By Howdy Fowler
One of the most readily recognizable icons of the American West is the Texas Longhorn. Historic reports estimate between 10 and 17 million of these Texas cattle were driven north "up the trail" during the trail drive era. The American cowboy as we know him would never have existed in history if it hadn't been for the Texas Longhorn. The great state of Texas couldn't have recovered so quickly from the extreme poverty imposed on them by the Union States after the Civil War, had it not been for the profits gained from their sales of millions of Texas Longhorn cattle. Ranchers using herds of Longhorn cattle as seed stock established ranches in the more remote northern territories of the U.S. helped to bring civilization to previously unsettled areas of the American West.
Many folks do not realize that the Texas Longhorn cattle played a much larger role in the history of western expansion than just cowboys and Indians. In the southern and southwestern United States the Texas Longhorn cattle supplied both meat and milk for homesteaders. These cattle also put in their time under yoke pulling plows, fresnos, wagons, and buggies. These longhorn oxen helped break sod, build roads, and pull wagon trains loaded with settlers, even pulling the family buggy to town on Sundays. The famous Texas cattle king Charles Goodnight, who is credited with inventing the Chuck Wagon, originally used 5 yokes of Texas Longhorn oxen to move his famous Chuck Wagon along with the trail herds.
Ironically, it was the longhorn's historic role of supplying beef for the nation that almost caused their extinction. At one time there were so many of these cattle running wild in Texas and Northern Mexico, folks mistakenly thought about the longhorn, like they did about their cousins the buffalo...figuring that there would be no end to the vast herds. After only about 40 years of heavy exportation and cross breeding with imported breeds of cattle from Europe and India, the Texas Longhorn had become as rare as hens teeth even in its own home state.
By 1927 the federal government recognized the longhorns plight and appropriated $3,000 forming the Wichita Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma to help save the Texas Longhorn from extinction. It was at this time a small handful of historians and the few remaining old time Texas Longhorn breeders came together to help preserve the Texas Longhorn as a breed, successfully saving the Longhorn from disappearing forever.
A gentleman named I.G. Yates went up the trail on three separate occasions trailing Texas Longhorn Cattle to northern markets. As it turns out one of the more influential persons in saving the Texas Longhorn from extinction was his son Ira 'Cap' Yates. According to the Yates family in 1916 Cap Yates started purchasing small numbers of old time Texas Longhorn cattle to stock his ranches south of Marathon, Texas. This small beginning would eventually, by the time of his death in 1968, become a herd of approximately 1,500 head of the finest specimens of old style Texas Longhorn cattle in the world. Many Yates cattle were used as seed stock to build the Wichita herd.
Cap sought out not only the hardiest cattle, which could survive the harsh droughty range conditions of West Texas, he also sought out the truest body types showing no cross breeding or European influence. More specifically, Cap worked to preserve cattle with the old horn types; longhorns that still sported the tight "Texas Twist," which due to cross breeding had almost disappeared in other herds of the day.
Before he died, Cap asked his son Fayette Yates to promise that he would always retain the Texas Longhorn herds on the Yates Ranches. Fayette not only kept the longhorn cattle, he took his father's request one-step further. As important as Cap Yates was to preserving the Texas Longhorn as a breed, his son (passed away in 2007 at the age of 84), Fayette Yates was equally important in preserving significant U.S., Texas, and Trail Drive history for future generations to enjoy.
Fayette put together the largest Texas Longhorn horn collection in the world thus insuring the Texas Longhorn's legacy would be preserved for future generations to come.
That's right; The Yates Longhorn Collection is the largest collection of its kind! It is so extensive that in its current spacious facilities located at Tuscola, Texas, Fayette Yates could only display about 800 of the mounts that he had in his possession. To give you an idea of how large this horn collection is... the Yates collection has horn mounts, full head and horn mounts, also European style skull and horn mounts, along with full body mounts all of Texas Longhorn cattle. Truly one of the great wonders of the American West, the Yates Longhorn Collection has no rivals. The Yates Longhorn Collection even boasts the head mount of the famous steer 'Amigo Yates' current World Champion Longest Horned, Texas Longhorn. With a confirmed live measurement of 8 feet 9 1/2 inches, measured from tip to tip, Amigo's horn spread out distanced the past World Champion 'Old Tex' by almost a foot.
Fayette wished this collection to remain intact and be placed on public display for the educational benefit of many. It was purchased by Kelcy Warren, partner in Lajitas Resort, where it is on public display.
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