Updated with a few new expample photos on 1/4/11. Wondering what to look for when looking at a Texas Longhorn? The Texas Longhorn Breed Guidelines that were approved by the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of American in 1982 is a list of the traits and characteristics of Longhorn cattle, these should be considered the standards for the Texas Longhorn Breed. These characteristics and/or standards should always be keep in mind when selecting cattle. To aide new and established breeders in their ability to recognize these traits I have compiled a PDF file that contains photographic examples of these breed traits and characteristics. The photos are examples of desirable, objectionable and undesirable Longhorn characteristics. I will be adding more photos as they come available. I hope this material will be of assistants to all who have an interest in maintaining the traits and characteristics that have allowed this great breed to prosper for years. Click link to open PDF File of Chart of Texas Longhorn Breed Guidelines.
These are the basic Breed Guidelines established back in the late 1970’s to early ‘80’s.
Today I would say a good, acceptable horn measurement on a mature cow or bull would be in the 50 inch range tip-to-tip.
Some believe that a weanling calf should have straight out horn that has grown to the end of its ears by 6 months of age. Because of this belief a lot of calves are being culled that probably would have matured into a nice twisty horned animal any breeder would have been proud to own. Because of a misconception and a lack of patience on the breeder’s part these “twist horn” genetics are being lost.
I believe this is one of the main reasons we are losing the breed’s twisty horn genetics. Twisty horns do not seem to grow fast and they generally do not come straight out of the animal’s head. If you are only looking for tip-to-tip horn genetics this theory is still flawed. In my thirty plus years in this business I have found that certain bloodlines will produce early and quick horn growth and the growth tends to slow dramatically as they mature. Other bloodlines tend to start out slow and have growth spurts at a later age, but continue to grow steadily throughout their lives with some of these animals eventually reaching tip-to-tip measurements of over 70 inches.
This is just something to think about as you review the Breed Guidelines and evaluate your Longhorn herd.
Breed Guidelines - Necks and Shoulders
In this issue of Breed Guidelines we will be taking a look at the necks and shoulders of Longhorn cattle. The neck should be trim in cows and masculine in bulls. Very short or very long necks along with ewe neck is consider objectionable. The shoulders of a Longhorn should be free moving, smooth and well muscled. They should not have “open shoulders” which is where the shoulder blades stick up higher on each side of the backbone creating a sunk in area between the shoulder blades over the backbone. Shoulders and legs should form a V shape, this helps with calving ease. Square or blocky fronts should be avoided because of a possible negetive effect on calving ease of the resulting offspring.
Breed Guidelines - Back
In this issue of Breed Guidelines we will be reviewing the back or top-lines of Longhorn cattle. A desirable back or top-line should be strong with a slope upward from the shoulders to hook bones. The back should show some flex or dip as the animal walks. This helps the animal to be able to travel to water and greener grasses. An animal with an extreme swayback is considered objectionable.
Breed Guidelines - Conformation
In this issue of Breed Guidelines we are going to be looking at the general conformation of Texas Longhorn cattle. The general type or form should exhibit good length of body with moderate depth and thickness of body. The top of the hips should be higher than the top of the shoulders. The body should have an elliptical shape for heat adaptation. Bulls should be slightly thicker and heavier muscled than cows. Bulls should exhibit crest development on the neck, not over the shoulders. The bones of both cows and bulls should be sound and dense. The feet and legs should be strong with free movement, squarely set, sound feet and joints. The front legs and shoulders of both cows and bulls should form a V shape, not square or rectangular. This helps with calving ease. Very short legs, sickle hocks, post legged, mule-footed and weak hocks are all objectionable traits that should be avoided.
Breed Guidelines - Hooks and Rump
In this issue of our Breed Guidelines we will be talking about the rear-end structure of a Longhorn. The hooks (or hip bones) should be broad and reasonably prominent with a downward slop toward the pin bones. You want to avoid narrowness in the hooks and extreme levelness from hooks to pins as these will effect calving ease. The rump should be long with a slop from the hooks to pins. The Longhorn rump has a very different look than some of the other beef breeds. The Longhorn generally carries more lean meat with less fat on its rump. A big rounded rump is not normally characteristic of the Longhorn breed, that is not to say that there are not some bloodlines within the industry that are beefier than others. But even the rumps of these beefier Longhorns have a different look to them than that of beef cattle.
Breed Guidelines - Sheath and Navel
In this issue of Breed Guidelines we will be taking a look at the Sheath on bulls and the Navel on bulls and cows. The sheath of a Longhorn bull should have a small orifice and a retracted prepuce. The navel should be flat and small in size. You do not want to see a long pendulous sheath with a non-retractable prepuce. This could indicate the influence of another breed of cattle. You want to avoid excessive navel flap on both males and females. A small amount of navel skin is okay but you do not want to have hanging skin running from the navel to the brisket and dewlap and/or toward the udder and testicles.
Breed Guidelines - Ears
In this edition of the Breed Guidelines we are going to study the ears of a Longhorn. We will be looking at size, shape and position of the ears. The ears should be medium to small in size and they should be round in shape. The ears should also be positioned fairly close to the horns or horn base. It is considered objectionable if the ears are long with a slight droop. Extremely large and droopy ears are considered an undesirable trait in a Longhorn. Photos left to right. Photo 1) Example of small ears, rounded on the ends and set close to the horns. Photo 2) Example of medium size ears, rounded on the ends but could be set a little closer to the horns. Photo 3)Example of a ear that is a little larger than it should be, it rounds on ends and doesn’t droop. Photo 4) Example of ears that are somewhat larger than they should be, not set very close to the horns and they are pointing forward, these are not very desirable. Photo 5) Example of small ears, rounded on the ends and set close to the horns. Photo 6)Example of medium size ears, rounded on the ends but could be set a little closer to the horns. If you look closely at all these photos you will notice that there is hair hanging over the opening of the ears. This hair serves an important purpose, it keeps insects from being able to get inside the ears.
In this installment of the Breed Guidelines we will be looking at the muzzle of Texas Longhorns. A desirable trait that you should look for around the mouth is what they call ”mealy mouth” which is a difference in the coloring around the nose and mouth. This helps with heat exchange of the animal and it’s surroundings. There should also be “pigmentation” around the eyes which helps keep them from being sunburned which would make them susceptible to getting cancer eye. It also helps fight against insects which spread diseases like pink eye. The lack of these traits would be consider objectionable. When we look at undesirable muzzle traits those would be a wry nose, overshot, undershot or crocked jaw. Photos left to right: Photo 1) Example of muzzle with mealy mouth and good pigment on nose and around the eyes. Photo 2) Example of good muzzle with the mealy mouth trait and good pigmentation around the eyes. Notice the light color of the hair around the eyes, like the mealy mouth. This was a summer photo and that lighter color helps with the heat. Also this photo shows the pigmentation of the skin around the eye. Photo 3) Example of a wry or crocked nose and muzzle. Photo 4)Another example of mealy mouth, eye and nose pigmentation.You should be able to see some from of this pigmentation even on white or light colored cattle. Photo 5) Shows an animal with a lack of pigmentation around the eyes and on nose. Photo 6) This animal shows a lack pigmentation and is showing the effects of that with the irritation of the eyes which resulting in the watering of the eyes. The watering of the eyes attracts insects to the eyes which can result in several health problems.