The Texas Longhorns are direct descendants of the first cattle in the New World. The ancestral cattle were first brought over by Christopher Columbus in 1493 to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. Between 1493 and 1512, Spanish colonists brought additional cattle in subsequent expeditions.
Over the next two centuries the Spanish moved the cattle north, arriving in the area that would become Texas near the end of the 17th century. The cattle escaped or were turned loose on the open range, where they remained mostly feral for the next two centuries. Over several generations, descendants of these cattle evolved the high feed- and drought-stress tolerance and other “hardy” characteristics that Longhorns have become known for.
The Texas Longhorn stock slowly dwindled, until in 1927 the breed was saved from near extinction by enthusiasts from the United States Forest Service, who collected a small herd of stock to breed on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma. A few years later, J. Frank Dobie and others gathered small herds to keep in Texas state parks. They were cared for largely as curiosities, but the stock’s longevity, resistance to disease and ability to thrive on marginal pastures quickly revived the breed as beef stock. Today, the breed is used as a beef stock, though many Texas ranchers keep herds due to their link to Texas history.