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The Seven Families of Texas Longhorns
This article has been reproduced here with permission
from the Texas Longhorn Trails, where it originally appeared.
Milby Butler, Graves Peeler, Cap Yates, M.P. Wright, Jr., J.
G. Phillips, John Hatton and Will C. Barns, Emil Marks . . . these names conjure
up a sense of nostalgia and history to even the most casual Texas Longhorn enthusiast.Through
their contributions to this increasingly-important breed of catatle, the aforementioned
men are now what one might call "Longhorn Immortals," and without
them, the breed may well be extinct today. l In this two-part look back at these
Longhorn pioneers who made up the original "Seven Families," we will
see how the course of history was influenced by these people during the Texas
Longhorn breed's infancy.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife
In the early l900's, it was becoming obvious that the Texas Longhorn breed was
dangerously close to extinctilon, with only a few ranches (predominantly in
South Texas) maintaining straight Longhorn herds. Realizing this, the federal
government commissioned two U.S. Forest Service employees, John Hatton and Will
C. Barns, to roung up a agroup of the animals to start a government-maintained
Longhorn herd. After a grueling, several thousand mile trip through Texas and
Mexico which spanned seven years, Hatton and Barns came up with l9 cows and
one bull. These animals were the foundation for the Wichita Mountains Wildlife
Refuge herd. The Wichita Refuge, as it is commonly referred to, is located near
Cache, Oklahoma in the southwestern part of the state, and is also home to one
of the U.S.' largest buffalo herds.
The original plan for the WR herd was to preserve the Longhorns (also know as
"Texas Cattle" in those days) in as natural a state as possible, and
to eliminate Brahman blood, which was prevalent in many "Longhorn"
herds, completely from cattle. Many potential herd bulls and their progeny were
culled from the Refuge herd because of Brahman traits or blood. This was true
of one of the first three bulls brought to the Refuge, according to former Wichita
Refuge Rangeer-at-Large and Assistant to the Supervisor A. Allen McCutchen of
Anselmo, California. "This bull was a large brindle animal with good horns
and conformation, and was designated the herd bull. Unfortunately, he proved
to be part Brahman and had a very vicious disposition. We had to cull him and
his progeny from the program," says McCuthen, who worked on the Refuge
from l932 to l935, serving as Supervisor during his last year there.
Another part of the program initiated in the early years, and a big part of
the bloodline's worth today, was the strict record-keeping done on the Longhorn
herd. Beginning with the foundation herd in l927, data were reacorded on each
animal such as the sire and the dam, season of birth, which animals were sold
and kept, and the coloring. WR cattle expert Gene Bartnicki, who was the Refuge's
wildlife biologist from l969 to l979, states from personal experience that "these
records are amazingly close to perfect. I know of one or two clerical errors,
but that's it. I think that's a good part of the reason that the cattle from
the Wichita Refuge have maintained their popularity--because you can trace an
animal's pedigree back generations and generations. That's just not very possible
with the other old-time herds."
WR cattle have been kept as close to the size and conformation of the original
herd as posssible, with the body size of the average WR cow being slightly smaller
than that of bloodlines such as Phillips and Peeler. The horns are also generally
of average length, though there are a number of exceptionally long-horned WR
cattle in the Texas Longhorn breed today. Larry Griggs of Newton, Texas, whose
father Sidney "Barney" Griggs began buying Longhorns from the refuge
in the l960's, owns a three-year-old WR bull named LG Wichita Spur that sports
54-inch horns. "He's a grandson of WR 3465, and to my knowledge is the
longest-horned WR bull around--and he's still growing! I may be wrong about
this, but if there is a Refuge bull with longer horns, I'd sure love to see
him," says Griggs. The horns of the WR animals typically twist upward,
then out, sometimes "spiraling" outward.
The coloring of the WR cattle varies widely, as is the case with the entire
breed. The size of the animals, while perhaps not as appealing to those catering
to the beef market as the "big" bloodlines, makes for consistenly
above-average milk production. This is most likely beause the fattest heifers
on the refuge are kept as replacement heifers, which concentrates this factor.
In keeping with the herd's natural upbringing, the WR cows are also blessed
with exceptional mothering and foraging abilities.
WR cattle have not been accorded the same celebrity as the Phillips and Butler
families, nor have they been tied to a Longhorn "craze," but the WR
bloodline has produced many of the breed's most respected individuals over the
years. Herd sires such as WR 2308, WR 2935, WR l8l4, WR 1260, WR 2161, WR 1918,
and WR 963 have produced some of the best-known progeny in the breed. Among
the Refuge's brood cows, WR 1850, Measles, WR 1071, WR 2124, Archer 1, WR 1052
(granddam of Measles), WR 1005 (which had nearly 54-inch horns and was the dam
of 2308), and WR 3559 are a few of the standouts, and have had a tremendous
impact on the Longhorn breed through their progeny.
