn Cattle who reside mainly at Fort Griffin State Park and have been there since 1948. The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America (TLBAA) was established in 1964 "to record, promote, and protect the legacy and distinct characteristics of the Texas Longhorn while ensuring its purity and posterity."
Onyx is doing great. We watched him closely this first year since he had such a rough start, but his cute little face and eyebrows always brings a smile to our face. We have 4 Texas Longhorn at the farm now. 3 heifers: Brilliance, Diamond, her daughter Ruby and one steer. We are looking to get a bull in the near future once we finish up the pastures.
These animals are so beautiful & magnificent. It’s hard to believe such a large creature is just over the fence. An average adult weighs in at 1200 lbs. They walk slow most days, just taking the world in (although we’ve also seen them run very fast when excited). They love treats, a brand new pasture & head scratches. We love them for their beauty, curiosity, playfulness, and manure:)