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Wichita Refuge Family
WICHITA REFUGE cattle have the best known history. The sixty-ninth congress in 1927 provided "that not to exceed $3,000 . . . shall be expended for the purchase and maintenance of a herd of long - horned or Spanish breed of cattle . . . to the end that the present few examples be preserved from extinction." The herd was started in the late twenties by selecting individuals from numerous south Texas herds. Two government forest rangers were in charge of the $3,000 and completed the task. (no one knows why government forest rangers were delegated to the job). None of the WR purchases were from other major herds of that day. The other families of Marks, Yates, Wright, Phillips, Butler were not used as a source for the foundation WR stock. The WR cattle were selected from smaller obscure herds, although the rangers travelled right in the same area of the major herds of that day. The original, traditional WR cattle were not of the horn growth, conformation or pretty colors their modern cattle possess. In 1968 Graves Peeler serving as a Longhorn Association inspector, commented that the WR had done a good job getting the badly swaybacked, traditional cattle culled from the herd.
Probably the most appreciated thing about the WR cattle is their fine set of pedigrees. The government herd always had staff carefully record this information. Until 2001 WR cattle had complete pedigree records back to the beginning of their herd. This information was appreciated by producers and had been neglected years ago by the other six families. A new policy was implemented by the 2001 WR leaders to halt all pedigree records and raise a multiple sire herd. Fans of WR cattle were devastated by this seventy year policy change.
The most famous WR bull of all time was "WR 2935." His weight was 1,260 lbs. and his horns were over 42". No other WR bull has had the popularity of WR 2935.
Don Quixote is believed to be the all-time leading contributor of quality genetics representing the WR family. He has sired more over 50" progeny than any other WR bull. His progeny are mostly black and very trim of underline. Their growth and correct type command respect. Nearly all pure black longhorn cattle today trace to Don Quixote.
The WR cattle are intensely inbred. Possibly due to this, many WR cattle are somewhat smaller in size, length and height than other families. A direct out cross to larger families will correct this.
The WR herd in Cache, Oklahoma have calved unassisted and in many ways are managed much like wild animals. Each cow calves within a few minutes walk of hungry government protected coyotes. This means every cow learns to be a good mother or ends up without a calf.
Probably more solid color bulls have been used on the WR cows than most herds. There is a commitment by WR management to perpetuate Spanish type or Longhorns as they historically were. It is not felt the old cattle were consistently highly colorful, which I'm sure is correct in general. The dynamic colors seen today, have been bred into herds by special selection because of public appeal. These were not traditional colors.
More WR blood is available in the nation than any other family. This is due to availability as a result of their many annual surplus sales. Roughly 50% to 70% of all Texas Longhorn cattle possess high percentages of WR blood. This availability creates WR bulls in large numbers and therefore they normally sell fairly economically. This large number of WR cows makes it important for producers to utilize bulls of the other six families. WR is not well appreciated for herd sires.
Over the years WR has made an effort to place a small amount of new blood in their herd. Several bulls were acquired from Yates. One Phillips and one Butler bull were used. The bull, Bold Ruler, was donated to WR by the Dickinson family and his WR branded calves were the highest selling in the history of WR.
When evaluating WR bulls, their horns are more curled forward and up like the Spanish fighting bulls, rather than the wider lateral horn spreads that are more popular today. Most WR bulls have a clean sheath but many have excess lower neck and brisket skin causing a somewhat buffalo like silhouette. This is not the case with all WR bulls. Probably less than 10% of the bulls raised by WR ever reach up to 40" horn spans. Most mature WR bulls weigh 1,100 to 1,400 lbs. depending on health conditions. Their shoulder height will range from 52" to 54". Which reveals their Spanish influence.
WR cows are very feminine. Some are colorful. They are consistently above average for milk production because the fattest heifers were for years retained for replacements, concentrating this factor. Dickinson Cattle Co., Inc. is about 30% WR blood.
The most famous cow ever produced by WR was "Measles." Her blood is highly sought by most prominent Longhorn producers. WR cattle are moderate in size and horn growth. They are the most numerous of all seven families because of availability at an annual surplus auction which began in 1942. Due to the major numbers of WR cattle sold annually, they often sell for low prices.