The Wichita Refuge has held an auction sale every year since l943. This sale
has afforded Longhorn breeders a chance to stock their herds with cattle from
this historic bloodline, which many Longhorn purists believe is the bloodline.
While each breeder has his own agenda for his Longhorn program in terms of size,
whether or not to cross bloodlines or breeds, horn length, etc., having the
WR brand on a cow's side is the only endorsement that matters for a lot of today's
Thanks to the efforts of Hatton and Barns, Elmer Parker, Gene Bartnicki and
Allen McCutchen, as well as all of the people who have staffed the Refuge through
the decades, the WR brand stands today as a symbol of Texas Longhorn purity
The Yates Bloodline
The Yates bloodline is closely tied to the WR cattle, since the original herd
started by Ira "Cap" Yates came from parts of West Texas and Mexico
where Hatton and Barns acquired the WR foundation herd. Yates' ranch was located
near Alpine, Texas (70 miles north of the Mexican border), was in dry, desolate
area where "survival of the fittest" was a daily reality. The area
demanded a hardy, tough breed of cattle, and Yates knew that the native cattle
were the only ones fit to endure such difficult conditions.
In the early 1950's Yates set about to build his herd, beginning with regular
trips to Mexico, where the purity of the cattle was unlikely to have been tampered
with by the European breeds (according to one source close to Cap, the cattle
were quickly and quietly driven across the border into the U.S. without the
"unnecessary fuss" of consulting government authorities). Aside from
toughness, purity in his cattle was Yates' top priority. By the late 1950's,
Yates herd had grown to around 500 head. At the time of Cap's passing in Novemberl
of 1968 the herd numbered approximately 1,500 head. Yates counted among his
friends Emil Marks and Graves Peeler, and both men used Yates cattle in their
own herds, and vice versa. Today, though straight Yates cattle are increasingly
hard to find, the bloodline's influence on the breed is easy to see.
Generally beefier and larger-framed than WR cattle, the Yates Longhorns evolved
from Cap Yates' fondness for size and muscularity. The original herd was most
likely made up of fairly small animals, and bred to increase in size in line
with Yates' strict standards. According to Darol Dickinson, "The Yates
cattle were a true result of survival of the fittest, and only the strong and
courageous made Yates pedigrees. I like them especially for their size and durability."
The horns of the typical Yates Longhorn are relatively short, which may not
appeal to some Longhorn breeders. Dick Robbins of Pratt, Kansas observes that
"When people were looking for big horns, they got away from Yates cattle
because they didn't have the monster horns. But I think that now, many people
are going back to Yates Longhorns, which tend to be beefier than the real long-horned
animals." The typical Yates animal would have fairly "high" horns
which would twist upward, somewhat reminiscent of the Peeler bloodline. Dickinson
relates that "I have seen some over 50 inch Yates cows, namely in the Sparger
and Schaleben herds, with horn twists second to none. But the average horns
were of small circumference and fairly short, tip-to-tip."
An interesting aspect of the Yates program was Cap's method of identification
for his Longhorns. He marked the cattle with a "jingle-bob" ear, which
was a slice in the left ear that left the bottom half of the ear hanging slightly
downward. "It was just something that he came up with as kind of a flamboyant
breeder," says Gary Henry of Stephenville, Texas, who raises Yates Longhorns,
"but few, if any, of Yates' original animals with the sliced ear remain."
The Yates influence may go undetected by many breeders today, even in their
own herds. Through the years, though, Yates blood has been introduced to herds
of a different blood with excellent results. Breeders who wish to add size to
a traditionally small-bodied bloodline with good horns (Butler, for instance)
can use a Yates bull and end up with both the conformation and horns they desire.
Adds Gary Henry, "I have had great success using Yates blood for commercial
breeding--the size I get in my calves is what I'm looking for." The other
dominant characteristics of the Yates bloodline--ruggedness, good survival instincts,
and an independent streak--typify the spirit of the Old West, and all that the
Texas Longhorn breed truly stands for. In the words of Dr. Joe Knowles of Springer,
New Mexico, "these Yates cattle are typical, traditional Longhorns, without
any evidence of infusion of blood from outside sources."
The Phillips Bloodline
J.G. "Jack" Phillips, Jr., is one of the few surviving original Longhorn
pioneers, living with his wife Carolyn at his Battle Island Ranch near West
Columbia, Texas, in Brazoria County. Phillips'grandfather, James Ray Phillips,
settled along the Brazos River in the late l800's. James Ray passed away when
Jack's faather, John Gayle Phillips, was nine years old, leaving the child with
no choice but to go to work. He worked for Bailey and Wheat, a cow outfit near
Bonny, Texas until he was fifteen, when he was given the responsibility of delivering
a herd of cattle to Fort Griffin, near Albany, Texas. (The cattle were to be
used as food for Indians on a reservation there.) John Gayle stayed with the
cowboy life, spending the next years on various cattle drives. He later married
Jane Davis Price, whose father had constructed a home on Battle Island Ranch
in l872. The couple eventually inherited the ranch and passed it on to their
son, John Gayle Phillips, Jr.
