The very existence of Texas Longhorn cattle is threatened today by extinction through crossbreeding. Our sister organization, The Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry, using visual appraisal and first blood typing analysis and now DNA analysis for evidence of impurity, has registered only 4788 animals since its formation in 1990. At least half of those registered have completed their life span. Most offspring are sold into the recreational roping cattle market and beef industry. A substantial number of the limited animals used for breeding stock are sold to ranchers that either do not maintain pedigree records or use the Texas Longhorn cattle in crossbreeding programs to produce beef cattle. Those animals are forever lost from our genetic base for replacement stock. An estimated 1500 living, registered animals comprise the only genetic pool, perpetuated by approximately 50 active breeders within that organization. Scientific knowledge will continue to benefit from our research project to create a DNA database genetically defining the Texas Longhorn; so future research may identify healthful attributes to benefit mankind.
Survival of this breed is dependant on raising public awareness of the economic value of these cattle in the health food industry as well as educational value through their historical significance. The colorful history of this breed fostered an untold number of folktales. Longhorns were important to this country, especially during the two decades following the War Between the States when an estimated ten million were driven up legendary trails to feed a hungry nation. Those drives restored the devastated Texas economy saving the state from ruin. This northern march of cattle has been called “the largest movement of animals under the direction of man in the history of the world.”
Public herds including those at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton Oklahoma, Fort Robinson State Park herd in Nebraska, and soon to be dispersed Big Bend Ranch State Park herd in Presidio, Texas, all represent historically correct, genetically pure Texas Longhorn cattle. Additionally, the Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd at Fort Griffin State Historic Site and TPWD San Angelo State Park are integrating CTLR-registered animals into their genetic base to restore genetic purity to those herds. The Conservancy encourages sound breeding practices and maintenance of high quality records for breed integrity. Efforts are under way to develop DNA records that will effect research and aid in the advancement of scientific knowledge for a better understanding of the breed’s ancestry and for the development of its leading role in the world’s beef cattle industry. Four hundred years of Natural Selection in the wilds of what is now Mexico and the Southwestern United States evolved this distinct breed from its Iberian origin that possesses greater endurance, range grazing efficiency, and leaner, lower cholesterol beef that is higher in protein than European and Continental breeds of cattle. These animals meld into holistic, sustainable range management where their future value may be realized as urban expansion consumes desirable agricultural land pushing producers of this nation’s food supply further out into marginal country.
As a means of elevating reverence for this breed we hope to someday produce an hour-long PBS quality documentary that identifies distinctive characteristics of pure Texas Longhorn cattle and educates on the value of preserving those traits. The film will archive stories and memories of four long-time Texas ranchers: Enrique Guerra, descendant from a Spanish ranching family that first came to the New World in the 1700’s; Maudeen Marks, daughter of Emil H. Marks whom was instrumental in founding the Houston Fatstock Show and Rodeo; Lawrence Wallace, cousin of legendary cattleman and Texas Ranger Graves Peeler; and Fayette Yates, third-generation longhorn rancher from West Texas. Wilson Waggoner filmed these aging treasures of the longhorn industry at their homes in interviews conducted by Ramona Kelly, where they toured their herds of cattle while recollecting images of their fathers’ wisdom and of growing up on a ranch in the 1930’s. The documentary will give testament to a vanishing way of life that is echoed in the disappearing breed of cattle that created their livelihood. We treasure these recordings as we have lost to the hands of time all but Mr. Guerra.
The first phase of interviews was funded by donations from the Cattlemen’s Texas Longhorn Registry membership. The raw footage will be forever archived at The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in Austin, Texas for future scholastic research. The second phase of filming includes live action documentation of an authentic cattle work day on a West Texas ranch where cowboys on horses with the help of trained dogs gathered and held a herd of calves to be sorted and worked the traditional way. It included an old-fashioned chuck wagon dinner with campfire conversation. Two of the four principal persons interviewed in the documentary attended this event. This was a golden opportunity to capture on film their interaction, stimulating more reminiscing and fireside storytelling. Due to their advanced years and age-related health problems and death of Fayette Yates, Maudeen Marks and Lawrence Wallace since the filming, we will never again have that opportunity.
Private donations to the Conservancy and a donation from the Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Registry funded the third phase of filming when Marc McWilliams of Running G Productions/GameGuard captured more cattle action at a modern workday of Lawrence Wallace’s herd in 2009 where helicopters were used to gather cattle on his vast Brush Country ranch near Del Rio, Texas. Using excerpts from all recordings, Mark created our 15-minute educational video as a trailer for the full documentary. It contains information appropriate for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills testing preparedness.
The Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Conservancy needs your help for this project to continue. Individuals interested in the preservation of the legacy of Texas Longhorns may mail their contribution to Cattlemen's Texas Longhorn Conservancy • P.O. Box 36 • Tarpley, TX 78883. Please specify in the memo line of your check the project name “Documentary” so correct credit is made. Estimated budget to complete production of this documentary is $162,000. This includes research of the Federal Archives for letters and photographs and possibly old motion picture footage of cattle drives, interviews of experts in longhorn history, production, editing, licensing, insurance, voice-over, and all expenses associated in film production. Our goal is for this documentary to be aired on Public Broadcasting Service television, History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel, Science Channel, and place a copy in every Regional Education Service Center within the state of Texas. We would also like to make DVDs available for public purchase at history museums, state and national parks, and at the location of other public institutions and destinations that share our goals of conservation and education.
To obtain your copy of the DVD, please visit our Order page.