Tio Benito is 'Uncle Ben' in Spanish.
There is a lot more to the Texas Longhorn that just long horns. Texas Longhorns evolved during the 16th thru the 19th centuries in the wild, originally Portuguese and Spanish cattle that went feral in early efforts to settle Texas. Qualities of resourcefulness, desease resistance, and endurance were developed in the wild over the centuries. Up the trail, they were the only breed with legs to walk from South Texas to Kansas and beyond. They're considered some of the finest mothers in the animal kingdom. Here at Tio Benito's, these cattle thrive in brushy bottomland pastures where its a full time job to keep fencelines from becoming hedgerows and for the most part that haven't changed much over the centuries. Their unique traits should be preserved as we strive toward producing the longest horns "heaven will allow".
One of my favorite parts of being a teenager in the 1960's was spent 5 minutes from my fathers tractor shed hunting on Sam Countiss' Rancho Seco, which shared a fenceline with M. P. Wright's Ranch and his famous herd of Texas Longhorns, located on the lower Nueces River. Even though we were just on the other side of the fence, in those years we rarely ever saw the Wright's famous Longhorns. My Father was raising cattle in 1960, but it ended when the floods of tropical storm Fern caused him to sell out in 1973. He never looked back and I found nothing fun or romantic about that kind of work at the time. We rarely saw Longhorns anywhere in the 1950'S and 60'S. Mythic as they were legendary, it was with awe and amazement we witnessed them alive and doing their part in John Wayne's movie "The Alamo"(1960). Growing up in rural south Texas, it's not surprising the subject of Texas Longhorns came up from time to time. I can remember talk about them becoming registered and recognized an official breed and of course there were those who argued otherwise.
I thought I might forever get away from farming and ranching before I graduated from college, But over a decade later, I began to develop a strong notion for my rural upbringing, partially ignited by spending much time in NYC and LA which drove me to reading material like Trail Drivers of Texas, Life on The King Ranch, Great Roundup, J. Frank Dobie's fabulous books The Longhorns and A Vaquero of the Brush Country, and later, T. J. Barragy's Gathering Texas Gold. I was left with a new appreciation for my own backyard, South Texas, its history, wildlife, ranching heritage and geography. Barragy and Dobie's accounts left a lasting impression; Texas Longhorns were not just majestic in appearance, but admirable with unique character and qualities that hold timeless value, shaped over the centuries trying to make a living in the most severe environments. This animal like no other had not only been shaped, but had been a major player in shaping the history and character of the state of Texas and the cattle business. I had just experienced a delayed arrival to a well established reality.
John and Rose Mary Floyd befriended me in my revamped focus on Texas history. They had for 20 plus years been raising Longhorns and John had great stories to share about his friends Leonard Stiles and the famous Graves Peeler which shined a "colorful" reality over the whole business of raising Texas Longhorns. I had fashion stores that grew out of Surf Shops that I founded in 1976--"Benjamin's" in Corpus Christi and Austin. When I could get away in my 50's, I would go to the YO in the summer to hunt for a few days. There too, I was surrounded by Longhorns and found a sense of heaven while being around these cattle. Being around Longhorns had a gripping allure, creating a sense of desire in me to get involved.. I have been blessed to gather a few head of my own and be infected with the Texas Longhorn "Bug" --- a form of addiction.
"They asked him where he'd like to be and his dear ol' voice did Ring...
I'd like to be in Texas, for the roundup in the Spring"
FROM THE OLD SONG :
"THE ROUNDUP IN THE SPRING
TEXAS LONGHORN LEGACY...Bedrock of American Cattle Breeds
Man has been directing the breeding of cattle for several thousand years. But, if one was to allow 'The Good Lord' to shape a cow without man's efforts -for his own pleasure - what do you think He would create? Many think He has already done it with cattle that were abandoned, turned loose or just got away, letting a wilderness be the setting, and the trials and tribulations of survival of generations in that wilderness over 100's of years be His ever molding hands. Given the diversity of His creation, no two would likely turn out exactly alike. And, His cattle would likely be 'wild' and thus need to be--survivalist through hard weather and on all types of terrain, highly desease resistant, very resourceful in their grazing and watering needs, able to protect themselves and their calves from predators, and instinctively great mothers, delivering and raising their calves on their own...occasionally along side prolific fathers. They wouldn't need man as long as they could roam free --- and free they were, shaped by the elements, able to thrive on the high plains or the thick brush country of South Texas --- The Texas Longhorn.