Jack recalls that in the early days on the ranch, the cattle were basically
a free-roaming bunch, left to fend for themselves. His dad kept a few Devon
bulls penned for breeding, and did not allow them to mix with the "Texas
cattle." The Phillips cattle ran primarily on unfenced woods pastures,
and the only thing resembling a modern-day breeding program was J.G. senior's
selection of a few Longhorn bulls to turn out with his herd. The cattle on Battle
Island Ranch tended to be old-style Texas Longhorns, with a lot of horn and
a naturally wild temperment. There was not a lot of personal attention given
to the Longhorns in those days, and the herd developed without much human interference.
In the l920's, Jack went off to school at the University of Texas at Austin,
where he met and married Carolyn McIntosh. He studied geology at the University,
but by this time had developed a deep interest in cattle, and he returned to
the ranch to pursue this interest. He learned a great deal about Texas' native
cattle from his friend Graves Peeler, who had been commissioned by Texas oilman
Sid Richardson and University of Texas Historian and author J. Frank Dobie ("The
Longhorns") to select Longhorns for the state park at Mathis, Texas. "I
never did travel with Mr. Peeler. He always traveled along," Jack recalls.
"But Graves brought all of the cattle, they didn't get use to me, and he
let me have a few of the cows and one of three dun-colored bulls he had found
in Mexico. That's where the dun strain in my herd comes from. They all have
pretty good horns, and are big cattle as well. Jack then acquired a number of
Longhorns from A.E. Melgaard, who ran a herd west of Brazoria. "These cattle
were pretty wild, and we had to use dogs to help round them up. They could pick
up a scent three or four hours old, and sometimes that's as close as we'd come.
Some cattle would slip off and lie down out of sight in a briar thicket or in
the high palmettos. We'd go in there and dog them and rope them, and if we couldn't
snake them out, we'd tie 'em to a tree. We would then cut a trail in to the
animals, and pull an old homemade, horse-drawn trailer in there and load 'em
Throughout the l930's Phillips accumulated more "typical old Texas Longhorn
cows" from other ranchers in the area. He describes the kind of cattle
he was looking for: "I wanted a long-bodied, long-headed cow with a high
tailhead, and a tail with a heavy brush that either dragged the ground or was
close to it. I also looked for old Texas-twisty horns. I didn't like too many
of them with the horns that came out and went straight up. As for the bulls,
I liked a long-bodied, long-legged bull with a heavy forequarter and a light
rear, with horns coming out straight from his head, forward, and then up. We
didn't have any of those tremendous, lateral-horned bulls in those days, so
far as I can recall. They were all the Mexican fighting bull type."
Phillips continues, "Now there was another strain of cattle that I had.
They were a little Roman-nosed, had a slight buldge in their foreheads, their
horns came out then went back just a little bit, then came forward, out and
up. According to Dobie's book, those were the truest type of Spanish Longhorn.
I can't recall exactly where those came from."
In the late '30's Phillips bought a bull from the Winslow brothers of Magnolia,
Texas. The bull was actually taken with the dam, a "big, outstanding, wide-horned
cow" to the Houston stockyards to be sold, and Fred Summers, a friend of
Philllips' who ran a consignmnet business, took one look at the pair and gave
Jack a call. Jack ran down to the stockyards and paid $l75 for the pair and
took them home. The brindle bull calf would make his mark on the breed by way
of his grandson, Texas Ranger J.P.
The "Texas Ranger J.P. story" has been told many times, but one cannot
have a full grasp of the Phillips bloodline without understanding "Tex's"
importance to the Longhorn breed.
The most famous Phillips Longhorn, and one of the most famous Longhorns of all,
was Texas Ranger J.P., born in l968. Jack recalls, "Texas Ranger's mother,
Brazos Belle 182, was a typical Longhorn cow, long-bodied, long-legged, a pale
red-and-white spotted cow. Her horns came straight out and bowed a little, they
didn't have a twist. I raised her. She was strictly a Phillips foundation cow.
Tex's sire was Two-Tone, by the old spotted Winslow bull."
"As a yearling, Texas Ranger J.P. had outstanding horns. He was long, slender,
tall, and his horns came out straighter than most yearlings. At two years old,
his horns still went laterally out from his head."
"Darol Dickinson came down here," remembers Jack, "and bought
some cattle from me. He selected this two-year-old bull that he said was just
what he had been looking for. I let him take Texas Ranger to Colorado and he
developed the bull. He is the one who made him famous all over the world. I've
given Darol the credit all the time, and I still do."
