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Longhorn History - Seven Original Families
TEXAS LONGHORN cattle come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, colors and horn configurations. These unique nature designed features have all been preserved by seven groups of people with seven different origins and seven different genetic bases. All seven are pure Longhorn, yet specific traits ear mark each family with a special stamp. The true connoisseurs of the breed spot these characteristics and point with recognition concerning their virtues.
I've been asked by several people to write this information down. I believe it to be correct as old timers and their protÃ©gÃ©s have related it to me. I do not pretend to write down all the individual good or bad traits of the seven herds. I also do not criticize these old time producers for their efforts, which may appear somewhat lacking on records. No one paid any premium for breed purity or any other of several similar virtues 50 to 100 years ago.
Prior to the perpetuation of the seven families the wild cattle herds of Texas possessed Spanish, Oxen and European blood. They were and are today a mix of breeds blended and refined by the elements of time, stress and survival.
At the beginning of the registry in 1964, a 100% visual inspection program was implemented to assure purity and type. Registered Longhorns today trace to ancestry verified for purity by this careful visual inspection.
Modern DNA methods have determined a uniqueness of similarity in kinship among pure Longhorns and a distant blood common to most other prominent cattle breeds. Longhorn purity cannot be determined by modern blood typing due to the lack of a data base on all families of pure Longhorns during the true time of breed origin.
The "seven families" were for the most part unrelated. They are Phillips, Wright, Butler, Marks, Wichita Refuge, Yates and Peeler. There are said to be other unrelated families, but the numbers are very small and no other groups with origins this old are commonly referred to in Texas Longhorn circles. All "seven families" originated in the early 1930's and before. All seven were separate from other herds with minimal exchanges of blood stock prior to 1932.
Each of the seven families introduced a blend of new genetics to avoid inbreeding after their herds matured.
The major show winning and sale topping cattle are blend genetics, mostly a combination of Phillips, Butler, Wright and WR families in that order. The single family line-bred herds have not sold well except in well managed Butler family sales. The pure family herd program doesn't allow breeders the out cross genetic privilege of the other six Longhorn families.
In 1939 J. Frank Dobie wrote "The Longhorns", where the major theme encouraged preservation of the Texas Longhorn. Today with over 200,000 registered, many read his book and join the preservation call. The breed itself has been preserved. Only two segments are nearly extinct. They are the corkscrew horn and the wine color factors.
At Dickinson Cattle Co., Inc. no one of the seven pure families is bred as such, but rather a "blend" of superior individuals representing the top genetics of the most popular pure families. Each family has one or more faults or weaknesses. Fortunately, each family compliments another when properly mated. The major show winning cattle have been "blends" of Texas Ranger, Butler, Wright and Wichita Refuge families. No pure family has achieved major show success when compared to blends. The key is the ability to blend superior individuals to compliment the total correct result.
In summary, all seven families are great cattle. Each has strong and weak points. A Longhorn program designed for the future that is profitable and successful will need to carefully consider which family lines to pursue. This decision will be the most significant any Longhorn breeder has to make if a profitable business is desired.