Longhorn cattle coming to water. This is part of the luxurious collection of fine art, limited edition, cowboy, and western exclusive high-resolution Museum Quality Photography Prints of western life and the people who live that life. Photos copyright © Jess Lee
The Texas Longhorns are direct descendants of the first cattle introduced to the New World. The ancestral cattle were brought by colonizer Christopher Columbus in 1493 to the Caribbean island that would become Hispaniola, to supply food to colonists. Between 1493 and 1512, Spanish colonists brought additional cattle in subsequent expeditions. The cattle consisted of three different breeds; Barrenda, Retinto and Grande Pieto.
Over the next two centuries the Spanish used the cattle in Mexico and gradually moved them north to accompany their settlement. They reached the area that would become known as 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 developed to have high feed- and drought-stress tolerance, and other "hardy" characteristics that have gained Longhorns their high reputation as livestock.
Early Anglo-American settlers in east Texas, then part of Mexico, obtained feral Mexican cattle from the borderland between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. They bred them to their own eastern cattle. The result was a tough, rangy animal with long legs and long horns, extending up to seven feet. The interbreeding produced changes in color of the breed. The varieties of color ranged from bluish-grey, and various yellowish hues, to browns, black, ruddy and white, both cleanly bright and dirty-speckled.
Portuguese cattle breeds, such as Alentejana and Mertolenga, are the closest existing relatives of Texas Longhorns