Darol Dickinson picks up the story from there. "Texas Ranger J.P. was the
first bull we could find with 48-inch horns. I got him on loan after agreeing
to buy six of Jack's cows. I got him here in June of 1971 and kept him for three
breeding seasons. I also got permission to collect semen on him. From l972 t
l974, we were selling Texas Ranger J.P. semen for $3.80 per unit, if you bought
l00 units or more." Texas Ranger was the very first bull to be certified
when the TLBAA initiated A.I. certification in 1972.
Tex sired 54 offspring during his stay at Dickinson's. The list, just the start
of a "Who's Who" in Longhorn circles, includes Texas Freckles, Ranger's
Show Boy, Texas Lin, Ranger's Big 'Un, Thingamajig Ranger, Archer's Pepper,
Texas Measles, Mr. Texas, Ranger's Bandera, Big Sky, Ranger's Double, Cactus
Ranger, Cima Roan Ranger, Red's Boy, Zorro Ranger, Texas Star, Forest Ranger,
Texas Ramrod and Texas Scrambler.
Tex was returned to Jack Phillilps in 1974. "He developed up there in that
strong country," says Jack, " and with Darol feeding him, he grew
into a nice-bodied bull. He was more filled out in his hindquarter. He didn't
have the deep round that your modern beef cattle have, but he did have a lot
of flesh on him. Every time somebody came here to buy heifers or bulls, they
always picked his calves because they stood out in a group."
Jack used Tex for several years, and the bull was prolific. "Tex always
had a lot of libido. He was pretty well a rambler," Jack remarks. Added
to the list of Tex's offspring were Texas Ranger, Jr., Lone Ranger, Royal Ranger,
Texas Toro, Ranger's Dividend, Pecos Bill, Ranger's Measles, Twisty Matilda,
Texas Traveler, Ranger's Bouncer, Colorado Ranger, Cheetah, Jessie James and
Then in 1977 Texas Ranger contracted black lung disease, a malady common in
the coastal country. Several Longhorn breeders had tried to buy the bull when
he was healthy, but Jack had not been willing to sell. One of the most interested
and insistent was Terry elsey, Ramah, Colo. In hopes that a different environment
might improve his health, Jack agreed to lease Tex to Kelsey, but made it clear
that the bull was very ill.
Terry and Sidni Kelsey arrived to find the bull too ill to stand for prolonged
periods. They loaded a trailer with straw and hauled the bull, lying down, once
again to Colorado.
Terry explains his interest in Texas Ranger J.P. "We first saw Texas Ranger
as a two-year-old at Dickinson's. I really liked him then, but of course he
wasn't available. Until Jack called, all we could do was try to buy every Texas
Ranger daughter we could get ahold of."
It took weeks of intensive doctoring to get Tex back on his feet but, in a few
months, he was up and breeding Terry's cows, as well as being collected for
semen. By then a household name in the Longhorn industry, Texas Ranger's semen
and offspring were in great demand.
"Until we got Tex," says Terry, "we had a program, a definite
goal in mind, but it was tough doing. When we got him, our program exploded.
We had been looking at 8-or 9-year-old cows to fit a certain criteria, but with
Tex, and crossing him on the right kind of cows, we were doing it in three or
four years. He crossed well on more cows than other bulls did. I never saw a
Wichita cow he wouldn't cross with--a super cross with a Wichita cow!"
Texas Ranger J.P. died on Kelsey's ranch in the spring of 1980 at the age of
twelve. But the Texas Ranger J.P. legacy lives in his sons and daughters, which
continue to be an important part of many Longhorn herds. In addition, the rest
of the Phillips bloodline legacy continues in the cattle still being raised
to Jack Phillips' standards on Battle Island Ranch.
The Marks Bloodline
A person would have to look long and hard to find
a breeder anywhere in the Texas Longhorn industry who wouldn't like to have
at least one fine old Marks cow in his herd. Paradoxically, one would also have
to look long and hard to find a breeder in the Texas Longhorn industry who actually
has at least one fine old Marks cow in his herd.
Though very desirable for their authentic Texas Longhorn traits, there are not
many true Marks Longhorns around today. A few breeders own one or two, but it's
very rare to find more than a handful anywhere except on the ranches of Travis
and Maudeen Marks, the children of the Longhorn pioneer Emil Marks. Travis and
Maudeen still maintain the Marks tradition on their respective ranches in Fannin
and Barker, Texas.
The history of the Marks cattle begins back in the 1840's, when Prussian immigrants
landed at Galveston, Texas. Godhif Marks and his young wife Sophia were part
of a large family of Markses who had set out for a new life in America. During
their passage, Sophia gave birth to a son, whom they named August Texas Marks.
