book "The Long Trail" by Gardner Sowle, published in 1976 by McGraw-Hill, tells
the real story of early cowboys, longhorns and the first industry developed in
Texas. This was the chore of capturing, branding,
taming, raising and driving longhorns to market. Legends and myths, plus the exaggerations
of many publications are omitted boiling fact down to common sense explanations.
Just where did the longhorns originate? From the Plains of Andalusia in
Spain. The first herders were Moors, the next Spaniards. The cattle were not called
longhorns but "Spanish cattle" and were smaller in size and with smaller horns.
did these Spanish cattle come to America? In 1493, Christopher Columbus brought
cattle to America on his second voyage, landing them on the island of Santo Domingo.
The exact year they reached the main land in today's Mexico cannot be proved but
about 20 years is close. |
From that point on some 10 explorers and adventurers
brought livestock and large poultry to various shores of North America to supplement
their food needs during exploration.
|How did these domestic
livestock become wild? They were driven along in herds and butchered as needed
for food. Poor herding allowed many to escape and find themselves left on the
prairie to fend for themselves. Indian attacks, disease and sickness among the
explorers left herding a second priority. In 1685, a French explorer La Salle,
made a practice of leaving one cow, bull, mare and stallion behind after crossing
a river, to provide meat for the next explorer. A Mexican Gen. Alonso de Leon
did the same on four excursions across the new lands. |
Why did the formerly
domesticated livestock propagate so quickly in the new world? The climate was
mild in the south, rains produced millions of acres of good grass for grazing
and there were few predators to keep numbers in check. The huge buffalo
herds of the Great Plains were all located to the north offering no competition
for grazing. These ideal conditions were prevalent for several hundred years allowing
excellent propagation of both cattle
did Spanish cattle become longhorns? Prior to the Spanish cattle arriving in Texas,
they were usually converted to beef at a much earlier age before their horns matured.
After becoming wild, many living to die of old age, their horns became much larger
The old adage,
"only the most fit survive" provided the vigor, survival instinct, intelligence
and evolution needed to continue and improve the breed. These changes continued
and are still prevalent in the survivors today.
How did the first industry
begin? The availability of the wild longhorn, free for the taking, and the poor
financial conditions after the Civil War forced the early
cattlemen to capture, raise, brand and then drive this smuggled contraband
(considered to be the property of Mexico) to market to survive. Handily, the raw
materials (cattle) could walk, delivering themselves to market to be sold thus
helping create the first industry in Texas.
"It's All Trew"
17, 2011 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He
can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail
at firstname.lastname@example.org. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears
Cattle | Texas