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Texas Cattle Breed Grows in Numbers and Popularity

One of the most enduring symbols of the state of Texas is the longhorn cow, a hardy breed that was driven north to market by cowboys in the 19th century and used to start stock-raising operations throughout the west. For a time, in the early part of the 20th century, the population of longhorns declined as ranchers brought in other breeds. But the cattle with the extended horns have made a big comeback.

Longhorns are a livelihood and a passion for ranch owner Dori Damuth.

She takes her prize animals to the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and elsewhere to show them off and meet others who have an interest in this unique breed.

"In a way it is advertising and you do meet people at the shows, especially the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which is the largest livestock show in the world," she says. "You meet people who are interested in longhorns. Maybe they know something about them or they have read about them, or they have seen them on somebody's ranch and they think it is something they might like to do and so, often, you have a chance to meet people like this."

Dori says longhorns are especially attractive to many ranchers because they are hardy: a result of many generations of surviving on marginal ground.

"They now carry wonderful characteristics that are very valuable for any cattlemen, commercial cattlemen, anywhere in the world, not just America, but in Third World countries, anywhere in the world, because they eat just almost anything," she says.

Spanish colonists first brought the longhorn breed to the Americas around 500 years ago. They later came to Texas by way of Mexico, but Dori says they originated far from here.

"The cattle actually originated in Africa and there are cattle in Africa today that look exactly like the longhorns we have here," she says.

Dori Damuth says only the toughest cattle survived on the dry open plains of northern Mexico and Texas, so that the registered breed called the Texas Longhorn is even hardier than its antecedents. She says this also makes their meat much better.

"A nice lean longhorn cut of meat can be as lean or leaner than fish or chicken, depending on the way it is prepared and the meat is very flavorful. It has a very rich, excellent flavor," she says.

Dori Damuth's "Flying D Ranch" is a seed-stock operation, which supplies cattle to other ranches for breeding or start-up herds. She says many ranchers prefer these cattle because, in spite of their fearsome-looking horns, they are easier to handle than many other breeds.

"They are easy to work, they are very sociable, they are gentle, they are very gentle-natured, they love people. They just really love you. The cows come around you, of course, have to respect their horns, but they are all around you because they like you or they think you have feed," says Dori.

The horns on these animals can grow well over a meter in length, measured from tip-to-tip, and many ranchers, like Dori, even use them to decorate their homes.

According to the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, based in Ft. Worth, Texas, there are now over a quarter of a million registered Texas Longhorns and, thanks to breeders and seed-stock operators like Dori Damuth, that number is likely to grow.