When the families arrived in Galveston, they found the plague rampant in the
area. They fled the region, heading to the interior to a place called Bear Creek
(now Addicks), in the western part of what is now Harris County--a county pretty
well covered by the city of Houston.
From the start, the Marks family was agricultural. They raised what crops they
could and rounded up and used the wild Longhorn cattle that roamed the vast
open ranges. After August Texas Marks married, one of his sons, born in 1881,
was Emil Henry Marks.
When young Emil was six years old, his mother died in childbirth. Three years
later, he lost his father, August, to smallpox. For a time, E.H. and his siblings
were cared for by their aging grandparents, but the boys were soon farmed out
to live with various relatives. E.H. went to work in his uncle's store and saloon,
where the accounting for scores in the game of "ten pins" capped off
his formal education.
E.H. eventually inherited a small part of his family's homeplace, but in those
days not a whole lot of land was necessary to make a living off of it. In fact,
for many, land ownership was a burden, because taxes had to be paid on every
acre. Like other cattlemen of his day,E.H. let his Longhorns run on the open
range, which was there for all to use.
There were no "improved pastures" in East Texas. The land was harsh,
crops were difficult to grow, and the cattle were left pretty much to fend for
themselves. Cattle breeders were fairly isolated, which lent to the inherent
purity of individual programs--each group remained relatively unsullied by outside
While neighbors (and the rest of the country) were jumping on the European breeds'
bandwagon, E.H. Marks continued to raise his "relics." According to
his daughter Maudeen, E.H. took quite a bit of kidding from his neighbors about
keeping his Longhorns around. But he saw that this breed could possibly be lost
and forgotten, and he didn't want that to happen. "We're gonna need these
cattle someday," were his words he spoke to Maudeen. "If you came
to see my father," says Travis, "you came to see the Longhorns, whether
you intended to or not."
E.H. Marks was prophetic and farsighted in his reasoning that Texas Longhorns
were good cattle and would someday be rcognized as such. Travis recalls an incident
which illustrates this point: "One time, some men from Texas A & M
College came down and wanted to see what a good cow was. We rode out in the
pasture and they asked Dad what a good cow was. He said, 'She's got a good long
body, a long hip, she stands up, she can travel, and she has good legs. She
has a calf every year.'
"I was a bit ashamed of my father's answer," Travis continues, "because
those men wanted the cows to be low-set and compact. I've always thought about
the irony of the thing. What he predicted years ago finally turned out to be
what was needed, not the low-set and compact cattle. He was right a long time
before the people who were supposed to know everything were right."
The Butler Bloodline
The Butler family of Texas Longhorns has made
a great impact on the industry during the past five years. Coming about as a
result of the concentrated efforts of a father and son team--Henry and Milby
Butler--the Butler family of Longhorns is firmly established as one of the original
seven Longhorn families and contributes much to the quality and prestige of
the breed today.
Milby began raising a large and very respected herd of registered Brahman cattle
in the late 1920's and early 1930's, while his son Henry was acquiring "big-horned"
Texas Longhorn heifers from herds in East Texas, attracting only minimal attention
from his father. It was not until Henry left to serve in the military that Milby
began developing a love for Longhorns, a love that would be revealed later through
the product of his select breeding for large horns.
Many modern Longhorn breeders have called the products of the early years of
Butler's program the "true Texas Longhorn." That feeling is demonstrated
by the breeders who have preserved the Butler bloodline and use it for breeding
today. By selecting the right herd sire, Milby's gene pool is available and
can be used in many different sub-families of the Butler line.
"Aside from the Butler cattle being of true Longhorn type," says Mike
Dolan of Pali Ranch, Pacific Palisades, Calif., "they are extremely valuable
in today's market." Dolan is a part owner of Colorado Cowboy, a Butler
bull of the Partlow sub-family. "We started using Butler cattle in our
program by acquiring the Colorado Cowboy bull from Bob Shultz, Franktown, Colo.,
in 1985," Dolan says.
Mike Sanderson, who, along with Dolan and another partner, owns Colorado Cowboy,
says, "We really like Colorado Cowboy daughters for their size. We also
feel the Partlow cattle were a little larger in general than most Butlers."
Colorado Cowboy is a son of Conquistador, a Partlow-Butler bull famous for siring
brilliantly-colored calves. Dolan says looking for the right herd sire was not
an easy thing to do. "We really researched the Butler cattle before purchasing
Colorado Cowboy, and felt he was in a class of his own," he says. "If
I had to compare him to another bull of non-Butler blood, then Measles Super
Ranger comes to mind. They are similar in the way they sire color and size."
Sanderson claims that Colorado Cowboy will have a positive influence on the
Longhorn breed. "The Cowboy bull will add size to the pure Butler cattle,
and the color and horns you can get with some Butler bulls will be automatic
Offspring from the Partlow herd of Butler cattle are not easily obtainable because
of the high popularity and low numbers. The Holman sub-family possesses some
different, but quality characteristics; however, but as Butlers, they too are
in high demand. The Holmans are descendants of the original Butler herd with
a touch of Peeler and WR blood.