When Texans returned home from the Civil War, they must have felt forsaken in a land for which they had given everything, only to lose an economy and have little job opportunity. The South was devastated in war and politics by invaders, but Texans only had to look across the landscape to see that God's Providence had been moving hundreds of years toward that moment. For in the evolution of the Spanish/Portuguese/Moorish/Mongrel cattle that had gotten lose in the country that came to be known as Texas (and California), survival over time and the elements had molded millions of "scrub cattle" like no other; they could make a 1000 mile journey up the trail and flourish along the way. A new character, The Cowboy, emerged out of this, engaging in a "great gatherin", driving thousands at a time over long trails to the railheads in Kansas. From 1867 to 1890 it is estimated that in excess of 10,000,000 head were driven up trail. No other cow could have made the trip. And as a result of all this work and The Texas Longhorn, cattle raising was transformed from a farming/sustenance level, to a massive ever vibrant and challenging cattle industry in the Greater Western part of our country--Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska and beyond.
As time went on, man forgot just what had been provided and the forsaken ones became the Texas Longhorns. A Longhorn could carry a tick that its strongly developed immune system had overcome, yet other cattle breeds were devastated by that tick; "'improved'" breeds died of Cattle Tick Fever which made the carrier very unpopular. Furthermore, the Longhorn was a lean animal in a day where, ... along with hides for leather and meat as a byproduct (before refrigeration),... the value of a cow was driven by the amount of tallow it produced for lighting (candles) and soap. It's really a myth about the meat being too tough, feed them out and age them like any other beef cow and you'll realize that quality is prime and much better for you.
By the end of the century, crossed with 'improved breeds' and/or taken to slaughter, they were essentally breed out of existence, and almost went extinct. No wonder someone wrote the lyrics,
"I'm gonna leave ol' Texas, Now
They got no use for the Longhorn Cow".
Thank God someone's eyes were open enough to keep that from happening. As it was predicted, "One of these days, we are going to need those cattle", and that day is now, when lean, time, asset life and production, pasture utilization and feed bills are at a premium.
When I see a Texas Longhorn, I find them to be a beautiful animal and their twisty horns are a living and enduring symbol of the Old West, but their story and their attributes reflect universal appreciation for intelligent design, resourcefulness, perserverance and God's provision. Through all the cross breeding and outbreeding with other breeds between 1880 through the early 1900s, Texas Longhorns have come to be recognized as a bedrock of American cattle breed
Graves Peeler moving his herd on his ranch in McMullen County for pictures for advertising
at the request of "Mr. Bob" Kleberg of the King ranch.
The Life of Graves Peeler: http://www.ctlr.org/Resources/Legacy/index.html
The Seven Families: http://doublehelixranch.com/SevenFamilies.html
Consider Texas Longhorns For:
The breed produces naturally less fat and lower cholesterol for today's health conscious public.
Texas Longhorns breed well into their teens. More live calves over the years mean more dollars.
Less supplemental feed is needed because the cattle take advantage of the forage available.
A natural immunity developed over the centuries means fewer veterinarian bills and less maintenance for today's cowman.
Large pelvic openings and low birth weights result in live calves. Busy cattlemen can say "goodbye" to sleepless nights.
Longhorn cattle are intelligent, easy to work and to handle.
The breed thrives in climates from the hot, damp coastal regions to the harsh winters of Canada.
Heritable quality enhances your present breed and gives you a new genetic pool