Kaso Kety, ranch foreman at Ace Cattle Company, Folsom, La., says that the Holman
sub-family has helped register a profit for Ace's herd. "We started using
Butler cattle in 1983, and we saw that there was a lot accomplished in the Holman
line, but felt the surface had only been scratched. We felt there were genetics
in the Holman that weren't really given the chance the other Butler lines had."
Ace is also using embryo transplant and artifical insemination to breed Butler
cattle. "We chose Conquistador in our A.I. program because he crosses well
on all Butler bloodlines, primarily because he is unrelated to most Butler bulls,"
Kety says. "The most notable impact will be through his sons and daughters
out of the Bevo and Classic lines."
A fairly obscure sub-family of Butler cattle is the Leppers. A famous cow coming
from a Lepper line is 1985 TLBAA Grand Champion Anita, owned by Ben Settles
& Sons. She was sired by Pappy L, owned by Dr. Harmon Knight of the K-K
Ranch at Buffalo, Tex. "In 1977, I bought Pappy L (an all-Butler herd sire
now deceased) from the Forrest Lepper estate because he was a little bigger
than most Butler bulls at that time, and he produced lateral horns," says
Knight. "He was a bull that threw lots of color and was a very consistent
sire. I believe if he had been used on as many cows as Bold Ruler or Classic,
he would have been a 'super sire' like those bulls are."
Knight describes his late bull as a "producer of old, old Butler genes;
his daughters were very typical of some that came out of the original Butler
The Bevo line is probably most popular and recognized sub-family of Butler cattle.
The line is in many of the Longhorn herds today, and is noted for the high percentage
of valuable offspring produced. Robert King of El Rincon del Rey Ranch at New
Braunfels, Tex., says he has seen a high percentage of uniform, fancy, very
marketable calves come from Butlers, and the Bevo line in particular. "They
really have the ability to improve an average herd."
King has owned both Jumbo Horns and Butler Boy, two purebred Butler bulls. "I
believe the Bevo line to be the best producer of horn, with evidence of Classic
and Classy Pattie, two individuals we have used in our program very successfully,"
A final quality sub-family is the Bold Ruler line. Walter Schreiner, Longhorn
manager at the Y.O. Ranch at Mountain Home, Tex., bought a half-interest in
the late Bold Ruler because, as he put it, "He was the best Butler bull
we could find. We have found the direct cross of Bold Ruler on our top WR-Yates
cows is exactly what we're looking for. What would normally take two or three
generations to breed for, we can do on the first pop with Ruler," he says.
"His daughters have proven to be great milkers, have good dispositions,
plus a world of color and horns can always be expected on a Ruler calf."
With the genetics left behind by the late Milby Butler, Longhorn breeders today
may have some of the best material to build a quality Texas Longhorn herd that
is based on traditional appearance.
Semen from Butler bulls is available, and even some of the older Butler animals
still living carry the genetic traits that can be passed on to a new generation.
The Wright Bloodline
The Wright family of Texas Longhorns is probably
the most distinctive bloodline of the original seven. The herd raised by M.P.Wright
beginning in the late 1800's was nearly all duns, reds and line-backed cattle,
long in body but not especially tall. Since the original herd was founded on
the Nueces River near the Gulf of Mexico, the Wright cattle have been combined
with other bloodlines from time to time, but the present-day herd, raised by
M.P. "Chico" Wright III, has its own unmistakable characteristics.
The cattle are extremely colorful, and share with their ancestors a tendency
toward long, well-shaped horns. Several Wright cows have horns of over 50"
"This coastal plain is poor land for raising grass," says Chico, "but
the Longhorns have made the most of it and, true to their reputation, have done
real well where other breeds don't survive without a good amount of supplemental
The Wrights have learned much about Texas Longhorns over the last l00 years.
Back in the late 1800's, M.P. Wright had evidently learned all he needed to
know about the animals. With the fast-growing campaign to "up-breed the
scrub cattle" gaining nationwide acceptance, Wright could have done the
same as many other cattlemen...ditched the Longhorns in favor of the fast gaining,
more uniform imported breeds. First the Durhams, then the Herefords inched their
way across the country, taking over the Texas Longhorns' kingdom in a mere 30
Fortunately, there were a few ranchers like M.P. Wright, who saw the Texas Longhorns'
pureblood genetics rapidly vanishing and strove to keep the breed alive. Wright
knew of the Longhorns abilities; they had survived virtually unassisted by man,
developed unbelievable fertility and longevity, and could forage for themselves
like no other breed known to man. After weighing these desirable characteristics
with those of the imported strains, Wright decided he would keep the Texas Longhorns
and raise them exclusively.
The day of the wild Texas Longhorn seemed to vanish with the turn of the century,
but M.P. Wright and his son kept their small herds growing at a steady rate
despite the outlooks and opinions of other cattlemen. With all of the anti-Longhorn
propaganda floating freely through the western cattle country at that time,
M.P. Wright must have had some extremely trying times attempting to hold on
to a part of history so unpopular. There were so few Texas Longhorns in the
early 1900's that the Wrights had to inbreed to preserve the pureblood strain.
In 1940, after a search for new blood to add to his herd, Chico Wright's father
located sixty head on a Texas ranch belonging to John Webster. After acquiring
these fine specimens, the Wrights began building the herd faster than ever,
with more pureblood animals added as they were found.
As the herd increased, so did national interest in the Longhorns. Many ranchers,
who had several years earlier rid themselves of the pesky, long-horned scrub
cattle, began having doubts about their new, imported breeds. They found themselves
dishing out a higher percentagae of their profits for feed, veterinary expenses,
etc. In addition, the new breeds required much more of the cattlemen's time.
Some of the Western cattlemen began to realize how much more it cost to raise
cattle that had no natural instincts when it came to survival under the often-harsh
conditions of the Western rangeland. Through the generations, the Wright's have
put the Texas Longhorns' survival instincts to work, letting the durable cattle
take care of themselves.
Some of the Wrights Texas Longhorns may be slightly on the "wild"
side, but a cattle buyer can be assured that this herd not only has inherited
natural instincts, but also practices them in the rough, coastal area. Along
the banks of the Nueces River, the Wrights have a stretch of land characterized
by thick trees with almost impenetrable brush. As M.P. Wright IV drove this
writer over the trails in that area, I fully understood what the old Texas cattlemen
meant when they spoke of "brush so thick a rattlesnake would have to back
out...." This area might be considered a "proving ground" for
any breed of cattle, but the Texas Longhorn is the only breed that has really
passed the test.
Some of the cattle in this area are seen only once or twice a year. Trails wide
enough for a man on horseback have been cut through the entanglement to aid
in rounding the cattle up when necessary. These Longhorns forage, calve and
do everything else on their own, completely unaided by man. It was surprising
to see the quality of these genuine "brush cattle." They are beefy,
well-bodied, and carry long, wide horns.
Lineback cattle are supposedly rare in the Texas Longhorn breed, but not on
the Bow and Arrow Ranch! The Wrights have linebacks beautifully marked and varied
in color, as are the majority of their cattle.
Much of the Wright's Texas Longhorn history is preserved in the ranch trophy
room, with large mounted steerheads, photographs and other displays representing
a century of successful ranching. Mounting the steer heads on the walls must
have been like piecing together a jig-saw puzzle, with all of the long and well-shaped
horns represesntative of the "old breed."
Up until 1939, the Wrights also operated a meat processing plant on the ranch.
At that time, the family opened their gravel and sand quarry to fill the needs
of road building and other construction projects.
Although M.P. Wright, Jr. had a stroke in 1960, and was unable to speak afterwards,
he still played an active part in the family's Texas Longhorn operation. He
attended many Longhorn sales in his wheelchair, and fully aware of what a good
Texas Longhorn looked like, he would motion to other members of his family when
to place bids.
The American cattle industry and historians alike owe something to the Wright
family for sticking with their belief in the breed that made this a ranching
country. The Wrights knew from the beginning what many ranchers still haven't
found out...that Texas Longhorns, aided by their inherited abilities, take care
of themselves, offering a sound alternative to rising costs of today's ranching
There are now five owners of Wright Materials, Inc. They are C.W. "Bill"
Wright, Sr., H.R. Wright, Mrs. Ruth Wright, M.C. Truesdale, and M.P. "Chico"
Together, these people have a lot to offer to American ranchers...the hardiest
breed of cattle known to man from one of the oldest pureblood Texas Longhorn
herds in existence.
The Peeler Bloodline
More than any other Longhorn family, the Peeler line reflects the characteristics
of the man who started it. Graves Peeler, a true legend among Longhorn breeders,
chose his cattle more for "personality" than any one physical attribute--he
liked his Longhorns tough and independent, and didn't object if there was a
little wildness thrown in. Also important to Peeler was productivity--a cow
that failed to calve didn't stick around long. Peeler's colorful life has been
well-chronicled, from his days as a Texas Ranger to his 6,000 mile journey with
J. Frank Dobie collecting Longhorns for the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.
His efforts toward the preservation of the Texas Longhorn at a time when extinction
was a real possibility are something for which all present-day breeders should
be extremely thankful for. And his bloodline continues to flourish within the
Longhorn industry, having a great impact on a number of high-profile breeding
Raised as a Texas cattleman, Peeler early on learned to love and appreciate
that state's native cattle, as well as the Western way of life which has long
been chronicled and romanticized by novelists and poets alike. Peeler's father,
Thomas M. Peeler, began raising Longhorns in 1880, leaving his son with a sense
that Longhorns were the only cattle worth owning.
Along with his colorful ten-year stint with the SCRA, Peeler will also be remembered
and appreciated for his role in saving the Longhorn from imminent extinction.
He was foreman of the Nash Ranch, Brazoria County, in 1927, when he was asked
by fellow Brazoria County resident J. Frank Dobie for assistance in tracking
down true Longhorns for the original herd at the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in
Cache, Oklahoma. The two were able to acquire five cows, one bull and one steer
for the federal preserve.
In 1933, with the assistance of J. Frank Dobie (famous historian and author
of "The Longhorns"), and at the request of Sid Richardson of Fort
Worth, Peeler set out to round up a foundation Texas Longhorn herd for the Texas
Parks and Wildlife. The cattle were scarce and difficult to track down, and
Peeler and Dobie wound up traveling six thousand miles in four months to find
thirty cows and three bulls. Ten of these mother cows and one of the bulls became
the Peeler herd, with the remainder going to the state.
By the time the TLBAA was formed, the Texas Longhorn was no longer a vanishing
breed. More and more ranchers had begun raising the cattle, with Peeler's herd
being among the most prominent and highly regarded. Many of today's well-known
Texas Longhorn breeders got their start in the business with help from Peeler.
Among these are Dickinson Ranch, Y.O. Ranch, Walter Scott, King Ranch, Jack
Phillips, John Ball, Happy Shahan, Larry Smith, John Prothro, and C.W. Hellen.
Darol Dickinson describes his introduction to the Texas Longhorn and Graves
Peeler: "In 1967, I saw an ad which Happy Shahan had run in a cattle magazine
talking about having Longhorns for sale, and it interested me, first of all,
because I was interested in the cattle, and also because I had an uncle living
south of San Antonio by the name of Art Shahan. I called my uncle and asked
whether or not he was related to Happy Shahan and if he would buy some of his
cattle for me. He told me that in fact he was a distant relation, and he knew
Happy had bought the Longhorns from Graves Peeler, who was my uncle's neighbor.
He suggested that we buy from Peeler, since his herd was generally regarded
as one of the best. So, we went to Peeler's ranch and made a deal to buy six
cows, six calves and a bull from his herd. He wanted $300 for each pair and
another $300 to pick out a bull.
"When we found the bull we wanted, Peeler said, no, he couldn't let that
one go for such a low price. So we settled on $325 for him. (The bull, Sam Bass,
has produced offspring which can be found in a number of herds today, including
Miss Lin, Mr. Dillon and Mr. Lin). When we made that first purchase, Peeler
was known to have one of the best combinations of quality and quantity in the
Longhorn business, so naturally his herd has played a major role in elevating
the breed to its current level of popularity."
Jack Phillips and Walter Scott purchased the bulk of Peeler's Longhorn herd
when he decided to sell them in 1970. (Two years later, Scott bought out most
of Phillips' share in the cattle.) Peeler kept 17 cows, a bull and some steers,
and it was what remained of these, plus the offspring, that were purchased by
John Ball and Larry Smith in 1978.
The cattle that Peeler had chosen to start his herd were professional range
cattle: hardy, rugged and durable. To Peeler, a Longhorn cow was a cow that
would bring in a calf every year with no exceptions. And, according to Dickinson,
"He liked his cattle to have some fight in them, real Wild West cattle."
A popular story is told about a Longhorn sale which Peeler attended in the late
1960's. A feisty cow was brought into the ring and proceeded to charge Elmer
Parker, who was on horseback. Parker escaped, which prompted the animal to go
after the other rider, Gene Bartnicki. While the sale spectators, the majority
of whom wanted absolutely nothing to do with such a badly behaved Longhorn,
watched in amazement, Peeler jumped up, whooped wih delight, and placed the
final bid on the cow. "He was a rugged individual, and he appreciated the
same quality in his Longhorn herd," adds Dickinson.
Other noteworthy characteristics of Peeler cattle are size and mothering ability.
"The best thing about Peeler cattle is that they have the size that appeals
to commercial breeders and is desirable as far as crossbreeding is concerned,"
says Robby Robinson of Junction, Tex., whose herd is straight Peeler. "Graves
didn't breed for color, as is commonly done today. His goal was performance
and his cows were mothers first and foremost."
The arguments over which should take priority among color, conformation and
horns will continue. But such questions and the Longhorn itself might not have
existed today if not for the efforts of Graves Peeler, who passed away in 1977
at nearly 91 years of age. His attitudes about life ran a direct parallel with
the nature of his Texas Longhorn bloodline.
As Walter Scott, another close friend and admirer of Peeler, put it, "He
and the cattle knew tough times and how to survive them."
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